On the ninth of Av we fast for about 25 hours, from evening to the following night. We follow five types of restriction.
1. No eating or drinking.
On Yom Kippur we have similar restriction but the reason is to make room in our vessel to receive the great light of Binah. On the ninth of Av we connect to the pain of the Shechina that went to exile because of the destruction of the Holy Temple creating disconnection between the Light and the Vessel. The consciousness is to express the desire to have the Light returning to the Holy Temple and return the Glory to the Shechina with unbreakable bond.
2. No washing, except for the fingers.
During the 17 day period leading to this day, the natural state of Chassadim turns into judgment.
3. No skin treatment (cosmetics, moisturizers or oils)
Taking care of the body, pleasuring it or adding beauty draws great judgment. It is okay to use when it is related to personal health.
4. No leather shoes
The leather comes from an animal that was killed to provide the leather. Wearing shoes and other leather items connect to the aspect of death especially when wearing leather shoes.
5. No sex.
On this day the Shechina left the Holy Temple and there is no light to support unification between man and woman. The state of darkness draws only judgment.
The Holy Temple was conquered on the seventh of Av and set on fire on the afternoon of the ninth of Av. It continued burning during most of the next day.
Why do we rise up from mourning after mid day when the actual destruction of the Holy Temple began at the same time?
Rabbi Chaim Vital in the writings of the Holy Ari explains that the Romans were killing the people with their swords and they thought that this is their end. When they saw that the Holy Temple was set on fire, they understood that God transferred the judgment from them to the construction of the Temple. The wood and bricks are just materials that can be replaced and that realization gave them comfort because they have opportunity to repent and bring the light back to them.
Why we don’t study Torah and Zohar on this day?
The Shechina that is our Mother doesn’t have direct connection with her children for two thousand years and that is a great pain for her and the Light. We ease the pain with our prayers and Zohar study but on this day of mourning we cannot enjoy the regular study of the Zohar. We can only study about the pain of the Shechina in exile and he destruction of the Holy Temple. The book of Eicha, Lamentation, connects us to that pain and ends with hope for the future Redemption.
” הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ יְהוָה אֵלֶיךָ ונשוב (וְנָשׁוּבָה), חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ כְּקֶדֶם”
” Bring us back to yourself, YHVH, so that we may return to you; renew our life as in days before,”