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The Ultimate DC Pizza Rankings (Vegan Style)

The following is a guest blog post by The Avocadbro, a vegan food blogger who shares his greatest animal-free eating adventures on Instagram

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I imagine being asked to rank my favorite vegan-friendly pizza restaurants feels the same as being a parent who is asked to rank their favorite kids. All my favorite dairy-free pizza places are amazing in their own way.

Why am I ranking vegan pizza places you may ask?

Well, Shavuot is this week! Shavuot is the Jewish holiday that celebrates when God gave the Israelites the Torah. For some reason, Jews commemorate this event by eating copious amounts of cheese, and I’d like to provide some dairy-free alternatives for those of us who choose to abstain – or are unable to partake – in the cheese-eating festivities. There are many reasons behind the tradition to consume dairy on Shavuot, but some scholars say it has something to do with Israel being the “land of milk and honey”.

Quick tangent on this…

You might be surprised to find out that the “honey” in this holy phrase isn’t about honey from bees. It’s about honey from dates. As someone who avoids animal products, that’s kind of cool, not bothering bees and all.

But the “milk” part of that phrase is even more surprising. At least two-thirds of the world, including two-thirds of Jews, can’t digest cow’s milk properly. If two thirds of the people who live in a land of milk can’t consume milk, it must get pretty stinky there, right?

Apparently not. In Israel, all 55 Domino’s Pizza locations offer vegan cheese. It’s become one of the most vegan friendly countries in the world.

So, maybe it’s time to rebrand Israel as the “land of almond milk and date honey.”

While Domino’s in the United States still hasn’t caught up, there are no shortage of pizza places in DC that offer vegan cheese.

We’ve got a few pretty delicious vegan-pizza spots worth giving a Shavuot Shout-Out.

I’m quite familiar with DC’s vegan pizza offerings. Pizza is currently in first place as my favorite food. When I first moved to DC about a decade ago, there was one place that I knew of that had vegan cheese: Pizzeria Paradiso. They had the DC market cornered and deserve some special recognition for being trendsetters.

Since then, a vegan cheese company called Daiya emerged and began supplying restaurants around the country with their products. I love Daiya. But if you’ve ever eaten it before and weren’t thrilled, you should know that about six months ago they upped their game in a major way. They came out with a new variety called “Cutting Board” style cheese. Anecdotally, people love it. And slowly, but surely, pizza places have switched over to this new style.

One last thing before I get into the rankings: There’s this myth that vegan cheese is made of weird ingredients. Let me quickly put that myth to rest. It’s not.

Daiya, for example, is mainly a blend of coconut oil and tapioca starch. That’s no weirder than dairy cheese, which could more accurately be called coagulated estrogen excretion from cattle. Sounds more like a Passover plague than an edible food.

Now onto the rankings…

The Elite Three

These places don’t just have vegan cheese (and yummy crust, and a wide selection of veggie toppings). They also have delicious, high-protein vegan meat.

1) Mellow Mushroom: Okay, I’m starting with a chain. But how many pizza places don’t have multiple locations now-a-days? The pizza industry is that strong (yay America!).

Mellow Mushroom’s pizza crust is freaking delicious. Its pizza is considered to be “Southern style.” They recently switched from Daiya cheese to Follow Your Heart cheese, which is very good.  Oh, and they also have vegan calzones. What more could ask for to nourish your late night Torah study seshes?

Pro-tip: Order yourself some vegan pizza with marinated tempeh and sun-dried tomatoes. It tastes incredible.

2) Pi Pizzeria: This place, located in Chinatown, has St. Louis-style deep dish. I love deep dish pizza because it’s more cubic volume of pizza than other styles. They also have Match Meat sausage, which is a really delicious vegan meat.

Word of warning: You have to call six hours ahead of time if you plan to order the vegan deep dish. They lose points for such an oddly strict schedule.

Pro-tip: make it a habit to call them every single morning on your commute to work. That way, you always have a vegan deep dish pizza available to you that evening. (I’m 90% joking – maybe don’t do that if you’re semi-interested in getting summer body ready.)

3) &pizza: Pizza connoisseurs scoff at &pizza because it’s not “real” pizza and gets made in a fancy toaster oven rather than a true pizza oven. But you know what? They’re kinda right. You know what else? Who cares! If you’re in a rush (and if the line isn’t too long), you can get a delicious personal pizza for about $10 and 5 minutes of your time.

