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5782/2022 (see note)[1]

The three weeks – beginning with Shiv’ah Asar B’Tammuz (the seventeenth of Tammuz) and ending with Tish’ah B’Av (see note)[2] – are called “bein hametzarim” (between the 'narrow places' i.e.distresses). 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 Erev Tish’ah B’ Av or the week of Tish’ah B’Av, the Poskim (halakhic authorities) extended the aveilustand instituted many prohibitions earlier.

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 on Shabbat, the fast day is observed on Sunday, the eighteenth of Tammuz. According to all Poskim, when Shabbat 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 halachot will be presented in two ensuing articles 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 habayis.[7] The churban is relevant to us only through the halachot of aveilut that we observe. While we should certainly strive to contemplate feelings of distress over the churban habayis, even if we are unable to do so, 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 one who is singing live) is permitted (but see note),[9] most contemporary Poskim rule that listening to recorded “a capella” music is not permitted.[10]

Nevertheless, one need not refrain from sitting in a waiting room or from shopping in a store in which recorded music is playing. However, one should not focus on the music and thereby enjoy it. Furthermore, one may listen to music while exercising if it is necessary to set the pace for the exercise and without it one would be unable to exercise (see note).[11] Similarly, one who is fatigued while driving may listen to music to keep himself alert (see note).[12]

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 for Sephardim (see note 1) – during that time-period.

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 (e.g., one cannot actually play a tune) it is 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.[13]

Children younger than six[14] 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.[15]

Dancing – even without music – is prohibited (e.g., at a vort – engagement party),[16] but singing is permitted (but see note 9).

Reciting Shehecheyanu:
During the Three Weeks, the custom is to refrain from reciting the b’rachah of shehecheyanu[17] on new clothing (see below) or on a “new” fruit.[18],[19] The prevalent custom in the Diaspora[20] is to allow reciting the b’rachah of shehecheyanu on Shabbat during the Three Weeks (but see note).[21]

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. However, if necessary, one may 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 clothing and don it for the first time on Shabbat and recite the b’rachah of shehecheyanu on Shabbat.[22] Moreover, one may don it for the first time on Erev Shabbat and recite shehecheyanu at that time if one first accepts Shabbat (see note).[23] (If one does not accept Shabbat first, there is a dispute in the Poskim whether or not one may don the clothing for the first time on Erev Shabbat and wait until one accepts Shabbat to recite the b’rachah.[24]

All types of clothing upon which one does not recite shehecheyanu may be purchased until Rosh Chodesh Av. One may also wear such clothing for the first time during the Three Weeks – before Rosh Chodesh Av (see note).[25]

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 that is to be used by more than one person—such as a new couch or a new car that will be used regularly by multiple family members, since the b’rachah one recites for such items is not shehecheyanu, but hatov v’hameitiv,[26] which may be recited during the Three Weeks.[27]

Decorating and Relocating:
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. Many refrain from such activities during the Nine Days since it is not considered a time of good mazel.[28] (Some even refrain from such activities during the entire Three Weeks.)[29] However, if one is not concerned with the lack of mazel, one may engage in such activities.

If waiting will cause one a financial loss – or if one must move due to cramped living quarters or some other pressing need, there is no need whatsoever to refrain from even closing on a house or moving.[30]

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 Shabbat (for the honor of Shabbat). A woman may cut some hair when necessary for reasons of tevilah[32] or tzni’us[33] even during the Nine Days and even during the week of Tish’ah B’Av (see note 1).

Also, a woman may remove hair that could be considered a “blemish,” such as facial hair. Married women and women of marriageable age may shave their legs and tweeze their eyebrows – when necessary – even during the week of Tish’ah B’Av . (However, if possible, they should schedule their shaving and tweezing so that they will not have to do so during the week of Tish’ah B’Av; see note 1.) A man may trim his mustache if it interferes with his eating (see note).[34]

Even young children should not receive haircuts.[35] Nevertheless, a child who is suffering due to excessive hair[36] 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.

A 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. If one purchases a new sheitel during the Three Weeks, one may not wear it for the first time on a weekday since it is an item upon for which one generally recites the b’rachah of shehecheyanu. See above in the article for guidelines.

