Mourning the destruction
Mourning the destructionHezki Ezra

Footnotes for part I and II ae at the end of the article. See note [1] on Asheknazic vs. Sephardic customs.

During the period from Rosh Chodesh Av until Tish’ah B’Av (and also Motz’ei Tish’ah B’Av until chatzos hayom[2] of the tenth of Av) we conduct ourselves in increased aveilus (mourning) over the destruction of Yerushalayim and the Beis Hamikdash (Temple). This aveilus – for many people – is manifested primarily through various restrictions (in addition to the ones that apply the entire Three Weeks),[3] which were instituted by Chazal[4] and the Poskim (halakhic authorities). The purpose of the more stringent restrictions is to help us focus our attention on the great tragedy of the churban habayis,[5] from which we still suffer to this day.

Listed below are several categories of restrictions during the Nine Days.

Acquiring objects of simchah:[6]
One may not acquire significant items that give one simchah (joy), such as silver items, jewelry, a nice watch, or furnishings that are not necessities (see note).[7] One may purchase beds or chairs if they are needed during the Nine Days. One may not purchase a new car if the primary intent of the car is for pleasure, and not for a functional need. Similarly, one may not purchase a new computer if the primary intent of the computer is for recreation, and not for a functional need.

One may not purchase items of simchah in preparation for a wedding, or even order such items to have them delivered after Tish’ah B’Av, unless there would not be enough time to purchase the items after Tish’ah B’Av. It would seem that this exemption applies only to the choson (groom) and kallah (bride) and their parents; but see note.[8]

If refraining from purchasing such items will cause one to incur a loss, one might be permitted to purchase them. One should consult a Rav.

Construction involving simchah:[9]
One may not begin construction or any home improvement project during the Nine Days – even if the work is performed by non-Jews – if the purpose is merely for enhancement or upgrading. Thus, in general, one may not paint or paper walls, install new carpet, build a deck, remodel one’s kitchen, or scrape floors. If necessary, one may make improvements that will enable better “dwelling functionality” of the house (e.g., one may replace broken fixtures and plaster walls that need repair; one may even add a new bedroom if necessary).

If one hired a non-Jewish contractor who – before the Nine Days – began work that falls under the prohibition of “simchah” construction, and the work is not completed by Rosh Chodesh Av, the work may be completed during the Nine Days (see notes).[10],[11] It is preferable, however, if possible, to ask the contractor to suspend the work until after Tish’ah B’Av, even if it will entail paying him a small sum to get him to agree.[12]

Garden-work involving simchah:[13]
One may not plant trees, shrubbery, and flowers during the Nine Days. However, all normal lawn care is permitted: one need not cancel one’s lawn service for the duration of the Nine Days.

Laundering and Dry-Cleaning:[14]
One may not launder (wash, dry-clean, press, or iron) any clothing during the Nine Days, whether for use during the Nine Days or for use after the Nine Days. One may not even drop off clothing at a non-Jewish cleaners during the Nine Days for laundering, even if one instructs them to launder the clothing after the Nine Days. In a case of necessity, one should consult a Rav. One may give clothing to a non-Jewish cleaners before the Nine Days, even if one knows they will launder them during the Nine Days (see note).[15]

A sheitel (wig) is considered a garment[16] and may, therefore, not be cut or washed during the Nine Days – even for use on Shabbos. One may brush and comb a sheitel, and set it in curlers to keep its current style (such as without heat), but one may not set it in a new style (such as with hot curlers).[17]

One may freely wash the clothing of infants, who constantly soil or wet their clothing. Similarly, one may wash, as needed, clothing of all children who constantly dirty their clothing. Some Poskim maintain that this applies even to clothing of an eight or nine year old. When washing children’s clothing in a washing machine, one may not add clothing of adults or older children.

All clothing should be washed before the Nine Days to provide ample changes of clothing during the Nine Days. (See below, however, regarding the donning of fresh clothing.) Nevertheless, one who has dirtied all of one’s clothing, or a family that has dirtied all of its towels, may wash them as needed (and use the fresh ones—see below) until the week of Tish’ah B’Av.