Plus, it’s a native DC company and they have Beyond Meat sausage crumbles, which I highly recommend.

Pro-tip: There’s an &pizza location in Terminal C of Reagan National, and most airlines consider your &pizza a “personal item”. Plus, your airplane seat neighbors will be jealous.

Middle Tier

4) Menomale: Full disclaimer: I’ve never eaten here. But they offer both vegan cheese and vegan chicken. That’s pretty awesome. How have I not been here yet? Anyone want to go with me?

5) Duccini’s. This was the first pizza place in DC to get Daiya cheese back in 2010-ish. I remember, because I was there to celebrate that unforgettable occasion (I feel old). Today, they are still rocking the vegan pizza game. Plus, they’re open until 2am on weekends. I’m usually asleep by 10pm after a long night of Netflix, but if you’re cool and party at AdMo clubs, you might enjoy some late night, dairy-free deliciousness.

Pro-tip: They can also make vegan jumbo slices if you call ahead and get the right person on the phone.

6) Pizzeria Paradiso: As far as I know, this was the only place that offered vegan cheese back when I first moved to DC in 2008. Huge points for being part of history. Otherwise, it’s a solid Neapolitan-style pizza place.

7) Pete’s New Haven Pizza: A random city in a random state has its own style of pizza. And after deciding DC was in need of some New Haven, Connecticut culinary pedigree, Pete brought his pizza to DC. They were pretty early in offering vegan cheese. Big points for that.

8) Comet Ping Pong: There’s a dark Internet conspiracy that Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton have ordered vegan cheese pizza from here. Okay, I made that up, but seriously, both of them are vegan and might have ordered pizza from here before.

9) Timber: Wood-fired pizza in Petworth. To be honest, I’ve never eaten here (again, any takers to be my new pizza-eating buddy?). Based on other people’s reviews, this place sounds really good. And I know they offer vegan cheese. I wanted to go on Monday night to prepare for this blog post. But it’s closed on Mondays, resulting in a significant point loss. Some people need pizza at the end of a long Monday (especially before a major derecho). I know I did.

As Pitbull famously wrote, “[Vegan pizza is] going down [my throat]. I’m yelling Timber.”

10) DC Pizza: I’ve never been here either, but they do offer vegan cheese. I think it’s similar to &Pizza, but no vegan sausage option.

Lower Tier

Well, pretty much every other pizza place in DC doesn’t have vegan cheese, which results in a crushing point loss for them. Basically all of the other great pizza places in DC still make pretty good cheese-less pizza (call me crazy, but I prefer cheese on my pizza). As more and more people ditch dairy cheese, these places need to pick up the slack and acknowledge the changing tides.

In Italy, the birthplace of pizza, meat sales are declining. In response, the leading mortadella company in Italy came out with vegan versions of their products. A few years ago, that would’ve been unheard of. As of 2018, the company’s president said:  “It is an incontrovertible fact that the number of consumers choosing vegetarian and vegan [products] is growing.”

And New York City, the most well-known pizza city in the country, is now widely considered to be the most vegan-friendly city, with a large number of lactose struggling Jews and amazing vegan pizza places.

So, my message to Wiseguys, 2 Amys, Ghibellina, il Canale, Etto, Vace, All Purpose, Matchbox, 7th Hill, We The Pizza–heck, let’s throw in Manny & Olga’s, Pizza Boli’s, Ledo’s, Papa John’s, Domino’s and Pizza Hut–it’s already the year 5778! (in the Hebrew calendar). Let’s get with the times and start offering vegan cheese.

If you have any questions, you can find me in Adams Morgan blocking traffic on 18th Street as I debate whether to get Mellow Mushroom or Duccini’s.

 

About the Author: Andrew Friedman is an attorney in Washington, DC. He writes about food, nutrition, and veganism on his blog, The Avocadbro, and shares his favorite vegan eating adventures on Instagram. He loves animals, but doesn’t love eating them.

Your 2018 Shavuot Guide

Shavuot is here! For those wanting a quick refresher on the holiday, here’s a 2-minute Q&A to curb your curiosity.

Q) “What’s Shavuot?” 

