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Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Don't Pray Today
Excellent post from TorahMusing.com on why prayer is de-emphasized on Tisha B'av.
A Non-Prayer Day
July 15, 2013
We spend so much time in synagogue
on Tisha B’Av yet it is not a day of prayer. As we shall see, we say the
minimal amounts of prayer, less than on a regular weekday. Our time is spent
mourning, remembering. Prayer is about the future; Tisha B’Av is about the
R. Menachem Genack (Birkas Yitzchak Al Ha-Torah, Deut. 1:45)
finds a hint to this unique status in the Torah reading that always precedes
Tisha B’Av. R. Genack quotes his mentor, R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, who
connected a number of Tisha B’Av rules with an underlying theory. Lamentations
ותשבו ותבכו לפני ה’ ולא שמע ה’ בקלכם ולא האזין אליכםEven when I cry and shout, He shuts out my prayer.
The final phrase implies that on Tisha B’Av, our ability to
pray is limited. Due to the overwhelming sorrow, we are unable to look to the
future. We cannot even fathom what we have lost, much less look for a path out
of the darkness.
The Beis Yosef (Orach Chaim 559) quotes the Rokei’ach,
who cites this verse as an explanation why we do not recite the Tachanun prayers
on Tisha B’Av. Of course, we cannot avoid obligatory prayers such as the Amidah but Tachanun is
technically optional, even though we say it (almost) every day. On Tisha B’Av,
when prayer is out of the spirit of the day, we omit this optional prayer.1
Similarly, on all other fast days we recite Selichos.
Why is Tisha B’Av the one fast day on which we skip Selichos? R.
Soloveitchik attributed this omission to the same reason, the absence of prayer
on this day of mourning.2
Talmudic law requires the addition of an extra prayer
service to a fast day. We are accustomed to thinking of Ne’ilah as
unique to Yom Kippur but it is supposed to be part of any full fast day. All
our other fasts only begin at sunrise and are not complete fasts. But why don’t
we recite Ne’ilah on Tisha B’Av? Again, R. Soloveitchik returns to
the theme of the cessation of prayer.
And similarly, we do not recite the paragraph Tiskabel in
the full Kaddish. That paragraph asks God to accept our prayers. On a day when
prayer is shunted, we cannot recite Tiskabel.
While R. Soloveitchik bases his analysis in the scroll of Eikhah,
R. Genack sees a hint to this in the Torah. After retelling the story of the
Spies and its aftermath, the Torah (Deut. 1:45) describes the Jews’ attempt to
forestall their punishment through prayer. “Then you returned and wept before
the Lord, but the Lord would not listen to your voice nor pay any attention to
you.” The aftermath of the Spies episode, which the Gemara (Ta’anis 29a)
tells us continues throughout the generations, includes dismissal of prayers.
On Tisha B’Av, we sit on the floor all morning and try to
fathom the magnitude of the disasters we have encountered over the centuries.
We spend all year planning for the future, charting our personal and communal
paths. But if we are not grounded in our past, if we fail to carry our history
with us, we have no rudder to faithfully guide us. All year we pray; today we
Others suggest an entirely different reason for omitting Tachanun:
Tisha B’Av is considered a holiday and we do not recite Tachanun on a
Elsewhere, R. Soloveitchik connects Selichos to
prayers. See Nefesh Ha-Rav, p. 199.