Tisha B'Av 101
A three week period of low-level mourning leads up to the holiday of Tisha B'Av; the three weeks commemorate the final siege of Jerusalem that led to the Second Temple's destruction in 70 C.E. During this period it is traditional to refrain from public celebrations, such as weddings, and many traditional men refrain from shaving, reflecting their practice during personal mourning periods. The last nine days of these three weeks culminating in Tisha B'Av are an even deeper period of mourning, during which traditional Jews avoid eating meat; some who did not previously take on certain aspects of mourning, such as refraining from shaving, will assume these signs of mourning during these nine days.
Tisha B'Av itself is a day of intense mourning, whose practice mirrors that of Yom Kippur in many respects. It is a day of fasting, on which one also is to refrain from washing, sexual activity, using perfume and other such ointments, and wearing leather. The Book of Lamentations (Megillat Eicha) and other dirges (kinot) are read in the synagogue. Visits to cemeteries reflect the mood of the day, which continues even at the break fast meal at the conclusion of Tisha B'Av, when neither meat nor wines are traditionally consumed.
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