Categorized | The Three Weeks, Tisha Bav

Summer Fast Days

Posted on 18 July 2010

Tips for the 3 weeks and the 9 days

Organizing the Summer Fast Days

This year Tuesday July 3 marks the beginning of the Three Weeks of mourning, the period from the 17th of Tammuz (Shiva-Asar B’Tammuz) to the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av), which occurs on July 24th. There are many customs of mourning that can change your household routine that you should begin planning for now. As well, these summer fasts are quite long – and every passing hour can feel so slow – it’s to your benefit to plan how to feed and entertain the younger family members so the day goes smoothly and easily for you.

A Little Background:

The 17th of Tammuz commemorates five particular tragedies that befell the Jewish people:

1. The first luchos (tablets) were broken at Mount Sinai.

2. The tamid (daily burnt offering) was suspended during the period of the second Bais HaMikdash (temple).

3. The Romans penetrated the walls of Yerushalayim before the destruction of the second Bais HaMikdash.

4. Apostumos burned a sefer Torah.

5. An idol was erected in the Bais HaMikdash.
Throughout this period of the three weeks the Romans laid siege to Yerushalayim, torturing, enslaving and murdering Jewish people along the way, with the goal of reaching and destroying the Bais HaMikdash.

The 9th of Av commemorates five other tragedies, including the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash itself.

1. It was decreed that our forefathers would remain in the midbar (desert) for 40 years and not to enter Eretz Yisrael.

2. Nevuchadnetzer destroyed the first Bais HaMikdash.

3. The Romans destroyed the second Bais HaMikdash.

4. The City of Beitar was captured and many hundreds of Jewish people were murdered.

5. Turnus Rufus plowed the site of the second Bais HaMikdash and its surroundings after its destruction.

Since the times of the Bais HaMikdash many other tragedies have befallen the Jewish people during this period among those are; Haman launching his plan to wipe out the Jews of Persia, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, and the murder of the Archduke of Austria, which led to the First World War and Hitler’s subsequent rise to power.

Customs of the Three Weeks:

Jewish families take on several customs of mourning to help us feel the sadness of this period, like not making weddings, no music or dancing, no festive meals, no haircuts or new garments. In addition, during the first Nine Days of Av, leading up to Tisha B’Av, additional mourning rituals are taken on, which briefly include:

· not wearing fresh clothing or using fresh linens (except for Shabbos)

· not doing laundry (I’ll share some tips for managing this in my next email to you)

· not swimming (children playing in a sprinkler is OK)

· not eating meat or drinking wine (except for Shabbos)

· not doing any household remodeling or gardening or landscaping for pleasure

· limited bathing – just for cleaning oneself, not for a long, hot relaxing shower

There are several other customs and also leniencies for children’s laundry and bathing. Please consult your Rabbi if you have any questions.

So now that we understand why we mourn and the customs of mourning during this period, let’s talk about how to prepare your shopping, household activities and meal planning during this period.

Entertainment and Meal Planning

Here are some things to consider purchasing for the Nine Days in particular:

· Story tapes/CDs. If your kids are used to listening to music in the car or house, you’ll want to get some stories on tape or CD instead. To do this cheaply you can borrow children’s books on tape/CD from the library. These are made so children can follow along while looking at the book itself. If you want some Jewish stories, look in your local Jewish bookstore. There should be a nice selection of Jewish story recordings, usually marketed during this period. If you don’t live near a bookstore, go to or, this is a large New York bookstore chain with a nice selection available online. There are some very cute story and Torah CDs and tapes by Rabbi Juravel, among others.

· Pareve and dairy foods. Many women get stumped about planning so many non-meat dinners during the Nine Days. Start planning your meals now and stocking up on pasta and cheese, veggie burgers, tofu or TVP (texturized vegetable protein) and stir-fry vegetables, pie crusts and eggs for quiches or bread and eggs for French toast, bagels lox and cream cheese, or tuna, salmon filets or fish sticks for a fishy meal.

· Sprinkler. Starting on Rosh Chodesh Av (the 1st day of Av) put away your kiddy pool and take out a new sprinkler, slip-n-slide or some other water toy, so your children can still have some fun water play outside without transgressing the mourning customs of this period.

Activites and Meal Planning for the Fast Days

It’s important to plan your before- and after-fast meals, as well as the children’s meals in advance of the fast days. You don’t want to have to go food shopping and do much food prep and cooking while you’re fasting. It’s just not fun. Also, it’s a good idea to make a schedule of some activities to keep your kids busy since many Jewish day camps close early or close entirely for both these fast days.


Before the fasts… be sure to eat meals high in protein and fiber, but not foods that are heavy and hard to digest. Protein will give you energy and help stave-off hunger; high fiber foods and whole grains also fight hunger because they take longer to digest than white flour or processed grains. Try deli sandwiches on whole grain bread, chicken cutlets with corn or sweet potatoes, or Barilla Plus pasta (high in both protein and fiber) with veggies and sauce. Make sure to drink 10-12 glasses of water each day for the two or three days before the fast and wean off caffeine the week before to avoid painful afternoon headaches.

After the fasts… try lighter fare, like bagels and cream cheese or omelets for the main course. Fresh fruit salad is a refreshing side dish to help replenish vitamins. Opt for foods that will require minimal preparation on your part or that you can make a day in advance. Remember, by 9:30 at night when the fasts end, you probably will have minimal energy to cook, chop fruits and vegetables or make an egg or tuna salad. Also remember that water and juices will be better choices for rehydrating than sodas, coffee or tea.

Meals for the little ones… cook in advance some of the foods you know everyone will eat, perhaps mac-and-cheese, fish sticks, chicken nuggets or hot dogs. Then you’ll just have to warm and serve them, no prep work required. This isn’t a day for you to stress about each child eating from the four food groups, just worry about getting them all fed happily, with minimal stress for yourself. Go back to being menu-conscious the next day.


It’s important to plan activities that will keep the children busy, active and entertained, but allow you to stay indoors as much as possible. You don’t want to take your kids to a sunny playground and get hot and thirsty yourself.

There are great indoor activities for younger children.

· Many malls and IKEA stores have indoor play areas.

· Pet stores are another fun option – the children will enjoy watching a dog get a haircut and blow-dry in the animal grooming department, seeing the mice running in their exercise wheels, and looking at snakes, lizards, turtles and birds up close. This promises to be both entertaining and educational.

· The library also is a great place to visit. Let your children choose some books and read a few there and the rest at home.

· A crafts store is another good option. Let each child pick out one craft they will take home and work on. Modeling clay, scrapbooking, puffy paints for t-shirts and even new markers and stickers for a preschooler should keep everyone busy for a good while.

Play dates are essential to keeping siblings out of each other’s hair! Also, see if you and a neighbor can take turns watching each other’s children so you can each get a chance to rest.

When your children need to burn off some energy set up your new sprinkler and let them play outside. Hopefully this activity in the sun will also help tire them out for an easier bedtime.

Wishing you all easy and meaningful fasts and a Perfectly Organized Three Weeks.

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