Explaining the Laws of the Three Weeks

The three-week period between Shiva Asar B’Tammuz and Tisha B’Av is kept by Klal Yisrael as a time of mourning. In this article, we will review and explain the halachos that apply during the Three Weeks. In a subsequent article, we hope to review the halachos that apply during the Nine Days that begin with Rosh Chodesh Av.

WHAT HAPPENED ON SHIVAH ASAR BETAMMUZ?

The Mishnah (Ta’anis 26) teaches that five tragic events occurred on the 17th day of Tammuz:

1.      The luchos (tablets) containing the Aseres Hadibros were destroyed.

2.      The daily korbanos offered in the First Beis Hamikdash were stopped (see Rambam, Hilchos Ta’anis 5:2).

3.      The walls of the city of Yerushalayim were breached, leading to the destruction of the Second Beis Hamikdash (Ta’anis 28b).

4.      The wicked Apostomus, a Greek officer, burned the Torah near a bridge in Eretz Yisrael, during the period of the second Beis Hamikdash (see Talmud Yerushalmi and Tiferes Yisrael).

5.      An idol was placed inside the Beis Hamikdash. According to Rashi, this was done by the evil King Menashe. Others explain that this incident occurred during the Second Beis Hamikdash time period (Rambam, Hilchos Ta’anis 5:2). These two interpretations reflect two opinions recorded in the Talmud Yerushalmi.

To commemorate these tragic events, the Jewish people observe the 17th of Tammuz as a fast day (see Rosh Hoshanah 18b; Rambam, Hilchos Ta’anis 5:1-4). In addition, the custom developed to observe some mourning practices from this day until Tisha B’Av. 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 associate any mourning practices with the Bein Hametzarim period. Rather, the Mishnah mentions that the mourning of the Tisha B’Av season begins on Rosh Chodesh Av by “decreasing simcha” (Ta’anis 26b). The Mishnah does not explain what activities are curtailed in order to decrease simcha.

The Gemara (Yevamos 43a, as explained by the Ramban and Tur; cf. Rashi, who understands the Gemara differently) refers to four activities that are prohibited during this period, presumably to manifest this decreasing of simcha:

1.      Business activity is decreased. (There is a dispute among poskim what types of business activity are intended; see Mishnah Berurah 551:11.)

2.      Construction and planting for a simcha are not done (Yerushalmi, Ta’anis, cited by Tosafos, Yevamos 43a s.v. Milisa).

3.      Weddings are not conducted. (An additional reason is cited to forbid weddings during these nine days: since this is not a good season for Jews, one should postpone a wedding to a more auspicious date [Beis Yosef, Orach Chayim 551; Magen Avraham 551:8].)

4.      One may not make a festive meal to celebrate an erusin. This was the approximate equivalent to our making a tenaim or vort to celebrate an engagement. The Gemara permits making the erusin, itself, provided one does not make a festive meal to celebrate it. It is permitted to become engaged during the Nine Days, and even on Tisha B’Av itself (Magen Avraham 551:10; Tur, quoting Rav Nissim; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 551:2).

Although the Mishnah and Gemara make no mention of beginning the mourning period any earlier than Rosh Chodesh Av, accepted minhag Ashkenaz is to begin the aveilus from the 17th of Tammuz. Thus, the Rema (Darkei Moshe, Orach Chayim 551:5 and Hagahos 551:2) reports that Ashkenazim do not make weddings during the entire period of the Three Weeks, a practice that has become accepted by many Sefardic communities (Knesses Hagedolah; Ben Ish Chai, Parshas Devarim #4). However, many Sefardic communities permit making a wedding until Rosh Chodesh Av, and, under certain circumstances, even later (Shu’t Yabia Omer 6:Orach Chayim #43. See also Sedei Chemed Vol. 5, pg. 279 #14 who states that it depends on the custom of the community.)

MAY ONE SCHEDULE A VORT DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

It is permitted to celebrate an engagement during the Three Weeks, provided there is no music or dancing (Magen Avraham 551:10). Until Rosh Chodesh, one is allowed to celebrate the engagement with a festive meal (Mishnah Berurah 551:19), but from Rosh Chodesh, one should serve only light refreshments (Magen Avraham 551:10).

