Poetic Controversies

Ashkenazim and Sefardim recite very different kinos on Tisha B’Av and different piyutim on most other occasions. This provides an opportunity to discuss:

Poetic Controversies

Question #1: How many machzorim?

“I am a Sefardiyah by birth, and recently became engaged to a wonderful Ashkenazi man who gave me a beautiful, five-volume set of machzorim. I looked at my new set of machzorim and could not find the selichot recited in Elul anywhere in the Rosh Hashanah machzor, nor in any of the other volumes. Where will I find them? I also could not find any volume for Tisha B’Av, but I also could not find those prayers in the Ashkenazi siddur my chatan bought me.”

Question #2: The Italian connection

“Why are so many of our piyutim written by Italian authors?”


Our prayers have been enhanced by the inclusion of many religious poems written by various authors over the years. During the yomim nora’im, virtually every Jewish community recites piyutim, poetic liturgy, as part of the davening. We also prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with the recital of selichos, which also includes piyutim. Such famous and standard prayers as Yigdal, Adon Olam, and An’im Zemiros all qualify as piyutim. The zemiros that we sing at our Shabbos meals are also piyutim, as is Dvei Haseir, written by Dunash, recited prior to bensching at a wedding or sheva brachos, and Yom Le’yabasha, written by Rav Yehudah Halevi, that is chanted at a seudas bris. And do you know of a community that does not begin Shabbos by singing Lecha Dodi, written by Rav Shlomoh Alkabetz?

At one time, in Ashkenazic circles, the davening of all the yomim tovim, all special Shabbosos, and even Purim and Tisha B’Av was graced with piyutim specially suited to the occasion. The themes, history and emotions of each season and special day were expressed through these beautiful writings.

In the last generation, the recital of piyutim is definitely on the downswing. When I was young, during the birchos kerias shema of maariv on Pesach, Sukkos and Shavuos, most shullen recited piyutim, a custom that is in most places not observed today. About the only shullen where I hear this being practiced today are chassidishe minyanim or those following the nusach Ashkenaz traditions of the old German communities.

In the yeshivish world, what is left over from our long tradition of these piyutim are the zemiros of Shabbos, the piyutim recited during yomim nora’im, the kinos, and the selichos.

One interesting exception that has survived is the recital of Akdamus at the beginning of kerias haTorah on Shavuos, which is still recited in every Ashkenazi shul I have ever attended. (Sefardim do not recite Akdamus, as I will soon explain.)

Kinos versus selichos

Since I mentioned the remaining use of piyutim for both selichos and kinos, it is interesting to note a difference between the selichos and the kinos of Tisha B’Av. Although the same basic structure of selichos is followed by most Ashkenazic communities, different practices developed concerning which selichos are recited on which days and in what order. The differences are significant enough so as to make it necessary to make sure that one has a copy of the selichos that follows the exact minhag followed by the shul that one is attending.

On the other hand, with very slight differences, the same kinos for Tisha B’Av are recited virtually universally by all the different communities of Ashkenaz.

Ashkenazim and Sefardim

I once attended Rosh Hashanah davening with a Sefardic minyan, and I can advise someone doing this to have a Sefardic machzor handy, which I did not. Although many different customs have developed among various Ashkenazic communities, the same sources and the same style of piyutim are used by all. However, the piyutim recited by the Sefardim are completely different. Very few of the piyutim recited by Sefardim are familiar to Ashkenazim and vice versa. For example, the writings of the Italian school of paytanim (authors of piyutim) who figure so significantly among the Ashkenazim are never part of the Sefardic prayer. Similarly, Rav Elazar Hakalir, who figures so predominantly in the Ashkenazim’s prayer, is not used by the Sefardim. Most of their piyutim are of relatively late vintage and from four authors. The predominant paytanim used by the Sefardim are Rav Shelomoh ibn Gabirol, Rav Yehudah Halevi, Rav Moshe ibn Ezra and Rav Avraham ibn Ezra, all of the Spanish school of talmidei chachamim.

It is also interesting to note that in the Sefardic custom, fewer piyutim are recited, which is surprising, since the Jews of medieval Spain were far more noted for their poetry than were the Ashkenazim. Still, Sefardim recite piyutim as part of the selichos, during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur davening and on Tisha B’Av, which Ashkenazim call the reciting of kinos. By the way, although Sefardim say far less piyutim than Ashkenazim, they do say selichos after all five tefilos on Yom Kippur as well as piyutim before kedusha.

How many machzorim?

At this point, we can address one of our opening questions.

“I am a Sefardiyah by birth, and recently became engaged to a wonderful Ashkenazi man who gave me a beautiful, five-volume set of machzorim. I looked at my new set of machzorim and could not find the selichot recited in Elul anywhere in the Rosh Hashanah machzor, nor in any of the other volumes. Where will I find it? I also could not find any volume for Tisha B’Av, but I also could not find this in the Ashkenazi siddur my chatan bought me.”

The answer to this question is interesting. In the customs of bnei Ashkenaz, every day’s selichos is completely different from every other day. Although the Sefardim recite selichos the entire month of Elul, they have no separate selichos book. This is because they recite the same selichos every day, and the selichos are usually included in their Rosh Hashanah machzor. A Sefardi set of machzorim might include three volumes: one for Rosh Hashanah, one for Yom Kippur and one for Tisha B’Av. Since they do not recite piyutim on the other holidays, the printers did not always find it worthwhile to produce machzorim for those days, since a standard siddur and chumash suffice. Others include a fourth volume, which is for all three regalim.

On the other hand, when a publisher sells an Ashkenazic set of machzorim, he includes a volume for each Yom Tov because each Yom Tov had its own special piyutim. However, the selichos recited on fast days, during Elul and aseres yemei teshuvah, and the kinos recited on Tisha B’Av are not included in a set of machzorim and are sold as separate volumes.

History through piyutim

There is a tremendous amount of history that can be derived from learning about the authors of our piyutim. We get quite an education as we see where the wandering Jew has found himself over the centuries of our dispersal. Here is a sampling of the names and geographic areas of some of our predominant paytanim, organized according to the periods of history. In all likelihood, many of our more common piyutim predate even the earliest dates I have mentioned here. However, since we are without any means of dating them, I have omitted them.


Some of our piyutim are known to date back to the era of the geonim 1200-1300 years ago. Among the authors of this period we find Rav Sa’adia Gaon, Rav Nissim Gaon, and Rav Amram Gaon.

The early Italians

Not long after the period of the geonim that I just mentioned, there was a period of significant production of piyutim that dates back to the late 9th century in Italy. Among the many Italian paytanim of this era whose works we recite are a grandfather and grandson both named Amitai, Shefatyah, who was the son of one Amitai and the father of the other, Zevadyah, and Rav Shlomoh Habavli. (Historians do not know for certain why he was called Habavli, since he lived in Italy. The most obvious explanation is that either he was originally from Bavel or that his family origins were there. This would be similar to someone with obvious German roots carrying the family name Pollack, or someone of eastern European background with a family name of a central or western European city, such as Shapiro, from the city Speyer in western Germany, because of some earlier family history.)

