8 – The Customs of the Three Weeks

01. The Three Weeks

The Three Weeks, which begin on the night of Shiv’a Asar Be-Tamuz and continue through Tisha Be-Av, are a painful time. This period is often known as Bein Ha-metzarim, recalling the verse, “All her pursuers overtook her in the narrow places (bein ha-metzarim)” (Eikha 1:3). Therefore, the Sages recommended that we take extra precautions on these days, which are prone to calamity. For example, even though one must always be careful and vigilant, those who go on a hike or swim in the sea must be even more careful during this period (see Eikha Rabba 1:29).
In order to signify the nature of this period, the Sages instituted the reading of special haftarot that deal with calamity on the three Shabbatot of the Three Weeks. On the seven Shabbatot following Tisha Be-Av, we read seven haftarot of consolation (SA 428:8, based on Pesikta).
Even though the Sages did not make any special enactments to mark the suffering and mourning of the Three Weeks, the Jewish people adopted the custom to refrain from music and dancing, and to avoid reciting She-heĥeyanu during this period. 1
There are other customs of mourning that various communities have adopted. Ashkenazim and some Sephardim, including Jews from Morocco and Djerba, refrain from cutting their hair during the Three Weeks. Other Sephardim are strict about this only during the week of Tisha Be-Av. Ashkenazim, Yemenites, and most Sephardim do not conduct weddings during the Three Weeks. Other Sephardim are more lenient, only avoiding weddings from the beginning of the month of Av (see below, section 7).
In the following sections we will discuss at length the customs of the Three Weeks, the Nine Days, and the week of Tisha Be-Av.

  1. Even though Shiv’a Asar Be-Tamuz begins at daybreak, the customs of mourning of the Three Weeks begin the night before. As we learned above, the fast was originally supposed to begin at night. The reason we begin fasting in the morning is that there are no harsh decrees against the Jewish people today. Therefore, it is up to the Jewish people to decide whether or not they want to fast, and they have decided to fast only from daybreak. However, the Three Weeks begin on the night of 17 Tamuz. Ĥida writes in this vein in Responsa Ĥayim Sha’al 1:24, based on Ramban. R. Moshe Feinstein, in Igrot Moshe oĥ 1:168, however, rules leniently, permitting weddings on the night of 17 Tamuz. Elsewhere (oĥ 4:112:2), he allows one to cut one’s hair then, if there is a great need. Tzitz Eliezer 10:26 disagrees, forbidding even weddings – through which one fulfills a mitzva – on the night of the seventeenth, because the Three Weeks have already begun. This seems correct.

02. Dancing and Music

The Aĥaronim write that it is forbidden to hold dances from 17 Tamuz through 9 Av (MA 551:10). This prohibition includes playing and listening to instrumental music. Thus, one may not hold or attend dance classes, concerts, or sing-alongs during the Three Weeks. One may hold or attend an aerobics class, whose main purpose is exercise, until the beginning of Av, but one should lower the music so that it is clear that the purpose is exercise, not celebration.
A Jew who makes a living playing music may play at non-Jewish events until the end of Tamuz. Even though he plays joyous music there, it does not make him so happy, because he is preoccupied with his work. From the beginning of Av, however, he should not play music at all (BHL 551:2).
Since the reason music is prohibited is that it brings people joy, music teachers may continue giving lessons until the week of Tisha Be-Av, because neither the teacher nor the students experience joy through music lessons. In addition, canceling the lessons will cause the teacher financial loss, and the students will have to expend extra effort afterward to return to their normal learning pace, possibly even requiring extra classes. It is best to learn sad melodies during the Three Weeks (Tzitz Eliezer 16:19). If the teacher and students usually take a break from their lessons at some point in any event, it is preferable, if possible, to schedule the break for the Three Weeks.

03. Playing Music and Singing at a Se’udat Mitzva

One may sing happy songs at a se’udat mitzva, like the meal at a brit mila, pidyon ha-ben, or sheva berakhot. One may also celebrate a bar mitzva or bat mitzva during this period, but only on the actual day that the child comes of age.
The poskim disagree about a locale where people always have musicians at a se’udat mitzva: May one have them during the Three Weeks as well? Some say that one may do so, since the music is for the sake of a mitzva. Others, however, forbid this. One who wants to be lenient has an opinion to rely on, as long as this is the general practice throughout the year.
Therefore, in a locale where people always hire musicians for bar mitzva celebrations, one may do so during the Three Weeks. However, if some people hire two musicians and others hire three, it is proper to hire only two during the Three Weeks. The same is true of all mitzva celebrations: We follow the general practice of the rest of the year.
Once the month of Av arrives, one should not hire musicians for any celebration. Similarly, one should not play recordings of happy songs, and one may only sing along with songs that relate to the mitzva celebration. One may even dance a little in a circle, as many people customarily do at a brit mila celebration. 1
Members of communities whose custom is to allow holding weddings until the end of Tamuz may hire a regular band for their weddings, because there is no celebration with a bride and groom without musical instruments. Even those whose custom is to refrain from getting married during these days may attend and dance at these weddings, as the joy they experience stems from a mitzva.

  1. Kaf Ha-ĥayim 551:40 cites a dispute among the Aĥaronim as to whether one may play music at a mitzva celebration. Hilkhot Ĥagim 25:6 rules stringently. Torat Ha-mo’adim 5:4 cites several Aĥaronim who rule leniently on this issue. See also Piskei Teshuvot 551:13, where it states that one should not be lenient after the first of Av.

04. Listening to Music on Personal Electronic Devices

Some authorities maintain that just as one may not listen to live music during the Three Weeks, so too one may not listen to recorded music played on home electronic devices during this period. One may listen only to songs without instrumental accompaniment during the omer period and the Three Weeks. This is how some of the greatest poskim rule (Igrot Moshe YD 2:137; Yeĥaveh Da’at 6:34). Some poskim even forbid listening to non-instrumental (“a cappella”) music during these periods (Tzitz Eliezer 15:33).
However, some permit listening to music on electronic devices, reasoning that the Aĥaronim only prohibited listening to live musical performances, which entails some degree of festivity. Listening to music through electronic devices, on the other hand, is not particularly festive. Granted, when phonographs, radios, and tape recorders were first introduced, people truly experienced joy when using them to listen to music. Today, however, when everyone listens to music on electronic devices all the time, people do not experience so much joy in doing so. Thus, it is not prohibited to listen to them during the Three Weeks.
Furthermore, a distinction can be made between happy songs and regular songs. It is only fitting to prohibit happy songs during the Three Weeks, whereas regular tunes, and certainly sad ones, should not be prohibited. Similarly, the Gemara (Shabbat 151a) teaches that the custom was to play flutes at a funeral in order to arouse people to cry out in anguish over the deceased, and this was part of the mitzva of accompanying the deceased to his final resting place (levayat ha-met). This shows that there is no sweeping prohibition against hearing instrumental music. Rather, one may not listen to happy tunes during times of mourning. I heard from my father and teacher that not only may one play sad instrumental songs related to the destruction of the Temple on the radio during the Nine Days, but it is actually good to do so, because it inspires people to mourn the destruction even more. 1 for the destruction [of the Temple].” According to this, it appears that the prohibition relates mainly to listening to joyous music, which is associated with dancing, while regular songs, and certainly sad ones, are permissible. Some people do not make any distinction between joyous songs and sad songs. These people take care, on the one hand, not to hear or play musical instruments during the Three Weeks or the omer period, but on the other hand will play joyous non-instrumental songs. They are mistaken, however, as one should be more stringent about hearing happy songs, even without instrumental accompaniment, than about hearing sad songs with instrumental accompaniment, concerning which one may rely on the lenient opinion. See R. Shmuel David’s article in Teĥumin 13. Also see above 3:10.
Even according to the more stringent opinion, one who is listening to a radio talk show that occasionally plays musical selections is not obligated to turn the radio off. However, one who takes care to turn it off when the music comes on should be commended (Hilkhot Ĥagim 25:9).
It seems that even according to the more stringent poskim, one may be lenient on Friday afternoon and Saturday night, because the sanctity and joy of Shabbat extends to these times. Indeed, we do not say Taĥanun on Friday afternoons, and we continue to wear Shabbat clothing on Motza’ei Shabbat. ]

  1. Among those who prohibit listening to music on the radio are: Igrot Moshe, yd 2:137 and oĥ 1:166, which tends toward stringency with respect to listening to instrumental music at all times nowadays; Yeĥaveh Da’at 6:34 permits listening to instrumental music in general but forbids listening to them on the radio and the like during the omer period and the Three Weeks. (In private conversation, however, he allowed Israeli radio station Arutz Sheva to play music during these periods, to avoid causing them to cancel their Torah-oriented segments.) Tzitz Eliezer 15:33 even forbids listening to non-instrumental music on the radio during these mournful periods. However, the rationale of those who rule leniently is strong, especially since the entire custom of refraining from listening to instrumental music and dancing during these times is first mentioned in the works of the Aĥaronim; it is not an ancient institution. Similarly, Responsa Ĥelkat Yaakov 1:62 concludes that listening to music on an electronic device is not included in the decree (or the custom of mourning) because these devices did not exist when the decree was first enacted. It seems, then, that the prohibition depends on whether or not the music is joyous. We can also derive this from the fact that the Aĥaronim permit attending music lessons during these periods because such music is not joyous. Clearly, then, it all depends on whether the music is joyous. Maharam Schick, yd 368, distinguishes between joyous music and sad music, ruling that sad music is not forbidden during times of mourning. This can also be inferred from the wording of Rambam in Laws of Fasts 5:14, where he discusses the prohibition of playing music after the destruction of the Temple: “Similarly, they ordained that one should not play melodies with any sort of musical instrument. It is forbidden to celebrate with such instruments or to listen to them being played, [as an expression of mourning

