LAWS AND CUSTOMS OF THE THREE WEEKS
BY RABBI YISROEL DOV WEBSTER, DAYAN, YESHIVA EMEK HALACHA
There are four levels of mourning for the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash.
A) From the seventeenth of Tamuz
B) From Rosh Chodosh
C) The week of Tisha B'Av
D) Tisha B'Av
Some restrictions begin from the seventeenth of Tamuz, others from Rosh Chodosh Av others during the week that Tisha B'Av occurs and others until the eleventh of Av since the Bais Hamikdash continued to burn until then. One should be careful to distinguish properly the exact period of each restriction.
Why are there so many restriction such as not reciting shehecheyanu on new fruits, buying new clothing or making a wedding in the weeks preceding Tisha B'Av?
Chazal tells us that Hashem Yisborach destroyed the Bais Hamikdash because of baseless hatred that existed within the Jewish nation. In Pirkei Avot we are instructed that jealously, lust and pride bring the downfall of man. These restrictions such as refraining from wearing new clothing (symbolic of status of a person) or not eating meat from the day of Rosh Chodosh Av (want for earthly pleasures) tend to remove hatred and jealously, often considered sister traits in man and may bring a spirit of harmony and humility to man. These qualities found through these restrictions are the proper correction in character of the Jewish nation that will lead to the third and final rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash. B'ezras Hashem Amen (ER-1).
CUSTOMS DURING THE THREE WEEKS
There is a dispute among the poskim when the restrictions of the three weeks begin. Most poskim are of the opinion that they start from nightfall on the seventeenth of Tamuz until midday on the eleventh of Av (Chaim Shaul Vol. 1-24, Archos Rabbanu Vol. 2 Daf 127, TE Vol. 10-26, Divrai Moshe Vol. 1-33, MU Vol. 8-338, Shraga Hameir Vol. 2-13, Igros Moshe Vol. 1 OC 168 Vol. 4 OC 112 EH Vol. 1-166, SMB 122-1). If the seventeenth of Tamuz is Shabbos everyone agrees that the restriction commence Motzai Shabbos.
WEDDINGS AND ENGAGEMENTS
Chazal felt that during this tragic time for Klal Yisroel it is not a time for one to be very joyous, therefore holding a wedding during this time of sadness demonstrates a lack of sensitivity regarding the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash (Bach 551, MB-14).
It is customary in the Ashkenazic community not to make a wedding even if they will not serve the wedding meal, from the seventeenth of Tamuz until midday on the eleventh of Av. In the Sephardic community there are differences of opinions with regard to this restriction whether it applies to the whole three weeks or from Rosh Chodash (SA 551-2, MA-9, MB-15, YO Vol. 6-43, YD Vol. 1-36). Many Sephardic communities have taken upon the minhag not to make a wedding from the seventeenth of Tamuz. This halacha applies even to someone who has never been married (Sh'vus Yaakov Vol. 2-35, Sedai Chemed Vol. 6-1:14).
Engagements or Tinayim are permitted throughout the three weeks including the nine days however, one should refrain from dancing at the affair (SA 551-2, MA-6, MB-16, KH-44). A festive meal is permitted only until Rosh Chodosh, during the nine days refreshments may be served (MA-10, MB-16 & 19, KH-38). Some Poskim are of the opinion that one should refrain from making an engagement during the nine days (Ben Ish Chai Parshas Devorim-4, See TE Vol. 13-60).
One is permitted to make a birthday party for a child without music (MB 551-1, Am kilavi Vol. 1-27 (7)).
DANCING AND MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
Dancing and playing musical instruments are prohibited during the three weeks (MA 551-10, MB-16, KH-39), this includes music tapes (Silmas Chaim 29-1, Halachos Moshe (Mamon) 43, Kapi Aharon 52, Igros Moshe Vol 6 OC 21-4, YD Vol. 6-32). However, one may sing without any musical accompaniment (Sedai Chemed 1-10, Yalkut Yosef Daf 561 (5)). One may not attend a music concert.