Early Ashkenaz

The word Ashkenaz is associated with Germany, and the historical origins of these practices are usually traced to the Jewish communities that lived a thousand years ago in the Rhine river valley. The most famous three of these communities were Speyer, Worms and Mainz. Many of our piyutim are authored by gedolim of this period, including Rabbeinu Gershom, Rabbi Shimon Hagadol of Mainz and Rav Meir ben Yitzchak, the chazzan of Worms, who was the author of Akdamus. By the way, this will explain why Sefardim do not recite Akdamus on Shavuos, since its author lived after the time that Sefardim and Ashkenazim were physically separated into different areas.


Beginning around this era is the Golden Age of Spain, which included much writing of piyutim. The major body of the attributable piyutim recited by the Sefardim goes back to this period, most of it written by Rav Shlomo ibn Gabirol, Rav Yehudah Halevi, Rav Moshe ibn Ezra, and Rav Avraham ibn Ezra, as I noted above. Ashkenazim do recite some piyutim from these authors, for example, Shomron Kol Titein, recited in the kinos of Tisha B’Av, authored by ibn Gabirol, and Tziyon halo Sish’ali, also one of the kinos, and the above-mentioned Yom Le’yabasha by Rav Yehudah Halevi, recited commonly at a bris. By the way, you will find Yom Le’yabasha  in your Ashkenazi machzor for Pesach, where it exists as the piyut to be recited at shacharis of the seventh day of Pesach, immediately before the brocha of Ga’al Yisroel.

Later Ashkenaz

In this era, many of the piyutim were written by rishonim who are familiar to us from their halachic and Talmudic writings. These include several baalei Tosafos, such as the Rivam (Rashi’s grandson and the older brother of Rabbeinu Tam), Rav Elchanan, Rav Yehudah Hachasid, Rav Yitzchak Ohr Zarua, the Maharam, Rav Yosef Bechor Shor, Rav Yoel Halevi (the father of the Ra’avyah).

The Italian angle

Having studied a quick overview of the various places where our paytanim lived, we can now explain why Ashkenazim recite many selichos and other piyutim written by the early Italian paytanim, whereas the Sefardim do not recite piyutim from these authors. The answer is that the ancestors of what came to be called Ashkenazic Jewry probably predominantly migrated northward from Italy, bringing with them their customs and their piyutim that had been written during this early golden age of piyut.

Rav Elazar Hakalir

No discussion of piyutim is complete without presenting Rav Elazar Hakalir, who authored the lion’s share of the kinos we recite on Tisha B’Av, as well as many of our other piyutim, including Tefillas Tal and Tefillas Geshem, the piyutim for the four special Shabbosos (Shekalim, Zachor, Parah and Hachodesh), and many of the yotzros for Yomim Tovim. We know absolutely nothing about him personally — we cannot even date when he lived with any accuracy. Some Rishonim place him in the era of the Tanna’im, shortly after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, identifying him either as Rabbi Elazar ben Arach (Shu”t Harashba 1:469), a disciple of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai, or as Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai’s son Elazar, who hid in the cave with his father (Tosafos, Chagigah 13a s.v. Veraglei; Rosh, Berachos 5:21; Shibbolei Haleket #28). On the other hand, others date Rav Elazar HaKalir hundreds of years later.

We do not know for certain what the name “Kalir” means. Since there are several places where he used the acronym “Elazar berabi Kalir,” it seems that his father’s name was Kalir. However, the Aruch explains that “kalir” means a type of cookie, and that he was called hakalir because he ate a cookie upon which had been written a special formula that blessed him with tremendous erudition (Aruch, eirech Kalar III).

Many of Rabbi Elazar Hakalir’s piyutim and kinos require studying rather than reading, since they rely on allusions to midrashim and historical events. Many commentators elucidated his works, attempting to illuminate the depths of his words. Often, his ideas are expressed in difficult allusions, and the story or midrash to which he hints is unclear or obscure. They certainly cannot be understood without careful preparation. Someone who takes the trouble to do this will be awed by the beauty of the thoughts and allusions.

When did he live?

Most assume that Rav Elazar HaKalir lived in Eretz Yisrael, based on the fact that we have no piyutim written by him for the second day of Yom Tov (Tosafos, Chagigah 13a s.v. Veraglei; Rosh, Berachos 5:21.) However, the yotzros of the second day of Sukkos clearly include Rav Kalir’s signature and follow his style. Could it be that Diaspora Jews moved yotzros he wrote for the first day of Yom Tov to the second day? This approach creates another question: Since the yotzros recited on the first day of Yom Tov were also written by him, would he have written two sets of yotzros for Shacharis on Sukkos? There are other indications that he did, indeed, sometimes write more than one set of piyutim for the same day, and this approach is followed by the Shibbolei Haleket (#28).

Kalirian controversy

Notwithstanding the brilliance and prevalence of Rav Kalir’s piyutim, reciting them was not without controversy. No less a gadol than the Ibn Ezra stridently opposes using Rav Kalir’s works. In an essay incorporated in his commentary to Koheles (5:1), the ibn Ezra levels extremely harsh criticism of the piyutim authored by Rav Kalir. He divides the nature of his arguments into four headings.

Simplicity of language

Ibn Ezra notes that prayers should be recited in simple language that can be understood on a very basic level. After all, the goal of prayer is to understand what one is saying. Since piyutim are usually intended to be forms of prayer, one should not recite any prayer whose intent is not obviously clear. Because of this criticism, Ibn Ezra advises reciting the piyutim written by Rav Sa’adia Gaon, which are written so that they can be understood in a very literal way.

Mixed language

Ibn Ezra’s second criticism of Kalir is that he mixed into the Hebrew of his piyutim vocabulary whose basis is in the Gemara, treating Talmudic language on the same level of Hebrew as that of Tanach. As Ibn Ezra notes, the Gemara says loshon mikra lechud uloshon Talmud lechud, which he understands to mean that the Hebrew used by the Gemara should be treated as a different language from that of Tanach. Therefore, one should not mix the two languages together when reciting prayers.

Grammatical creativity

The third criticism of ibn Ezra is that he is unhappy with Kalir’s creative approach to Hebrew grammar and structure, allowing poetic style to influence the Hebrew that he used. Ibn Ezra also criticized Kalir’s creation of new words by changing masculine words to feminine and vice versa for poetic effect or to accomplish his allusions.

Use of midrashim

Ibn Ezra’s fourth criticism of Kalir is that his piyutim are filled with midrashim, and that these should not be included in one’s prayers.

Ibn Ezra notes that there were those who took issue with his criticisms, since Kalir had passed on many years before and would be unable to respond. Ibn Ezra himself dispenses with this disapproval by noting that prayer must be whole-hearted, and how can one pray when one does not understand what one is saying? Ibn Ezra notes that when Rav Sa’adia wrote piyutim, he steered clear of these four problems.

In fact, Sefardim do not recite piyutim of Rav Kalir, whereas among Ashkenazim, he is the single, most commonly used paytan.

Response to ibn Ezra

We should note that the Shibbolei Haleket saw this essay of the ibn Ezra and quoted selections from it, but he omitted any of the ibn Ezra’s criticism of Rav Kalir’s writings.