A) Shavuot, AKA: “Feast of the Weeks”, is a two-day holiday celebrated 50 days after the first Passover seder (this year,  it goes from sundown on May 19 to sundown on May 21), marking the end of the 50 day counting period between the two holidays. It is believed that the Torah was given to Moses on Mount Sinai on Shavuot more than 3,300 years ago. To celebrate, it is customary to stay up all night long learning Torah. This is called a Tikkun Leil Shavuot. In recent years, many Jews have started to reimagine Shavuot…engaging not only with traditional Torah texts, but also with more contemporary texts and art. Learn more.

Q) “Do I get the day off work for this?”

A) Technically, we’re not supposed to work on Shavuot. We’re supposed to rest, eat a lot of dairy products (get those Lactaid pills ready), and dive into hardcore Torah study. But, how you choose to celebrate is ultimately up to you.

Q) “Do I have to fast for this one?”

A) Fret not. Rather than fasting, Shavuot involves eating a lot of cheesecake and milkshakes. There’s several reasons for eating dairy meals on this holiday, here’s a few.

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Sound like a holiday you could get into? Why not start this year? Here’s some fun Shavuot happenings across DC this month:

Events

Don’t see your event listed? Submit it to our calendar, and then shoot us an email.

Saturday, May 19

Sunday, May 20

 

Food for Shavuot

Meet Ben, Ben, Ben, AND Ben! (yes, you read that right)

GatherDC’s winter 2018 Beyond the Tent retreat was an amazing experience for young adults to get outside of DC for a weekend, unpack 21st century Judaism, and explore their Jewish identity over deep, meaningful conversations. Among the 30 participants, zero were named Rachel…but FOUR were named Ben! This week, the Bens of Beyond the Tent share their unique perspectives on Jewish DC and life in general – proving, once and for all, that not all Bens are the same. Get to know them…

 

Ben D. – Former Jewish Guy of the Week!

Allie: Where does your unique name come from? Do any of you have a cool story behind why you were named Ben?

Ben D.: I was going to be named after my grandfather, Sidney, which is now my middle name. As a result, my hebrew name is Simcha.

Ben F.: It was passed down from my great-grandfather.

Ben R.: I don’t know. Does that make me a bad Jew? Fake Jew? Typical Jew?

Ben L.: No, but my family and I grew a bit tired of our names last year (we’ve been using them for decades…) and so we used nicknames for a few good months. I went by Josh.

Ben F.

 

Allie: What do you love most about living in DC?

Ben D.: DC brings the best and the brightest young people from around the country, who come here specifically to make a difference in the world. DC is a springboard for young leaders.

Ben F.: Great collection of educated citizens that aren’t afraid to challenge the establishment. Ask questions, drive for change, and push forward.

Ben R.: All within a few miles and by way of a mass-public transportation train, there’s movies, comedy, craft beer, rock climbing, pour-over coffee shops, and challenging hikes. What else is there in life?

Ben L.: The monuments at night.

 

Allie: If you could pick a new name for yourself right now, what would it be and why?

Ben D.: I usually go by my full name “Ben Droz”, (rhymes with “Ben Rose”).  I like it just the way it is.

Ben F.: Staying with Ben. Simple name but yet plenty of clever nicknames.

Ben R.: When I was 26 years old, my first book was published. I had unlimited options for the name that was published on the cover: I could have chosen Ben, Benjy, Ben-jammin, Ben-jammmmmmmmmin, Benjamin, or an alias. I chose Benjamin, the name by which my loving parents chose to call me. And, I’m sticking with it.

Ben L.: Josh. Worked before. Could work again.

Allie: I hear you all recently went on GatherDC’s Beyond the Tent retreat with Rabbi Aaron! First, how was it? Second, was it weird, awesome, or both meeting 3 other Bens?

Ben D.: Beyond the Tent was a great experience, to get out of the DC bubble and make time for deep reflection. It helped to highlight that any person can define Judaism for themselves. I am used to there being other Bens around throughout my life, which is one reason why I usually go by my full name. But this time, we made up more than 10% of the whole group, so yes, that was both weird and awesome.

Ben F.: Beyond the Tent was a mind-changing experience. Rabbi Aaron encouraged us to ask difficult questions and not to be afraid to stand behind our beliefs. In terms of meeting all the Bens, I think we embraced it – it was like our own little breakout group in itself.

