A summary of halakhot for the Three Weeks
A summary of halakhot for the Three Weeks

A ummary of halakhot of the Three Weeks[1] – 5779/2019

The three weeks – beginning with Shiv’ah Asar B’Tammuz (the seventeenth of Tammuz) and ending with Tish’ah B’Av, the fast of the 9th of Av (see note)[2] – are called “bein hametzarim” (between the difficult places).

During these three weeks, the Romans broke through the walls of Yerushalayim and destroyed the Beit Hamikdash. Although Chazal[3] instituted laws of aveilut (mourning) only beginning with the week of Tish’ah B’Av or with Rosh Chodesh Av (which begin the Nine Days), the Poskim (halakhic authorities) extended the aveilut and instituted many prohibitions beginning from Shiv’ah Asar B’Tammuz.

Accordingly, the Ashkenazic tradition is that three weeks of communal aveilut begin from Shiv’ah Asar B’Tammuz. According to most Poskim, the prohibitions of the Three Weeks begin on the evening of Shiv’ah Asar B’Tammuz, even though the fast does not begin until the morning. 

This year, since the seventeenth of Tammuz falls onShabbos, the fast day is observed on Sunday, the eighteenth of Tammuz. According to all Poskim, when Shabbos is over, all the prohibitions of the Three Weeks begin.[4] 

Note: The halakhot contained herein pertain only to the portion of the Three Weeks prior to Rosh Chodesh Av. Beginning with Rosh Chodesh Av, the more stringent prohibitions of the Nine Days apply (see note 1). Those halakhot will follow soon IY”H.[5]

The Gemara[6] says: כל המתאבל על ירושלים זוכה ורואה בשמחתה – Whoever mourns for Yerushalayim will merit witnessing her joy. Clearly, we do not mourn the destruction of Yerushalayim and the Beit Hamikdash properly as was common in previous generations. Many of us go about our lives giving little thought to the churban habayit.[7] The churban is relevant to us only through the halakhot of aveilut that we observe. Indeed, through keeping these halakhot properly we will merit to witness the geulah,[8] and the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash.

One may not play or listen to a musical instrument during the Three Weeks. This prohibition includes listening to recorded music in any form, as there is no halakhic basis to differentiate between “live” music and recorded music. Moreover, although singing and listening to singing is permitted, most contemporary Poskim rule that listening to recorded “a capella” music is not permitted.[9] 

Nevertheless, one need not refrain from sitting in a waiting room or from shopping in a store in which recorded music (called muzak) is playing. However, one should not focus on the music and thereby enjoy it. Furthermore, one may listen to music while exercising if the intent is merely to provide rhythm for the exercise (see note).[10] Similarly, one who is fatigued while driving may listen to music to keep oneself alert (see previous note). 

One who gives music lessons for a livelihood may do so during the Three Weeks until Rosh Chodesh Av. Similarly, one who plays in a band may perform for non-Jews (or Sephardim – see note 1) during that time. 

It is questionable whether one may take music lessons during the Three Weeks. Some Poskim maintain that if one does not experience enjoyment from the practicing, it would be permitted. Also, if skipping lessons will cause one a monetary loss or cause one to lose previously acquired skills, perhaps taking lessons would be permitted. Other Poskim qualify that one may take music lessons only if the ultimate purpose is to learn a marketable trade, but not if the ultimate purpose is just for pleasure. Moreover, they hold that this allowance is applicable only until Rosh Chodesh Av.[11] 

Children younger than six years of age[12] may listen to music. All children may listen to recorded stories with background music; but when the story reaches a musical interlude, older children should fast forward to the end of the song.[13] 

Dancing – even without music – is prohibited (e.g., at a vort – engagement party),[14] but singing is permitted. 

Reciting Shehecheyanu
During the Three Weeks, the custom is to refrain from reciting the b’rachah of shehecheyanu[15] on new clothing (see below) or on a “new” fruit.[16],[17] The prevalent custom in the Diaspora[18] is to allow reciting the b’rachah ofshehecheyanu on Shabbos during the Three Weeks.[19] 

New clothing:
As mentioned above, one should not recite the b’rachah of shehecheyanu during the Three Weeks. Thus, although one is technically allowed to purchase new clothing during the Three Weeks, one should not purchase special clothing—such as a nice suit or coat, upon which one usually recites shehecheyanu—if one plans to wear them during the Three Weeks. One may, however, purchase such items to wear after Tish’ah B’Av, at which time one should recite shehecheyanu. Also, one may (before Rosh Chodesh Av )purchase a suit and don it for the first time on Shabbos and recite the b’rachah of shehecheyanu on Shabbos. Moreover, one may don the suit on Erev Shabbos and wait until Friday night to recite the b’rachah.[20]

All types of clothing upon which one does not recite shehecheyanu may be purchased until Rosh Chodesh Av. One may also wear such clothing during the Three Weeks (see note).[21] 

New items:
Similarly, one should not purchase special items that give one particular pleasure – upon which one would usually recite shehecheyanu at the time of acquisition or delivery (e.g., a special watch or a nice desk) – even for use after the Three Weeks. One may, however, purchase (before Rosh Chodesh Av) a special item to be used by more than one person—such as a new couch or a new car, since theb’rachah one recites for such items is not shehecheyanu,but hatov v’hameitiv,[22] which may be recited during the Three Weeks.[23] 

Building and Decorating:
One may do decorative work on one’s house during the Three Weeks (until Rosh Chodesh Av), such as painting and installing carpets. One may also search for a new residence and even move during this time. Some refrain from such activity and avoid going to contract or closing on a house during this time, since it is not considered a time of good mazal. However, if waiting will cause one a financial loss – or if one must move due to cramped living quarters or some other pressing need, one need not refrain from going to contract or closing on a house.[24] 

The minhag (custom) is that both men and women do not take haircuts, and men do not shave during the entire Three Weeks, even lichvod Shabbos (for the honor of Shabbos). A woman may cut some hair when necessary for reasons of tevilah[25] or tzni’us[26] even during the week of Tish’ah B’Av,and they may remove hair that could be considered a “blemish,” such as facial hair.