05. The Halakha in Practice

It seems that in practice, according to the lenient view, we should divide all songs into three categories: 1) joyous songs, like those played at weddings; 2) songs that are neither especially joyous nor especially sad, which includes most contemporary music and most classical compositions; 3) sad songs, like those played or sung when mourning a death or the destruction of the Temple.
From the beginning of the Three Weeks, one should refrain from listening to the first category of music – joyous songs. Starting from the first of Av, one should refrain from listening to the middle category as well, and listen only to sad songs, the third category. It also seems to me that when one listens to loud music, even if it is a neutral song, the force of the sound makes it more festive and practically transforms it into a joyous song. Thus, one may not listen to loud music even if it is the type of music that is permitted during the Three Weeks.
Furthermore, it seems that one may not attend a concert featuring sad music (requiems) during the Three Weeks. Even though the music is mournful, concerts are festive and joyous events, as evidenced by the fact that people usually dress up for them. However, it would seem that one may play a sad tune in commemoration of Jerusalem at a cultural event, even during the Nine Days (based on Shabbat 151a).

06. Hiking, Swimming, and Hotel Vacations

Some maintain that one must refrain from hiking and swimming or bathing in the sea or a swimming pool during the Three Weeks, in order to limit our enjoyment during this mournful period. Furthermore, since these days are prone to calamity, one must avoid potentially dangerous activities.
From a halakhic standpoint, however, these activities are not prohibited. After all, the Sages only instructed us to curtail our joy from the first day of Av. They did not prohibit engaging in pleasurable and enjoyable activities before then. The only thing one should avoid is special celebrations, like parties, concerts, and dances. Therefore, one may go hiking and swimming and one may vacation in a hotel until the end of Tamuz. In addition, the concern about engaging in potentially dangerous activities is not so serious that one must be more cautious than one generally should be throughout the year. Thus, one may go hiking and engage in similar activities during the Three Weeks, while taking particular care to follow the safety precautions that apply to such activities throughout the year.
“When Av arrives, we curtail our joy” (Ta’anit 26b). Therefore, one must refrain from outings and recreational activities that are mainly designed to provide pleasure and joy. However, one may go on a trip or vacation that is designed primarily for educational or therapeutic purposes during the Nine Days. The same goes for swimming, whether in the sea or in a pool: If the purpose is leisure, it is forbidden. However, if one’s doctor instructs him to swim for health reasons, he may do so even during the Nine Days. 1

  1. Yesod Ve-shoresh Ha-avoda states that it is proper to avoid enjoying oneself during the Three Weeks. R. Ĥayim Palachi writes (in Masa Ĥayim) that the rabbis of his city (Izmir) instituted a prohibition against strolling through the orchards, on the beach, or along the banks of the river during the Three Weeks (quoted in Sdei Ĥemed, Ma’arekhet Bein Ha-metzarim 1:10). The other Aĥaronim, however, did not cite this stringency. It is mentioned only in contemporary works (Am Ke-lavi, p. 170; Nit’ei Gavriel 23:3, as a secondary opinion; Mikra’ei Kodesh {Harari}, 5:1). It appears that this is a pious custom, which is why most Aĥaronim do not cite it. In practice, the halakha dictates that one must curtail pleasurable, joyous activities only during the Nine Days. We find the same idea with regard to consuming meat and wine and engaging in joyous business transactions: They are forbidden only from the first of Av. Similarly, there is no reason to prohibit hiking because it is dangerous. The very obligation to avoid danger is a Torah command; while we are exceptionally cautious during these days, this does not mean that we create an entirely new system of safety rules.
    The same applies to swimming in the sea or a river. It is similar to hiking both in terms of the pleasure derived and the danger involved. There is a posek who is stringent about this (Mekor Ĥayim by the author of Ĥavot Ya’ir, 551:4), but many authorities permit it, as we find in Terumat Ha-deshen §150, which states that people used to bathe in rivers during the Nine Days, and no one protested. Shulĥan Gavo’ah §551 writes that the custom in Thessaloniki was to swim in the sea even on the day before Tisha Be-Av. Likewise, Yeĥaveh Da’at 1:38 states that one may swim in a pool or in the sea even during the week of Tisha Be-Av. It seems more proper to be stringent regarding swimming for pleasure during the Nine Days, not because swimming is inherently problematic, but because we must curtail our joy, as we will explain below. Nevertheless, we can derive from the opinions quoted above, based on a kal va-ĥomer argument, that swimming and hiking are permissible during the Three Weeks.
    However, it is preferable, le-khatĥila, to avoid going with a large group on an outing and to refrain from scheduling a summer camp during the Three Weeks. These activities are exceptionally joyous, as they are somewhat similar to dances. Nevertheless, be-di’avad, if it is very difficult to schedule the outing or the summer camp for a different time, one may participate in these activities until the first of Av, since these activities are not really similar to dances, whose main purpose is merrymaking. Rather, the goal of an outing is to acquaint the participants with a new place and to allow them to enjoy the social setting. Indeed, it would be proper to change the scholastic calendar such that schools would be in session during the Three Weeks. This way, fewer people would go on outings or go swimming during this period. As things stand today, however, the Three Weeks is when summer camps operate and the yearly vacation takes place. Therefore, one should not be stringent beyond the demands of the law and forbid outings or swimming before the first of Av. Regarding swimming daily for exercise, which is not considered recreational, but part of a healthy lifestyle, see below, section 21, where we explain that according to Sephardic custom it is proper to be stringent in this regard during the week of Tisha Be-Av, and according to Ashkenazic custom, from the first of Av. (See Rav Pe’alim 4:29, which states that even though one who begins swimming lessons before the Three Weeks should be stringent during the Nine Days, one should not rebuke him if he acts leniently and continues his lessons during the Nine Days and the week of Tisha Be-Av. It is written in the name of Ĥazon Ish that one may swim during the Nine Days for health reasons.)

07. Reciting She-heĥeyanu During the Three Weeks

Some of the greatest Rishonim would refrain from eating a new fruit or buying a new garment during the Three Weeks, in order to avoid reciting She-heĥeyanu. They reasoned: How can we say, “Blessed are You, Lord…Who has given us life, sustained us, and brought us to this time” during a period of such misfortune? (Sefer Ĥasidim §840). Even though some of the greatest poskim felt that one does not need to follow this stricture (Taz, Vilna Gaon), over time it became customary to be stringent and avoid reciting She-heĥeyanu during the Three Weeks. Therefore, we take care not to eat any new fruit or buy any new garment that would require one to recite She-heĥeyanu.
However, until the end of Tamuz one may purchase items that would not require one to recite She-heĥeyanu. For example, one may buy socks or undershirts, because these items of clothing are not significant enough to warrant the recitation of She-heĥeyanu. One may also purchase shoes if it is not his custom to recite She-heĥeyanu over them (SA and Rema 223:6; also see Peninei Halakha: Berakhot ch. 17 n. 4). Similarly, a couple may buy a piece of furniture, because, as partners in the purchase, they recite the berakha of Ha-tov Ve-hametiv rather than She-heĥeyanu. An individual, on the other hand, must refrain from buying furniture to avoid reciting She-heĥeyanu (SA 223:5; Peninei Halakha: Berakhot 17:3).
Until the end of Tamuz, one may also buy a fancy garment that requires alterations, to be worn after Tisha Be-Av. Since it cannot be worn at the time when it is purchased, one does not recite She-heĥeyanu at that time (MB 223:17). Furthermore, according to those who customarily recite She-heĥeyanu only when they first wear the clothing (which is the prevalent custom), one may buy a new garment during the Three Weeks, on the condition that he wears it and recites the berakha after Tisha Be-Av. Once Av begins, we minimize our business dealings, and so it is proper to avoid such a purchase even if one will not recite She-heĥeyanu at the time of purchase (see below, section 18).