Ben R.: Beyond the Tent impacted my life positively, partly because I was one of four individuals named Ben. Never again in my life, I’m certain of this, will I be in the same place with three other friends named Ben. That’s “Beyond the Awesome”.

Ben L.: It was a thought provoking weekend. I’m a regular attendee of the weekly secret underground gatherings of the Bens, so nothing too new.

 

Allie: Favorite thing to do on a free Sunday in the city?

Ben D.: There are always so many events in DC that I like to see what is going on and base my decision on that.  Last weekend I randomly went to the Zoo, which was fun.

Ben F.: Go for a run along the National Mall.

Ben R.: Watch professional football. Oh wait, I live and die by the Washington Redskins and football season is over? Dang it!

Ben L.: Park. I really enjoy not having to use the meter.

 

Allie: Favorite Jewish food? Ben R., we already know you hate hummus

Ben D.: Chicken Soup.

Ben F.: Might be a classic choice, but Apples and Honey.

Ben R.: [haha. Yep]. Not hummus.

Ben L.: My mom’s challah. All of her’s are good, but I’d say that 1 out of 4 is truly something divine, especially when my two year-old niece helps. Shout out to Maya, Talia, and Andrew, my favorite Jews in DC!

 

Allie: Any surprising facts about yourself?

Ben D.: I had a spiritual experience at Burning Man and now want to incorporate spirituality into my life in new ways.

Ben F.: I was born without two normal teeth and with all 4 wisdom teeth. Call me strange I guess!

Ben R.: Every morning, I touch my three tattoos and say aloud a blessing of gratitude about having my third chance in life and about accepting myself and others as we are. Thanks to Beyond the Tent, I realize now that, for me, this is a deeply Jewish and spiritual ritual.

Ben L.: I used to tear it up at table tennis tournaments as a kid.

 

Allie: Favorite Jewish holiday and how do you celebrate it?

Ben D.: Passover, because there is so much relating to the holiday (I follow sephardic food rules so that I can still enjoy rice and lentils). I like to celebrate by re-interpreting the Haggadah from a post-modern perspective.

Ben F.: Rosh Hashanah. And I try to spend time back home to reminisce on the year prior and look at new ways to seize the future.

Ben R.: Purim because my friend is baking me hamentashen. Ask me again in April, and I may say a different holiday if a friend bakes me something else.

Ben L.: Havdalah. I like to hear the candle’s flame slowly go out in the wine. Judaism places a lot of emphasis on transitions throughout one’s day, week, or year and when in crisis, and I think that’s smart.

 

Allie: Complete the sentence: When the Jews of DC Gather…

Ben D.: They will always find connection and meaning.

Ben F.: If meeting for the first time, you’ll probably get a first question like what you do for a living or where are you from.

Ben R.: They still congregate around the hummus.

Ben L.: You’ll never be the one with the best question or the best answer. That means it’ll be pretty exciting.

 

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Rabbi Rant: 5 Ways to Celebrate Tu B’Shvat!

Fun fact: Today is the Jewish holiday of Tu b’Shvat (literally – the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat), the new year for the trees. In terms of popularity, Tu b’Shvat is a bit of a “late-bloomer.” While today it has become a type of Jewish Arbor Day / Earth Day, it’s never mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, and originally its main purpose was for determining when fruits in ancient Israel were tithed.

Although most Jewish holidays are rooted in the agricultural cycles of Israel, Tu b’Shvat feels especially connected to the land of Israel and thus, especially disconnected from our lives in DC. After all, look outside – there are no trees blooming. *womp* (Meanwhile, right now in Israel the almond trees are the first trees to begin blooming.)

This makes Tu b’Shvat the perfect lens through which to address the question: how do we connect to a religion that originated in a different place and a different time?

I’d like to suggest five different ways to celebrate Tu b’Shvat that can also serve as five different ways of thinking about Diasporic Judaism more broadly.

Connect to the land of Israel. Long-distance relationships are never fun, but Tu b’Shvat could be a yearly opportunity to reconnect with the land of Israel. This could be accomplished by looking through photographs of hikes from your Birthright Israel trip, eating a few of the seven species to remind you of Israeli produce, or donating to an Israeli environmental group.