A musician who earns his living by playing for a non-jew may play the instrument until Rosh Chodosh (PM Eshel Avraham 551-10, KH-39, Mahram Shick YD 368, Zachar Simcha 67). However, he should refrain from playing on the seventeenth of Tamuz (KSA 122-1, Biur Halacha, KH-39, KSA 122-1). A person that must play after Rosh Chodosh should consult a rav (see Yalkut Yosef).
A music teacher who earns their living by giving lessons may do so until Rosh Chodosh (PM 551, TE Vol. 16-19, Rivovos Ephraim Vol. 2-155 & Vol. 6-291(1), Chai Halavi Vol. 2-40).
A child may practice playing a musical instrument until Rosh Chodosh (S.B. 122-2, Igros Moshe OC Vol. 4-21, Rivovos Eprahim Vol. 2-155:2,Vol 3-334, Am Kilavi Vol. 1 OC 305 not like Bitzel Hachacma Vol 6-61). Some are lenient and permit the child to practice until the week of Tisha B'Av (Zacher Simcha 67), one should consult a rav.
A couple that were married before the three weeks may celebrate their sheva brachos- the seven day period of joy. There is a dispute among the Poskim whether one is permitted to play music and dance at the sheva brachos (See MH Vol. 7-109 & 2nd ED. Vol 1-443, Igros Moshe EH Vol. 1-97, Binyan Tzion , Shraga Hameir Vol. 2-13, MU Vol. 8-338, Kovets Or Yisroel Tamuz 1996, Archos Rabbanu Vol. 2 Daf 128, KH-40). One should consult their Rav.
One is permitted to sing without a musical accompaniment, only if it does not bring one to an over joyous mood (Sedei Chemed Vol. 6 Pas Hasaday 1-10). One is permitted to sing zemiros songs on Shabbos during the entire three weeks (Igros Moshe OH Vol. 4-112:1, KH-41, Rivovos Ephraim Vol. 6-291(1)).
One is permitted to teach new songs to others, however, they should not be over joyous tunes (KH 551-41).
It is permissible for one to play music in one's office for their non-jewish workers until midday on erev Tisha B'Av (Eshel Avraham (Butshasha) 554, Titz Eliezer Vol. 15-33 & appendix).
One is permitted to play a musical tape for small children until Rosh Chodosh e.g., uncle Moshe etc. (See Marshag Vol. 2-125, Kol Sinai Daf 146, S.B. 122 Kunt. Ach. 2).
One is permitted to stay or work in a place where they are playing music over the intercom (office, bus). Furthermore, it is permitted to listen to a commercial that has music in the background (Yalkut Yosef).
It is permissible for one to exercise to a music beat.
One is permitted to sing a tune while learning (YD Vol. 6-32, Shevet Hakahati Vol. 1-189).
The custom among the Ashkenazic community is not to cut one's hair from the eve of the fast on the seventeenth of Tamuz until midday on the eleventh of Av (Rama 551-4, MB-82, Chaim Shaul 24, Eshel Avraham Vol. II 551-3, Igros Moshe OC Vol. 3-100) even for the honor of Shabbos (MA-14, MB-32, see PM -14, Matai Yehudah-4, R' Akiva Eiger, CA 133-17).
The Sephardic community is lenient and do not start this prohibition until the week that Tisha B'Av occurs (SA 551-3 & 12). If Tisha B'Av occurs on Shabbos or Sunday many Sephardic communities take on this prohibition from Friday prior to Tisha B'Av (Ben Ish Chai Devorim-12, KH 551-68). Others are more stringent and start the prohibition from Rosh Chodosh Av, while others are not lenient and conduct themselves like the Ashkenazic community from the seventeenth of Tamuz (Yaskil Avdi Vol. 7-35). One should consult a rav.
This prohibition applies to all men (MB-79, Nodai Beyihudah YD 99), women and children. If a woman has excess hair and for modesty needs to cut it, it is permissible (MB-79, Igros Moshe YD Vol. 2-137 & OC Vol. 4, KH-47, Rivovos Ephraim Vol. 4-135(8)).