Furthermore, none of ibn Ezra’s criticisms should be taken as casting aspersion on Rav Elazar Hakalir’s greatness. Shibbolei Haleket records that when Rabbi Elazar Hakalir wrote his poem Vechayos Asher Heinah Meruba’os (recited in the kedusha of musaf of Rosh Hashanah), the angels surrounded him with fire (quoted by the Magen Avraham at the beginning of Siman 68). Similarly, R’ Chaim Vital writes that his teacher, the Arizal, recited only the piyutim written by the early paytanim, such as R’ Elazar Hakalir, since they are based on kabbalah.

Which seder ha’avodah?

This dispute between Ashkenazic practice and Sefardic manifests itself in the choice of piyut used for the seder ha’avodah recited towards the end of musaf on Yom Kippur. Dozens of piyutim explaining the seder ha’avodah were written, some dating back to the time of the Gemara, some perhaps earlier. Notwithstanding the antiquity of some of these pieces of poetry, the ones currently used are of relatively late origin. Ashkenazim recite Amitz Koach, which is highly poetic and difficult to understand. On the other hand, Sefardim recite Atah Konanta, which is written in clear Hebrew.


Now that we have had an opportunity to appreciate some of the background to our piyutim, it should motivate us to utilize our davening better to build a relationship with Hashem. As the Kuzari notes, every day should have three very high points — the three times that we daven. We should gain our strength and inspiration for the rest of the day from these three prayers.


Do the Clothes Make the Man?

Not If They Are Washed During the Nine Days!

laundry on the lineThe Mishnah teaches that “Mishenichnas Av mema’atim b’simcha,” “Once Av enters, we decrease our happiness” (Taanis 26b). Although the Mishnah does not clarify what we must do to decrease our happiness, the Gemara (Yevamos 43a) lists four activities that are banned during these days:

(1) We decrease our business activities.

(2) We refrain from construction and planting intended for joyous reasons (Yerushalmi Taanis, cited by Tosafos to Yevamos 43a s.v. Milisa).

(3) We do not conduct weddings.

(4) We do not make a festive meal to celebrate an engagement. (This interpretation of the Gemara Yevamos follows the Ramban in Toras Ha’adam and the Tur Orach Chayim 551, but is not the approach used by Rashi ad loc.)

So, why don’t we launder clothes during the entire Nine Days, if the Gemara does not prohibit it?

The Mishnah prohibits laundering from the motza’ei Shabbos preceding Tisha B’Av until Tisha B’Av. (The days from the motza’ei Shabbos preceding Tisha B’Av until Tisha B’Av are called “the week in which Tisha B’Av occurs.”) However, these laws do not apply at all this year, since Tisha B’Av falls on Sunday.

Similarly, during these days, one may not launder bed linens, tablecloths, or clothes belonging to a gentile. One may also not wash children’s clothing, although there is a dispute why the prohibition was extended to children. Some contend that this is because of chinuch —  to train children to be aware of the loss of the Beis HaMikdosh, while others contend that adults feel increased mourning by seeing children in unwashed clothes.


Indeed it does. According to the reason that we are training children to feel the mourning, the prohibition applies only to clothes of children old enough to appreciate the mourning over the destruction of the Beis HaMikdosh, but not to younger children. Thus, some poskim permit washing clothing of children under the age of eight (Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 551:38, based on Rama). However, other poskim prohibit washing all children’s clothing (Shulchan Aruch 551:14), while a third opinion permits washing garments of children, but only until the age of four (Ben Ish Chai, Devorim 6). The two latter opinions hold that children do not wear freshly laundered clothes, so that adults should feel increased mourning by seeing children in unwashed clothes.


At some point in Jewish history, Ashkenazim extended the prohibition against laundering or wearing fresh laundry earlier, prohibiting these practices from Rosh Chodesh Av (Rama 551:3). Most Sefardim do not follow this practice, but launder and wear fresh laundry from Rosh Chodesh until Shabbos Chazon. (Although the Kaf HaChayim is more stringent and follows the Rama’s approach [551:64], the Ben Ish Chai [Devorim 6] and most other Sefardic authorities disagree.)


If the Mishnah permits laundering before the week in which Tisha B’Av occurs, why did Ashkenazim ban laundry from Rosh Chodesh?

The reason is that in the times of Chazal, the memories of the Beis HaMikdosh were still very fresh in people’s minds, and a shorter period of mourning was a sufficient reminder of the Churban. But now, after our long golus, we require a longer period of mourning to arouse our feelings and mourn properly for the Beis HaMikdosh.

Some commentaries point out that this public mourning follows the exact opposite procedure of private mourning. Whereas private mourning moves from the more intense mourning periods to less intense, the public mourning begins with the Three Weeks, then to the Nine Days, the week in which Tisha B’Av occurs, Erev Tisha B’Av, and finally the intense mourning of Tisha B’Av itself. By gradually increasing the intensity of the mourning, we should be able to reach the appropriate sense of loss on Tisha B’Av, itself.


Since the days from Rosh Chodesh until Shabbos are prohibited only by custom, whereas the days after Shabbos are prohibited because of Takanas Chazal, do any halachic differences result from this distinction?

Yes, they do! Many poskim contend that one may wash children’s clothes until the Shabbos before Tisha B’Av (Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 551:38; Mishnah Berurah 551:82, quoting Chayei Odom). They assume that the Ashkenazic custom did not include children’s laundry, and therefore, these clothes may be washed until the time banned by Chazal.

Another halachic difference between the first and latter part of the Nine Days is that someone who has only one of a certain garment, say – one shirt – may wash it during the first part of the Nine Days. The poskim explain that the custom not to launder during the beginning of the Nine Days should not be more stringent than Chol HaMoed, when someone who has only one of a certain garment may wash it (Mishnah Berurah 551:29, quoting Elyah Rabbah).


Rashi (Taanis 29b) explains that doing laundry distracts one from the mourning atmosphere that should pervade this week. For this reason, one may not launder clothes during these days, even if he intends to put them aside until after Tisha B’Av (Gemara Taanis 29b). One may not give laundry to a gentile during the Nine Days (Rama 551:3), even if one tells him not to launder it until after Tisha B’Av (Magen Avraham 551:15), because giving laundry to a gentile distracts one from mourning (Levushei Serad). If laundry is forbidden due to the distraction it causes, certainly other forms of recreational activity should be avoided completely.

However, all this does not explain why one may not wear freshly laundered clothes during these days, since this is not distracting (Ramban, Rashba, Ran, all quoted by Beis Yosef). The Rishonim explain that wearing freshly laundered clothes is prohibited, because it violates the public period of mourning that these days represent.


If someone’s garment became dirty or sweaty so that he can no longer wear it and all his remaining clothes are freshly laundered, he may change into those clothes. If he has nothing to change into, he may even launder the soiled garment (see Pischei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deah 381:3, 389:2; Aruch HaShulchan Yoreh Deah 389:6, 7; Gesher HaChayim pg 234). However, one should prevent this from happening, by preparing sufficient “worn” clothing before Rosh Chodesh. One does this by changing into different shirts, wearing each one for a half-hour or so, and then putting them away to wear during the Nine Days (or the week of Tisha B’Av, if he/she is a Sefardi [see Ben Ish Chai, Devorim 6; Kaf HaChayim 551:9]). Towels should also be used at least once before Rosh Chodesh, in order to allow their use during the Nine Days (ibid.).

