Question #1: “A frum person invited me to a fleishig sheva berachos during the first days of Av. Can he make a sheva berachos and serve meat during this week? May I eat meat there?”
Question #2: “I am traveling during the Nine Days, and the airline serves me a fleishig meal. May I eat it?”
Question #3: “What should I do if I make a beracha on meat and then realize that it is the Nine Days and that I may not eat it?”
FIRST, SOME BACKGROUND
The Mishnah (Taanis 26b) teaches that mishenichnas Av mema’atim b’simcha, when Av enters, we decrease our happiness. Although the Mishnah does not specify what this entails, the Gemara (Yevamos 43a, as interpreted by Tur Orach Chayim 551; cf. Rashi ad loc.) mentions four activities that are banned:
1. We should decrease business activities.
2. We refrain from construction and planting that are intended for joyous reasons (Yerushalmi Taanis, cited by Tosafos, Yevamos 43a s.v. Milisa).
3. We do not conduct weddings.
4. We do not make a festive meal to celebrate an engagement.
It should be noted that the Mishnah and the Gemara say nothing about not eating meat or drinking wine during the Nine Days. We will discuss the origin of this minhag, shortly.
DIFFERENT WEDDING PRACTICES
The Rama (Darchei Moshe 551:5 and Hagahos 551:2) reports that Ashkenazim do not make weddings during the entire Three Weeks, a practice that has also become accepted by most Sefardic communities (Ben Ish Chai, Parshas Devorim #4; Knesses Hagedolah). However, many Sefardic communities permit making a wedding until Rosh Chodesh Av, and other communities permit making a wedding even after Rosh Chodesh, if the choson has no children yet (Shu”t Yabia Omer 6:Orach Chaim #43). Sdei Chemed (Vol. 5, pg. 279 #14) reports that, before he moved to the Crimea, he assumed that Sefardim do not conduct weddings during the entire Three Weeks, but he discovered written records of the Crimean Jewish community verifying that they conducted weddings until Rosh Chodesh.
We now understand part of our first question: I was invited by a frum person to a fleishig sheva berachos during the Nine Days. How could this be? The answer is that the people getting married are members of a Sefardic community, where weddings are conducted even during the Three Weeks, and possibly even during the Nine Days.
MAY I EAT MEAT?
Now the question is: If I am an Ashkenazi, may I eat meat at this sheva berachos?
Let us first explain why we refrain from eating meat during the Nine Days.
As noted above, refraining from eating meat and drinking wine during the Nine Days is not mentioned in either the Mishnah or the Gemara. The Gemara prohibits eating meat and drinking wine only on the day before Tisha B’Av at the last meal before the fast, the seudah hamafsekes.
However, Ashkenazim abstain from meat and wine from Rosh Chodesh. Many Sefardim permit eating meat on Rosh Chodesh itself and refrain from the second of Av. This is the prevalent minhag of the Sefardim in Yerushalayim (Kaf Hachayim 551:126). They permit eating meat on Rosh Chodesh because this meal is considered a seudas mitzvah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim Chapter 419). The fact that a Rosh Chodesh meal is considered a seudas mitzvah is the reason why people serve special treats at the meals served every Rosh Chodesh. (I have written an article on that subject, entitled A Special Shabbos Meal on Rosh Chodesh, which is available on RabbiKaganoff.com or by return e-mail.)
Other Sefardic poskim permit eating meat until the Motza’ei Shabbos before Tisha B’Av (Shulchan Aruch 551:9).
HOW BINDING IS THIS MINHAG?
Early Ashkenazic poskim rule that someone who ignores the minhag and eats meat or drinks wine from Rosh Chodesh Av violates the prohibition of al titosh toras imecha, “do not forsake the law of your mother” (Mordechai, Taanis #639). The “law of your mother” means minhagim that we, the Jewish People, have accepted upon ourselves, even if Chazal never forbade them (see Berachos 36b). Following these customs is halachically compulsory.
In addition, some poskim rule that a person who eats meat or drinks wine during the Nine Days violates a Torah law, since Ashkenazim have accepted this custom as a vow (Aruch Hashulchan 551:23).
Let us stop for a moment and consider. I understand that we are mourning the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, and that is why we decrease our celebration. But, why does that prohibit us from eating meat and drinking wine? Even someone in mourning for a close relative is permitted to eat meat and drink wine (after the funeral when he is no longer an onein).