One need not purchase additional clothing before the Nine Days to avoid the necessity of washing clothing and towels. However, if one could make good use of extra clothing and towels, it is better to purchase additional ones—even during the Nine Days—than to wash the dirty ones. See note.[18]

Donning fresh clothing:[19]
One may not don fresh clothing or change linen during the Nine Days. However, one who is receiving guests may provide them with fresh linen upon their arrival. Similarly, one who is a guest at a hotel may use the provided fresh linen. One should request that the linen not be changed during one’s stay at the hotel, unless the linen becomes soiled and unfit for use.

One who wishes to change his/her shirt freely during the Nine Days may — before the Nine Days begin — put on several shirts at one time and wear them for approximately 30 minutes. (By doing such, the shirts are no longer considered fresh, and may be worn freely.) If one forgot to do so during the week, one may don a clean shirt for Shabbos (see below), change into another clean shirt on Shabbos morning, change yet again on Shabbos afternoon, and then wear all those shirts during the week (but see note).[20]

One may change underwear and socks when necessary. (See end of previous section regarding laundering vs. purchasing new underwear if one runs out of clean pairs.) See note.[21]

On Erev Shabbos, one may don freshly laundered clothing and Shabbos garments lichvod Shabbos.[22] However, one should not don new clothing that had not been worn previously (see also note).[23] One may place a freshly washed tablecloth (that had been washed before the Nine Days) on the table, but one may not change bed linens. One may polish shoes lichvod Shabbos.

Purchasing and altering new clothing:[24]
One may not purchase any new clothing during the Nine Days – even underwear and socks – even for use after Tish’ah B’Av, unless there is an unusual and significant sale. One may not make any alterations to new clothing even if they had been purchased before the Nine Days. However, one may give clothing to a tailor before the Nine Days, even if one knows he/she will tailor them during the Nine Days (see note).[25] One may repair previously worn clothing; e.g., replace a button, sew a tear, fix a hem, or resole shoes.

If one forgot to purchase “Tish’ah B’Av shoes” (such as sneakers that do not contain leather, which one wishes to wear on Tish’ah B’Av) before the Nine Days and one has no substitute, one may purchase a pair during the Nine Days and even wear them for the first time on Tish’ah B’Av.[26]

Chazal assure us that whoever properly observes the customs of aveilus over Yerushalayim will merit witnessing the joy of its reconstruction.[27] May we soon merit witnessing the rebuilding of the BeisHamikdash.

In part II, we discuss halakhot pertaining to eating meat, drinking wine, and bathing during the Nine Days.

Part II

Eating meat & drinking wine:[2]
One may not eat any meat or fowl (e.g., chicken or turkey), or drink any wine or grape juice, during weekdays of the Nine Days. It is customary not to eat any food that was cooked together with meat, even if the meat was later removed. (E.g., one should not eat even the beans and potatoes of leftover cholent.) One may eat non-meat food that had been cooked in a clean meat pot—even if the pot is a ben-yomo.[3]

A person who must eat meat for health reasons (e.g., a person who is ill, or even a nursing woman who must eat meat) is permitted to eat meat. If such a person can satisfy the need with fowl instead of beef, it is preferable to eat fowl.[4] If possible, such a person should refrain from eating meat and fowl beginning from the seventh of Av. Many Poskim (halakhic authorities) permit children younger than six to eat meat.[5]

On Shabbos, one may – and should – eat meat and drink wine/grape juice. Moreover, one who is cooking food for Shabbos may – even before Shabbos – taste (without swallowing and without reciting a b’rachah; see note)[6] the meat foods to ensure that they are seasoned well. However, those who have the commendable custom of to’ameha (partaking of each of the Shabbos foods before Shabbos) may not partake of meat foods on Erev Shabbos during the Nine Days (see note).[7]

One who accepts Shabbos early may eat the regular Shabbos meat meal during daytime.[8] Children who usually eat their Shabbos meal – before their parents – before Shabbos begins due to the late hour of the onset of Shabbos may do so during the Nine Days as well (see note).[9]

One who mistakenly recited a b’rachah over meat or wine should eat/drink a small amount of the meat/wine to avoid a b’rachah l’vatalah.[10]

One may use wine-vinegar during the Nine Days.[11] One should not give children (ages six and older)[12] ices made from real grape juice.