08. In Which Cases May One Recite She-heĥeyanu?

One who is presented the opportunity to perform a mitzva that requires one to recite She-heĥeyanu, like a brit mila or a pidyon ha-ben, recites the berakha, because he did not determine the timing of the berakha. Rather, God granted him the opportunity to perform a mitzva that requires one to recite She-heĥeyanu during the Three Weeks (SA 551:17).
Similarly, one who sees a close friend after not seeing him for thirty days, and is happy to see him, should recite She-heĥeyanu, since if he does not recite it immediately, he loses the opportunity to recite the berakha. Likewise, one who sees his newborn daughter for the first time should recite She-heĥeyanu, since if he does not do so immediately, he loses the opportunity to recite the berakha (based on SA 225:1, MB 223:2).
According to most poskim, one may recite She-heĥeyanu on the Shabbatot of the Three Weeks. Even though some rule stringently on this issue (based on Arizal), in practice one may be lenient and recite She-heĥeyanu over a new fruit even on Shabbat Ĥazon (the Shabbat before Tisha Be-Av). Therefore, one who gets a new fruit during the week should postpone eating it until Shabbat, and then recite She-heĥeyanu over the fruit. If he cannot postpone eating it – for example, if he has no access to a refrigerator, and the fruit might spoil before Shabbat – he should eat it immediately and recite She-heĥeyanu (Rema 551:17, MB 551:98). With regard to a new article of clothing, one may likewise recite She-heĥeyanu on the Shabbatot before the first of Av. However, on Shabbat after the first of Av, one should be stringent and not wear the new garment, and thus not recite She-heĥeyanu (MB 551:98).

09. Marriage and Engagement

It is customary in most Jewish communities that no weddings are held during the Three Weeks. Technically, the prohibition applies only to an “optional” wedding, i.e., that of a man who has already fulfilled the mitzva of procreation by fathering a son and a daughter; one who has yet to fulfill this mitzva may get married even during the Nine Days. Nevertheless, it is customary not to schedule any weddings during this period, because it is an inauspicious time. Weddings should take place in times of good omens and good fortune, and this period is not one of good omen or good fortune. Some Sephardim do not hold weddings only during the Nine Days (see n. 5).
Until the first of Av, one may hold a modest, small-scale engagement party. Since such a party is a celebration of the couple’s agreement to get married, the event contains a mitzva component and is thus permitted (see above ch. 3 n. 7, regarding whether one may play music at such an event). One may not, however, hold a large-scale engagement party during the Three Weeks. During the Nine Days, when we must curtail our joy, one may not hold even a modest, small-scale party. However, the parents of the couple may meet, even during the Nine Days, in order to decide on the details of the wedding, and refreshments may be served at this meeting. Even though this, too, involves joy, it is permissible because such a meeting transforms the couple’s relationship into an accomplished fact, which brings them closer to the mitzva of marriage. It is also permissible for singles to date for the sake of marriage during the Nine Days. 1

  1. Beit Yosef and mb 551:14 explain that even marriages that fulfill a mitzva are prohibited during this period, because the time is inauspicious. Vilna Gaon 551:69 adds a novel idea, explaining that even from the standpoint of mourning the destruction of the Temple, one should refrain from getting married during this period. As the Talmud (bb 60b) states, if it were possible, it would be proper to avoid marriage altogether following the destruction of the Temple. Though we are unable to do this, it is proper to refrain from getting married at least during the Three Weeks.
    The Sephardic custom: Yemenite Jews do not get married starting from the seventeenth of Tamuz. Knesset Ha-gedola (whose author was from Turkey) was stringent, ruling that one may not even get engaged during the Three Weeks, and indeed, Moroccan Jews follow this custom. Ben Ish Ĥai, Year 1, Devarim 4 forbids weddings and states that it is proper to be stringent regarding engagements as well, in accordance with the ruling of Knesset Ha-gedola. Kaf Ha-ĥayim 551:44 also cites this position. R. Mordechai Eliyahu concurs in Hilkhot Ĥagim 25:3. sa 551:2, however, forbids weddings only during the Nine Days, and Yabi’a Omer 6:43 reinforces this, adding that one should not be stringent when it means restricting a mitzva, especially in our generation.
    A couple may undergo erusin (betrothal, i.e., kiddushin without ĥupa) during the Nine Days, and even on Tisha Be-Av itself, so that the man can ensure that no one else may preempt him and marry the woman. This is permissible only on condition that no festive meal is served during the Nine Days. Nowadays, we perform the erusin and nisu’in (marriage) together. Nonetheless, we learn from the fact that erusin is permitted that the parents of the couple may meet during the Nine Days in order to agree upon the conditions of the marriage, and that light refreshments may be served there. mb 551:16 rules this way as well.

10. Haircuts

The Sages instituted prohibitions against cutting one’s hair and washing one’s clothes during the week of Tisha Be-Av (Ta’anit 26b). Accordingly, Shulĥan Arukh (551:3) rules that one may not cut one’s hair from the beginning of the week in which Tisha Be-Av falls, and many Sephardim follow this practice. One may not cut even children’s hair if they have reached the age of ĥinukh (education), in order to train them to mourn the destruction of the Temple. The custom, moreover, is not to cut the hair of even children who have yet to reach the age of ĥinukh, in order to express the sorrow we feel during this period (SA 551:14).
Ashkenazim and some Sephardim – including Jews from Morocco and Djerba, and those who follow Arizal’s customs – are stringent and avoid haircuts during the entirety of the Three Weeks (Rema 551:4; Kaf Ha-ĥayim 551:80; Kitzur SA [Toledano] 387:8; Brit Kehuna 2:12; Jews from Tunis and Algiers customarily do not cut their hair starting from the first of Av, based on the ruling of R. Yehuda Ayash).
There is disagreement about whether these communities should be stringent about haircuts for children during the entirety of the Three Weeks or only during the week of Tisha Be-Av. In a time of need, one may be lenient until the week of Tisha Be-Av (MB 551:82).
This prohibition does not apply only to head and facial hair, but applies to body hair as well. One may, however, trim mustache hair that interferes with one’s eating (SA 551:12-13).
A woman may cut her hair if it is beginning to slip out of her head-covering due to its length. A woman may also remove facial or body hair that mars her beauty (MB 551:79, Kaf Ha-ĥayim 551:47). 1
In honor of a brit mila, the father, the sandak, and the mohel may cut their hair, until the week of Tisha Be-Av (see below, section 19, regarding clothing).
It is proper for a bar mitzva boy to refrain from cutting his hair during the Three Weeks, because he can cut his hair before the seventeenth of Tamuz. However, if the boy’s father usually shaves every day, he may shave in honor of his son’s becoming a bar mitzva, until the week of Tisha Be-Av (see Kaf Ha-ĥayim 551:10, Piskei Teshuvot 551:6).
One may comb one’s hair even during the week of Tisha Be-Av (MB 551:20, Kaf Ha-ĥayim 551:46). The Aĥaronim debate whether one may cut one’s nails during the Nine Days, although one certainly may do so in honor of Shabbat (MB 551:20, Kaf Ha-ĥayim 551:48).

  1. Some are even more lenient, maintaining that the prohibition on haircuts does not apply to women at all, in accordance with the opinion of sa regarding mourning after shiva (yd 390:5). This ruling is found in Panim Me’irot 2:37 and Torat Ha-mo’adim 5:26.

11. Shaving One’s Beard During the Three Weeks

As we have learned, the custom among Ashkenazim and some Sephardim is to refrain from cutting one’s hair during the entirety of the Three Weeks. Regarding shaving one’s beard, however, a question arises.
According to many poskim, there is no difference between cutting one’s hair and shaving; both are forbidden throughout this period (Kaf Ha-ĥayim 551:66, 493:19). This is the custom of most yeshiva students and those who observe mitzvot meticulously.
However, some maintain that it is proper, le-khatĥila, to shave every Friday in the period before the first of Av (based on MA and Pri Megadim). Others permit one to shave every day until the first of Av, since doing so does not entail any joy. According to them, the custom not to cut one’s hair applies only to haircuts, which are a somewhat happy occasion, and not to shaving, which is only the removal of unsightly facial hair and entail no joy. One who is lenient in this regard has an opinion to rely on, and others should not rebuke him. This is especially true in Israel, where Jews of all backgrounds live side by side, and most Sephardim are lenient regarding this issue. In addition, when there is an uncertainty regarding the Ashkenazic custom, one may take the Sephardic custom into account. In practice, everyone should follow his father’s custom – whether it is lenient or strict – to avoid disrespecting him.
However, starting on Rosh Ĥodesh Av, it is clear that according to both Ashkenazic and Sephardic custom one should not shave, even in honor of Shabbat Ĥazon. According to all opinions and customs, one may not cut one’s hair during the week in which Tisha Be-Av falls, nor is there any allowance to shave. 1