One may spot-clean a garment, if he is concerned that the stain will set or if he is embarrassed to wear such a garment and has no substitute. It is also permitted to soak a dirty garment without completing its laundering, in order to facilitate its cleaning after Tisha B’Av (Piskei Teshuvos 511:18).


To fulfill a mitzvah, one may wash and wear fresh clothes, even during the week that Tisha B’Av occurs (see Rama; Mishnah Berurah 30). This is because Chazal did not prohibit laundering done for a mitzvah, but considered the observance of the mitzvah to be more important. According to this reasoning, one could argue that it is permitted to wash laundry to provide fresh linen for one’s guests. For the same reason, one may wear fresh clothes and use fresh tablecloths for Shabbos (Rama 551:3). However, one may not use fresh linens, presumably because this will not significantly diminish the dignity of Shabbos (Taz 551:4, quoting Maharshal; Mishnah Berurah 551:33).

Although one may wear freshly laundered clothes on Shabbos, one may not use Shabbos to prepare garments for weekday wear. Thus, one may not change one’s clothes extra times on Shabbos in order to have more pre-worn clothes for after Shabbos. However, if one is changing one’s clothes in any case, such as upon arising in the morning, he does not need to put on the clothes worn the night before, but may wear different clothes, so that he’ll have extra clothes for the following weekdays. This is permitted, because one is not changing his clothes only for the purpose of the weekday (Ben Ish Chai, Devorim 6).


The poskim dispute whether one may launder on Thursday of the Nine Days, if he does not have freshly laundered clothing for Shabbos (Magen Avraham 551:14 permits this; however, see Darchei Moshe, who implies that one may not). The poskim imply that this is permitted only on Thursday, but not on any other day of the week.

Why not do the laundry on Friday?

Around the time of the construction of the Second Beis HaMikdosh, the great Jewish leader, Ezra, instituted ten takanos, special decrees, for the benefit of the Jewish people. One of them was that laundry should be washed every Thursday, in honor of Shabbos (Bava Kama 82a).

Why did Ezra specify Thursday? The poskim dispute this point. Some contend that Ezra prohibited laundering on Friday in order to guarantee that Friday remain available for other Shabbos preparations (Magen Avraham 242:3). Other poskim contend that the focus of Ezra’s takanah was different: Do the laundry on Thursday, in order to assure that one has fresh clothes for Shabbos. In earlier generations, laundering was extremely time consuming and it was impractical to launder on Erev Shabbos (Elyah Rabbah 242:9). Furthermore, the clothes would not be dry for Shabbos. Therefore, Ezra ruled that one should launder on Thursday, in order to guarantee relatively fresh laundry for Shabbos. Because of this, there is a year round obligation every Thursday to check that the family has clean laundry, linens, and tablecloths for Shabbos, and if not, to launder them.

Although most later poskim do not follow the first opinion that the takanah was against laundering on Friday (Shaarei HaTziyun 242:16), one should still preferably do laundry on Thursday, rather than on Friday. However, when Tisha B’Av occurs on Thursday one may launder on Thursday night or Friday according to all opinions (see Magen Avraham 551:18, 558:1).


One may not dry-clean clothes or iron them (Shulchan Aruch 551:3). Again, Ashkenazim observe these laws from Rosh Chodesh, and Sefardim from the motza’ei Shabbos before Tisha B’Av. However, it is permitted to repair shoes and clothes during the Nine Days (Kaf HaChayim 551:107; Piskei Teshuvos 551:ftn. 157).

One may not wear Shabbos clothes or other unusually nice clothing during the weekdays of the Nine Days. A notable exception is that the celebrants of a bris are permitted to wear Shabbos clothes, since for them it is a Yom Tov (Rama 551:1).

The poskim record different customs concerning whether one wears weekday or Shabbos clothes on Shabbos Chazon. Our custom is to wear Shabbos clothes on Shabbos Chazon. Some poskim hold that one should change out of the Shabbos clothes immediately after Shabbos (based on Magen Avraham 262:2 and 559:10)


Which celebrants may wear Shabbos clothes at a bris during the Nine Days? According to all opinions, the baby’s parents, the sandek (who holds the baby when the bris is performed), the mohel, and the woman who brings the baby to the bris (the kvaterin) may wear Shabbos clothes (Rama 551:1). Other opinions permit the baby’s grandparents and other close relatives to wear Shabbos clothes (Shaarei Teshuvah, end of 551:3), as well as the person honored with placing the baby on the kisei shel Eliyahu, those who bring the baby closer to the bris (“cheika”), and the kvatter (see Elyah Rabbah 551:27). Each person should consult his rav for practical psak. (Incidentally, this discussion is a source that family members attending a bris during the rest of the year should wear Shabbos clothes!)


One may not wear new clothes during the Nine Days, even on Shabbos (Magen Avraham 551:6; Mishnah Berurah 551:9, 45; Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 3:80), nor may one tailor or purchase new clothes or shoes (Rama 551:6-7). (If these are garments for which one would usually recite shehechiyanu, then we do not wear them the entire Three Weeks.) However, one may purchase non-leather footwear, even during the week of Tisha B’Av if one has no suitable footwear for Tisha B’Av — because of the extenuating circumstances that otherwise, he would have to walk all day Tisha B’Av without footwear (Shu’t Igros Moshe 3:80).

What do I do if I am in a hotel during the Nine Days?

If one may not use freshly laundered bed linens during the Nine Days, what should one do if one stays in a hotel or as a guest in someone’s home during the Nine Days? May he use the freshly laundered sheets? The poskim permit guests to use fresh bed linens, since most people are very uncomfortable using bed linens slept on by someone else (Shu’t Minchas Yitzchak 10:44; Shu’t Tzitz Eliezer 13:61). The Minchas Yitzchak suggests soiling the linens on the floor a little before using them. Depending on circumstances, one might also be able to bring one’s own used linens. In any instance, one should instruct the hotel not to change the bed linens until after Tisha B’Av.


The Gemara mentions no prohibition against bathing during the Nine Days. To quote the Ran, “Washing one’s body is permitted, whether in hot water or cold – and even the entire body – for Chazal only prohibited washing on Tisha B’Av itself. However, meticulous people have the custom not to bathe the entire week.”

On the other hand, the Tur, quoting Avi Ezri, writes that the widespread custom is to forbid bathing from Rosh Chodesh until after Tisha B’Av. Furthermore, he states that someone who violates this custom violates “al titosh toras imecha, – do not forsake the teaching of your mother,” here referring to the customs of the Jewish people. The Shulchan Aruch records two customs: one to refrain from bathing from Rosh Chodesh, and the second to refrain only during the week of Tisha B’Av. The custom is not to bathe for pleasure during the entire Nine Days, but bathing for hygienic and health purposes is permitted. A rav should be consulted as to when and how this applies.


