How to fast safely on Tisha Be’av

Tips and tricks to get through the summer fast day.

Man pouring a glass of water (Illustrative). (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Man pouring a glass of water (Illustrative).
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
With a heat wave due Monday and Tuesday – the eve and day of Tisha Be’Av – until it begins, those who are observing the fast should drink a lot of cold water.
Those who are heavy coffee drinkers should have already cut down on their consumption of caffeine, as a sudden halt in drinking it can cause headaches while fasting.
Tisha Be’Av, the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av, is a day of prayer and fasting that commemorates five major calamities, including the destruction of the First and the Second Temples.
The blackest day in the Jewish calendar was prefaced by the Three Weeks, a period of mourning that began on the 17th of Tamuz, the day in 69 CE when the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans.
During the last nine days of the three-week period, there are Jewish communities that abstain from eating meat and poultry and drinking wine (except on Shabbat), purchasing new clothes, listening to music, shaving, getting haircuts and even from wearing freshly laundered clothes. No weddings are held during this period.
On the fast day itself, the biblical Book of Lamentations is read and one abstains from washing, wearing leather shoes, applying lotions or creams and having marital relations.
Magen David Adom has been preparing to treat those who feel ill during the fast. As the temperatures are expected to be high, more people than usual are expected to feel weak, to faint and suffer dehydration. More medics and paramedics than usual will be on duty at the Western Wall during the fast.
In addition to drinking at least two liters of cool water the day before the fast, one should avoid drinks with caffeine such as cola, cocoa, regular tea and, of course, coffee. Also, avoid sweet drinks and salty foods such as pickles and sunflower seeds.
The meal before the start of the fast should include complex carbohydrates, proteins and vegetables. Some have the custom of eating only one type of cooked item.
Before fasting, the elderly and chronically ill should consult their physicians about whether they should desist from eating and or drinking and about what medications to take. Women who are pregnant should consult their doctors and rabbis. People with kidney problems could develop kidney stones during a fast and should also consult a physician.
Do not exert yourself physically and stay in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.
The first signs of dehydration include headaches, dizziness, weakness, vision problems and, later, producing a minimal amount of urine. Pay attention to any changes in behavior and to symptoms. Call MDA at 101 if there’s a medical problem.
It’s best to end the fast by drinking a lukewarm beverage and eating a piece of cake or two slices of bread with cheese. An hour later, one should eat a light meal.
In Jerusalem, the fast begins at 7:41 p.m. Monday and ends Tuesday at 8:05 p.m.