This is a very good question. Indeed, the halachos of mourning do not prohibit a mourner from eating meat or drinking wine. But there is a difference. We refrain from meat and wine during the Nine Days to remind us of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, where Hashem was served by offering korbanos of meat and wine (Aruch Hashulchan 551:23).
Another reason is that, by forgoing meat and wine, we make certain to remember the loss of the Beis Hamikdash (Tur, Orach Chayim 552). A mourner will certainly not forget his loss during the shivah week; therefore, he has no need of such a reminder.
In addition, refraining from eating meat and drinking wine ensures that one maintains the atmosphere appropriate to these days (see Mishnah Berurah 551:57,65). A mourner does not need this guarantee, since his loss is so recent.
MAY WE DRINK BEER?
May we drink beer and other intoxicating beverages during the Nine Days? This is a good question, since, although these drinks provide simcha, they were not offered in the Beis Hamikdash. Thus, whether we may drink them during the Nine Days seems to depend on the different reasons mentioned above. The halachic conclusion is that we may drink them even though they provide simcha. Since these items are not offered in the Beis Hamikdash, no minhag was ever established to refrain from drinking them during the Nine Days (Rama 511:11).
Although an Ashkenazi must be very careful to observe the practices of the Nine Days, such as refraining from meat and wine, there are situations in which he is allowed to do so. For example, one may eat meat at a seudas mitzvah, such as the Shabbos meals, a bris, a pidyon haben, or a siyum (Rama 551:10).
Why is it permitted to eat meat and drink wine at a seudas mitzvah?
When Jews adopted the minhag to refrain from meat and wine during the Nine days, the minhag included that a seudas mitzvah should still take place, even though it is a period of mourning. These celebrations are incomplete if performed without meat and wine. Thus, the minhag was to exclude such events from these abstentions (Aruch Hashulchan 551:26).
Incidentally, one sees from these sources that a bris should be celebrated with a fleishig meal, because if not, why are allowances made to eat meat at a seudas bris during the Nine Days? This implies that the seudas bris is incomplete without meat.
WHO MAY ATTEND A SEUDAS MITZVAH?
Anyone may attend a seudas mitzvah conducted during the Nine Days. However, not everyone who attends is necessarily permitted to eat meat and drink wine.
People who would usually attend the seudah, no matter when it is conducted, may join and eat meat. Other people, who might have chosen not to attend the whole year round, may attend during the Nine Days, but may not eat meat or drink wine (Rama and Taz 551:10). It seems that a sheva berachos held during the Nine Days (see our original question) follows the same guidelines. Thus, if you are invited to the sheva berachos, you may attend and eat meat, unless it is a sheva berachos you would normally not attend.
If the seudas mitzvah occurs during the week of Tisha B’Av, the rules are more restrictive. Only a minyan of people may eat meat and drink wine, while the rest should eat pareve. In the case of a bris, most poskim rule that the minyan permitted to eat meat does not include the mohel, the sandak and family members (Taz; Mishnah Berurah). According to this view, one will prepare meat meals for the family members, the mohel, the sandak, plus an additional minyan, and everyone else will be served a pareve meal. The minyan served a fleishig meal can be made up of men or women, or a combination thereof.
Some poskim contend that only ten people are permitted to eat fleishig (Magen Avraham). According to this approach, one prepares exactly ten fleishig meals and serves them to whoever one chooses. Everyone else eats pareve.
AT WHAT TYPE OF SIYUM MAY ONE EAT MEAT?
One may serve meat at a siyum where the completion of the learning coincides with the Nine Days and where one would usually serve a festive fleishig meal. One should not deliberately rush or slow down the learning in order to have a fleishig siyum during the Nine Days (Elyah Rabbah 551:26; Mishnah Berurah 551:73; Aruch Hashulchan 551:28). However, it is permitted to deliberately schedule a seder of learning in advance so that its siyum falls during the Nine Days, if this will encourage more Torah learning (Aruch Hashulchan 551:28). Some poskim record that they deliberately delayed siyumim that fell during the Nine Days in order to celebrate them after Tisha B’Av (Aruch Hashulchan 551:28).
WHAT ABOUT THE SHABBOS LEFTOVERS?
Many poskim contend that, in order to encourage the proper celebration of a seudas mitzvah, the meat leftovers may be eaten even afterwards (Birkei Yosef 551:6). According to these poskim, one may eat the fleishig Shabbos leftovers during the following week. However, the prevalent practice is to eat meat only at the seudas mitzvah itself (Elyah Rabbah 551:26; Mishnah Berurah 551:73) and not to eat the meat leftovers until after the Nine Days (Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 4:21:4).