IS DANCING PERMITTED DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

Most dancing is prohibited during the Three Weeks (Magen Avraham 551:10; Elyah Rabbah 551:6; Mishnah Berurah 551:16). However, there are authorities who permit dancing at a sheva brachos.

MAY ONE GET MARRIED ON THE NIGHT OF THE 17TH OF TAMMUZ?

When the 17th of Tammuz falls out during the week, one who chooses to get married on this day should begin the wedding on the daytime of the 16th. There are poskim who contend that this is permitted only under extenuating circumstances (Piskei Teshuvos 551: 7 footnote 51).

When the 17th falls out on Sunday, most poskim prohibit making a wedding on the night of the 17th (Motza’ei Shabbos), since they consider that the period of mourning begins already at night (Shu’t Tzitz Eliezer 10:26). Many poskim contend that the night of the 17th should be treated even more strictly than the Three Weeks; it should be treated with the stringencies of the Nine Days (Elyah Rabbah; Shu’t Chayim Sha’al #24; Biur Halacha 551:2). However, Rav Moshe Feinstein rules that, under extenuating circumstances, it is permitted to schedule a wedding on the Motza’ei Shabbos of the 17th of Tammuz (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:168).

WHAT ARE THE LAWS ABOUT HAVING HAIRCUTS AND SHAVING DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

The Mishnah (Ta’anis 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. We will refer to these days as “the week of Tisha B’Av.”) This includes both shaving one’s beard and getting a haircut (Ran). Thus, according to the takkanah of Chazal, it was permitted to have a haircut or shave up until a few days before Tisha B’Av. However, the Rema notes that the custom among Ashkenazim is that we do not cut our hair during the entire Three Weeks (Darkei Moshe, Orach Chayim 551:5 and Hagahos 551:4).

There are different customs among Sefardim regarding having haircuts during the Three Weeks. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim (551:3) rules that it is prohibited to have a haircut only in the week of Tisha B’Av, as is recorded in the Gemara, and this is the Sefardic practice according to Rav Ovadia Yosef (Shu’t Yechaveh Daas 4:36). However, other Sefardic poskim note that it is dependent on custom (Ben Ish Chai, Parshas Devorim #12)

Rav Ovadia Yosef paskens that Sefardic bachurim learning in an Ashkenazic yeshiva are permitted to shave until Rosh Chodesh. Even though most of the students in the yeshiva follow the Ashkenazic practice of not shaving during the entire Three Weeks, it is permitted for the Sefardim to follow their custom and shave (Shu’t Yechaveh Daas 4:36). Although 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, Sefardim and Ashkenazim are considered communities with different rabbonim and batei din; therefore, each community may follow its own halachically accepted practice (Yevamos 14a).

There are a few exceptions to the ruling regarding when Ashkenazim are permitted to shave or get 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).

Shu’t Chasam Sofer (Yoreh Deah #348 s.v. Ve’i golach) rules that a person who shaves every day is permitted to shave on Friday during the Three Weeks, in honor of Shabbos. Furthermore, he also implies that someone who is very uncomfortable because of his beard stubble is permitted to shave during the Three Weeks, except for the week of Tisha B’Av (see She’arim Hametzuyanim Bahalacha 122:5). Both of these rulings are controversial, and one should not rely on them without receiving a pesak from a rav.

Rav Moshe Feinstein permits shaving during the Three Weeks, if someone may lose his job or may lose 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 when the prohibition against shaving is only because of minhag (as it is prior to the week of Tisha B’Av), there is no minhag to prohibit shaving if he will suffer financially as a result. However, if he will suffer only embarrassment or harassment, but no loss of income, he is required to remain unshaven.

In any case, shaving is prohibited during the week of Tisha B’Av not because of minhag but because of takkanas chachomim, which forbids shaving, even if one suffers financial loss (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Choshen Mishpat 1:93 and Orach Chayim 4:102).