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


[1] The halachos 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). Note, however, that this year, when the Ninth of Av is on Shabbat and we fast after Shabbat – on Motz’ei Shabbat and Sunday, the Sephardic custom is that there is no “week of Tish’ah B’Av,” except with regard to taking haircuts; see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 551:4 and Kaf Hachayim 551:78.
[2] Included also – with regard to certain halachos – is the night following Tish’ah B’Av and the ensuing daytime until chatzos hayom (halachic midday), which is halfway between sunrise and sunset. This year, however, when the Ninth of Av is on Shabbat 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 halachos will be presented in two ensuing articles IY”H (Im Yirtzeh Hashem – God Willing).
[3] Chachameinu zichronam livrachah (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 Shabbat, that dispute is mostly moot since actions that are prohibited during the Three Weeks would anyway be prohibited on Shabbat (e.g., taking haircuts, playing music).
[5] Im Yirtzeh Hashem (G-d Willing).
[6] Ta’anis 30b.
[7] Destruction of the House (i.e., the BeisHamikdash).
[8] [Final] Redemption.
[9] However, if the singing is the type that brings one to dance, many Poskim prohibit listening to it.
[10] See Koveitz Halachos, Bein Hametzarim 4:6, with notes.
[11] If, however, one derives pleasure from the music, the music is not considered incidental, and is forbidden. It would be proper – even when the music is necessary to set the pace for the exercise – for one to play music to which one is impartial. See Koveitz Halachos, Bein Hametzarim 4:13.
[12] Perhaps, in such a case, it would be better to listen to a capella music since some Poskim permit such music even without a great need. See also previous note.
[13] Igros Moshe O.C. 3:87; Sh”ut B’zeil Hachomchah (6:61 #15), based on Sh”ut Maharam Shick (Yoreh De’ah #368).
[14] 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. With regard to various restrictions of the Three Weeks, see M.B. 551:81 with Sha’ar Hatziyun #91, and M.B. 551:70, and Dirshu Mishnah Berurah n.e. (ad loc. note 86).]
[15] Koveitz Halachos, Bein Hametzarim 4:21.
[16] M.B. 551:16.
[17] See S.A. O.C. 551:17.
[18] I.e., a seasonal fruit that one has not yet eaten during this season.
[19] See Koveitz Halachos, Bein Hametzarim 5:8–15 for exceptions.
[20] I.e., outside of Eretz Yisrael.
[21] M.B. 551:98; see Dirshu Mishnah Berurah n.e. 551:45 note 55. Cf. Kaf Hachayim 551:205-206. It is a matter of dispute whether one may recite Shehecheyanu on a new fruit on Shabbat during the Nine Days. See Koveitz Halachos, Bein Hametzarim 5:4 note 5. See below in the article regarding clothing.
[22] M.B. 551:45.
[23] Dirshu Mishnah Berurah n.e. 551:98 note 119; Koveitz Halachos, Bein Hametzarim 5:5. In general, the earlies instance of any of the following avenues constitutes accepting Shabbat halachically: reciting the conclusion of Lecha Dodi (Mishnah Berurah 261:31; cf. note 39 in Dirshu Mishnah Berurah n.e.); reciting Mizmor Shir L’yom HaShabbat (S.A. O.C. 261:4); reciting Barchu in Ma’ariv (ibid.); declaring verbally that one is accepting Shabbat(M.B. 261:21); a woman’s lighting Shabbat candles (S.A. O.C. 263:10 with Rema – for Ashkenazim; Sephardic custom varies by community); or – in many cases – the acceptance of Shabbat by the majority of the neighborhood residents (if there is only one shul–synagogue in the neighborhood) or by all the shuls in the neighborhood (S.A. O.C. 263:12; see M.B. ad loc.).
[24] See sources in preceding note.
[25] If the new clothing were worn even once [for several hours] before the Nine Days, one may wear them during the Nine Days as well (Kaf Hachayim 551:87; Koveitz Halachos,Bein Hametzarim 11:30). If not, they are considered new and may not be worn during the Nine Days – even on Shabbat (see Rema O.C. 551:6 and M.B. 551:45). In cases of hardship one should consult with one’s Rav. Note: One may generally not wear Shabbat clothing on weekdays of the Nine Days.
[26] 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 RemaO.C. 223:2.
[27] See Dirshu Mishnah Berurah n.e. 551:98 note 117; cf. Kaf Hachayim cited there.
[28] See S.A. O.C. 551:1.
[29] Piskei Teshuvos 551:12.
[30] See Koveitz Halachos, Bein Hametzarim 5:16-17. Cf. Piskei Teshuvos 551:12.
[31] S.A. O.C. 551:3,12 with Rema and MishnahBerurah.
[32] Ritual immersion in a mikveh.
[33] Modesty. E.g., her hair would not otherwise be covered properly.
[34] There is a dispute whether this leniency applies even during the week of Tish’ah B’Av. Many Poskim allow doing such (see Koveitz Halachos, Bein Hametzarim 6:5), but Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (122:4) – per Bach – prohibits doing such. See end of note 1.
[35] See S.A. O.C. 551:14 and M.B. # 81-82 with Sha’ar Hatziyun #91; cf. Chayei Adam cited in M.B. 551:82.
[36] E.g., it is causing sensory issues to the child.