MAY ONE EAT FOOD CONTAINING FLEISHIGS THAT ARE NO LONGER IDENTIFIABLE AS FLEISHIG?
Some poskim contend that, since the reason we refrain from meat and wine is to remember the Beis Hamikdash, this rationale does not apply to eating something that has a taste of meat, but no recognizable pieces of meat or fat (Aruch Hashulchan 551:24). However, others contend that one may not eat soup made with meat or chicken. However, it is permitted to eat food cooked in a fleishig pot that contains only pareve ingredients (Mishnah Berurah 511:63).
The same dispute applies to foods that include wine as an ingredient, as long as the wine itself is not discernable in the end product. It is also permitted to use wine vinegar as a cooking or salad ingredient, since a person does not feel simcha when eating or drinking vinegar (Rama 551:9 and Mishnah Berurah).
IS IT PERMITTED TO FEED MEAT TO CHILDREN ON EREV SHABBOS CHAZON?
In general, it is not permitted to feed children meat during the Nine Days, including erev Shabbos, unless the child is weak (Mishnah Berurah 551:70). The poskim dispute whether one may feed meat to a child who is not old enough to understand that we are mourning for the Beis Hamikdash. Dagul Meirevavah and Mishnah Berurah 551:70 rule that one may not, whereas Magen Avraham 551:31 permits it.
May one serve young children their Friday evening meal before Shabbos? Is this considered serving a Shabbos meal, in which case it may be fleishig?
Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled that children who are fed their Shabbos evening meal before the rest of the family has accepted Shabbos, because the regular Shabbos meal is served too late for them, may eat meat because this is their Shabbos meal (Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 4:21:4). However, one may not serve them fleishigs on Friday afternoon, if it is not their Shabbos meal.
MAY ONE TASTE THE FLEISHIG FOOD ON EREV SHABBOS CHAZON?
In general, it is a mitzvah of kavod Shabbos to sample the food being cooked for Shabbos to make sure that it tastes good (Magen Avraham 250:1, quoting the Ari za”l). On Erev Shabbos during the Nine Days, one may also taste the food, since this is considered part of the seudas mitzvah. However, one should try not to swallow food containing meat (Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah 42:61).
DO I MAKE A BERACHA WHEN TASTING THE FOOD?
In general, one does not recite a beracha when tasting a small amount of food, unless one swallows it (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 210:2).
UPON WHAT BEVERAGE DOES ONE RECITE HAVDALAH DURING THE NINE DAYS?
According to the Shulchan Aruch (551:10), an adult may drink the cup of havdalah wine, since it is a mitzvah. In his opinion, any mitzvah is excluded from the custom of refraining from meat and wine during the Nine Days. The Rama disagrees, ruling that one should give the wine to a child to drink. If no child is available, one drinks the wine himself.
The Rama’s position’s here is a bit complicated. If the child is too young to understand that we recite a beracha before drinking, then the beracha on the wine will be a beracha levatalah (in vain), unless the adult drinks the wine. Thus, giving the wine to a child to drink accomplishes nothing. On the other hand, if the child is old enough to understand that we are in mourning over the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, there is no advantage in having him drink the cup, rather than an adult. Thus, the Rama must be referring to a child old enough to understand why we recite berachos, and yet young enough not to understand that we are mourning the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash (Mishnah Berurah 551:70). The poskim dispute exactly what age this is. (For a listing of different opinions, see Piskei Tshuvos pg. 87 ftn. 179.) Since the matter is unclear, many poskim advise that an adult drink the havdalah wine.
Other poskim recommend drinking beer for havdalah during the Nine Days (Aruch Hashulchan 551:26). However, the consensus of poskim is that this is not necessary, and that one may recite havdalah over wine or grape juice. Since many poskim are hesitant about fulfilling the mitzvah of havdalah with beer today, it is preferable to recite havdalah on grape juice and drink it oneself.
MAY ONE HAVE A FLEISHIG MELAVA MALKA DURING THE NINE DAYS?
Is melava malka, the Saturday night meal that honors the leaving of our guest, the Shabbos, a seudas mitzvah that permits one to eat meat during the Nine Days?
