29 Tammuz-6 Av 5774
27 July-2 August 2014
Sunday 27 July / 29 Tammuz
YOM KIPPUR KATAN
Today is observed as Yom Kippur Katan ("small day of atonement"), with optional fasting from dawn until nightfall and penitential prayers for self-purification and atonement in preparation for the coming month of Av.
Today is the Yahrzeit of Rashi -- Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105) outstanding prince of all the commentators on the Five Books of Moses, the rest of the Bible and the Talmud.
Attributes of the month of Av: Ruling permutation of the letters of HAVAYAH: KEH VAV YOD KEH, contained in the initial Hebrew letters of Haskeis Ushmo'a Yisrael Hayom... "...take heed and listen, O Israel, this day..." (Deut 27:9). The month's corresponding letter is: TET; Human attribute: HEARING; Body Part: LEFT KIDNEY ; Tribe: SHIMON; Constellation: ARYEH (Leo, the Lion).
Sunday night-Monday 27-28 July / 1 Av
Rosh Chodesh / New Moon Menachem Av
Add Ya'aleh Veyavo in evening, morning and afternoon prayers and in Grace after Meals. Following the morning Shacharit prayer, "half" Hallel and the additional Musaf prayer are recited. On Rosh Chodesh it is customary to eat a festive meal with bread.
The first day of the fifth month -- Av -- is the Yahrzeit of Aaron the High Priest (Numbers 33:38).
Today marks the beginning of the observance of the stringencies of The Nine Days, which culminate on Monday night-Tuesday 4-5 August with the fast of Tisha b'Av commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples. The prevailing custom during the Nine Days is to abstain from meat and wine (except on Shabbat), not to change, wash and launder clothes (except essential underwear), not to wash one's whole body even in cold water except where washing is necessary for hygiene, and to minimize business and pleasure activities, in order to keep our minds focussed on the Temple and our yearning to regain it.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged people to conclude the study of Talmudic tractates (siyum masechta) during this period in order to provide occasions for a mitzvah-feast, where meat and wine are permitted. The goal at this time is not to be depressed but to repent of our sins and focus our minds joyously on the Torah and the coming Redemption.
Thursday night-Friday 31 July-1 August / 5 Av
Yahrzeit of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the "ARI" (1534-72), outstanding Safed kabbalist and source of all the teachings in Eitz Chayim, "The Tree of Life", and numerous other volumes written down by his student Rabbi Chaim Vital. People in Israel flock to the ARI's gravesite in the old cemetery of Safed.
Today is also the Yahrzeit of Rabbi Michel Dorfman (1913-2006), guardian of Rabbi Nachman's grave during the post-World War II Communist regime, leading elder of the Breslover Chassidim and builder of the new Kloyz (synagogue) in Uman.
Friday 1 August / 5 Av
Eve of Shabbat
Although some observe the prohibition of washing the entire body even on the eve of Shabbat during the Nine Days, many wash in warm water in honor of the Shabbat and wear their customary Shabbat clothes.
Friday night-Saturday 1-2 August / 6 Av
Shabbat CHAZON, Parshat DEVARIM
Torah reading: Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22; Haftara: Isaiah 1:1–27 "The vision (Chazon) of Isaiah..." after which this Shabbat preceding the Fast of Tisha B'Av is named.
"Intent, focussed prayer on this Shabbat elevates the prayers of all the year, because the prayer of a poor person elevates all prayers to favor" (R. Uri of Strelisk). "This is the greatest Shabbat of the year" (the Oihev Yisrael of Apta). "On Shabbat Chazon every Jew is granted a vision of the Holy Temple" (Lubavitcher Rebbe).