  1. Regarding shaving during the Three Weeks: ma 551:14 states in the name of Hagahot Asheri that according to Ashkenazic practice one should not cut one’s hair even before Shabbat, because people do not usually cut their hair every week. This implies that those who shave regularly may shave in honor of Shabbat. Pri Megadim, Eshel Avraham 551:14 similarly states that one may cut one’s hair for the sake of Shabbat before the first of Av. While Mateh Yehuda 551:4 rules stringently, Pri Megadim’s opinion seems more correct in the case of shaving, because one who refrains from shaving looks unsightly on Shabbat. See also bhl 551:3, which states that the Yerushalmi indicates that one may cut one’s hair in honor of Shabbat even during the Nine Days. R. Akiva Eger concurs. Another reason to be lenient is that those who shave regularly generally feel great distress when they go several days without shaving. Perhaps this is similar to cutting mustache hairs that interfere with eating, or applying ointment on Tisha Be-Av, which is permitted for one who suffers from head sores (sa 554:15). It also coincides with the ruling that I heard, that one may cut hairs that cause sores or headaches. In Nefesh Ha-Rav, R. Hershel Schachter writes in the name of R. Yosef Dov Soloveitchik that the Three Weeks have the same status as the year-long mourning period for a deceased parent, during which shaving is permissible; the customs of the Nine Days are like those of the shloshim period over the death of a close relative, when shaving is prohibited; and Tisha Be-Av is equivalent to shiva. Based on this, he permits shaving every day, until the first of Av, because not doing so makes one look disgraceful. See Tzohar, vol. 3, p. 39, where R. Soloveitchik’s opinion is challenged, but these challenges can be rejected. Also see Responsa Ner Ezra, vol. 2, pp. 155-158, which concludes that one may shave before Shabbat, stating that this is the opinion of R. Shlomo Min-Hahar and R. Aharon Lichtenstein.
    However, many poskim rule stringently, forbidding shaving altogether. So states Kaf Ha-ĥayim 551:66. Kaf Ha-ĥayim 493:19 quotes Aĥaronim who state that one may shave if refraining from shaving will cause a loss of income. Most people who observe the mitzvot meticulously follow this viewpoint. Igrot Moshe, oĥ 4:102 also only allows shaving in order to avoid monetary loss.
    In my humble opinion, it seems that technically, it is proper even for those who follow Ashkenazic custom to shave every Friday, until the first of Av. On other days of the week, however, it is preferable to be stringent. Nevertheless, one who is lenient has an opinion to rely on. One may be lenient to maintain his livelihood as well. Starting from the first of Av, it is proper to be stringent, both throughout the week and on Friday. Even though one could argue that it is imperative to shave in honor of Shabbat – as the Yerushalmi and R. Akiva Eger imply, as cited in bhl 551:3 – nevertheless, we find in the writings of the Rishonim (Kol Bo, cited in Beit Yosef 551:4) that it is customary to refrain from shaving before Shabbat Ĥazon, so that we enter Tisha Be-Av as mourners. We also find that the prevalent Ashkenazic custom was to refrain from wearing Shabbat clothes on Shabbat Ĥazon, as Rema 551:2 states. Even though we do not follow this custom, we can still learn from it that according to Ashkenazic practice, one need not be so meticulous about the honor of Shabbat Ĥazon. Therefore, during the Nine Days, it is better to refrain from shaving before Shabbat. In my humble opinion, it is proper to recommend to Sephardim that they, too, refrain from shaving during the Nine Days. Firstly, this is the law for those who forbid haircuts throughout the Three Weeks (Jews from Morocco and Djerba, and those who follow Arizal’s customs; Tunisian and Algerian Jews avoid haircuts starting from the first of Av). In addition, we find that this was the Sephardic custom, as cited in Kol Bo (by R. Aharon of Lunel, which is in Provence), that one must enter Tisha Be-Av in a disgraceful state. Today, the most prevalent sign of mourning is being unshaven, and, conversely, shaving is a tangible expression that one is not mourning. Therefore, it is proper to display this sign of mourning during the Nine Days and on Tisha Be-Av. Furthermore, it is proper to minimize discord, when possible. Accordingly, several contemporary authors write that Sephardim studying in Ashkenazic yeshivot should adopt Ashkenazic stringencies (Yeĥaveh Da’at 4:36). Even though today’s yeshivot in our communities are not Ashkenazic or Sephardic per se, but are open to students of all backgrounds, it is preferable, when possible, to minimize variation of customs. Therefore, when it comes to shaving for Shabbat before the first of Av, it is preferable to follow the custom of most Sephardim, who shave during the Three Weeks. During the Nine Days, however, it is better to follow the custom of Ashkenazim and some Sephardim, who do not shave. Nonetheless, one should not rebuke one who wants to rely on the logic found in bhl and follow the custom of the Sephardim who shave in anticipation of Shabbat Ĥazon. During the week of Tisha Be-Av, however, everyone agrees that one may not shave.
    Practically speaking, I heard proper guidance from R. Naĥum Rabinovitch, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Birkat Moshe in Ma’aleh Adumim. He suggests that everyone follow his own father’s custom, to avoid a situation in which a father is shaven during the Three Weeks and his son is not, or vice versa, as this could be an affront to the father’s honor. I would add that if the father follows the more stringent custom, there is reason to be concerned that if his son shaves, people will think that he is doing so for reasons of convenience, and not for the sake of Shabbat, which will result in an affront to God’s honor. Furthermore, one should not ignore the fact that one who refrains from shaving for three weeks demonstrates that observing Jewish customs is very important to him, and by doing so he sanctifies God’s name. See above ch. 3 n. 9.

12. When Av Arrives, we Curtail our Joy

The Sages state in the Mishna (Ta’anit 26b), “When Av arrives, we curtail our joy,” because this is a period of mourning over the Temple’s destruction. Therefore, one should not engage in joyous activities like hikes, hotel vacations, and social gatherings. Communities may schedule only events whose main purpose is educational or communal. In addition, one who needs to relax for health reasons may take a vacation in a hotel or a convalescent home (see above, section 6).
It is customary to refrain from arranging the warp strings (sheti) on a weaving loom during the Nine Days. The basis for this is the fact that the function of the Foundation Stone (even ha-shtiya), upon which the Holy of Holies stood and which is the foundation of the world, was abrogated. Therefore, we refrain from arranging the warp strings, which are the foundation of a garment. One also may not sew or knit new clothes or crochet a yarmulke during the Nine Days (SA 551:7-8). However, one may mend old clothes. One who makes a living sewing clothes or manufacturing material, and needs the income from the Nine Days, should ask a Torah scholar how to act.
It is best to cancel sewing lessons during the Nine Days, but if necessary, one may continue them, on condition that the students do not engage in sewing new garments. Rather, they should mend old ones or practice sewing on useless pieces of cloth.
The Sages also say that during this period, one should curtail business dealings that are joyous. It is even proper to decrease one’s involvement in all types of transactions. We also avoid joyous building projects and plantings; we will explain the details of these laws below (section 18). Since we curtail our joy during this period, it became customary to refrain from consuming meat and wine, which make one happy (as explained in sections 13-15).
Since this is a period of calamity, the Sages recommend that one who is involved in a legal dispute with a non-Jew should avoid going to court in the month of Av, because the Jewish people have bad fortune during this time and he is liable to lose the case (SA 551:1). 1

  1. The simple understanding is that one should avoid interacting with the non-Jew until Tisha Be-Av, but afterward one may contend with him as he would throughout the year. Korban Netanel quotes this interpretation in the name of the Zohar. ma, however, cites Rabbeinu Yeruĥam as saying that one should avoid interacting with the non-Jew throughout the month of Av. See mb 551:2, sht ad loc. 2.

13. Meat and Wine

The Rishonim had a custom to refrain from eating meat and drinking wine during the period of mourning over the destruction of the Temple. Some observed this stringency every weekday throughout the Three Weeks, while others did so only during the week in which Tisha Be-Av fell. Most Rishonim maintain that the proper practice is to refrain from consuming meat and wine during the Nine Days.
According to the Mishna (Ta’anit 26b), the prohibition on eating meat and drinking wine only applies to the se’uda ha-mafseket, the final meal before the fast of Tisha Be-Av begins. Nonetheless, the Rishonim adopted the stringency of refraining from consuming meat and wine during the entirety of the Nine Days, because meat and wine are known to bring joy, and the Sages said, “When Av arrives, we curtail our joy.” Furthermore, when the Holy Temple was destroyed, we ceased bringing meat offerings and pouring wine libations on the altar. Consequently, it would have been proper to abstain entirely from eating meat and drinking wine until the Temple is rebuilt, but we are unable to withstand such a decree (see BB 60b). However, during the periods that were established as times of mourning over the destruction of the Temple, there is room to be stringent.
In practice, the Ashkenazic custom to abstain from meat and wine throughout the Nine Days includes Rosh Ĥodesh Av. This was also Arizal’s practice. According to the custom of most Sephardim, however, one may eat meat and drink wine on Rosh Ĥodesh; the prohibition begins when the day ends (MB 551:58, Kaf Ha-ĥayim 551:125). We are stringent on the tenth of Av as well, taking care to refrain from eating meat and drinking wine then too, because the Temple continued to burn on that day. Ashkenazim abstain only until midday on the tenth of Av, while most Sephardim are stringent until the end of the day on the tenth of Av (SA and Rema 558:1, Kaf Ha-ĥayim, ad loc. 10).
The custom of Yemenite Jews is not to be stringent about this at all; they eat meat and drink wine throughout the Nine Days, only abstaining from meat and wine at the se’uda ha-mafseket, as the Mishna rules.