Rav Moshe Feinstein points out that it is a mitzvah to eat meat for melava malka, if one can afford it (Magen Avraham, Chapter 300). Nevertheless, he concludes that one may not eat meat at a melava malka conducted during the Nine Days. Other poskim consider this meal a seudas mitzvah and allow eating meat (Kaf Hachayim 151:144; Chelkas Yaakov 3:21).
Rav Moshe discusses whether someone who always eats meat for melava malka, but will not be eating meat for this meal during the Nine Days, must perform hataras nedarim (disavowal of his vow). Does his practice of eating meat at melava malka constitute a vow that he must observe? Rav Moshe rules that, during the rest of the year, he is indeed required to eat meat for melava malka, since this is a good practice that he began without specifying that he is not accepting it as a vow (in other words, he did not say, “bli neder”). If he chooses to stop the practice, he needs to perform hataras nedarim, disavowal from a beis din, to allow him to stop.
However, Rav Moshe rules that concerning one’s melava malka during the Nine Days, one does not need to perform hataras nedarim, since we can assume he was intending to eat meat only when it is permitted to do so (Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 4:21:4). It seems that those poskim who rule that one may eat meat at one’s Nine Days’ melava malka would rule that one must perform hataras nedarim if one wishes to refrain from eating meat.
People who require more protein in their diet than they can get without meat may eat meat during the Nine Days. If poultry will provide their needs, it is better that they eat poultry and refrain from red meat. However, if they must eat beef to provide enough protein, they may do so.
A sick person is permitted to eat meat during the Nine Days. Similarly, someone who has a digestive disorder and can tolerate only poultry may eat poultry during the Nine Days. Also, a woman who is nursing or pregnant and is having difficulty obtaining enough protein in her diet may eat poultry or meat during the Nine Days, with poulty being the preferable protein source, if it will satisfy her protein requirements (Aruch Hashulchan 551:26).
A person who is traveling should refrain from eating meat, as anyone else. However, if, because of his travels, he has nothing to eat and will go hungry, he may eat meat. Thus, someone flying on an airplane who is served a kosher fleishig meal may eat it, if he has nothing else to eat and will otherwise go hungry. However, he should plan in advance to take food along, so that he does not end up in this predicament.
WHAT HAPPENS IF SOMEONE RECITES A BERACHA ON MEAT AND THEN REALIZES THAT IT IS FORBIDDEN TO EAT IT?
A person who recites a beracha on meat and then realizes that it is the Nine Days should eat a little of the meat, so that his beracha is not in vain, a beracha levatalah. Eating a tiny bit does not provide any simcha and therefore does not conflict with mourning (Sdei Chemed 5:278:5 and 368:4). Furthermore, the person is eating the meat only in order to avoid reciting a beracha in vain.
EATING MEAT ON THE TENTH OF AV
Although the Beis Hamikdash was set ablaze on Tisha B’Av, most of the actual conflagration took place on the Tenth of Av. Indeed, the Amora Rabbi Yochanan declared that, had he been alive at the time of the Churban, he would have declared the fast for the Tenth of Av, rather than the Ninth (Taanis 29a). For this reason, Ashkenazim treat the morning of the Tenth of Av, until chatzos, with the stringencies of the Nine Days, whereas Sefardim apply these stringencies to the entire tenth day, until nightfall.
THE REWARD FOR OBSERVING THE NINE DAYS
The Medrash (Medrash Rabbah Shmos 15:21) teaches that Hashem will bring forth ten new creations in the era of Moshiach:
1. He will endow the world with a new light.
2. Hashem will create a spring in Yerushalayim whose waters will heal all illness.
3. He will create trees that will produce new fruits every month that cure disease.
4. All the cities of Eretz Yisrael will be rebuilt, including even Sodom and Amora.
5. Hashem will rebuild Yerushalayim with glowing sapphire stone. It will attract all the nations of the world to come and marvel at the beauty of the city.
6. The cow and the bear will graze together, and their young will play together. (See Yeshaya 11:7). The Rishonim dispute whether this pasuk is meant to be understood literally or as a parable referring to the nations of the Earth.
7. Hashem will make a covenant with all the creatures of the world and banish all weapons and warfare. (See Hoshea 2:20.)
8. There will be no more crying in the city of Yerushalayim.
9. Death will perish forever.
10. Everyone will be joyful, and there will be an end to all sighing and worry.
The Kaf Hachayim (551:1) states that everyone who meticulously observes the halachos of the first ten days of Av, thereby demonstrating his personal mourning over the churban of Yerushalayim, will merit to witness these ten miracles. May we all merit to see these miracles speedily and in our days.