Although haircutting (the head, beard and the rest of the body) is forbidden the entire three weeks, one is permitted to cut one's nails until the week that Tisha B'Av occurs (MA-11, MB-20, KH-48). A woman before her ritual immersion may cut her nails the entire three weeks. Similarly, it is permissible for a mohel to trim his nail in preparation for a circumcision (KH-49,182).
If one has a hanging nail or one's nails are to long that they are causing one discomfort, one may cut them even during the week of Tisha B'Av, however, one should bite them and not use a nail clipper or scissors if possible (Ben Ish Chai-13, KH-49).
One is permitted to trim one's mustache if it interferes with one's eating the entire three weeks (SA-13, MB-80). Some poskim are of the opinion that it is permissible only until Rosh Chodosh (KSA-4, see Shar Hatzion-90).
One is permitted to tweeze one's eyebrows (Nitai Gavriel 8-4 in the name of Hagoan Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ZT"L and Rav Shmuel Wozner Shlita, Rivovos Ephraim Vol. 5-376(3)).
Combing one's hair is permissible throughout the three weeks (MB-20, AH-15, see KH-46 & 47).
A married woman may cut her hair around her temples or in the back of her head for modest reasons the entire three weeks. A married woman or a girl of marriageable age may shave her legs the entire three weeks (Hagoan Rav Moshe Feinstein ZT"L see Rivovos Ephraim Vol. 5-376(2) & Vol. 6-291(2) Hagoan Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ZT"L see Halichos Baisoy 25- note 70).
A person who shaves daily and by not doing so may jeopardizes his job should refrain from shaving from Rosh Chodosh or at least during the week that Tisha B'Av occurs (SMB 122-2, Igros Moshe CM Vol. 1-93 OC Vol. 4-102, Yaskil Avdi Vol. 5-55).
An adult may not even give a haircut to a child under the age of chinuch during the three weeks (SA 551-14, MA-38, ER-31, CA 133-18, MB-81& 82, KSA -4). Some poskim state that the prohibition starts only the week that Tisha B'Av occurs (CA). In case of great necessity one should consult a Rav.
A mourner whose thirty days of mourning over a relative was completed during the three weeks may shave and take a haircut until Rosh Chodosh Av (SA 551-15, Bach). However, after Rosh Chodosh he may only trim his hair with a knife or razor and not with a scissors unless it is necessary but it is permitted only until the week that Tisha B'Av occurs (KSA 122-5, CA 133-20, MB-87).
In honor of a Bris, the Mohel, Sandek and the father of the infant may take a haircut and shave, but only until the week that Tisha B'Av occurs (Nodai Biyihudah OC Vol. I 28 & Vol. II YD 213, KSA 122-15, see Sedai Chemed ). Some poskim permit one to take the haircut and shave even during the week of Tisha B'Av (Chasam Sofer OH 128). One should consult a rav.
A chasan may shave during sheva brachos.
There is a dispute among the poskim whether a child that has his bar mitzvah during the three weeks may take a haircut. One should consult a Rav. (MH Vol. 6-45, Devrai Shalom Vol. 3-6, Bais Avi Vol. 2-58, SMB Kunt. Ach. 120-8, Rivovos Ephrayim Vol. 1-237 Vol. 2-155).
A sefardic boy who is studing in an Ashkenazic yeshivah is permitted to take a haircut or shave according to their minhag, however, if they follow the minhag of the ashkenazim and do not shave or take a haircut from the seventeenth of Tamuz they should preferably state that it is without a neder-vow (YD Vol 3-39 & Vol. 4-36, see Yaskil Avdi Vol. 7 OC 35).
The minhag is to refrain from wearing new clothing, eating a new fruit or buying new items during the three weeks that require a bracha of shehecheyanu, so as not to require the recital of the bracha of shehecheyanu which is recited over a joyous event (SA 551-17, MB-99, KH-207, Igros Moshe OC Vol 3-80). Therefore, one should not buy or wear a new garment or eat a new fruit that requires a shehecheyanu (MB-99, KH-210).