14. The Laws of Eating Meat and Drinking Wine

The prohibition on eating meat includes all types of meat: beef and poultry, fresh, frozen, and cured. Fish, however, is permitted.
It is customary to be particular even regarding foods that were cooked together with meat. For example, if potatoes were cooked with meat, one should not eat even the potatoes alone during the Nine Days, because the flavor of meat can be discerned in them. However, one may cook food in a pot that is usually used for meat, as long as the meat flavor in the food is not perceptible (MB 551:63, Kaf Ha-ĥayim 551:142).
Grape juice is included in the prohibition on wine, but alcoholic beverages like whisky and beer are permitted. One also may season a dish with wine vinegar.
If wine was added to dough, the resulting baked goods may be eaten during the Nine Days, because one cannot detect the flavor of wine in them. Le-khatĥila, however, one should not mix wine into dough during this period. 1
One who is even slightly ill may eat meat and drink wine, if it helps him (MB 551:61). A woman who has given birth within the last thirty days may eat meat in order to regain her strength. Similarly, a nursing mother who needs meat in order to increase her milk supply may eat meat during the Nine Days.
According to the custom of Sephardim and some Ashkenazim, the person who recites havdala after Shabbat Ĥazon may drink the wine in the havdala cup; in fact, he may drink the entire cup. Despite this, it is preferable to use grape juice, which does not bring joy. According to the custom of other Ashkenazim, if there is a child present who has reached the age of ĥinukh for reciting berakhot before eating, but does not yet understand why we mourn over Jerusalem (age six to nine, approximately), the person reciting havdala has the child in mind when reciting the berakha of Ha-gafen, and the child drinks the wine. If no such child is available, however, the adult who recites havdala drinks the wine. 2
15. Meat and Wine on Shabbat Ĥazon and at a Se’udat Mitzva
We eat meat and drink wine on Shabbat Ĥazon, as we do on every other Shabbat of the year. After all, even if Tisha Be-Av itself falls out on Shabbat, causing the fast to be postponed to Sunday, one may eat meat and drink wine on that Shabbat; one may even serve a meal as lavish as that of King Solomon in his time, since there is no mourning on Shabbat (SA 552:10).
In addition, one may taste the meat dishes that one prepares in honor of Shabbat Ĥazon, to see if they need additional seasoning. This is because the purpose of this tasting is not to enjoy, but rather to prepare for the mitzva of oneg Shabbat (making Shabbat a delight).
Similarly, one may eat meat and drink wine at a se’udat mitzva, such as a meal in honor of a brit mila, a pidyon ha-ben, or a siyum. One may also eat meat and drink wine at a bar mitzva celebration, provided that it takes place on the day the boy becomes obligated in mitzvot (see above, section 3).
There are divergent customs, however, regarding the number of people one may invite to such a meal. Some say that during the Nine Days one must limit the number of people one invites to the celebrants plus an additional minyan of ten men. Others maintain that one may invite all the people whom he would have invited had the meal occurred a different time. According to Rema, during the Nine Days, until Shabbat Ĥazon, one may invite anyone he would normally invite, but during the week of Tisha Be-Av, one should invite only a minyan of men, in addition to the celebrants. In practice, the halakhic ruling in practice varies according to the circumstance and the need.
The Aĥaronim write further that one should not intentionally schedule a siyum for the Nine Days, in order to permit the consumption of meat and wine, as this is a willful abrogation of the mourning over the Temple. Rather, only one who happens to complete a unit of Torah study during the Nine Days, in the course of his regular studies, may organize a festive siyum meal, provided that he usually does so when celebrating a siyum similar to this one (MB 551:73). 3
Even one who regularly recites Birkat Ha-mazon over a cup of wine should recite it without wine during the Nine Days (Rema 551:10, Kaf Ha-ĥayim 551:152).
Some have a custom to make a festive meal on the night before a brit mila, but this meal is not considered a se’udat mitzva. Therefore, one may not eat meat or drink wine during such a meal when it coincides with the Nine Days.

  1. Some poskim permit drinking distilled wine (brandy, cognac) that includes ingredients in addition to wine, while others prohibit it.
    According to many poskim, one may eat meat that is left over from Shabbat Ĥazon or from before the first of Av, because it will spoil if no one eats it. Some Aĥaronim rule stringently on the matter. Apparently, though, today, when there is no concern of wasting food because one can freeze the meat, there is no allowance to eat meat left over from the Shabbat meals.
    Regarding melaveh malka (the festive meal eaten after Shabbat): Kaf Ha-ĥayim 551:144 cites opinions of Aĥaronim who permit eating leftovers from Shabbat at the “fourth meal,” as long as one does not buy more food than usual for Shabbat in anticipation of this additional meal. Piskei Teshuvot writes that some permit one who is accustomed to eating meat every Motza’ei Shabbat at the melaveh malka meal to do so after Shabbat Ĥazon as well. Some rule stringently on this issue, too.
  2. sa 551:10 states that one may drink the wine from havdala. Rema and mb 551:70 state that one should give the wine to a minor. In Darkhei Moshe 551:9, Rema quotes Maharil as saying that, le-khatĥila, an adult may drink the wine from havdala, and all the more so wine from a se’udat mitzva. Other Ashkenazic Rishonim and Aĥaronim followed this practice. It is preferable to recite havdala over grape juice, because even though it is included in the prohibition against wine, it does not make one happy. Mikra’ei Kodesh (Harari) 1:14 quotes this in the name of R. Mordechai Eliyahu.
    The age of ĥinukh for berakhot is approximately six. According to Eshel Avraham (Buczacz), the age of ĥinukh for mourning over the Temple is when the child can understand the meaning of the destruction of the Temple and the fact that we do not eat meat because the sacrifices were annulled. According to many poskim, this occurs at the age of nine or ten. Others say that it occurs at the age of thirteen.
    According to ma and Ĥayei Adam, one may, le-khatĥila, feed meat and wine to children who have not yet reached the age of ĥinukh. Basing himself on Eliya Rabba, Dagul Me-revava, and Derekh Ha-ĥayim, mb 551:70 writes that this is permissible only in the case of havdala or if they are weak.
  3. Regarding the number of people one may invite to a se’udat mitzva: See Torat Ha-mo’adim 5:49, which summarizes the three opinions and rules in accordance with the most lenient one. mb 551:77 and Kaf Ha-ĥayim 551:165 indicate that there are two opinions regarding what it means to limit the number of guests. According to Levush, it means inviting ten people in addition to those who are actually celebrating the event and their relatives (close enough that they may not testify for or against them in court); one must follow this practice throughout the Nine Days. Rema, on the other hand, rules stringently only during the week of Tisha Be-Av, but during that period he rules even more stringently than Levush does, stating that in addition to the celebrants themselves, one may invite only enough people to complete a minyan, including relatives. Kaf Ha-ĥayim further states, citing Ben Ish Ĥai, that some people have a custom not to eat meat or drink wine even at a se’udat mitzva. Instead, they eat fish and serve other drinks, in order to avoid uncertainty regarding who may be invited. One certainly recites Birkat Ha-mazon over wine after a se’udat mitzva. Ĥabad Ĥasidim customarily celebrate siyumim specifically during the Nine Days, and they invite as many people as possible to the festive siyum meal, claiming that rejoicing over the Torah and increasing camaraderie are restorative. However, their opinion was not accepted in practice. In practice, the summer session in yeshivot ends on Tisha Be-Av, which means that the students usually complete the tractate that they study in that session during the Nine Days. But this is not done in order to cancel the mourning; therefore, the yeshiva may serve a distinguished meal, as befits the completion of a tractate that the students studied for an entire session.

15. Meat and Wine on Shabbat Ĥazon and at a Se’udat Mitzva

We eat meat and drink wine on Shabbat Ĥazon, as we do on every other Shabbat of the year. After all, even if Tisha Be-Av itself falls out on Shabbat, causing the fast to be postponed to Sunday, one may eat meat and drink wine on that Shabbat; one may even serve a meal as lavish as that of King Solomon in his time, since there is no mourning on Shabbat (SA 552:10).
In addition, one may taste the meat dishes that one prepares in honor of Shabbat Ĥazon, to see if they need additional seasoning. This is because the purpose of this tasting is not to enjoy, but rather to prepare for the mitzva of oneg Shabbat (making Shabbat a delight).
Similarly, one may eat meat and drink wine at a se’udat mitzva, such as a meal in honor of a brit mila, a pidyon ha-ben, or a siyum. One may also eat meat and drink wine at a bar mitzva celebration, provided that it takes place on the day the boy becomes obligated in mitzvot (see above, section 3).
There are divergent customs, however, regarding the number of people one may invite to such a meal. Some say that during the Nine Days one must limit the number of people one invites to the celebrants plus an additional minyan of ten men. Others maintain that one may invite all the people whom he would have invited had the meal occurred a different time. According to Rema, during the Nine Days, until Shabbat Ĥazon, one may invite anyone he would normally invite, but during the week of Tisha Be-Av, one should invite only a minyan of men, in addition to the celebrants. In practice, the halakhic ruling in practice varies according to the circumstance and the need.
The Aĥaronim write further that one should not intentionally schedule a siyum for the Nine Days, in order to permit the consumption of meat and wine, as this is a willful abrogation of the mourning over the Temple. Rather, only one who happens to complete a unit of Torah study during the Nine Days, in the course of his regular studies, may organize a festive siyum meal, provided that he usually does so when celebrating a siyum similar to this one (MB 551:73). 1
Even one who regularly recites Birkat Ha-mazon over a cup of wine should recite it without wine during the Nine Days (Rema 551:10, Kaf Ha-ĥayim 551:152).
Some have a custom to make a festive meal on the night before a brit mila, but this meal is not considered a se’udat mitzva. Therefore, one may not eat meat or drink wine during such a meal when it coincides with the Nine Days.