If a bris falls out during the Three Weeks, the father of the baby, the mohel and the sandek are permitted to shave or have a haircut (Shu’t Chasam Sofer, Orach Chayim #158). The Chasam Sofer permits a haircut and shave even during the week of Tisha B’Av, whereas other poskim disagree and permit this only until the week of Tisha B’Av (Shu’t Noda Biyehudah 1:28; Sha’arei Teshuvah; Sedei Chemed 5:278:3) or only until Rosh Chodesh (Be’er Heiteiv 551:3).

Some poskim permit a haircut or shave only on the day of the bris itself (Shu’t Noda Biyehudah 1:28). According to some authorities, the kvatter and the sandek me’umad (also called “amidah lebrachos”) are also permitted to shave and have a haircut (She’arim Hametzuyanim Bahalacha, Kuntrus Acharon 120:8, based on Elyah Rabbah 551:27 and Beis Meir, Orach Chayim 551). However, most poskim do not permit them to shave, and restrict the heter of shaving and haircutting in honor of the bris to the mohel, the sandek, and the father of the baby.

Adults may not give children a haircut during the week of Tisha B’Av (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 551:14). The poskim disagree whether a minor may have a haircut during the part of the Three Weeks before Shabbos Chazon. Some contend that since the prohibition against haircuts during these weeks is only a custom, children are not included (Mishnah Berurah 551:82, quoting Chayei Adam), whereas others rule that children are included (Elyah Rabbah 551:28).

Although some poskim permit scheduling an upsheren (chalakah) during the Three Weeks, if that is when the child’s birthday is, the prevalent practice is to postpone the upsheren until after Tisha B’Av (Piskei Teshuvos 551:44).

Some recent poskim have suggested that a bar mitzvah bachur who needs a haircut may have one during the Three Weeks, as long as it is not during the week of Tisha B’Av. The She’arim Hametzuyanim Bahalacha concludes that it is more acceptable, halachically, for the bar mitzvah to have a haircut the day before he turns bar mitzvah and rely on the opinion that a minor may have a haircut during the Three Weeks, before the week of Tisha B’Av (Kuntrus Acharon 120:8).

The authorities disagree as to whether a woman may have her hair cut during the Three Weeks. Mishnah Berurah rules that a woman may not have her hair cut during the week of Tisha B’Av. He suggests that it may be permitted for her to trim the hair on the temples (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 (see Shu’t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:137; Halichos Beisah, Chapter 25, footnote 70).

MAY I CLIP MY FINGERNAILS DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

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

WHAT ARE THE HALACHOS ABOUT PLAYING AND LISTENING TO MUSIC DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

Playing or listening to music for enjoyment is prohibited during the Three Weeks (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim Vol. 4:21:4). Many poskim prohibit listening even to recorded music (Shu’t Tzitz Eliezer 15:33).

It is permitted to play music for non-Jews for parnasah or to teach music for parnasah, until the week of Tisha B’Av (Biur Halacha to 551:2 s.v. Memaatima, based on Pri Megadim). Similarly, it is permitted to take music lessons that are for parnasah. Some poskim permit taking lessons, if the lessons are not for pleasure and there will be a loss of skill because of the time lost (Shu’t Tzitz Eliezer 16:19). However, the Kaf Hachayim (551:41) writes: “Those who teach music during these days should teach sad songs, and it would be even better if they did not teach any music at all.”

IS SINGING PERMITTED DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

Sedei Chemed discusses this question (Volume 5, page 376:10). He feels that it is permitted, but quotes sources who seem to forbid it, and therefore is inconclusive. It is permitted to sing sad or moving songs, similar to what we sing on Tisha B’Av. Since it is uncertain that it is prohibited, one need not tell someone who is singing that he is doing something halachically wrong.

MAY ONE RECITE SHEHECHEYANU DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

There are three opinions among the poskim:

1. Shehecheyanu should not be recited during the Three Weeks, even on Shabbos (Arizal);

2. Shehecheyanu should not be recited on weekdays, but may be recited on Shabbos (Sefer Chassidim #840);

3. Shehecheyanu may be recited even on weekdays (Taz and Gra, Orach Chayim 551:17).

Most halachic authorities rule like the middle opinion, permitting shehecheyanu to be recited on Shabbos, but not on weekdays (Magen Avraham, Elyah Rabbah, Chayei Adam; Mishnah Berurah). In general, laws of mourning do not apply on Shabbos. Thus, shehecheyanu may be recited on Shabbos. (Rav Akiva Eiger rules that shehecheyanu may also be recited on Rosh Chodesh.)