Many poskim are of the opinion that those that recite the shehecheyanu at the time of circumcision (as in Eretz Yisroel), or at a Pidyon Haben the shehecheyanu may be recited (SA-17, DT 551-17).
Many poskim are of the opinion that one may recite the bracha of shehecheyanu on Shabbos (ER-42, CA 133-8, KSA 122-2, MB-98) till Rosh Chodosh (AH 551-38, Toras Chaim 551-35, Kinyan Torah B'Halacha Vol. 6-32). Therefore, if the new fruit can last until Shabbos, one should wait until Shabbos, otherwise it may be recited during the week (Rama, MB-101). Some poskim are of the opinion that one may wear a new suit or dress on Shabbos if there is a special occasion such as a bar mitzvah, bris milah until the week of Tisha B'Av (YD Vol. 1-37). Others are stringent and permit this only with regard to a fruit but not with regard to clothing (ER-17, CA-14, KSA).
A pregnant woman or a person that is ill and desires this new fruit, may eat it even during the week (MB-99, KH-211). Preferably she should wait to eat it on Shabbos and recite the bracha of shehecheyanu. Some poskim are of the opinion that she should eat the fruit without the bracha of shehecheyanu and after Tisha B'Av eats another fruit that requires a shehecheyanu (Birkai Yoseph 551), however, one may rely on the lenient view (KH-211, Tosfos Chaim on CA 133-13).
One may not purchase clothing etc. that requires the recitation of shehecheyanu during the three weeks even if one will wear them after the three weeks. However, clothing etc. that do not require a bracha of shehecheyanu may be purchased until Rosh Chodosh, therefore, one may purchase socks, shirt, shoes, ties, dishes or any other item (MB-45).
If there is a big sale than one may purchase the garment although they require that one recite a shehecheyanu, however, it may not be worn until after Tisha B'Av (MB-11, Shar Hatzion-12, KH-21).
If a person wore a suit or dress once, it is not considered a new any more and it may be worn during the three weeks (KH-90). Some poskim are of the opinion that if the newness of the suit or dress is not noticeable, even after several times of wear, it may be worn until the week of Tisha B'Av (KH-87).
One should refrain from looking or buying a house, apt, during the three weeks unless one is in need of it desperately (MB 551-12, Chazon Ish ZT"L see Archos Rabbanu Vol. 2 Daf 129-15, Rivovos Efraim Vol. 2-155 & Vol. 3 341, Nitai Gavriel 7-9). Similarly, one should not move into a new apt, or house during the three weeks. If one cannot wait, than one should put up mezuzos and take some of belongings into the apt or house before the seventeenth of Tamuz (Levush Mordachai Vol. 1-101).
One is permitted to recite the bracha of shehecheyanu upon the birth of a girl during the three weeks (Nitai Gavriel 9-6, Yad L'Yoledes).
According to all poskim one is permitted to recite the bracha of Hatov V'Hamativ during the three weeks (ST 551, Yavetz).
One should not give a gift that will cause great rejoicing to the recipient during the three weeks (Rivovos Efraim Vol. 3-336, Tisha B'Av Sh'chal B'Shabbos (Dibliski) Daf 111, Yad L'Yoledes).
One is permitted to recite Hagomel during the three weeks (Sidai Chemed 2 note 3. Yad L'Yoledes).
BEING MORE CAREFUL THAN USUAL
Since these days are full of tragedies and misfortune one must be careful to refrain from doing things that may be dangerous (Mikor Chaim 551-14).
One should not hit one's child or student during the three weeks (SA 551-18, MB-102 & 103, KSA 122-12, see Eshel Avraham (Butshasha)).
Some poskim state that one should not plan a pleasure trip during the three weeks (Sedai Chemed Pas Hasada 1-10 in the name of Rabbi Chaim Pilagi ZT"L). Others state that it is only during the nine days (Nitai Gavriel 7-4).