  1. Regarding the number of people one may invite to a se’udat mitzva: See Torat Ha-mo’adim 5:49, which summarizes the three opinions and rules in accordance with the most lenient one. mb 551:77 and Kaf Ha-ĥayim 551:165 indicate that there are two opinions regarding what it means to limit the number of guests. According to Levush, it means inviting ten people in addition to those who are actually celebrating the event and their relatives (close enough that they may not testify for or against them in court); one must follow this practice throughout the Nine Days. Rema, on the other hand, rules stringently only during the week of Tisha Be-Av, but during that period he rules even more stringently than Levush does, stating that in addition to the celebrants themselves, one may invite only enough people to complete a minyan, including relatives. Kaf Ha-ĥayim further states, citing Ben Ish Ĥai, that some people have a custom not to eat meat or drink wine even at a se’udat mitzva. Instead, they eat fish and serve other drinks, in order to avoid uncertainty regarding who may be invited. One certainly recites Birkat Ha-mazon over wine after a se’udat mitzva. Ĥabad Ĥasidim customarily celebrate siyumim specifically during the Nine Days, and they invite as many people as possible to the festive siyum meal, claiming that rejoicing over the Torah and increasing camaraderie are restorative. However, their opinion was not accepted in practice. In practice, the summer session in yeshivot ends on Tisha Be-Av, which means that the students usually complete the tractate that they study in that session during the Nine Days. But this is not done in order to cancel the mourning; therefore, the yeshiva may serve a distinguished meal, as befits the completion of a tractate that the students studied for an entire session.

16. Building and Planting During the Nine Days

Since we curtail our joy from the beginning of Av, one may not build anything that brings joy during the Nine Days. For example, one may not expand one’s house or porch unless there is a vital need for this. In addition, one may not plaster or paint the walls of one’s home, because these are considered luxuries that make one happy, and one can live without them (SA 551:2). Similarly, one may not do renovations that are designed to beautify one’s home, like replacing shutters, closets, curtains, or anything else that is valuable, brings one joy, and is not absolutely necessary. 1
However, one who lives with his family in a cramped living space may build an additional room during the Nine Days. One may also engage in any type of construction that is designed to prevent damage. For example, if a wall is about to collapse, one may demolish it in an orderly fashion and rebuild it, even if he does not need the room where the wall is located and there is no danger involved, because this prevents damage to his property.
Likewise, one may build, plaster, or paint for the sake of a mitzva, such as building a synagogue or a school (MB 551:12, Kaf Ha-ĥayim 551:25). Arukh Ha-shulĥan (551:7) states that anything that is necessary for the public good is considered “for the sake of a mitzva” and is permissible.
Similarly, one may not plant anything that brings joy, like decorative trees, hedges, or flowers (SA 551:2). However, one may maintain a decorative garden, water the garden, mow the lawn, and continue regular maintenance.
Any planting that has an actual purpose is permissible. Therefore, one may plant fruit-bearing trees during the Nine Days. Similarly, one who makes a living growing decorative bushes and flowers may plant them in his nursery in order to sell them.

  1. Building or repairing non-essential shutters and closets is considered joyous building. Thus states Igrot Moshe, oĥ 3:82, regarding a closet. It also seems proper to forbid putting up decorative wallpaper, as Be-tzel Ha-ĥokhma 4:54 states (and contrary to Igrot Moshe loc. cit.). Similarly, one may not install curtains that are purely ornamental; thus states Hilkhot Ĥag Be-ĥag 4:4. If, however, the main purpose of installing curtains or shutters is to ensure privacy, it would seem that it is permissible. The example of joyous building given in Ta’anit 14b is a “matrimonial house” for one’s son. This is not relevant today, which is why I did not mention it in the main text.

17. The Laws of Building during the Nine Days

A Jewish contractor and Jewish workers may continue building residential homes during the Nine Days in order to sell them, because the units are designed as living quarters and not as luxury homes. In addition, this is their livelihood. Furthermore, if they are building houses in the Land of Israel, this fulfills a mitzva. Plastering and painting, however, should be postponed until after the Nine Days, unless this will cause excessive loss.
Le-khatĥila, one who plans to build or install something superfluous in his home must stipulate with the contractor that he will refrain from working during the Nine Days. If, however, he mistakenly neglected to do so, he should ask the contractor to stop working during this period. Then, if the contractor asserts his right to continue working, there is no need to break the contract with him (MB 551:12, Kaf Ha-ĥayim 551:24).
A Jewish painter or plasterer may not work on another Jew’s home during the Nine Days. However, he may work on the home of a non-Jew. If he guaranteed that he would finish painting a Jew’s home, thinking that he could complete the job before the Nine Days, but is unable to do so in the end, he should ask the customer to exempt him from working during this period. He should even offer to pay the customer a small compensation. However, if the Jewish customer refuses to accept this, and the worker is afraid that he will sustain a great loss – like having to pay a large compensation – he may continue working during the Nine Days. 1
Poskim generally rule that one should not occupy a new apartment, whether it is owned or rented, during the Nine Days. However, if following such a ruling will cause great financial loss, one may occupy the apartment.

  1. Further examination is needed to determine whether one may plaster or paint houses that are up for sale, or if one may build mansions in order to sell them. It seems that one may be lenient on this issue if he is liable to suffer a loss, since building luxury items is prohibited only if it is done for a specific Jew, as it brings joy. Preparing houses for sale, however, is considered working in order to make a living, and what I wrote in the main text follows this approach.

18. The Laws of Business Transactions During the Nine Days

We curtail joyous business transactions during the Nine Days. That is to say, one may not buy luxury items like jewelry, clothing, fancy appliances, new furniture, or a car for personal use. Throughout the Three Weeks, one may not purchase anything that would require him to recite She-heĥeyanu. However, if it is something that does not require one to recite She-heĥeyanu, like a garment that still needs alterations or a jointly-owned piece of furniture, one may buy it until the first of Av (as explained above, section 7). During the Nine Days, however, one should refrain from purchasing things that bring joy. Therefore, one may not order a new garment from a tailor. The same applies to all items that bring one joy: If She-heĥeyanu is recited over it, one may not purchase it during the Three Weeks, but if She-heĥeyanu is not required, one must only refrain from buying it during the Nine Days.
However, if one comes across an opportunity to buy an item that brings joy at a bargain price and is afraid that he will lose this opportunity if he waits until after Tisha Be-Av, he may purchase it during the Nine Days. However, it is best to bring it home or begin using it only after Tisha Be-Av.
It is preferable to curtail even ordinary, non-joyous transactions. For example, if one usually makes a big shopping trip and stocks up on food and household items only once every few weeks, he should ideally do so before or after the Nine Days (based on SA 551:2, MB ad loc. 11, 13).
One may buy joyous items if they are needed for the sake of a mitzva. Therefore, one may purchase tefilin or Torah books during this period, because they are mitzva accessories and because one customarily does not recite She-heĥeyanu over them (Peninei Halakha: Berakhot 17:9). Be-di’avad, one who does not have canvas or rubber shoes for Tisha Be-Av may buy them during the Nine Days (Igrot Moshe, OĤ 3:80).
Merchants who deal in luxury items that bring joy, like jewelry and fancy clothing may do business during the Nine Days, in order to avoid losing their customers and thereby incurring great financial loss. However, they should try to engage mainly in preparations for transactions that will take place after the Nine Days. One who is able to close his store for the duration of the Nine Days without incurring significant financial loss should do so. 1 – does not apply to rabbinic commandments.)
If postponing the purchase of furniture and clothing for a wedding would cause the wedding to be delayed, one may purchase these items during the Nine Days, because doing so is for the sake of the mitzva of marriage. This is allowed only if the groom has not yet fulfilled the mitzva of procreation (Rema 551:2, mb 551:14). Nowadays, however, postponing these purchases does not delay the wedding, because people book a wedding hall and send out invitations months in advance, and it is possible to buy everything before or after the Nine Days. Either way, no one would cancel a wedding on account of these purchases. Only in rare cases, when the families are under great pressure, may they buy clothing, as poskim typically permit many things in situations of great need. I have written that, in practice, one must recite She-heĥeyanu over the purchase of Torah books, which bring people great joy (Peninei Halakha: Berakhot 17:9). Nonetheless, one may buy Torah books during the Three Weeks. One should refrain from arranging these books on one’s shelves upon buying them until Shabbat, at which point one should begin learning from them and should then recite She-heĥeyanu (above, section 8). Then one should arrange the books on the shelves on Motza’ei Shabbat.]

  1. Beit Yosef explains that there are two types of prohibitions: It is clear from Tosafot in Megilla 5b that one may not trade in luxury items that bring joy. In Yevamot 43a, however, Tosafot cite an opinion that states that one should curtail all business dealings. The formulation in sa seems to rule in accordance with both opinions, as they do not contradict each other. sa 551:2 deals mainly with transactions that bring joy, whereas sa 554:22 implies that one should curtail all business dealings. mb 551:11 states that it is customary to be lenient regarding regular transactions, because it is otherwise difficult to make a living. This is why I wrote that the main prohibition relates to items that bring joy and added that one should, ideally, curtail all business dealings. See Torat Ha-mo’adim 5:16, which states that regular transactions are completely permitted, even defining cabinets and appliances as items that do not bring joy. However, Igrot Moshe, oĥ 3:82 states that purchasing bookcases brings one joy, and one should, therefore, avoid doing so during the Nine Days. It seems that one should refrain from buying anything that brings joy, unless there is concern of financial loss. Under such circumstances, the Sages permitted engaging in transactions, just as they permitted building a wall that brings joy, if there is concern that not doing so will result in damage (mb 551:13). This is why I wrote that merchants may continue their business dealings as usual, even if they deal in luxury items, because they are liable to sustain a loss if they stop working. Several Aĥaronim follow this position as well; see sht ad loc. 13. (These merchants are not helping others commit a transgression, because it may be that their customers are buying for the sake of a mitzva and cannot postpone their purchase. And even for those who are violating a prohibition by buying, since they can make their purchase elsewhere, some say that the prohibition of lifnei iver – putting a “stumbling block in front of the blind” [Vayikra 19:14

19. The Prohibition on Laundry

The Sages prohibited laundering clothes during the week in which Tisha Be-Av falls (Ta’anit 26b). This is an expression of mourning; out of pain and identification with the deceased or with the Temple’s destruction, one ceases to take care of himself and pamper himself. Ironing and dry cleaning are included in this prohibition.
One may not even wash clothes in order to wear them after Tisha Be-Av, because one who does laundry appears as though he is taking his mind off of mourning over the Temple’s destruction. One also may not instruct a non-Jewish cleaner to wash one’s clothes for use after Tisha Be-Av (SA and Rema 551:3, MB ad loc. 34).
Just as one may not wash clothing during this period, one also may not wear freshly laundered clothing. This includes spreading fresh sheets on a bed, putting a freshly laundered tablecloth on a table, and using freshly laundered towels or cloth napkins.
Sephardim observe all the prohibitions on washing clothes as they appear in the Mishna, i.e, only during the week of Tisha Be-Av. Ashkenazim, however, are stringent regarding all of these prohibitions from the beginning of Av. In honor of Shabbat Ĥazon, however, even Ashkenazim customarily wear freshly laundered Shabbat clothes (Vilna Gaon; see MB 551:6).
Since the prohibition on wearing laundered garments lasts for several days, there is a custom to prepare a sufficient amount of “worn” clothes for this period. The procedure is as follows: before the prohibitions take effect, one must wear multiple articles of clothing in succession, each for about an hour or more. This way, the garments are no longer considered freshly laundered and thus may be worn during the prohibited period. One who did not manage to prepare clothes for himself before the prohibitions began to take effect may take a laundered garment, throw it on the floor, and even step on it. By doing so, it is no longer considered laundered and may thus be worn.
During this period, one may wear clean underwear and socks and change soiled hand towels. Since people are accustomed nowadays to changing these items frequently, changing them does not have any element of pleasure; rather, it is simply removing something repulsive. However, since it is difficult to know exactly when these items have reached the point of becoming repulsive enough to be changed, in a case of uncertainty it is preferable to place the fresh ones on the floor before wearing them. In a time of need, when one is left without any clean underwear, one may wash underwear even on behalf of adults. However, it is preferable, when possible, to add one’s children’s clothes to this load of laundry. 1
If one’s shirt becomes stained in a way that makes him look unpresentable, and he has no other shirt to wear, he may clean the stain with water, for the sake of human dignity (kevod ha-briyot). If the stain does not come off with water alone, he may use soap. 2
One may not wear festive clothes during this period, even if they are not freshly laundered. This prohibition applies during the week of Tisha Be-Av for Sephardim and from the second day of Av for Ashkenazim. Therefore, one must remove his Shabbat clothes at the conclusion of Shabbat Ĥazon.
However, in anticipation of a brit mila, the father, mother, mohel, and sandak may bathe and wear festive clothes, and if necessary may shave and cut their hair (MB 551:3). Close relatives of the boy’s parents, such as their parents and siblings, may wear festive clothes but may not cut their hair. The other guests may wear respectable clothes but may not wear festive clothes, such as those worn on Shabbat (see Rema 551:1; Sha’arei Teshuva 551:3; MB 551:3; Halikhot Shlomo 14:9).

  1. According to Ashkenazic custom, one may wear laundered clothing on Shabbat Ĥazon. This follows the Vilna Gaon’s opinion, cited in mb 551:6. Nonetheless, one should not change one’s bedding, because that is unnecessary.
    The suggestion to throw freshly laundered clothes on the floor is cited in Minĥat Yitzĥak 10:44, in the name of Kerem Shlomo. In earlier generations, the custom was that it was prohibited to change underwear and socks, as is implied in mb 551:6 and Kaf Ha-ĥayim 551:91 in the name of Ben Ish Ĥai. Today, however, we are more finicky, and we find it very difficult to tolerate the odor of these garments. Therefore, the accepted practice today is to wear laundered underwear and socks. This position is also cited in Piskei Teshuvot 551:17. See Hilkhot Ĥag Be-ĥag 4:27, which states that one should throw them on the floor for an hour. Ben Ish Ĥai, Devarim 6, permitted washing head scarves, because we find dirty head scarves repulsive. The same law applies to adults’ underwear: In a time of need, one may wash them during the Nine Days, similar to children’s clothes, as explained in the following section.
    Shining shoes: According to most poskim, this is not considered washing clothes and it is permissible even during the week of Tisha Be-Av. So states Yabi’a Omer, oĥ 3:31. Igrot Moshe, oĥ 3:80 permits shining shoes as long as one does not bring them to a burnish. In addition, Igrot Moshe, oĥ 3:79 prohibits dry cleaning, equating it to regular laundering.
    It should be noted that in Djerba (Brit Kehuna) as well as in some Moroccan Jewish communities, the custom was that washing clothes was prohibited from the first of Av.
  2. It seems that spot cleaning a stain with water alone is not included in the prohibition of washing clothes. Accordingly, Gesher Ha-ĥayim 21:10-11 states that one may wash a stain with water during the shiva period. Hilkhot Ĥag Be-ĥag 4:14 concurs. If one cannot go out in public without cleaning the stain with a small amount of soap, he may do so. This is permissible because, first, it may be that rubbing out a stain while wearing the garment is not considered a prohibited form of laundering, and second, the value of human dignity is so great that it overrides even certain prohibitions (Ber. 19b).

20. Children’s Clothing and Hospital Garb

Clothes worn by babies who regularly soil their outfits are not included in the prohibition. Likewise, one may wash sheets and blankets of young children who wet themselves at night. In addition, many people are lenient, in a time of need, with regard to washing older children’s clothes, because they soil their clothes as well, and there is no element of joy in doing laundry for them (Rema 551:14). Ashkenazim may rely on this leniency le-khatĥila until Shabbat Ĥazon (MB 551:82, based on Ĥayei Adam). Afterward, one may be lenient and wash older children’s clothing only if there is a great need, such as when all of their clothes are soiled to the point where it would be unbecoming for children to wear them. 1
When one is washing children’s clothes in a washing machine, one may not add adults’ clothing to the load. In addition, it is preferable, if possible, to dry even children’s clothing discreetly, inside one’s home, so as not to appear as if he is not mourning.
In a hospital, one may change patients’ bedding and wash their clothes as one would do throughout the year, because the purpose of laundering these items is to maintain cleanliness and prevent infections, not for pleasure or added comfort. Guest houses and hotels may change their bed sheets for incoming guests, because people today find it disgusting to sleep on previously used bedding (Tzitz Eliezer 13:61). Ideally, a hotel guest should step on the new sheets a little before using them, so that they will no longer be considered freshly laundered. He should then ask the attendants not to change his bedding until after Tisha Be-Av. 2

  1. Rema 551:14 states that the prevailing custom is not to refrain from washing children’s clothing. We are lenient in this regard until the age of ĥinukh, i.e., six, and in a time of need we are even more lenient. Hilkhot Ĥag Be-ĥag 4:16 states in the name of R. Elyashiv that it is customary to regard eight-year-olds as small children. It would seem that older children who get themselves very dirty should be viewed as small children for this purpose.
  2. A Jew may not do laundry for a non-Jew during the week in which Tisha Be-Av falls. Even Ashkenazim are stringent in this regard only during the week of Tisha Be-Av (mb 551:43). This is prohibited because of mar’it ayin (“appearance” of transgression), meaning that people will think that he is washing a Jew’s clothes. If, however, it is clear that the clothes belong to a non-Jew, he may wash them. A Jewish cleaner who has nothing to eat may wash clothes for non-Jews during this period (mb 551:42). One who runs a laundry service for a living may be lenient and operate it until Shabbat Ĥazon, even if he is Ashkenazic. The reason for this is that Sephardim are permitted to wash clothes until then, and Ashkenazim also permit laundering in certain cases, such as for a person who owns just one garment or in honor of Shabbat. (See Hilkhot Ĥag Be-ĥag 4:20, which permits such a person to work even during the week in which Tisha Be-Av falls, if he is liable to lose his job if he does not work. This requires further examination. See also ibid. 4:28.)