The Medrash (Medrash Rabbah Shemos 15:21) teaches that Hashem will bring forth ten new creations in the era of Moshiach:

  1. He will create a new light for the world.
  2. A freshwater spring will develop from Yerushalayim whose waters will heal all illnesses.
  3. Each month, Hashem will create trees that produce new fruits with special curative powers.
  4. All the cities of Eretz Yisroel will be rebuilt, including even Sodom and Amora.
  5. Hashem will rebuild Yerushalayim with sapphire stone that will glow and attract all the nations of the world to come and marvel at the city’s beauty.
  6. The cow and the bear, the wolf and the sheep will graze together, and their young will play together (see Yeshaya 11:7).
  7. Hashem will make a covenant with all the creatures of the world, and people will beat their swords and spears into plows and pruning hooks (see Hoshea 2:20.)
  8. There will be no more crying in the city of Yerushalayim (see Yeshaya 65:19).
  9. Death will perish forever (see Yeshaya 25:8).
  10. Everyone will be joyful, and tears will be wiped from every face (see Yeshaya 25:8).

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 seeing them speedily and in our days.


Sifting the Makom HaMikdash

Now that the “Three Weeks” has begun, I am sharing with you my reflections on an appropriate halachic topic.

Sifting the Makom HaMikdash


Recently, someone asked me a shaylah that involves what is probably one of the most heart-breaking issues I was ever asked. The question was: “Are there any halachic issues involved in sifting through the earth removed by the Waqf from the Makom HaMikdash?”

To explain this shaylah, I will first explain what has happened, then discuss the halachic issues involved — and finally explain the answers. There is also a fascinating halachic-architectural issue that I noticed while studying photographs of the Moslem construction, which I will discuss at the end of this article.

During the past many years, the Waqf, the Moslem “Trust” that controls the holiest place on earth, the Har HaBayis, has been making major “renovations” there, including the construction of yet another mosque – this one located near the Shaarei Chuldah, which is the southern entrance to Har HaBayis. These gates are called Shaarei Chuldah because Chuldah the Prophetess stood between these two gates and admonished the Jews to do teshuvah.

For clarification purposes: The Kosel HaMaaravi where we daven is part of the Western Wall of the Har HaBayis, known in English as “the Temple Mount,” which is the top of the mountain called Har HaMoriah. The Beis HaMikdash included open courtyards as well as the structure that stood on the Har HaBayis, but occupied only a small area of the mountain. Although the Har HaBayis has much more kedusha than that of Yerushalayim, the Beis HaMikdash has much greater kedusha than that of the Har HaBayis. Someone entering the area where the Beis HaMikdash once stood is chayov kareis, an extremely severe punishment.[i] The Mishnah (Keilim 1:8-9) lists seven levels of kedusha above that of Yerushalayim — the highest being that of the Holy of Holies, the Kodesh HaKodashim area of the Beis HaMikdash, that only the kohen gadol may enter, and then, only to perform the service on Yom Kippur.

As we said, the Har HaBayis has far less sanctity than the Beis HaMikdash. Nevertheless, most contemporary poskim prohibit ascending the Har HaBayis. A minority of poskim permit entering areas of the Har HaBayis that are not part of the Beis HaMikdash in order to daven or perform a mitzvah, but only after one has performed certain taharah procedures, including washing one’s self thoroughly, making certain that one has no chatzitzos (interrupting substances on one’s body), and immerses oneself in a mikveh. All agree that it is prohibited to enter any part of the Har HaBayis if one is tamei with what halacha calls tumah hayotzei migufo, which includes people who are baalei keri, zav, zavah, niddah and yoledes.

The Moslem construction

The Moslem construction is without any permits and is illegal. However, the Israeli authorities refuse to interfere, citing concerns about violence! One of the Waqf’s goals is to obliterate any remnants of the Batei HaMikdash from the Har HaBayis so that they can persist with their lies that Jews never lived in Israel, and that the Batei HaMikdash never existed. The Waqf has removed hundreds of truckloads of “debris” from the Har HaBayis, which they dump in the Kidron Valley and other sites around Yerushalayim.

With the help of volunteers, Israeli archeologists are painstakingly sifting through the rubble removed from the Har HaBayis, to look for artifacts. (Thus, there is no halachic concern of ascending to the Har HaBayis.) Someone asked me whether he can volunteer for this work, citing the following potential shaylos:

  1. Is there a halachic concern that in the unearthing of these items someone is receiving personal benefit from property of the Beis HaMikdash, thus violating the severe Torah prohibition called me’ilah.
  2. Since we are all tamei, is there concern that one might be rendering impure (i.e., making tamei) property or the stones of the Beis HaMikdash?
  3. What are we required to do with stones or earth that were originally part of the Beis HaMikdash or the Har HaBayis?
  4. The remnants being unearthed include bone fragments, some of them human. This leads to two specific questions: (a) May a kohen work in this project? (b) Is there a halachic concern of mistreating the dead, since these human remains will not be buried afterwards, but will be stored and used for scientific research and study?
  5. Some artifacts that surface are clearly from what were once idols. Is there a halachic requirement to destroy them? Is it the finder’s responsibility to destroy them, something which the archeologists do not permit?

The archeological finds

Now some background on what the search is revealing, so that we can explain the halachic issues raised. Everything found on the Har HaBayis has a dark gray-ash color, rather than the typical white limestone color of Yerushalayim earth. This is because the fires of the destructions that transpired discolored the Har HaBayis earth.

Every bucketful of sifted earth contains numerous historical items, including coins, pottery and glass fragments,  arrowheads and other primitive weapons and pieces of human or animal bone. Coins unearthed date from as early as the second Beis HaMikdash to as late as the period of Napoleon III (mid-nineteenth century). The pieces of animal bone are presumably from what people ate there – possibly, leftovers from korbanos, but also leftovers of non-Jewish meals of the last centuries.

Other remnants unearthed are connected with the churban, such as Babylonian and Roman arrowheads, and Roman catapult projectiles, all sad reminders of the Jews who died there during the two churbanos.

Probably a greater reminder of the churban is the general attitude of the Moslems, who, in effect, rule over the Har HaBayis today. One would think that the Moslems would treat the Har HaBayis with some level of sanctity, since they claim that it is one of their holy sites. Unfortunately, this is not true. The workers loiter and smoke there, and children play soccer. Their chief concern seems to be that Jews not pray there.

We can now begin to answer the questions raised above:

Beis HaMikdash property

Question #1: Is there a halachic concern that in the unearthing of these items someone is receiving personal benefit from property of the Beis HaMikdash thus violating the severe Torah prohibition called me’ilah.

Much broken pottery has been found among the artifacts. These items are of great archeological curiosity because they indicate who used the Har HaBayis and ate their meals there over the millennia. Halachically, we know that kohanim ate meat of the holier korbanos only in the Beis HaMikdash area. After cooking these korbanos, the halacha required that the earthenware pots used be broken in a holy area of the Beis HaMikdash.[ii] The shards discovered may indeed be remnants of these vessels. However, these earthenware pieces have no sanctity, since all holy vessels were manufactured from metal only.