Throw a party. For many cultural Jews, Jewish holidays are a great excuse to get together with friends and family. Hanukkah was almost 2 months ago, and Purim isn’t for another month… Tu b’Shvat may not be the holiday you know anything about, but it’s the holiday you need. So, go gather your favorite people together, eat some fruit, drink some fruity beverages, and play “Apples to Apples” – that should hold you over for a month.

Learn about, and act on, Jewish environmental values. There are many great online resources for you to explore. If you’re doing it right, that should inspire you to act – as the Talmud says: “study is great because it leads to action.” (BT Kiddushin 40b)

Host (or participate in) a Tu b’Shvat Seder. As Rabbi Michael Strassfeld writes in his book The Jewish Holidays:For [the Kabbalists], trees were a symbol of humans, as it says, “for man is like the tree of the field.” (Deut. 20:19) In line with their general concern for Tikkun Olam – spiritually repairing the world – the Kabbalists regarded eating a variety of fruits on Tu B’Shvat as a way of improving our spiritual selves. To encourage this flow and to effect Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), the Kabbalists of Sfat (16th century) created a Tu B’shvat seder loosely modeled after the Passover Seder.” There are guides online that you can follow, or, like the Kabbalists of 500 years ago, you can make up your own ritual to help us feel spiritually connected to the earth.

Make the cherry blossom festival your “American” Tu b’Shvat. Unlike most cities, DC is actually pretty attuned to its blossoming trees. Instead of seeing this festival as simply a DC activity, make it a Jewish experience. There are many ways to do this. One easy way is to make a blessing on the tree. There are several examples in the Talmud for blessings over trees and/or beautiful sights. My favorite is short but sweet: “May it be God’s will that all the trees planted from your seeds should be like you.” (BT Taanit 5b)

 

Judaism is compared to a tree of life (Proverbs 3:18). It’s not always easy to find relevance in a tradition that is over 2000 years old. But we are deeply connected – physically and spiritually – to our environment. A holiday that reminds us to mindful of this relationship feels just as necessary today as ever.

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

 

Your Guide to Tisha B’Av 2012

With more than 5,000 years of history under our belt, we the Jewish people have collected quite a few holidays and days of significance.

This Saturday nightfall marks the beginning of Tisha B’Av — a 25 hour fast period that commemorates the destruction of the first (586 BCE) and second (70 CE) temples.  The fast begins at 8:23 p.m. on Saturday and ends at 8:55 p.m on Sunday.

For more on the origin of the day, I refer you to the eminently useful and intelligible Wikipedia (Tisha B’Av page), to Harpaul’s essay below on Tisha B’Av, and for more information on the observance of the day, I’ve pasted at the bottom of this post a handy list created by Rabbi Freundel of the Kesher Israel Synagogue— Stephen

Update 7/27/2012: Rabbi Joshua Maroof of Magen David writes about Tisha B’Av.

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Harpaul Kohli is a local economist, musician, and frequent attendant of Kesher Israel and TheSHUL.

Tisha B’Av (the ninth of Av) is one of the two big fast days in the Jewish calendar, along with Yom Kippur. But whereas Yom Kippur can be seen as a happy fast, as it represents forgiveness, purity, renewal, and new beginnings, Tisha B’Av is a sad fast, focused on mourning.

Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of both the first and second Temples. The Second Temple was destroyed (more specifically, set on fire) on Tisha B’Av itself in the year 70 CE. And 655 years earlier (though there are disagreements over whether the calendar omitted years), the First Temple was destroyed on Tisha B’Av.

But the tragedies extend beyond that. Each of the following happened on Tisha B’Av:

  • The Romans defeated the Jewish Bar Kochba rebellion, and Bar Kochba died in 135 CE (100,000 Jews also died around then).
  • King Edward I signed the edict expelling all Jews from England in 1290.
  • The Alhambra Decree expeled all Jews from Spain (Jews had to leave Spanish territories by July 31, 1492).
  • World War I began (Germany declared war on Russia in 1914).
  • Himmler presented the “Final Solution” plan to the Nazi Party in 1940.
  • The Nazis began deporting Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942.

In short, over more than two millennia, Tisha B’Av has been the date for the two biggest tragedies in Jewish history (the two Temples’ destruction) and many of the other great tragedies. It is for these reasons that it has been set aside as the calendar’s day of mourning above all others.