Women may shave their legs and tweeze their eyebrows – when necessary – until the week of Tish’ah B’Av. A man may trim his mustache if it interferes with his eating (see note).[27] 

Even young children should not receive haircuts. Nevertheless, a child who is suffering from excessive hair[28] may have his/her hair cut.

One who feels that one must cut one’s hair or shave for business purposes should consult one’s Rav

sheitel (wig) is considered a garment, not hair. Thus, it may be cut, washed, and set during the Three Weeks, but not during the Nine Days. 

Cutting nails is permitted during the Three Weeks. The halakhot regarding cutting nails during the Nine Days will be discussed in an upcoming article IY”H.

[1] The halakhot presented in this article are in accordance with Ashkenazic tradition. According to Sephardic tradition, the prohibitions do not begin until either the Nine Days or the week of Tish’ah B’Av,depending on one’s custom (with the possible exception of reciting Shehecheyanu – discussed below in the article – which some refrain from reciting in accordance the directive of Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 551:17; see Kaf Hachayim 551:204-220). 
[2] Included also – with regard to certain halakhot – is the night following Tish’ah B’Av and the ensuing daytime until chatzos hayom (halakhic midday), which is halfway between sunrise and sunset. This year, however, when the Ninth of Av is on Shabbos and we fast on the tenth of Av, after the fast is over most of the prohibitions no longer apply (since at that time it is already the eleventh of Av). The specific halakhot will be presented in another article IY”H (Im Yirtzeh Hashem – God Willing). 
[3] Our Sages, may their memory be blessed. 
[4] As alluded to earlier in the article, there is a dispute amongst the Poskim whether the prohibitions of the Three Weeks begin on the night or day of Shiv’ah Asar B’Tammuz. This year, when the seventeenth falls on Shabbos, that dispute is mostly moot since actions that are prohibited during the Three Weeks would anyway be prohibited on Shabbos (e.g., taking haircuts, playing music). 
[5] Im Yirtzeh Hashem (G-d Willing). 
[6] Ta’anit 30b. 
[7] Destruction of the House (i.e., the Beit Hamikdash)
[8] [Final] Redemption. 
[9] See Koveitz halakhot (Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky), Bein Hametzarim 4:6, with notes. 
[10] If, however, one derives pleasure from the music, the music is not considered incidental, and is forbidden. It would be proper for one to play music to which one is impartial. See Koveitz halakhot, Bein Hametzarim 4:13. 
[11] Igros Moshe O.C. 3:87; B’zeil Hachomchah (6:61 #15), based on Sh”ut Maharam Shick (Yoreh De’ah #368). 
[12] A father is obligated in the chinuch (training) of his young children (under bar- and bas-mitzvah) to perform mitzvos that the children will be obligated to perform when they become older. (Some say a mother is also obligated in chinuch of her children; see Mishnah Berurah 343:2 and 640:5) In general, the age of chinuch is 6-7, depending on the maturity of the child. As relates to the restrictions of the Three Weeks, see M.B. 551:81 with Sha’ar Hatziyun #91. 
[13] Koveitz halakhot, Bein Hametzarim 4:21. 
[14] M.B. 551:16. 
[15] See S.A. O.C. 551:17. 
[16] I.e., a seasonal fruit that one has not yet eaten during this season. 
[17] See Koveitz halakhot, Bein Hametzarim 5:8–15 for exceptions. 
[18] I.e., outside of Eretz Yisrael.
[19] M.B. 551:98; see Dirshu Mishnah Berurah n.e. 551:45, note 55. Cf. Kaf Hachayim 551:205-206. 
[20] M.B. 551:45; see Dirshu Mishnah Berurah n.e. 551:98, note 119. 
[21] If the new clothing were worn even once [for several hours] before Rosh Chodesh Av, one may wear them during the Nine Days as well (Kaf Hachayim 551:87; Koveitz halakhot, Bein Hametzarim 11:30). If not, they are considered new and may not be worn during the Nine Days (see Rema O.C. 551:6 and M.B.551:45). 
[22] He (Hashem) is Good, and He does good.... When an item will benefit more than one person, the b’rachah of hatov v’hameitiv is recited in place of shehecheyanu; see Rema O.C. 223:2. 
[23] See Dirshu Mishnah Berurah n.e. 551:98, note 117; cf. Kaf Hachayim cited there. 
[24] See Koveitz halakhot, Bein Hametzarim 5:16-17. Cf. Piskei Teshuvos 551:12. 
[25] Ritual immersion in a mikvah
[26] Modesty. i.e. the hair would not otherwise be covered properly. 
[27] There is a dispute whether this leniency applies even during the week of Tish’ah B’Av. Many Poskim allow doing so (see Koveitz halakhot, Bein Hametzarim 6:5), but Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (122:4, per Bach) prohibits it. 
[28] E.g., it is causing sensory issues to the child.