Remnants of holy vessels

Many types of holy vessels, such as bowls, baking dishes, forks, and numerous other items were used in the service in the Beis HaMikdash. What is the halacha if someone found a usable metal item that might be one of the holy vessels of the Beis HaMikdash, or something that might be a remnant from the mizbayach (the altar)? Is there a prohibition of me’ilah in using these items?

Because of complicated halachic issues, the poskim dispute whether one would violate me’ilah in such a case. Allow me to explain. Based on a pasuk in Yechezkel,[iii] the Gemara presents us with a halachic concept referred to as “ba’u peritzim vichilaluhu” – when the lawless entered, they removed its sanctity, meaning that under certain circumstances, misuse of Beis HaMikdash vessels defiles them and removes their kedusha.[iv] The Rishonim dispute when this concept applies. The Baal HaMaor explains that when the Hellenized Jews used the mizbayach of the Beis HaMikdash inappropriately (during the events prior to the Chanukah story), this defiling removed the sanctity from the stones of the mizbayach. In his opinion, the other vessels of the Beis HaMikdash still maintain their sanctity, and, furthermore, only Jews can cause the kedusha to be removed, not gentiles. Thus, according to the Baal HaMaor, someone who uses a vessel of the Beis HaMikdash today violates the severe prohibition of me’ilah. The Ramban disagrees with the Baal HaMaor, explaining that when the gentiles entered the Beis HaMikdash to destroy it, they profaned the sanctity of the building and its vessels. In his opinion, someone who subsequently made use of these vessels for his own personal purposes would not violate any prohibition of me’ilah. As a result of this dispute, one should not use a metal utensil found in the Har HaBayis ruins, because of the possibility of committing me’ilah, based on the Baal HaMaor’s stricter opinion.

Question #2: Since we are all tamei, is there concern that one might be profaning (i.e., making tamei) property or the stones of the Beis HaMikdash?

I could find no halachic literature directly discussing this shaylah. There is a prohibition of making something tamei in the Beis HaMikdash.[v] However, I am unaware of any halachic source that prohibits making these items tamei once they have been removed from the Beis HaMikdash grounds. Furthermore, stones themselves do not become tamei.

Question #3: What are we required to do with stones or earth that were originally part of the Beis HaMikdash or the Har HaBayis?

Destroying the Beis HaMikdash (chas veshalom)

To destroy any part of the Beis HaMikdash violates a Torah prohibition.[vi] This includes removing a stone from the mizbayach or from any other part of the Beis HaMikdash with the intent of destroying it.[vii] To destroy items that belong to the Beis HaMikdash, even those that are not used for a holy purpose (kodashei bedek habayis), or to intentionally destroy part of the Har HaBayis  is prohibited miderabbanan.[viii]

Is there a responsibility to bury the broken stone from the Beis HaMikdash or from the Har HaBayis?

The halacha is that damaged stone from the Beis HaMikdash or its vessels must be buried, just as we bury worn-out sifrei Torah.[ix] Thus, the halacha requires that stone or other remains from the Beis HaMikdash be respectfully buried. Unfortunately, today, the stone and other remains that have no archeological value are simply abandoned at the worksite.

Does the earth from the Har HaBayis have sanctity?

The Mizbayach Adamah,[x] whose author was the rav of Yerushalayim during part of the eighteenth century, discusses a shaylah whether grapes grown on the Har HaBayis are prohibited because of me’ilah. From his discussion, it is clear that he considers all earth of the Har HaBayis to have kedusha that might create a prohibition of me’ilah. Thus, the same concerns I raised above about the stone remains exist concerning the earth itself, and it must be buried in a respectful way.

Question #4: The remnants unearthed include bone fragments, some of them human. This leads to two specific questions:

(a) May a kohen participate in this project?

(b) Is there a halachic concern of mistreating the dead, since these human remains will not be buried afterwards, but will be stored and used for scientific research and study?

Human bones

The discovery of human bone fragments on the Har HaBayis is puzzling, since Jews would never have buried anyone there. In all likelihood, these are bones of non-Jews that were interred there, or perhaps of Jews who were killed on the Har HaBayis and, unfortunately, not buried according to halacha. Even if we assume that these are bones of non-Jews, a fragment as small as the size of a barleycorn will convey tumah, if moved or touched. Therefore, since there is a reasonable chance that a kohen might touch or lift a human bone fragment, he should refrain from participating in this project.


Does a non-kohen need to be concerned about the possibility that he will locate bones, and that he now has a mitzvah to bury them?

If one can assume that the bones discovered were from non-Jews, there is no mitzvah to bury them, but only to be certain that they do not render a kohen impure. Even if the bones are from a Jew, it is unclear whether the mitzvah of burying a Jewish meis applies to such a small amount. The Mishneh LaMelech[xi] rules that the mitzvah of kevurah does not apply to part of a corpse, whereas the Tosafos Yom Tov[xii] rules that one is required to bury a piece of a Jewish meis as small as a kezayis. However, it is unclear how small a piece of bone requires kevurah.

Avodah Zarah

Question #5: Some artifacts that surface are clearly from what were once idols. Is there a halachic requirement to destroy them? Is it the finder’s responsibility to destroy them, something which the archeologists do not permit?

Some background to this shaylah: It is prohibited to benefit from an idol; furthermore, there is a Torah mitzvah to destroy idols in a way that no one can ever benefit from them.[xiii] The suggested method is to grind up the idol and scatter the filings to the wind or the sea. One may also not benefit from a broken idol, and the same halachic requirement exists to destroy it.[xiv] Obviously, the archeologists overseeing the work will not allow this halacha to be fulfilled.

Thus, in conclusion, it appears that one unless one found usable metal vessels, one does not need to be concerned about using Beis HaMikdash property while sifting earth removed from the Har HaBayis. It also seems that a non-kohen may participate in these activities if he can have control over the items that he finds and can destroy the idols and bury the human bones and any remains from the Beis HaMikdash that he may find. However, he may not participate as a member of a “dig team,” where he is forced to follow the instructions of an archeologist who is not following halachic guidelines.

A halacha background

From photographs I have seen of the new mosque, it appears that the Waqf did very little actual construction, but simply hollowed out one of the underground archways as it was originally constructed when the Beis HaMikdash was built. Explaining this underground construction is, in itself, a fascinating halachic subject.

Underground archways

Someone who stands above a buried corpse or part of a corpse becomes tamei (with the exception of the case I will describe below). When the Beis HaMikdash was built, the building was constructed in a way that it was impossible to become tamei, even if someone was once buried in the earth beneath the Beis HaMikdash, itself an almost impossible scenario. In order to eliminate the possibility of someone becoming tamei from such a corpse, the Har HaBayis was constructed with “archways on top of archways.”[xv]

To explain this construction, I will elucidate how tumas ohel works. If there is tumas meis under a building, tumah spreads throughout the building, but does not spread above the building. Therefore, someone walking on the roof of the building remains tahor, even though he walked directly above the meis.

Similarly, if one constructs an archway, and there is tumah under the roof of the archway, the tumah spreads underneath this entire archway, but not above it. This is because an archway is a building –tumah spreads underneath it, but the archway prevents tumah from rising above it.

However, if the meis was buried beneath the pillar of an archway, the tumah is not inside the ohel, but under the pillar – and the tumah rises vertically and contaminates the area directly above it.

