Dear B’nai Shalom members, families, and friends:

Even though we just recently completed the period of time on the Jewish calendar known as “Sefirat HaOmer,” the “Counting of the Omer,” a partial mourning period, we now turn our attention to ANOTHER, far more intense mourning period on the Jewish calendar, smack in the middle of our summertime season.

This period, knows as “The Three Weeks,” takes place between the fast days of the 17th of Tammuz (Shiva Asar B’Tammuz) and the 9th of Av (Tisha B’av), and is a period of mourning for Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) and the Beit HaMikdash (The Holy Temple).

There are many halachot and minhagim (laws and traditions) whose meaning and purpose behind these various traditions are there to help us feel the severity of this sad time, a period that culminates in Tisha b’Av. Therefore, the customs of mourning intensify as we move closer to Tisha b’Av itself.

The following are restrictions that apply during the mourning period of the “Three Weeks:”

Weddings do not take place during this time, and additionally, it is prohibited to play music or to listen to music during this time. According to the most strict opinions, even a student learning to play an instrument should not practice during the three weeks unless his/ her skills will be set back considerably by the lack of practice.

According to many opinions, the prohibition against listening to music includes even recorded music. Although it may be permissible to listen to tapes that are a capella, (with singing alone), there is a prevailing approach that includes refraining from the joy associated with music altogether.

It should be noted that singing is 100% permitted on Shabbat.

Haircutting is prohibited both for men and women during the entire Three Week period. In cases of a particular need, young children’s hair may be cut until the week of Tisha B’av.

Shaving is prohibited according to most authorities, if not needed for business purposes. However, the Rav, HaRav Yasha Ber Soloveitchik, zt”l, held that shaving was permitted until the nine days and his opinion may be relied upon in many circumstances.

Home beautification may continue until Rosh Chodesh Av. However, it is best not to begin painting and beautification of the home during the Three Weeks. If there are no other dates available, one can begin during this time.

We typically avoid important purchases that would require a bracha of “shehechiyanu” such as a new car, major appliances, and furniture, or clothing for smachot (Jewish life cycle events) and the like. If there is a major sale, or one is left without a car or an important appliance, these objects may be purchased (even during the “Nine Days”). There are additional, more strict restrictions of the Three Weeks that begin with the final nine days of the Three Weeks, naturally known as “The Nine Days.”

All of the restrictions of the “Nine Days” begin immediately with Rosh Chodesh. We follow the Mishnaic edict that teaches us: “As (the month of…) Av enters, we diminish our joy,” This statement of the Mishna is evident in many laws and customs observed during the first nine days of the month of Av. There is a dispute among rabbinic authorities as to whether this means that one ceases all joy during this period, or whether one is only required to diminish joy. Regardless how we observe this directive, some of the manifestations of this concept are the reduction of business, the prohibition of pleasurable building, and other similar activities.

Home repairs or building for beauty or pleasure that are NOT required for normal living should be suspended. Therefore, painting, wallpapering and general home decoration should not be done. Similarly, one should not plant for pleasure. Functional home repairs can be made.

We avoid purchases and clothing repairs during this time as well. New clothing should not be worn. One may not buy new clothes or shoes even for use after Tisha B’Av, except in a case of great necessity, for example for one’s wedding. One may also buy items, even “items of joy” during the Nine Days, if they will be difficult to find after Tisha b’Av, or even it they will be more expensive then. If one forgot or was unable to buy special shoes needed for Tisha B’Av, he/she may do so during the nine days.

Repairing torn garments or shoes IS permitted.

The accepted custom is to refrain from eating meat and poultry or drinking wine or grape juice during the nine days. This also pertains to young children. The prohibition of meat includes foods cooked with meat or meat fat. However, foods cooked in a clean vessel used for meat may be eaten. Eating meat and drinking wine IS permitted for Shabbat. Even one who has ushered in the Shabbat on Friday afternoon before sunset, or extends the third meal of Shabbat (Seudah Shlisheet) into Saturday night may also eat meat and drink wine at those times.

A child who eats early Shabbat dinner every Friday afternoon may continue to do so. Similarly, one may drink the wine of Havdala. However, grape juice is preferable according to some opinions. Meat and wine are also permitted at a Seudat Mitzvah such as a Brit Milah, Pidyon Haben, and a Siyum. (One should not, however, intentionally schedule a Siyum for
the nine days.)

Laundering during the Nine Days is prohibited even for use after Tisha b’Av. One may not even give clothing to a non- Jewish cleaner. One MAY give laundry over to a non-Jewish cleaner before the first of Av, even if the laundry will likely wash or launder the clothing during the Nine Days. The prohibition of laundering includes linens, tablecloths, and towels. A person who has no clean clothes may wash what he/she needs until the Shabbat before Tisha b’Av. Children’s clothing that constantly gets dirty may be washed by need even during the week of Tisha b’Av, in one’s home. One may polish shoes with liquid or wax polish, but should avoid shining shoes.

It is forbidden to wear freshly laundered clothing during the Nine Days. However, this does not apply to undergarments and shirts that are changed when one perspires. One can prepare BEFORE the Nine Days by wearing freshly laundered suits, pants, dresses and the like for a short time so that they may be worn DURING the Nine Days. Here too, the prohibition of using freshly laundered items applies to linens, tablecloths, and towels.

One may wear freshly laundered clothing for Shabbat, as well as use clean tablecloths and towels. Changing bed linen, though, is prohibited.

Bathing and swimming is forbidden during the Nine Days. The custom is not to bathe for pleasure even in cold water. Showering is permitted when necessary but should be done quickly in warm water. Swimming is permitted until Rosh Chodesh Av. From Rosh Chodesh on, only instructional swim for children is permitted. One may bathe on Friday in honor of Shabbat with hot water. Women may immerse in the Mikveh until Tisha B’av, and may prepare in their normal manner.

Hair cutting and shaving are prohibited during the Nine Days. Even those who shave during the Three Weeks should avoid shaving during the Nine Days. One may cut fingernails until the week in which Tisha b’Av occurs.

Pleasure trips are forbidden only on Tish’a b’Av itself. However, one should refrain from purely pleasurable MAJOR trips from Rosh Chodesh on. Trips abroad should specifically be avoided. Trips to Israel, on the other hand, are allowed because of the mitzvah aspect involved.

When it comes to business, it is generally agreed that in today’s economy, the factors of financial loss – rent, salaries, utilities, etc. would permit business as usual during the Nine Days. Depending upon the type of business and the possible effects of “closing shop” for more than a week, the applications of the halacha (Jewish law) may vary.

Concerning the laws of Tisha B’av itself and the Shabbat before Tisha B’av, we will conduct a comprehensive discussion covering the major halachot (laws) and traditions of these days at our Seudah Shlisheet (afternoon meal) on the Shabbat of the week BEFORE Tisha B’av.

We hope and pray that this year be a year that these Halachot are merely theoretical and that we are able to celebrate Tisha b’Av as a Yom Tov and not a day of fasting and mourning.

With Torah Blessings,
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin