Dear B’nai Shalom members, friends, and families:
As the tragedy in Florida has truly struck our community, all Jewish communities, and in truth – all people, we continue to daven for the welfare of the missing and unaccounted, the souls of those already pronounced dead, and the wellbeing of the families and friends of the victims. The power of community is our greatest tool, especially in times of tragedy. Let us join together each day so that our Tefillah, Tehillim and learning can support our hope that our Tefillot (prayers) can provide some form of Chizzuk (strength) for the families experiencing such terrible anguish.
I have included the following list of rules, directives, and prohibitions affecting the “Three Weeks” which began last Motzei Shabbat, June 26th, in the evening. The “Three Weeks,” between the fasts of the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av, are a period of mourning for Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) and the Bais HaMikdash (The Holy Temple). The meaning and purpose behind these various halachos (laws) and minhagim (customs) is to help us feel the severity of this sad time in the Jewish calendar, a period that culminates in Tisha b’Av. Therefore, the customs of mourning intensify as we move closer to Tisha b’Av itself.
We hope and pray that this year will be a year for which 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.
I. Restrictions of the “Three Weeks”
The “Three Weeks,” is the time period between the fasts of Shiva Asar b’Tamuz and Tisha B’Av. Even though the fast didn’t begin until the morning, the restrictions began with the evening of the 17th of Tammuz.
A. Music. It is prohibited to play music or to listen to music. Even a student should not practice during the three weeks unless his or her skills will be set back considerable by the lack of practice. According to most, this prohibition includes even taped music. Although it may be permissible to listen to tapes with singing alone, it is preferable to refrain from the joy associated with music altogether. Singing is certainly permitted on Shabbat.
B. Haircutting is prohibited both for men and women. In cases of need, children’s hair may be cut until the week of Tisha B’av.
C. Shaving is prohibited according to most authorities, if not needed for business purposes. However, Rav Soloveitchik held that shaving was permitted until the nine days and this may be relied upon in certain circumstances.
D. Home beautification may continue until Rosh Chodesh. 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.
E. Important Purchases that would require a beracha of “shehechiyanu” – a new car, major appliances and furniture, clothes for semachot and the like. If there is a major sale, or one is left without a car or important appliance, these objects may be purchased (even during the “Nine Days”).
II. Restrictions of the “Nine Days”
With Rosh Chodesh Av, the more intense period of mourning for the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, known as the Nine Days, begins. Rosh Chodesh this year is Shabbat, July 9th -10th and all of the restrictions of the “Nine Days” begin immediately with Rosh Chodesh.
“As Av enters, we diminish our joy.” This statement of the Mishna is manifest in many laws and customs observed during the first nine days of the month of Av. There is a dispute among authorities as to whether this means that one ceases all joy during this period, or whether one is only required to diminish joy. One way or the other, some of the manifestations of this concept are the reduction of business, the prohibition of pleasurable building, and other similar things.
A. Home Repairs. Building for beauty or pleasure not required for dwelling 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.
B. Purchases and Clothing Repairs. New clothing may 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 things – 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 may do so during the nine days. Repairing torn garments or shoes is permitted.
C. Meat and Wine. The custom is to refrain from eating meat and poultry or drinking wine and 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 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. 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).
D. Laundering. Laundering of clothing or money is prohibited even for use after Tisha b’Av. One may not even give clothing to a non-Jewish cleaner. (Although one may give it to him before the 1st of Av, even though he’ll wash during the nine days.). The prohibition of laundering includes linens, tablecloths, towels, and money. A person who has no clean clothes may wash what he 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 private. One may polish shoes with liquid or wax polish, but should avoid shining shoes.
E. Wearing Freshly Laundered Clothing. 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 Shabbat clothing, as well as use clean tablecloths and towels. Changing bed linen, though, is prohibited.
F. Bathing and Swimming. 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. 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. Swimming is permitted until Rosh Chodesh Av. From Rosh Chodesh on, only instructional swim for children is permitted.
G. Hair cutting and Shaving. Hair cutting and shaving are prohibited. Even those who shave during the Three Weeks should avoid shaving during the Nine Days.
H. One may cut fingernails until the week in which Tisha B’Av occurs.
I. Trips. — Pleasure trips are forbidden only on Tish’a B’Av itself. However, one should refrain from purely pleasurable major trips from Rosh Chodesh. Trips abroad should specifically be avoided. Trips to Israel, on the other hand, are allowed because of the mitzvah aspect involved.
J. 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 application of the halacha may vary.
Shabbos Erev Tisha B’Av, July 17th
This year Tisha B’Av is on a Sunday which means that Shabbat is Erev Tisha B’Av. This affects some of the halachot on Erev Tisha B’Av, Tisha B’Av and the day following Tisha B’Av
A. One is allowed to eat meat and drink wine throughout Shabbat.
B. Couples should refrain from marital relations on Shabbat. It is best that after midday on Shabbat one try and refrain from leisurely walks.
C. Seudat Shlisheet should be eaten at home, preferably without guests. Meat and wine can be eaten at Seudat Shlisheet.
D. While the actual “Seudat Hamafseket” (the final meal before the start of Tisha B’Av) is not eaten when Erev Tisha B’Av is on Shabbat, one should still try and conduct Seudat Shlisheet in a more somber mood.