Tisha B’Av’s status has led to debates over the centuries on how to commemorate other tragedies. Namely, there is a strongly held view that the mourning for all great tragedies should be incorporated into Tisha B’Av.

Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah), for example, was opposed by many; they said that as Tisha B’Av is the great day of mourning, mourning for the Holocaust should be subsumed under Tisha B’Av.

The aftermath of the Crusades led to a similar debate. Before the Crusades, Jewish life in Franco-Germany was comparatively good. Most Christians were illiterate serfs living difficult lives under the command of their lords. In contrast, Jews were traders and men of commerce; nearly all Jewish men enjoyed basic literacy. But in the Crusades, the Christian soldiers destroyed Jewish cities and killed many Jews. This conflict was seen as a war of religions; many Christians and Jews at the time saw the conflict as one representing whose God who correct, and the Jews were constantly losing, with their lives shattered by the attacks.

The debate following each Crusade was whether to commemorate these sufferings only through Tisha B’Av or to designate Crusade-specific days of commemoration. Over time, the former view mostly won out.

The manner in which the agony of the post-Crusades Jewish community was incorporated into Tisha B’Av is incisively captured by a passage from a Kinnah. Kinnot are the liturgical poems that are read as part of Tisha B’Av services after the reading of the Book of Jeremiah on Tisha B’Av eve and after the Haftarah reading in the morning, and many kinnot said to this day were added to memorialize the Crusades. One kinnah, written by Rabbi Meir of Rotenberg, contains the following passage:

And I will shed tears until they flow like a river that reaches to the
gravesites of your two most noble princes.
They are Moses and Aaron [who were] on Mount Hor.
And I will ask them if there is perhaps a new Torah,
therefore your scrolls have been burnt!
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/maimonides/message/2375

You can see the echo of the “whose God is correct?” debate, expressing “doubts” by the greatest rabbi of his time. This also shows how profound was the suffering of Jews after the Crusades. But despite this, nowadays, we do not have any tangible mourning for the Crusades except as related to Tisha B’Av. (There is the idea that Jewish suffering during the Crusades was especially bad during Sefirah, the period between Passover and the holiday of Shavuot, but except for one prayer nothing concrete is done during that time on account of the Crusades.)

The subsuming of mourning for the Crusades into Tisha B’Av is not limited to the day itself. There is a fast three weeks before (one of the four minor fasts of the year), which commemorates the Romans breaching the walls of Jerusalem, and the period of time between these two fasts is known as the “Three Weeks” in English and Bain Hamitsarim (“Between the Straights”) in Hebrew. It is a lead-up to Tisha B’Av, with mourning increasing as the time period progresses.

The European Jewish community added commemorations for the calamities of the Crusades by adding new restrictions and mourning practices into this three-week period. Originally, and as still practiced by most Sephardim, almost all restrictions and mourning practices are restricted to the week of Tisha B’Av (eg, not cutting hair, shaving, wearing freshly laundered clothes, not bathing for pleasure) or to the nine days before Tisha B’Av (not eating meat or drinking wine). But to commemorate the Crusades, because they ended up not commemorating them elsewhere in the calendar, the European Jews extended most of the week-of-Tisha B’av restrictions (which originally lasted only 1 to 6 days, and still do for Sephardim, who never experienced the Crusades’ persecutions) to last the entire three weeks, and also added further restrictions.

So this reinforces the status of Tisha B’Av as the fundamental day of mourning of the calendar, so central that mourning for even the worst other periods of Jewish history were subsumed into it. This year, as we observe Tisha B’Av we can reflect on how our mourning ties us together with that of persecuted Jews through the millennia, and afterwards Tisha B’Av, with our shared mourning complete, we can be further grateful for the much better fortunate lives we lead in twenty-first century America.

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From Rabbi Freundel of the Kesher Israel Synagogue.

Laws of Tisha B’Av for 2012

Below are some laws of Tisha B’Av for this year. Note: The following laws are based on Ashkenazi tradition.

Fasting:

  • No eating or drinking from Saturday evening until nightfall the following evening.
  • Pregnant and nursing women are also required to fast. If one suspects it could be harmful to the baby or mother, a rabbi should be consulted.
  • A woman within 30 days after birth need not fast.
  • Others who are old, weak, or ill should consult with a rabbi. (MB 554:11)

Bathing and Washing:

  • Any bathing or washing, except for removing specific dirt — e.g. gook in the eyes is prohibited.
  • Upon rising in the morning, before prayers, or after using the bathroom, one washes only the fingers.
  • Anointing oneself for pleasure is prohibited. (Deodorant is permitted.)