For Havdalah: If there is a boy present ages 6-8[13] who can drink the wine (or grape juice), preferably the boy should drink it, not the mevareich[14] (but see note).[15] If a boy of this age is not present, the mevareich should drink the wine himself rather than use beer or other chamar medinah[16] to avoid drinking wine, since havdalah over wine is preferred.[17]

During the Nine Days, one may not bathe or shower one’s entire body even in cold water. One may wash one’s face, hands, and feet using cool water, but not warm water. During hot, humid weather, one who must shower may wash only those parts of the body that need to be washed, one limb at a time,[19] using cool or lukewarm water, and soap if necessary. (If one’s entire body needs to be washed, one should also wash one limb at a time.) Infants (younger than three years old) may be bathed in the usual manner. Other children (through age 5—perhaps even through age 8) may bathe in lukewarm water as needed.

On Erev Shabbos of the Nine Days, some have the custom to shower or bathe regularly lichvod Shabbos.[20] According to the Mishnah Berurah,[21] one should shower in the more stringent manner described in the previous paragraph, but with one leniency: one may wash one’s hair, face, hands, and feet with warm or hot water without soap.

Practically speaking, nowadays, one may be lenient and wash one’s entire body and hair even with soap and shampoo in lukewarm water, but preferably only one limb at a time, as above.

A woman who is preparing for tevilah[22] should bathe in the regular manner, even during the week of Tish’ah B’Av.[23]

Men who go to the mikveh every Erev Shabboslichvod Shabbos – may do so also on Erev Shabbos during the Nine Days. See note.[24] Men who go to the mikveh for Tevilas Ezra may do so in the Nine Days (see note).[25]

One may trim one’s nails until the actual week of Tish’ah B’Av.[26] A woman may trim her nails for purposes of tevilah even during the week of Tish’ah B’Av.[27]

Chazal[28] assure us that whoever properly observes the customs of aveilus (mourning) over Yerushalayim will merit witnessing the joy of its reconstruction.[29] May we soon merit witnessing the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash (Temple).