E. One is allowed to eat and drink after they have finished Seudat Shlisheet even if they did not specify this at the time they concluded the meal.
F. The fast begins at 8:23 pm and therefore all eating and drinking must stop beforehand.
G. After 9:14 pm one should say: “Baruch HaMavdil Bein Kodesh L’Chol,” which is a declaration that Shabbat is over and then one must change into Tisha B’Av appropriate shoes. The only other part of Havdalah that is recited is the bracha on the fire, “Boray M’orei Ha-Esh,” and it can be said in shul for everyone. If one is unable to come to Shul, the bracha may be said at home as well, before one reads Eicha.
H. If one must eat on Tisha b’Av, Havdalah must be said before eating.
IV. Laws of Tisha B’Av
The laws that pertain to the day of Tisha B’Av begin at sunset on Shabbat, July 17th at 8:23 PM.
A. Eating and Drinking. All eating and drinking is forbidden. This includes rinsing the mouth and brushing teeth. Swallowing capsules or bitter tablets or liquid medicine without water is permitted. The ill or elderly as well as pregnant and nursing women are required to fast even if it is difficult, unless a doctor says that fasting may injure health. Those not required to fast should eat only what is needed to preserve their health.
B. Bathing and Washing. All bathing for pleasure is prohibited even in cold water including the hands, face and feet. Ritual washing upon waking, after using the bathroom, touching covered parts of the body or before praying is permitted, but only up to the knuckles. One may wash dirty or sullied portions of the body (including cleaning the eyes of glutinous material), and if necessary may use soap or warm water to remove the dirt or odor. Washing for cooking or for medical reasons is permitted. A woman may not immerse on Tisha B’Av since relations are prohibited. Washing to commence the clean days is permitted.
C. Anointing. Anointing for pleasure is prohibited including oil, soap, alcohol, cream, ointment, perfume, etc. Anointing for medical reasons is permitted, as well as using deodorant to remove bad odor.
D. Marital Relations are forbidden. In addition, some hold that all of the “harchakot nidah,” (rules concerning the separation between husband and wife during nidah) such as touching and sleeping in the same bed are prohibited as well. These additional restrictions are relaxed in the daytime.
E. Wearing Leather Shoes. Even shoes made partially of leather are prohibited. Shoes made of cloth, rubber or plastic are permitted. Wearing leather shoes is permitted for medical reasons.
F. Learning Torah. Since the heart rejoices in the study of Torah, it is prohibited to learn topics other than those relevant to Tisha B’Av or mourning. One may learn (partial list): Lamentations with its midrash and commentaries, portions of the Prophets that deal with tragedy or destruction, the third chapter of Moed Katan (which deals with mourning), the story of the destruction (in Gittin 56b-58a, Sanhedrin 104, and in Josephus), works of mussar, and the halachot of Tisha
B’Av and mourning.
G. Sleep. One should deprive oneself of some comfort in sleep. Some reduce the number of pillows, some sleep on the floor. Pregnant women, the elderly and the ill are exempt.
H. Sitting on a normal chair is forbidden until midday. One may sit on a low bench or chair, or on a cushion on the floor. One who is unable to sit on a low chair (sick or elderly people, pregnant or nursing mothers) may sit on a regular chair.
I. Greeting someone with “good evening,” “good morning” and the like is prohibited. One who is greeted should answer softly and, if possible, inform the person of the prohibition.
J. Gifts. One should not give a gift except to the needy.
K. Idle Activity. Things that divert one from mourning such as idle talk, reading the newspaper, taking a walk for pleasure, etc. are prohibited.
L. Smoking is prohibited until afternoon. Those who absolutely must smoke may do so in private in the afternoon.
M. Work. The custom is to refrain until midday from any time-consuming work that diverts one from mourning.
V. Tefilla on Tisha B’av
A. Ashkenazim do not wear tefillin at Shacharit, nor is a blessing made on tzitzit. At Mincha, tefillin are worn and those who wear a Tallit Gadol make the blessing then.
B. Some Sefardim wear the Tallit and Tefillin at Shacharit as usual.
C. At Mincha, the prayers Nacheim and Aneinu are added to the Shemonah Esrei during the blessing “Veliyerushalayim” and “Shma Koleinu” respectively. “Sim Shalom” is said in place of “Shalom Rav.” If one forgot these changes, he need not repeat the Shemoneh Esrei.
V1. The Day After Tisha B’Av
A. Before eating one must make havdalah. There is no candle or Besamim. Recite “Boray Pri HaGafen” and then drink the grape juice.
B. The limitations of the “Three Weeks” and the “Nine Days” continue until midday of the 10th of Av. As this year, the 9th of Av is Sunday and thereby not a Nidche, (when the fasting is pushed off a day), all the Nine Days prohibitions last until Chatzot of Monday, July 19th, at 12:57 PM.
C. For those with the tradition of Kiddush Levana, it is said after breaking one’s fast at the conclusion of Tisha b’Av. One does not wait for the following Motzei Shabbat.
With Torah blessings,
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin