Below is a collection of Tisha B’Av lesson plans, videos, and articles created by The Lookstein Center staff or contributed to the site by Jewish educators.
Tisha B’Av Holiday Overview
- What: Tisha B’Av is the Jewish fast day mourning the many tragedies that befell the Jewish people on this date, most significantly, the destruction of the First and Second Beit Hamikdash (Temples). Tisha B’Av is preceded by a period of three weeks of mourning, with even further restrictions taking place the nine days immediately before the fast.
- Where: The fall of the First Temple in Jerusalem is documented in 2 Kings (Melachim Bet) 25: 1-26 and Jeremiah (Yirmiyahu) 39: 1-14. The destruction is foretold in prophets Jeremiah and Zephaniah. The Book of Lamentations (Eicha) contains emotional reactions to the destruction. Accounts of the Second Temple destruction can be found in many places in the Talmud. For a complete list, see here.
- When: Tisha B’Av occurs on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. It usually falls out in late July or August. If it falls out on a Saturday, the fast will be pushed to Sunday.
- Why: According to the Mishna Ta’anit 4:6, on Tisha B’Av, we mourn five main tragedies that befell the Jewish people on this date:
- On this day, the sin of the spies occurred, as told in Numbers (Bamidbar) 13. As detailed in the Biblical story of the spies, the spies returned from scouting out the Land of Israel with a negative report, which resulted in them wandering in the desert for forty years instead of going straight into the land.
- On this day the destruction of the First Temple occurred, in 586 BCE, by the Babylonians, led by the general Nebuchadnezzar. This was followed by the Babylonian Exile which lasted for the next 70 years.
- On this day the destruction of the Second Temple occurred, in 70 CE, by the Romans, led by Emperor Titus. This was also followed by exile, throughout which Jews dispersed throughout the world.
- On this day, the Temple Mount was plowed over and rebuilt as a pagan city, called Aelia Capitolina by the Romans in the year 135 BCE, led by General Turnus Rufus.
- On this day in the year 136 BCE, the Bar Kochba revolt (which had fought against the Roman overtaking of Jerusalem in the years following the destruction of the Second Temple) was finally crushed, and the last Jewish stronghold, Beitar was destroyed, which resulted in thousands of Jews being killed.
Tisha B’Av has also become a day for mourning for other Jewish tragedies that occurred throughout history, many of which happened on this date, such as the ending of the Spanish Inquisition and Jewish expulsion from Spain in 1492, the declaration of the First Crusade in 1095, and the outbreak of WWI in 1914.
Rituals of The Three Weeks, the Nine Days, and Tisha B'Av
Leading up to Tisha B’Av: Tisha B’Av is preceded by a period of three weeks in which many have the custom of increasing mourning practices as Tisha B’Av approaches. The period of the three weeks begins with the fast of the Seventeenth of Tammuz, when the first breach of Jerusalem’s walls was made, in the era of the First Temple. Many have the custom of not listening to music, not getting haircuts, not getting married, or having other celebrations, and not attending live performances during this period as this is seen as a period of mourning. In the nine days preceding Tisha B’Av, mourning practices are increased, and many refrain from eating meat, drinking wine, bathing pleasurably, laundering or wearing freshly laundered clothing, and buying new clothing. In the afternoon before Tisha B’Av, some of the prohibitions of Tisha B’Av take effect, such as not learning Torah (except for the mournful readings of Jeremiah, Lamentations, Job, and Jewish mourning laws or halachot) and not engaging in pleasurable activities. On the evening before Tisha B’Av the last meal is eaten before the fast, consisting of a piece of bread and hard-boiled egg dipped in ashes, reminiscent of a mourner’s meal.
The Fast: The fast officially begins at sundown. There are five major prohibitions on Tisha B’Av, which are the same as the prohibitions of Yom Kippur:
- Eating and drinking
- Bathing and washing
- Anointing oneself with creams or lotions
- Wearing leather shoes
- Engaging in sexual activity
These prohibitions apply for the whole twenty-five hour period; however, there are some prohibitions that only apply until midday, such as not sitting on proper chairs and greeting people. Prohibitions of the nine days are kept until midday of the tenth of Av because the Temple continued to burn into the tenth day.
Additions to the Prayer Service: Megillat Eicha or The Book of Lamentations is read in the synagogue during the Ma’ariv service, on Tisha B’Av night. A special Torah portion is read on Tisha B’Av during the Shacharit (morning) service, as well as various elegies (kinnot), which were written throughout the generations, that bemoan various tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people throughout the ages. The mournful prayers of Aneinu and Nachem are added to the Amidah prayer in the Mincha (afternoon) service.