Other Prohibitions:

  • Having marital relations is prohibited.
  • Wearing leather shoes is prohibited. (Leather belts may be worn).
  • Learning Torah is prohibited, since this is a joyful activity. It is permitted to learn texts relevant to Tisha B’Av and mourning — e.g. the Book of Lamentations, Book of Job, parts of Tractate Moed Katan, Gittin 56-58, Sanhedrin 104, Yerushalmi end of Ta’anis, and the Laws of Mourning. In-depth study should be avoided.

Other mourning practices include:

  • Sitting no higher than a foot off the ground. After midday, one may sit on a chair.
  • Not engaging in business or other distracting labors, unless refraining will result in a substantial loss.
  • Refraining from greeting others or offering gifts.
  • Avoiding idle chatter or leisure activities.
  • Following Tisha B’Av, all normal activities may be resumed.

Prayer on Tisha B’Av:

  • Lights in the synagogue are dimmed, candles are lit, and the curtain is removed from the Ark. The cantor leads the prayers in a low, mournful voice.
  • The Book of Eicha (Lamentations), Jeremiah’s poetic lament over the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple, is read at night.
  • Following both the night and day service, special “Kinot” (elegies) are recited.
  • Since Tallis and Tefillin represent glory and decoration, they are not worn at Shacharit. Rather, they are worn at Mincha, as certain mourning restrictions are lifted.
  • Birkat Kohanim is said only at Mincha, not at Shacharit.
  • Prayers for comforting Zion and “Aneinu” are inserted into the Amidah prayer at Mincha.
  • Shortly after the fast is broken, it is customary to say Kiddush Lavana.

When Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat:

When Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat, as it does this year, the following applies:

Fasting: 

  • The fast is postponed until Sunday.
  • There is no special Seuda Hamafseket before the fast.

Prayers:

  • Tzidkas’cha is not said at Mincha.
  • Pirkei Avot is not said at Mincha.

Kiddush, Shabbat Meals, Seuda Shlishit:

  • Regarding a shul Kiddush, if the kiddush can be held on a different Shabbat, it is preferable to defer it. If the Kiddush cannot be held on a different Shabbat — e.g. for an aufruff (groom prior to his wedding), it is permitted.
  • One may eat meat and drink wine at all the Shabbat meals. One may invite guests to the Shabbat meals.
  • However, one should not invite guests for Seuda Shlishit unless he does so regularly.
  • One may sing zemirot at the Shabbat meals.
  • A communal Seuda Shlishit is not held in shul.
  • One must stop eating and drinking before sunset, since the fast begins at  this time. People should be reminded about this, as it is unlike a regular Shabbat.
  • One May say Grace After Meals after sunset.

Marital Relations:

  • Marital relations are forbidden on Friday night unless Friday night is Mikvah night and women do immerse on that night.

Havdalah / After Shabbat:

  • Havdalah is postponed until Sunday night.
  • All the prohibitions except wearing shoes and sitting on a chair commence at sunset. These two activities are permitted until nightfall.
  • Non-leather shoes should be brought to Shul Friday before Shabbat. One  may not prepare on Shabbat for after Shabbat so soft shoes should not  be brought to shul on Shabbat. It is also forbidden to change one’s  shoes before going to shul, since this is disgracing the Shabbat.
  • At Ma’ariv Saturday night all should say “baruch hamavdil bein kodesh lechol,” the Chazzan removes his shoes, and then say “barchu.” The congregation should respond to “barchu” and then remove their shoes. Care must be taken not to touch one’s shoes when removing them. The Shabbat clothes are not removed until one returns home after Ma’ariv.
  • It is forbidden to smell spices Saturday night, since a person must refrain from such a pleasure on Tisha B’Av.
  • A blessing is recited over a Havdalah candle before the reading of Lamentations.
  • It is forbidden to eat or drink anything before Havdalah after the fast.
  • Only the two blessings “borei p’ri hagafen” and “hamavdil” are recited. The introductory verses are omitted, as are the blessings over the spices and candle.