Following halachic nightfall on Tisha Be’av which is approximately twenty minutes after sunset (somewhat later in the United States), one is permitted to eat and drink. It is customary to recite Birkat Ha’Levana (blessing on the new moon) following Arvit prayers on Motza’ei Tisha Be’av; it is preferable to eat something small before reciting Birkat Ha’Levana. Some customarily put on regular (leather) shoes and wash their hands and face before reciting Birkat Ha’Levana. (Although there are those that rule that one should not recite Birkat HaLevana on Motza’ei Tisha Be’av, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that the prevalent custom is indeed to recite Birkat Ha’Levana at this time.)
On Motza’ei Tisha Be’av, some customarily wash their hands as they would every morning since on the morning of Tisha Be’av one may only wash his hands until the knuckles; thus, some wash their hands once again at this point. This is indeed a fine custom.
Our Sages tell us (Ta’anit 29a) that on the Seventh of Av our enemies entered the Bet Hamikdash and on the Ninth of Av shortly before sunset, they set fire to the Bet Hamikdash. This fire raged on for the entire following day, i.e. the Tenth of Av. Rabbi Yochanan said, “If I were in that generation, I would have established the fast day on the Tenth of Av, since most of the Temple burned on this day.” The Sages who established the fast day to be on the Ninth of Av were of the opinion that the beginning of the destruction is more severe.
The Talmud Yerushalmi relates that Rabbi Abon would fast on the Ninth and Tenth of Av. Although our Sages did not prescribe the fast to extend for two days since we do not have the strength to endure the fast for so long, nevertheless, since the Tenth of Av is also a day of tragedy and suffering, it is customary not to eat meat or drink wine on the night and day of the Tenth of Av, i.e. until sunset of the Tenth of Av. Ashkenazim customarily abstain from doing so only until halachic midday of the Tenth of Av.
Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jews may take haircuts and launder clothing on Motza’ei Tisha Be’av. Ashkenazim, however, customarily abstain from doing so on the Tenth of Av as well. When the Tenth of Av falls out on Friday (Erev Shabbat), there is room for leniency in this matter.
The Gemara (Ta’anit 30b) states: “Anyone who eats and drinks on Tisha Be’av will not merit to see the rejoicing of Jerusalem; whoever mourns for Jerusalem merits and sees her rejoicing, as the verse states, ‘Gladden Jerusalem and rejoice in her all those who love her; celebrate her joy with her all those who have mourned for her.’” Maran Rabbeinu zt”l explains that the reason why our Sages said “merits and sees” (present tense) as opposed to “will merit and see” (future tense) as would have been grammatically correct, is that there is a decree from Heaven that every deceased person will be forgotten from the mourner’s heart after twelve months (as a mourner is usually comforted for a period of twelve months after the passing of his relative, after which the intensity of the pain diminishes). The verse states regarding our patriarch, Yaakov (when he cried for his son, Yosef, upon thinking that he was torn apart by a wild animal): “All of his children rose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted.” The reason for this was because there is no such decree that a person who is still alive shall be forgotten from one’s heart and Yosef was indeed still alive. The same applies here. Although 1,949 years have passed since the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash, we continue to mourn over it since the Heavenly Bet Hamikdash is still “alive” and exists, as the verse states, “The Temple prepared by your hands, Hashem.” The Third Bet Hamikdash, which we pray should be built speedily and in our days, will descend from Heaven, already built. When one mourns over Jerusalem, it is a good sign for him, for he “merits and sees her rejoicing,” since the fact that one mourns over Jerusalem shows that the Bet Hamikdash is alive and well within himself and he shall one day experience its joy. Our Sages have indeed written that Mashiach ben David is born on Tisha Be’av.
May we speedily merit fulfillment of the following verses: “Your sun shall no longer set and your moon shall no longer withdraw itself, for Hashem shall be for you and eternal light and the days of your mourning shall be complete. The smallest shall become a thousand and the least a mighty nation, I, Hashem, shall hasten the redemption. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of Hashem and a royal diadem in the palm of your G-d”, Amen!