Tisha B'Av Vocabulary
Ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av
|Eicha||Book of Lamentations||איכה|
|Bein Hametzarim||“Between the Straits” (the period of 3 weeks preceding Tisha B’Av)||בין המצרים|
|Shloshet Hashavuot||The Three Weeks||שלושת השבועות|
|Tishat HaYamim||The Nine Days||תשעת הימים|
|Seudat Mafseket||Ending Meal (eaten immediately before the fast begins)||סעודת מפסקת|
|Sinat Chinam||Baseless hatred||שנאת חינם|
|Ahavat Chinam||Brotherly Love||אהבת חינם|
Tisha B'Av Educational Themes
- baseless hatred vs. brotherly love (ahavat chinam, sin’at chinam)
- national tragedy and dealing with crises
- collective memory
- exile to redemption
- temple times
- identification with events that happened thousands of years ago
- social responsibility
Guide to Selected Tisha B'Av Kinnot (Elegies) with Discussion Points
Mi Yiten Roshi Mayim (מי יתן ראשי מים): This kinnah was written to commemorate the events of the First Crusade in 1096. (See text here).
- Discussion Points:
- Why don’t we add a special day of mourning for each individual tragedy?
- Why has Tisha B’Av become the all-encompassing day of mourning?
- What connects all of the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people?
Arzei Halevanon (ארזי הלבנון): This kinnah focuses on the Aseret Harugei Malchut, 10 religious leaders of the Jewish people who were martyred by the Romans. (See text here).
- Discussion points:
- Read the description in the elegy and research the individual stories of some of the martyrs.
- Why was it important for the Romans to rid the Jews of their leadership?
- Discuss the idea of heroism:
- Were these Rabbis heroes?
- Who is your hero?
- How do you decide?
Sha’ali Serufa Ba’esh (שאלי שרופה באש): This kinnah was written in reference to the burning of the Talmud manuscripts that took place in Paris in 1242. This was part of the Church’s attempt to eradicate Judaism and force conversion onto the Jews of Europe. (See text here).
- Discussion Points:
- What is the most important object of a Jew?
- Why did the church feel that getting rid of the Talmud was the key to getting rid of Judaism?
- Some Jews converted to Christianity or outwardly converted while continuing to practice Judaism in secret. Was this ideal?
- Give out the text of the kinnah with its English translation and have kids highlight all of the sad words in the first paragraph. Have them circle all of the words related to fire and burning throughout the whole text. In a different color, have them highlight the positive words in the last paragraph, showing the progression which starts on a negative note and ending on a positive one.
Esh Tukad (אש תוקד): This kinnah compares the great joy that the Jews experienced when they left Egypt to the terrible pain they felt when they left Jerusalem. It describes the reversal of events that started out with great potential only to end tragically. (See text here).
- Discussion Points:
- What was the happiest moment in your life? The saddest?
- Why did the author choose to connect these two events in our history?
Tzion Kechi (ציון קחי): This kinnah describes the beauty and uniqueness of the Land of Israel, which was lost when the destruction occurred and its people were exiled. (See text here).
- Discussion Points:
- What were your first impressions when you went to Israel?
- What role does/should Israel play in our lives as Diaspora Jews?
- Do you see Israel as being essential to your Jewish identity?
Eli Tzion (אלי ציון): This kinnah details what was lost as a result of the destruction, and why it is so tragic. It compares cries of mourning to the cries of a woman in childbirth. (See text here).
- Discussion Points:
- How have we as a people been forced to change as a result of the destruction? (changes in how we worship, changes in judicial and religious leadership, etc.)
- How are we still feeling the effects of the destruction?
- The kinnah uses two analogies to compare the pain of the destruction to, one of a woman mourning her dead husband and the other of a woman in childbirth.
- What is the difference between these analogies?
- They both describe pain, but one has a positive outcome which is dependent on the initial pain.
- How can we take these ideas and ensure a positive outcome for the destruction?
- What is the difference between these analogies?
Quick Educational Activities for Tisha B'Av
- Model Temple – Find an image of the Temple or download a printable such as found here. Challenge students to build a model of the Beit Hamikdash (Temple), which can either be kept or destroyed.
- A Day in the Life of the Temple – Read about the roles of the Kohanim, or High Priests, in the Temple here. Then, have students dress up as Kohanim and re-enact various jobs and ceremonies that were performed in the Beit Hamikdash/ Temple.