Footnotes for part I

[1] The halakhot presented in this article are in accordance with Ashkenazic tradition. According to Sephardic tradition, most of the prohibitions do not begin until the week of Tish’ah B’Av, depending on one’s custom.
[2] “Halakhic Midday,” which is halfway between sunrise and sunset.
[3] See last week’s article. Included in that article are several circumstances under which one may be lenient regarding certain prohibitions of the Three Weeks; with regard to the Nine Days, however, those leniencies often do not apply.
[4] Chachameinu zichronam livrachah – our Sages, may their memory be blessed.
[5] Destruction of the House (i.e., the Beis Hamikdash).
[6] S.A. O.C. 551:7 with MishnahBerurah.
[7] As explained in last week’s article, purchasing such items during the Three Weeks is prohibited only if one would recite a shehecheyanu when purchasing them or when using them for the first time; but one may purchase such items during the Three Weeks if the proper b’rachah would be hatov v’hameitiv (that is, if the item is to be used by more than one person). During the Nine Days, one may not purchase such items even if the proper b’rachah would be hatov v’hameitiv.
[8] See M.B. 551:14 and Machaztis Hashekel 551:8. (See also Koveitz Halachos - Bein Hametzarim 12:7.) While, as mentioned, it would seem that the exemption applies only to the choson and kallah and their parents, it is possible that the allowance could apply to all integral members of the wedding entourage whose lack of appropriate clothing would cause extreme embarrassment. One should consult a Rav. Note: If the choson already has a son and a daughter from a previous marriage, the entire allowance does not apply.
[9] S.A. O.C. 551:2 with M.B.
[10] This leniency applies only with regard to a non-Jewish contractor who is paid by the job, not a laborer who is paid by the day or the hour.
[11] If the contractor is Jewish but having him suspend work for the Nine Days will cause him to reschedule the continuation of the job for a much later date, one should ask one’s Rav.
[12] M.B. 551:12.
[13] S.A. O.C. 551:7 with M.B.
[14] S.A. O.C. 551:3-5 with M.B. and Bi’ur Halacha.
[15] If one needs the clothing for Shabbos (see below in the article, end of section entitled “Donning Fresh Clothing”), one may pick up the laundered clothing during the Nine Days. Although some Poskim in earlier generations (see Aruch HaShulchan end of 551:15) prohibited one from picking up clothing from a cleaners during the Nine Days – probably due to the concern that one who sees a person doing such might mistakenly think that one may launder clothing during the Nine Days – the contemporary Poskim (see Koveitz Halachos - Bein Hametzarim 11:4) are lenient in the matter, since nowadays everyone is aware of the possibility/probability that one is merely picking up clothing that had been dropped off before the Nine Days. One may rely on the lenient opinion if the clothing is needed for Shabbos.
[16] See Dirshu Mishnah Berurah 551:20 note 37 and Koveitz Halachos - Bein Hametzarim 11:8.
[17] Piskei Teshuvos 551:20.
[18] If due to the lengthy “week of Tish’ah B’Av” one runs out of clean clothing and has no use for additional clothing, one should consult a Rav.
[19] S.A. O.C. 551:3,6 with M.B. and Bi’ur Halacha.
[20] So as to not violate the prohibition of hachanah (preparation) on Shabbos, one should make sure not to verbalize that one is “preparing” shirts for the weekdays (see M.B. 290:4). Also, it would seem that one may only prepare on Shabbos a type of shirt that one would possibly wear on Shabbos – even if one would do so only inside one’s house, but not a type of shirt (such as a shabby shirt) that one would certainly never wear on Shabbos.
[21] If one’s clothing became significantly dirty and thus unfit to wear and one has no pre-worn clothing, one may change into fresh clothing.
[22] For the honor of Shabbos.
[23] If the new clothing had been 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 HalachosBein 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). In cases of hardship one should consult with one’s Rav. Note: In general, one may not wear Shabbos clothing on weekdays of the Nine Days (Rema 551:1). At a bris milah (circumcision), the father, mother, mohel, sandak (who holds the baby during the (bris milah), and the woman who ushers the baby to the bris may wear Shabbos clothing (Rema ibid. with M.B.).
[24] S.A. O.C. 551:7 with M.B.
[25] See note 16 regarding picking up clothing from the cleaners for use on Shabbos. One should consult with one’s Rav regarding picking up clothing during the Nine Days that were altered by a tailor.
[26] Kaf Hachayim 551:96; Igros Moshe O.C. 3:80.
[27] Gemara Ta’anis 30b.
[28] Im Yirtzeh Hashem (G-d Willing).