The way to prevent this tumah from proceeding upward and rendering people above it tamei is to construct another archway directly above the pillar. This way, although the tumah will rise through the pillar of the lower archway, it will then remain within the ohel of the upper archway and not spread above it.

This is the concept of “archways on top of archways” — where both of the upper archway’s pillars rest on the arch of the lower archway, which effectively blocks tumas ohel from spreading from the ground below to any area above the double archway. If the meis is beneath the arch of the lower archway, the lower archway blocks tumah from rising above it, and if the tumas meis is beneath the pillar of the lower archway and its tumah rises above the lower archway, it will be blocked by the upper archway.

Thus, to avoid any possible tumas meis in the Beis HaMikdash, the entire Har HaBayis was constructed with underground double sets of archways, thereby guaranteeing that no tumas meis could spread upward from a meis below. The Waqf apparently cleared out the debris accumulated under one of these archways, and used it as the roof of their mosque!

Incidentally, this method of making “archways on top of archways” is used to correct the problem of roads discovered to pass over graves or cemeteries. In this instance, very small “archways” are constructed, but this is sufficient, because to accommodate this halachic problem, each section of archway-ohel needs to be only a tefach high.

We all hope and pray that the day will soon come when the Beis HaMikdash returns as the Bayis Shlishi, and we will ascend to the Har HaBayis in purity, sanctity, and joy to serve Hashem by observing all of the mitzvos.

An earlier version of this article was published in From Buffalo Burgers to Monetary Mysteries. If you would like to purchase this book, or From Vanishing Importers to Vultures’ Wings, or any of my Hebrew publications, please contact me by e-mail.



[i] Kaftor VaFerech, Chapter 6; Kesef Mishneh, Hilchos Beis HaBechirah 6:14; Magen Avraham 561:2; Shu’t Binyan Tziyon #2.

[ii] Zevachim 93b

[iii] 7:22

[iv] Avodah Zarah 52b

[v] Mishnah and Gemara Eruvin 104b; Rambam, Hilchos Bi’as HaMikdash Chapter 3

[vi] Rambam, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 6:7

[vii] Rambam ibid.; and Hilchos Beis HaBechirah 1:17

[viii] Shu’t Achiezer, Yoreh Deah #49; Aruch HaShulchan HeAsid 4:24-25; Minchas Chinuch #437

[ix] Tosefta, Megillah 2:10; Rambam, Hilchos Beis HaBechirah 1:15

[x] Cited by Machazik Bracha, addendum to Orach Chayim 151

[xi] End of Hilchos Aveil

[xii] Shabbos 10:5

[xiii] Rambam, Hilchos Avodah Zarah 7:1; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 146:14

[xiv] Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 146:11

[xv] Mishnah, Parah 3:3; Rambam, Hilchos Beis HaBechirah 5:1

Shaving and Haircuts during the Three Weeks

barber poleQuestion #1: Bushy presenter

“My company sent me out of town to meet a new client, and I forgot to have my hair cut before Shiva Asar BeTamuz. May I have the bushier parts trimmed? Does it make a difference if I use a non-Jewish barber? May I shave?”

Question #2: Mixed shavers

“My son wrote me that in his yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel, the Sefardic bochurim shave during the Three Weeks. Is this permitted?”

Question #3: Celebrating a bris!

“Thank G-d, we will be celebrating the bris of a grandson during the Three Weeks, and I do not want to look disheveled for the bris photos. May I shave in honor of the occasion?”

Question #4: Tichel tattling

“My hair is sticking out beyond my tichel. May I trim it?”

The three-week period between Shiva Asar BeTamuz and Tisha B’Av is observed by klal Yisroel as a time of mourning. These three weeks heralded the beginning of the tragedies that took place prior to the destruction of both Batei Hamikdash. Prior to the destruction of the First Beis Hamikdash, the daily korban tamid ceased on Shiva Asar BeTamuz and did not resume until the Jews began constructing the Second Beis Hamikdash seventy years later (see Rambam, Hilchos Taanis 5:2). Before the destruction of the Second Beis Hamikdash, the walls of the city of Yerushalayim were breached on Shiva Asar BeTamuz, leading to the complete devastation that followed (Taanis 28b).

To commemorate these tragic events, the custom is to observe some mourning practices (aveilus) from the 17th day of Tamuz until Tisha B’Av (Rama, Darchei Moshe, Orach Chayim 551:5 and Hagahos 551:2; Ben Ish Chai, Parshas Devorim #4; Knesses Hagedolah; Sdei Chemed Vol. 5, pg. 279 #14). This three-week season is referred to by the Midrash Rabbah (Eicha 1:3) as the period of Bein Hametzarim. (It is noteworthy that neither the Mishnah nor the Gemara makes any mention of beginning the mourning period any earlier than Rosh Chodesh.)


The Mishnah (Taanis 26b) rules that it is prohibited to cut one’s hair from the Motza’ei Shabbos preceding Tisha B’Av until Tisha B’Av. These days are referred to as shavua shechal bo Tisha B’Av, the week in which Tisha B’Av falls. This year, when Tisha B’Av is observed on Sunday, there is no shavua shechal bo Tisha B’Av. However, the Rama notes that the custom among Ashkenazim is that we do not cut our hair during the entire Three Weeks (Darchei Moshe, Orach Chayim 551:5 and Hagahos 551:4). As a general rule, the halachos of shaving and cutting one’s hair are the same.

There are different customs among Sefardim as to whether they get their hair cut during the Three Weeks. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 551:3) prohibits only that which is recorded in the Gemara, cutting hair from Motza’ei Shabbos until Tisha B’Av, and this is the prevalent practice among Sefardim today in Eretz Yisroel (Shu’t Yechaveh Daas 4:36), which means that there is no prohibition this year. Others shave and get haircuts until Rosh Chodesh, but stop after that point.

However, other Sefardic communities follow the Ashkenazic practice not to shave or get haircuts the entire period of Bein Hametzarim (Ben Ish Chai, Parshas Devorim #12). (Incidentally, the Shulchan Aruch [Orach Chayim 551:4] permits having one’s hair cut immediately after Tisha B’Av is over even when Tisha B’Av does not fall on Sunday, and does not require waiting until the next day.)


May a Sefardi living in an Ashkenazi community be lenient, despite the prevalent custom?

This issue is discussed by contemporary authorities, involving the general halachic rule that a community should follow one established practice. This principle is referred to by the Gemara as “lo sisgodedu,” do not give the appearance that different Torah communities received different versions of the Torah, G-d forbid (Yevamos 14a, as explained by Rashi). This law prohibits a Jewish community from following two conflicting customs. Thus, it would seem that an Ashkenazi living in a Sefardic community or vice versa must observe the prevailing custom.

However, contemporary poskim rule that Ashkenazim living in Sefardic communities may observe Ashkenazic custom, and Sefardim living in Ashenazic communities may continue to follow Sefardic practice. Therefore, Sefardic bochurim studying in an Ashkenazic yeshiva are permitted to shave until Rosh Chodesh or during the entire Three Weeks, depending on their minhag. Even though most of the students in the yeshiva follow the Ashkenazic practice of not shaving during the entire Three Weeks, it does not violate minhag hamakom for the Sefardic bochurim to shave (Shu’t Yechaveh Daas 4:36).


