Since it has been postponed, let it be postponed altogether.
Such was the opinion of Rabbi Judah HaNassi regarding a time when the fast
day of Tishah BAv (the 9th of Av) fell on Shabbat.
There are four fast days in the Jewish calendar that were
instituted by the prophets and sages to commemorate the destruction
of the two Holy Temples in Jerusalem:
a) The 10th of Tevet, on which Nebuchadnezzars armies
laid siege to Jerusalem, in the time of the First Temple.
b) The 17th of Tammuz, the day on which the Temple service
was disrupted in the time of the First Temple, and on which
the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans in the
time of the Second Temple.
c) The 9th of Av, on which both Temples were destroyed; the
First Temple by the Babylonians in the year 3338 from creation
(423 bce) and the Second Temple by the Romans in 3829 (69
d) The 3rd of Tishrei, which commemorates the assassination
of Gedaliah ben Achikam, the governor of Judea. The murder
of Gedaliah spelled the end of the small Jewish community
that remained in the Holy Land after the destruction of the
On these days we deprive our body of food and drink, stirring
ourselves to repent the sins and shortcomings that twice caused
the destruction of G-ds home and our banishment into
galut (exile). The strictest of these fast days is
the 9th of Av, on which the fast begins at sunset of the previous
evening (whereas the other three fasts begin at dawn of that
day), and on which additional physical pleasures are also
On Shabbat, however, it is a mitzvah to pleasure ourselves
with food and drinka mitzvah which supersedes the injunction
to fast. So when a fast day falls on Shabbat, the fast is
postponed to the following day, while on Shabbat itselfeven
if it is the 9th of AvOne should eat meat and
drink wine... and set his table even like the feast of Solomon
during his kingship.
In this context, the Talmud cites Rabbi Judah HaNassis
opinion that Since it has been postponed, let it be
postponed altogether. According to Rabbi Judah, when
the 9th of Av falls on Shabbat, the fast ought to be canceled
Core and Husk
The prophet Isaiah describes a fast day as a day of
goodwill before G-d. In other words, the negative aspects of the
fast daythe mourning, the recollection of our failings,
the deprivation of the bodyare not what define its essence.
At its core, the fast day is a wholly positive phenomenon:
a day of opportunity for man to bring himself closer to his
Why then the need to deny ourselves food and drink on such
a day? Only because the material aspects of life tend to erect
barriers between ourselves and G-d. We must therefore lessen
our involvement with the materialto the extent of forswearing
some of our bodys most basic needsthereby freeing
our soul to take advantage of the day of goodwill before
G-d without hindrance and obstruction from our physical
This explains why in the era of Moshiach the fast days will
be transformed into days of gladness and joy... festival
In the perfect world of Moshiach, the physical creation will
no longer obscure the face of its Creator; on the contrary,
it will equal, and even surpass, the spiritual as an expression
of the all-pervasiveness of the divine truth.
So there will be no need to suppress the physical self in
order to actualize the positive essence of the fast days.
Rather, these will be festivals, on which the bodys
joy and pleasure will contribute to the deepening of the bond
between G-d and man.
A Taste of Future
Shabbat is a weekly taste of the world that is wholly
Shabbat and tranquillity, for life eternal. Thus, when a fast day falls
on Shabbat, there occurs a similar process to that which will
transpire in the time of Moshiach when the fast days will
be stripped of their negative husk and their wholly positive
core will be exposed.
In other words, a fast day occurring on Shabbat is not a
clash between two opposing elements in which the stronger
element (Shabbat) overpowers the weaker (the fast day), relegating
it off to another time. Rather, the essence of Shabbat and
the essence of the fast day are fully compatible; Shabbat
only repels certain external aspects of the fast day. So its
not that the fast day is not being observed on Shabbat: it
is being observed in a different mannera manner that
is more consistent with its true function. It is being
observed in the manner in which it will be observed in the
perfect world of Moshiach.
This explains Rabbi Judahs view that when the 9th of
Av falls on Shabbat, the fast day should be postponed
altogether. For on such a year, Shabbat has enabled
us to actualize the quintessential function of the fast day
as a day of goodwill before G-d without the negative
externalities it requires on other days. There is no further
need, maintains Rabbi Judah, for a day of fasting.
On the Threshold
In actual practice, we do not follow Rabbi Judahs view.
When the 9th of Av falls on Shabbat, we observe the day in
its joyous, messianic form on that day; but on the next day,
we observe it again, this time with the negative trappings
that accompany a fast day in our still unperfected world.
For Shabbat is only a taste of a future perfection.
We still inhabit a world in which our material involvements
tend to obscure, rather than enhance, our spiritual sensitivities;
in which the needs of physical life tend to interfere with,
rather than facilitate, our relationship with G-d. Even on
Shabbat, we experience only a semblance of the absolute harmony
between Creator and creation that Moshiach will bring. So
after sampling a messianic Tishah BAv on Shabbat,
we must observe another, ordinary Tishah
BAv on Sunday in order to fully exploit the day of goodwill
granted us by G-d.
Nevertheless, Shabbat leaves its mark: the laws of a postponed
Sunday fast are more lenient than an unpostponed Tishah
And ever present in our awareness is the vision of Rabbi Judah
HaNassia vision even more pertinent today as we stand
on the threshold of the era of Moshiach and the elimination
of all negative elements that still cling to the periphery
of our lives.
Based on the Rebbes talks on Shabbat, Tammuz 17,
and Shabbat, Av 9, 5751 (1991) and on numerous other occasions
. Talmud, Megillah 5b.
. Compiler of the Mishnah, 121-192 ce.
. The 17th of Tammuz is also the date of other tragic
events in our history, including Moses breaking of
the Tablets of the Covenant as a result of Israels
worship of the Golden Calf (Talmud, Taanit 26a-b).
. The 9th of Av is also the date of numerous other
tragic events in Jewish history, beginning with the decree
that the generation that left Egypt would die in the desert,
as a result of the sin of the Spies (ibid.).
. Washing, anointing, wearing (leather) shoes and
. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 552:10. This applies
only to the rabbinical fast days, not to the biblically
instituted fast day of Yom Kippur.
. Zechariah 8:19; Mishneh Torah, Laws of Fasts
. See Reverse Biology, WIR, vol. IX, no.
. Talmud, Tamid 33b; Shabbat addendum to Grace
. See Shulchan Aruch and commentaries, Orach Chaim
. Sefer HaSichot 5751, vol. II, pp. 683 ff.; ibid.,
pp. 721 ff.; et al.