Footnotes for part II

[1] The halachos presented in this article are in accordance with Ashkenazic tradition. According to Sephardic tradition, most of the prohibitions do not begin until the week of Tish’ah B’Av, depending on one’s custom.
[2] See S.A. O.C. 551:9-11 with Mishnah Berurah.
[3] I.e., meat had been cooked in it within the last 24 hours.
[4] See Aruch HaShulchan O.C. 551:26 and Ohr L’tziyon vol. 3 26:6.
[5] 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 M.B. 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.]
[6] When one merely tastes the food and (spits it out and) does not swallow it, one does not recite any b’rachos; see S.A. O.C. 210:2.
[7] Sh”ut Hisorerus Teshuvah 2:169. The Pri Megadim writes that perhaps tasting the meat food would be allowed. Rav Wosner (Dirshu Mishnah Berurah n.e. 551:59 note 72, citing Koveitz MiBeis Levi vol. 13 page 49) allows even swallowing the meat food if necessary. Similarly, Sh”ut Ohr L’tziyon (3:26 #4) writes that one who fulfills to'ameha every Erev Shabbos may do so during the Nine Days as well. It should be noted, however, that if one does so (and does not spit out the food), there is a dispute in the Poskim (halachic authorities) whether or not one should recite a b’rachah before partaking of the food – since one is eating a very small amount and one is doing so only for the purpose of checking the taste. Therefore, one should rather spit it out (see The Laws of B’rachos – ArtScroll, pages 141-143).
[8] See M.B. 267:5 that whenever one “makes an early Shabbos” and eats the Shabbos meal before nightfall, one should l’chatchilah (preferably/initially) lengthen one’s meal so that one will eat (at least) a k‘zayis (olive size piece) of bread after nightfall.
[9] Igros Moshe O.C. 4:21 #4. To satisfy their obligation of kiddush (if they have reached the age of chinuch – see note 5), they should either recite their own kiddush (if they are eating after plag haminchah, the earliest time one may accept Shabbos) or extend their meal (if possible) such that they will hear an adult recite kiddush at the adult’s Shabbos meal.
[10] In vain.
[11] Rema O.C. 551:9.
[12] See note 5.
[13] Although boys ages 6-8 may not eat meat or drink wine/grape juice during the Nine Days for pleasure, they may drink wine/grape juice for purposes of a mitzvah (M.B. 551:70). [The boy should be at least six years old, so that he has reached the age of chinuch — see note 5, but not have yet turned nine years old, so that he is presumed to not understand mourning over the churban habayis (Destruction of the Beis Hamikdash – Temple); see M.B. 551:70 (cf. Dirshu Mishnah Berurah ad loc. n.e. note 86).]
[14] The one reciting the b’rachah (of havdalah).
[15] This halacha applies to Ashkenazim (Rema O.C. 551:10). The custom of Sephardim is to allow the mevareich to drink the wine (S.A. O.C. 551:10).
[16] Literally: the wine of the country; i.e., commonly drunk beverages, such as whiskey or beer. See S.A. O.C. 296:2.
[17] See Koveitz Halachos - Bein Hametzarim 9:19 with note.
[18] See S.A. O.C. 551:16 with M.B.
[19] See Ashrei Ha’Ish (page 469), citing Rav Elyashiv.
[20] For the honor of Shabbos.
[21] 551:95-97.
[22] Ritual immersion in a mikveh.
[23] Rema O.C. 551:16.
[24] M.B. 551:95. Ashrei Ha’Ish (page 470) cites Rav Elyashiv that men who go to mikveh daily may not do so on weekdays of the Nine Days (except on Erev Shabbos for Shabbos). However, Aruch HaShulchan (O.C. 551:35) and Sh”ut Sheivet HaLevi (8:127 #1) permit one who goes regularly (e.g., before davening) to do so. One who follows their ruling should not immerse in a hot – or a warm – mikveh if a cool mikveh is available. If only a warm and a hot mikveh are available, one should immerse in the warm one, not the hot one. Showering before use of the mikveh follows the standard guidelines for bathing (as above in the article). However, if mikveh rules require one to shower before immersing, one may take a shower (even if one is not dirty or perspired), but the water must be set to cool, not warm or hot. It is highly questionable if one may shower after immersing – even if one does so merely to remove the chlorine or bromine – unless one’s skin is very delicate or one is inordinately particular about cleanliness (such that one has the halachic status of istenis).
[25] See Dirshu Mishnah Berurah n.e. chapter 551 note 111 whether men who do not go to the mikveh for Tevilas Ezra regularly may go during the Nine Days. See also ibid. note 112.
[26] Taz O.C. 555:13. Koveitz Halachos - Bein Hametzarim 6:15 with note.
[27] M.B. 551:20.
[28] Chachameinu zichronam livrachah – our Rabbis, may their memories be blessed.
[29] Gemara Ta’anis 30b.