- Nine Days Timeline – On each of the nine days preceding Tisha B’Av, teach about a specific tragedy that happened to the Jewish people throughout history (ex: Chmieknicki Massacres, Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, Holocaust) and create a cumulative timeline, including pictures and dates, in order to give students perspective on the various events. Read more about some of these events here.
- Distorted Image Game – Have one student draw a picture and then describe it to the group. Have them attempt to draw the picture based on the description given by the initial drawer. Compare their drawings to the original and discuss the idea of us having a removed and distorted image of what having a Beit Hamikdash/Temple was like. We don’t have the full picture, and it is hard for us to mourn for something that we haven’t personally experienced, but nonetheless we have to try our best to understand and identify with it.
- Mourning Stories – Have students share stories of loved ones whom they have lost and how they and their families have kept alive the memory of their loved ones. Read the section from the Talmud (Bava Batra 60b) about how the rabbis wanted to excessively mourn for the temples and raise the question of how much is too much mourning? Discuss customs that we have today in order to remember the temple (zecher la’mikdash) (ex: eating the Hillel sandwich at the Passover seder, shaking the lulav for seven days on Sukkot, etc.) and in order to remember the destruction (zecher la’churban) (ex: breaking a glass at a wedding, leaving part of a wall unpainted, etc.)
- Debate – Have students prepare and debate whether we are able to achieve the goals of what the Temple once stood for in modern times without the physical building, or are we dependent on the physical building for our spirituality, unity, etc.
**Need lessons for virtual sessions? Look for the 💻 icon below. **
💻 Night of the Murdered Poets Commemorative Program – This commemorative program is a memorial to those killed on what is now called The Night of the Murdered Poets, and is particularly appropriate for programs tied in with Tisha B’Av. Created for the Refusenik Project by The Lookstein Center.
💻 Family Roots Padlet – This interactive, collaborative map allows students to research their family history with the background of the dispersion of Jews around the world following the destruction of the Second Temple. This activity can be a great springboard for a larger class discussion. Created by The Lookstein Center.
💻 Creating Memory – This arts-based program is intended to help young people encounter the Holocaust in a personal, emotional way. Add your name and email to the form in order to receive a free copy of the booklet, which can be used for both in-person and virtual programs. Created by The Lookstein Center.
Three Weeks – This collection of Torah studies and lesson plans and activities connects the Three Weeks to our relationship with the planet. By Canfei Nesharim.
RESOURCES AND ARTICLES
Challenges of Commemoration – This article from The Lookstein Center’s journal, Jewish Educational Leadership, discusses how best to commemorate days like Tisha B’Av with students.
Is the Menorah Still in Rome (and Does it Matter)? – This blog post by Judah Harris for The Lookstein Center explores what happened to the Menorah (and the other Temple vessels) after the destruction of the Second Temple.
Learning About Tisha B’Av and the Three Weeks – These videos, books, resources, and more from PJ Library help teach younger students about Tisha B’Av and the Three Weeks.
Tisha B’av and The Three Weeks Collection – A collection of text-based learning sessions, infographics, and videos from NCSY which relate to Tisha B’Av and The Three Weeks.
Tisha B’Av 101 – This comprehensive resource from MyJewishLearning includes detailed rituals and explanations, videos, and more.
Tisha B’Av Games – In this playlist from Ji Tap, children play Tisha B’Av interactive games and learn about the Jewish fast day.
Tisha B’Av Resources – These videos, articles, and more from Aish provide insights into the fast of Tisha B’Av and the surrounding time period.
Tisha B’Av Resources – These resources from Areyvut are organized by year. Choose “Tisha B’Av” and then click on each year on the list to see the complete set of resources.
VIDEOS AND SONGS
Tisha B’Av: The Power of Rachel’s Tears: This video from Aleph Beta adds a historical connection to the communal feelings of mourning on Tisha B’Av.
“Eicha” Song – This song by Sam Glaser shares the story of Tisha B’Av and hope for the future.
Ani Maamin at the Western Wall– This video from a recent Tisha B’Av commemoration at Jerusalem’s Western Wall shows a crowd gathering to sing a song of belief even in trying times.
Jerusalem: 4000 Years in 5 Minutes – This video shares an overview of the history of Jerusalem from Biblical to modern times.
What is Tisha B’Av: The Jewish Day of Mourning – This video from Bimbam explains Tisha B’Av to younger students.