21. Bathing

Even though the Sages prohibited bathing on Tisha Be-Av only, the Rishonim were stringent and would refrain from bathing on the days preceding Tisha Be-Av as well. Many Iberian Jews were stringent as well, and would refrain from washing in hot water during the week of Tisha Be-Av. The Ashkenazic custom, on the other hand, was to refrain from bathing completely during the Nine Days, even in cold water. They would only rinse in cold water in preparation for Shabbat Ĥazon (SA 551:16, MB ad loc., Kaf Ha-ĥayim ad loc. 186).
Today, however, our hygiene and bathing habits have changed completely. In the past, people did not have running water in their homes, and bathing was thus considered a special occasion and a rare pleasure. Because of this, people barely suffered when they refrained from bathing. Nowadays, though, when people shower regularly, this has become a routine practice. Many people shower daily, with soap, and would suffer if they were to go even a single day without showering. Some even have difficulty falling asleep as a result.
Therefore, one who feels pain when he refrains from washing himself may shower in lukewarm water, so that he does not take pleasure in his washing, but rather that the sole purpose of this activity should be his own cleanliness. One may even use soap in order to remove a bad odor from one’s body. And if one cannot tolerate having unclean hair, he may wash his hair with shampoo. These rules apply according to Ashkenazic custom throughout the Nine Days. According to Sephardic custom, they only apply during the week in which Tisha Be-Av falls; before then one may shower using hot water for pleasure.
Even if having foul body odor due to lack of showering does not bother a particular person, he should nonetheless shower during the Nine Days and the week of Tisha Be-Av to remove this foul odor, because of the great value of human dignity. Moreover, many people are sensitive to bad smells nowadays, and if one fails to wash himself, he will cause a desecration of God’s name.
Everyone showers in preparation for Shabbat Ĥazon. The only distinction is that Ashkenazim use lukewarm water, while Sephardim permit using hot water. Those who are accustomed to immersing in a mikveh every day may do so until the day before Tisha Be-Av, though they must make an effort to use lukewarm water rather than hot water. 1
One may not swim for the purpose of recreation from the first of Av, because one must curtail joyous activities starting then. If the purpose is to improve one’s health, however, like those who swim daily for half an hour, it is permitted, according to Sephardic custom, until Shabbat Ĥazon. Afterward, though, it is proper to be stringent and refrain from all swimming. According to Ashkenazic custom, one may not swim even for health reasons throughout the Nine Days. One who needs to swim for therapeutic purposes may swim until the day before Tisha Be-Av (see above, section 6).

  1. sa 613:1 states explicitly that on Yom Kippur, one may wash his hands or body if they get soiled, because only washing for the sake of enjoyment is prohibited. mb ad loc. 2 infers from this language that one who sweats profusely may wash himself in order to remove the sweat, because such washing is not for pleasure. In the end, though, mb permits this only for an istenis (a delicate and sensitive person). However, if the poskim permit this on Yom Kippur, which is ordained by Torah law – and several Rishonim maintain that even the prohibition on washing is a Torah prohibition – one may certainly be lenient during the Nine Days, when the prohibition on washing is less stringent and is based on the custom of the Rishonim.
    Today, almost everyone is considered an istenis with regard to foul odors, since we have sinks and faucets for washing, as well as sewage pipes that remove excrement and urine. In the past, foul odors were commonplace, as sewage would flow in canals in between the houses, or it was buried near villages. It is evident that all halakhot relating to foul odors are determined based on what is accepted in the current setting. Therefore, we are more stringent nowadays with regard to allowing prayer in the presence of foul odor (see Peninei Halakha: Prayer 3:10). In addition, our bathing habits have changed completely, as we shower much more frequently than in the past. Everyone is considered an istenis in this area, and thus we may shower for the sake of cleanliness. The only qualification is that one should use lukewarm water, so as not to derive pleasure from washing. One should not be stringent and wash exclusively in cold water, because most people are used to showering in hot water, and thus using cold water would cause them great pain. Therefore, one should use water that causes neither suffering nor pleasure. It is also worth noting that the difference between the Ashkenazic and Sephardic customs apparently stems from the difference in climate in the regions where each of these groups lived. There is a greater need to bathe frequently in the hotter, southern lands than there is in the colder, northern lands. Moreover, the conventional wisdom among the non-Jews in Europe at the time was that bathing is detrimental to one’s health, and thus they would bathe only once every few months. The Jews who lived there were also influenced by this viewpoint to some degree. Therefore, they acted stringently during the Three Weeks. Today, however, especially in Eretz Yisrael, people suffer greatly from not washing, and the custom, therefore, is to be lenient.

22. Shabbat Ĥazon

Shabbat Ĥazon is the Shabbat preceding Tisha Be-Av, on which we read the haftara beginning with the words “The vision of Yeshayahu (Ĥazon Yeshayahu)” (Yeshayahu 1:1-27). This haftara contains admonitions that the prophet Yeshayahu pronounced to the people of Israel before the destruction of the Temple. According to Sephardic custom, the main expressions of mourning – like the prohibitions against washing clothes and bathing – begin immediately after this Shabbat, since that is when the week of Tisha Be-Av commences. Therefore, according to the custom of most Sephardim, there are no signs of mourning on Shabbat Ĥazon. According to Ashkenazic custom, however, several customs of mourning begin on Rosh Ĥodesh Av, making Shabbat Ĥazon part of the mourning period. Therefore, many of the European ancestors of Ashkenazim had the custom not to bathe in hot water before Shabbat Ĥazon or wear fancy Shabbat clothing on that Shabbat, as Rema writes (551:1, 16). Several great Ashkenazic sages, however, disagree with this custom, because one may not exhibit signs of mourning on Shabbat. Today, the prevalent custom among Ashkenazic Jews is to shower in lukewarm water, with soap and shampoo, in anticipation of Shabbat Ĥazon, and to wear laundered Shabbat clothing. Some are more stringent and leave out, or replace, one article of clothing, in order to express their sorrow over the destruction of the Temple (MB 551:6). 1
If a bar mitzva boy is called up to the Torah on Shabbat Ĥazon, his parents may host a kiddush in his honor, as is done on any other Shabbat throughout the year, since one should not exhibit signs of mourning on Shabbat. The same is true on the Shabbat before a wedding (Shabbat Ĥatan or aufruf), when the bridegroom is called up to the Torah: the family and friends may eat their meals together and participate in a kiddush, as is customary. Similarly, when a baby boy is born, those who have a custom to host a shalom zakhar may do so as they normally would. (The laws of Tisha Be-Av that falls out on Shabbat or Sunday will be explained below, 9:4.)

  1. Ashkenazim read some of the verses of the haftara of Shabbat Ĥazon and one verse of Parashat Devarim in the tune of Eikha (even when that Shabbat does not fall out on the ninth of Av). Many Jews of North African descent read all three “haftarot of calamity” that are scheduled during the Three Weeks in a chant similar to that of Eikha. Most Sephardim, however, refrain from doing this, to avoid any expression of mourning on Shabbat.

23. “The Week of Tisha Be-Av” when Tisha Be-Av is Postponed to Sunday

The laws of the week in which Tisha Be-Av falls pertain only to the Sephardic custom, which maintains that one may not cut one’s hair or wash clothes during that week, as the Mishna states (Ta’anit 26b). Ashkenazim, however, are more stringent and refrain from washing clothes from the first of Av (above, section 19). In addition, Ashkenazim and some Sephardim are stringent throughout the Three Weeks regarding haircuts (above, section 10).
A year in which Tisha Be-Av falls out on a Sunday does not have a “week in which Tisha Be-Av falls,” as the fast begins immediately after Shabbat. When the customs of mourning pertaining to the tenth of Av end, so do all the customs of mourning that pertain to the Three Weeks.
When Tisha Be-Av falls out on Shabbat, the fast is postponed to Sunday. Some say that since the ninth of Av is actually Shabbat, the entire week beforehand is considered “the week in which Tisha Be-Av falls” (Smag). Most poskim, however, maintain that since the fast is actually observed on Sunday, that year does not have a “week in which Tisha Be-Av falls” (Rosh, Ran). Most Sephardim follow this position (see SA 551:4). Therefore, they may wash clothes the entire week before Shabbat Ĥazon. However, it is proper that even Sephardim be stringent with regard to shaving in such a situation. That is, they should refrain from shaving throughout the previous week, in order to enter the fast with a recognizable sign of mourning on their faces (as explained above, n. 7). Those who are lenient have an opinion to rely on.

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