Even though there is a general rule that a community should follow one halachic practice, this is true when the community has one rav or follows the guidance of one beis din. However, when there are two different batei din in a community, each beis din is free to rule as it sees fit and does not need to change its decision to avoid lo sisgodedu. Thus, the prohibition of lo sisgodedu applies only when there are two different practices in one beis din.

Similarly, when it is well-known that there are different communities, each may observe its own well-established practice, even if they are in the same location. Therefore, Ashkenazim and Sefardim following different minhagim is not a violation of lo sisgodedu. As a result, Sefardic bachurim may shave during the Three Weeks, even if they study in an Ashkenazic Yeshiva, since it is understood that they are following a different psak.


There are several situations in which Ashkenazim are permitted to shave or take a haircut during the Three Weeks. For example, it is permitted to trim one’s mustache, if it interferes with eating (Ran; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 551:13). Some poskim rule that a person who usually shaves every day is permitted to shave during the Three Weeks in honor of Shabbos (Shu’t Chasam Sofer, Yoreh Deah #348 s.v. Ve’i golach). Others permit a person to shave if his beard stubble makes him very uncomfortable (see Shearim Ha’metzuyanim Behalachah 122:5). However, since these last two psakim are not usually accepted, one should not rely on them without receiving a psak from a rav.

Someone who is in aveilos is not permitted to shave or have his hair cut until the end of the Sheloshim (30 days), and someone in aveilos for a parent, for several months. If the aveilos ended during the Three Weeks, he is permitted to have his hair cut, since he could not cut it before Shiva Asar BeTamuz (Be’er Heiteiv 551:18). Most poskim permit this even during the Nine Days, assuming his aveilos ended then (Bach; Taz; Mishnah Berurah 551:87; cf. however, Elyah Rabbah).


Rav Moshe Feinstein rules that one may shave during the Three Weeks if he may lose his job or customers because he does not shave. However, if the only concern is that people will make fun of him, he is not permitted to shave. Rav Moshe Feinstein contends that since the prohibition not to shave the entire Three Weeks began as a minhag, the custom was originally established only when one would not suffer financially as a result. However, if he would suffer only embarrassment or harassment, but no loss of income, he is required to remain unshaven (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Choshen Mishpat 1:93; Orach Chayim 4:102). Thus, someone who makes a business trip may shave, since making a bad impression on the potential customer could cost him business. Certainly, one is not required to jeopardize his employment by avoiding shaving during the Three Weeks.


If a bris occurs during the Three Weeks, the father of the baby, the mohel, and the sandek who holds the baby during the bris are permitted to shave or take a haircut in honor of the festive occasion (Shu’t Chasam Sofer, Orach Chayim #158). According to some poskim, the kvatter, who brings the baby to the bris, and the sandek meumad (also called amida lebrochos), who holds the baby while he is being named, are also permitted to shave or take a haircut (Shearim Ha’metzuyanim Behalachah, Kuntrus Acharon 120:8, based on Elyah Rabbah 551:27 and Beis Meir, Orach Chayim 551). Thus, the grandfather who asked whether he may shave or cut his hair in honor of his grandson’s bris during the Three Weeks may do so, if he receives the honor of being sandek. If he receives a different honor, he should ask a shaylah as to whether he may shave in honor of the occasion.

The poskim dispute whether the baalei simcha are permitted to shave even if the bris occurs during the Nine Days or only if it occurs before Rosh Chodesh. (The Chasam Sofer, Shu’t Noda Biyehudah 1:28, Shaarei Teshuvah, and Sdei Chemed 5:278:3 permit, whereas the Be’er Heiteiv 551:3 prohibits.)


Question: May someone who got married before the 17th of Tamuz shave during his Sheva Brachos week? May someone attending a Sheva Brachos shave in honor of the occasion?

The week after a couple gets married is considered a Yom Tov for them, and they should wear Yom Tov clothing and eat festive meals. Similarly, they are not permitted to go to work. Part of the celebration is that they should look like two celebrants. Thus, it would seem that the choson may shave during his Sheva Brachos week.

However, for the participant in the Sheva Brachos it is not a Yom Tov, so he would not be permitted to shave for the occasion.

Some poskim hold that a bar mitzvah bochur who needs a haircut may get one during the Three Weeks, as long as it is not during the week of Tisha B’Av. Others contend that it is better if he gets the haircut the day before he turns bar mitzvah and rely on the opinion that a minor may get a haircut during the Three Weeks, as I will discuss shortly (Shearim Ha’metzuyanim Behalachah, Kuntrus Acharon 120:8).


Although some poskim permit scheduling an upsheren (chalakah) during the Three Weeks if the child was born during the Three Weeks, the prevalent practice is to postpone the upsheren until after Tisha B’Av (Piskei Teshuvos 551:44; Chanoch Lana’ar, Chapter 21, ftn. 1).

Adults may not give children haircuts during the week of Tisha B’Av (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 551:14). There is a dispute whether a minor may get a haircut during the Three Weeks, some poskim contending that children were not included in the custom not to cut hair (Mishnah Berurah 551:82, quoting Chayei Odom), whereas others rule that one may not cut a child’s hair, just as one may not cut an adult’s (Elyah Rabbah 551:28).

There are different opinions among the poskim whether a woman may have her hair cut during the Three Weeks. The Mishnah Berurah rules that a woman may not have her hair cut during the week of Tisha B’Av, but he suggests that she may be permitted to trim the hair on her temples that sticks out from the tichel (Mishnah Berurah 551:79). Many poskim rule that a woman may tweeze her eyebrows and perform similar cosmetic activities, even during the week of Tisha B’Av (Halichos Beisah, Chapter 25, footnote 70; Piskei Teshuvos 551:43; however, see Shu’t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:137, who appears to be more stringent).


It is permitted to clip one’s fingernails during the Three Weeks and the Nine Days according to all opinions. There is a dispute whether one may clip one’s nails during the week of Tisha B’Av (Magen Avraham, 551:11 permits, whereas Taz 551:13 and Elyah Rabbah 551:7 prohibit).


The most important aspect of the Three Weeks is to focus on the tremendous loss we suffer because of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. The minhag among some Sefardic kehillos in Yerushalayim is to sit on the floor each day of the Three Weeks just after midday and to recite part of tikkun chatzos that mourns the loss of the Beis Hamikdash. To further convey this mood, Yesod Veshoresh Ha’avodah prohibits any laughing and small talk during these weeks, just as a mourner does not engage in laughter or small talk (Shaar 9, Ch. 11-12).

Although we may not be holding at such a madreigah, we certainly should contemplate the tremendous void in our spiritual lives in the absence of the Beis Hamikdash. Let us pray intently for the restoration of the Beis Hamikdash and the return of the Divine Presence to Yerushalayim, speedily in our days!


Where’s the Beef? – Eating Meat During the Nine Days

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?”


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.


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.


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).


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 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.


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.


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).


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).


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).


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.


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).


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).


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.


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.


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.


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 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.