Halacha Date: 5 Av 5780 July 26 2020
The Sefer Ha’Minhagim, authored by Rabbeinu Eizik Tirna, states that one should not leisurely stroll around on Erev Tisha Be’av. The Rama, some great Acharonim, and seemingly Maran Ha’Chida as well, rule accordingly.
On Erev Tisha Be’av during the “Seuda Ha’Mafseket,” the last meal before the fast (which takes place following halachic midday, as we shall discuss), our Sages prohibited eating meat and drinking wine. It is customary to prohibit eating fish and drinking beer or other alcoholic beverages during this meal as well. If one usually drinks a small amount of an alcoholic beverage after one’s meal in order to aid in the digestion of the food (such as whiskey), if one wishes to do so following the last meal before the fast, one has on whom to rely.
Our Sages also prohibited eating two cooked foods during the last meal before the fast of Tisha Be’av. Even two eggs, one soft-boiled and one hard-boiled, are considered to be two cooked foods in this context. Nevertheless, if two foods were cooked in one pot in a way that is common during the rest of the year, such as a vegetable soup, peppers stuffed with rice, and the like, they are considered to be only one cooked food and they may be eaten during this meal. Similarly, our Sages prohibited only two “cooked” foods as opposed to baked goods, such as bread, which are not considered “cooked” foods in this context. Additionally, one may eat several kinds of fruits and vegetables during this meal. However, if the fruits or vegetables were cooked, they may not be eaten.
Some customarily eat bread with ashes (made from burnt paper and the like) during the last meal before Tisha Be’av. Our Sages tell us (Ta’anit 30a) that during this meal, Rabbi Yehuda bar El’ai would eat dry bread dipped in salt and drink a pitcher of water while seated between the oven and the furnace (the gloomiest place in the house) as though his deceased relative lay before him.
Everything we have mentioned above only applies to a meal eaten after halachic midday of Erev Tisha Be’av and only if this meal is the last meal before the fast of Tisha Be’av. However, if one plans on eating another meal after this one, although this current meal is being eaten past halachic midday, it is not considered the “Seuda Ha’Mafseket”. Similarly, if this meal is eaten before halachic midday, although one does not intend to eat another meal before the fast, it is not halachically considered to be the “Seuda Ha’Mafseket” (meaning that the above laws do not apply to it).
Important Note: Nevertheless, what many people commonly do on Erev Tisha Be’av is eat a full meal with many different cooked dishes close to the fast and afterwards sit on the floor to eat an egg and then recite Birkat Hamazon or first recite Birkat Hamazon and then wash again for bread, sit on the floor, and eat some bread and an egg after which they proceed to the synagogue for Tisha Be’av prayers. This is an error and is forbidden according to Halacha, for the Poskim tell us that when we say that as long as one intends to eat another meal before the fast, the previous meal is not considered the Seuda Ha’Mafseket, this only applies when one plans to have an established meal afterwards; however, if one knows the meal one is eating currently is the last actual meal one is having before the fast and only intends to eat an egg or another light snack for ceremonial purposes only and not because one is actually hungry, the previous established meal will retain the Seuda Ha’Mafseket status and it will have been forbidden to eat two cooked foods during that meal. Therefore, the correct procedure is to eat the last established meal (even with several cooked foods) before halachic midday, before going to pray early Mincha, or at least early enough in the day and leave some room so that one will become hungry again closer to the evening so that one may eat another established meal with appetite; this later meal will then be considered the proper Seuda Ha’Mafseket where one may eat only one cooked food and it will have been permissible to eat several cooked foods during the previous meal.