Some Poskim are of the opinion that one should not go swimming in a pool during the three weeks unless they went swimming prior to the three weeks. Most Poskim state that there is no basis for this and it is permissible to go swimming in a pool (Sedai Chemed Pas Hasada 1-1, Rivovos Ephraim Vol. 4-135(14) & Vol. 6-285, Avalos Hachurban Page 133, Hilchos U'Minhagim Bein Hamitzarim Page 34, TV Vol. 2-263). However, many Poskim agree that one should not go swimming in the deep parts of a lake or river (Mikor Chaim-16, Steplier Rav ZT"L Archos Rabbanu Vol. 2 Daf 129, Rabbi YS Elyashov Shlita see Hilchos U'Minhagim Page 34).
Some Poskim in Eretz Yisroel are of the opinion that one should not fly by plane during the three weeks from Eretz Yisroel to America (Avalis Hachurban Page 134). However, many are lenient.
Although minors are exempt from the observance of mourning in cases of personal bereavement, some poskim are of the opinion that children of chinuch age are obligated to observe the laws of the three weeks etc. (MA 551-38, MB-70, 81, AH-31).
One should nor schedule an elective surgery during the three weeks unless one has no choice. However, one should at least not have it during the nine days (Shiur Halacha U'Minhaga Lubavitch Vol. 2-225).
The Ari Zt"l held that during these days' one mourns the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash more than the rest of the year. Some have the minhag to recite Tikan Chatzos (MA 550-42, MB-103), others do not follow this minhag (Aphrikasta D'anya 13, Miinhaga Torah Yisroel Vol. 3 551).. The Dubno Maggid relates that those who mourn most bitterly for our lost will witness the grief that one has turn into a great rejoicing. This is based on the passage "Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all those who love her, rejoice, receive her in her great rejoicing, all of you who mourn for her" (Isaiah 66-10).
The custom is that before benching we say "al naharos bavel" instead of shir hamaalos during the week (Mikor Chaim 551-4, MB 1-11).
The sidroth of the Torah are arranged so that Parshas Pinchas is usually read during the three weeks. The Parshas of Matoth and Masei are also read during this time (Shenei Luchoth Habrith-Tannith).
The three Haftoros that are read during this time are called "Shlosha D'Furanutha" the three readings of retribution. They are a) Divrai Yirmiyahu b) Shimu Divrai Hashem c) Chazon Yishaya (SA 428-8, CA 118-17, KSA 122-6).
If on the first shabbos one made an error and read the regular haftorah, the following shabbos both Divrai Yirmiyahu and Shimu Divrai Hashem should be read (Tzmach Tzadek 126, MB-22).
When Rosh Chodosh Av occurs on Shabbos, some communities have the minhag to read Hashamayim Kisai, however, most communities read Shimu Divraih Hashem. One should not change his minhag, the minhag in Eretz Yisroel is to read Shimu Divrai Hashem (Rama 425-1, MB-8, YD Vol. 4-35, Shar Efraim 9-22, CA 118-16, Divrai Malkiel Vol. 3 OC 27).
Shabbos Mivorchim, some communities do not recite Birchas Hachodosh, however, the minhag in most communities is to recite it in the same manner as one does throughout the year (MB 417-1, Shaar Efraim 10-35).
On the Shabbos preceding the month of Av, in the bracha of Rosh Chodosh one should refer to the month of Av as "Menachem Av" instead of just Av (Tamai Haminhagim Daf 285, AH).
Many communities have the minhag that on Shabbos Chazon the Rav of the shul is called up for Maftir (KSA-79-9). In many communities the Haftorah is read with the niggun of Eichah (MA 282, MB-27), however, the Chazon Ish ZT"l was against this minhag (MU Vol. 7-256 (1)).
Written in loving memory of my Mother in law Channa Sara Bas R' Pesach A"h
Niftaras 13th of Tamuz 5756 (1996) and my daughter Ita Tzipporah A"H Niftaras 23d of Minachem Av 5753 (1993)
26th of Sivan 5757
revised 13th of Tamuz 5758
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