An alternative approach to explain this opinion contends that it is a mitzvah to benefit from the world and make a shehecheyanu. Fulfilling this mitzvah supersedes the concern about reciting shehecheyanu during the Three Weeks—but it is appropriate to push it off to Shabbos (Mekor Chessed commentary to Sefer Chassidim #840; based on Yerushalmi at end of Kiddushin).

According to the Ari, the reason for not saying a shehecheyanu is not on account of the mourning, but because it is inappropriate to recite a blessing that we should be rejuvenated to this time, which is a very inauspicious period. This reason not to recite shehecheyanu applies even on Shabbos (Magen Avraham; Shu’t Chayim Sha’al #24).

The Gra contends that no halachic source prohibits a mourner from reciting shehecheyanu. Apparently, he also disagrees with the reason attributed to the Ari.

MAY ONE RECITE SHEHECHEYANU ON THE NIGHT OF THE 17TH?

Most poskim hold that one should not (Shu’t Chayim Sha’al #24; Sedei Chemed Vol. 5, pg. 277; Biur Halacha 551:2). However, Rav Moshe Feinstein contends that the mourning period does not start until morning, implying that one may recite a shehecheyanu at night (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:168).

MAY A CHILD RECITE SHEHECHEYANU DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

This depends on the age and maturity of the child. If the child is old enough to appreciate the aveilus that is observed, then we should train him not to say shehecheyanu during the Three Weeks. However, if he or she is not old enough to appreciate the aveilus, but is old enough to recite the shehecheyanu, one may allow him or her to recite the shehecheyanu (Birkei Yosef, Orach Chayim 551:9). There is no need to be concerned that the child is wishing this season to return.

Mishnah Berurah (511:99) permits a pregnant woman or an ill person to eat a new fruit without reciting the shehecheyanu.

According to all opinions, one recites a shehecheyanu when performing the mitzvos of pidyon haben or bris milah (for those who recite a shehecheyanu at a bris). The Rema rules that one may also recite a shehecheyanu on a new fruit that will not be available after Tisha B’Av. Otherwise, one should wait until after Tisha B’Av to eat the fruit or to buy the clothing upon which one would recite shehecheyanu. It is permitted to purchase clothes that do not require a shehecheyanu.

MAY ONE PURCHASE A NEW CAR DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

Rav Moshe Feinstein rules that if the car is being purchased for pleasure or convenience, one should wait until after the Three Weeks to buy it. If, however, it is necessary for parnasah, one may purchase it during the Three Weeks, but one should not recite shehecheyanu until after the Three Weeks (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 3:80). Some poskim permit buying any necessary appliance, such as a refrigerator or washing machine, to replace one that broke during the Three Weeks (Piskei Teshuvos 551:11).

OTHER HALACHOS OF THE THREE WEEKS

One should not engage in dangerous activities during the Three Weeks (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 551:18). For this reason, some do not schedule elective surgery until after Tisha B’Av (Piskei Teshuvos 551:1).

One may bathe, shower, go swimming or go to the beach between the 17th of Tammuz and Rosh Chodesh Av, even if one has not gone swimming yet this season. Although people say that one may not go swimming for the first time during the Three Weeks, there is no halachic source for this practice. It is, therefore, not considered a binding custom, and it is permitted without hataras nedarim (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:263).

Some forbid hikes, trips to the beach and other entertaining activities during the Three Weeks (see Sedei Chemed, Vol. 5, pg. 376:10). Some authorities suggest not swimming in dangerous places or in water deeper than one’s height (Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:263).

FOCUS OF THE THREE WEEKS

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.Some tzaddikim make a point of reciting tikkun chatzos, wherein we mourn the galus of the Shechina, every night..

Some Sefardic communities in Yerushalayim have the custom to sit on the floor, just after midday, on each day of the Three Weeks, and recite part of tikkun chatzos. To further convey this mood, Yesod Veshoresh Ha’avodah prohibits any laughing and small talk during these weeks, just as a mourner may not engage in laughter or small talk (Sha’ar 9, Chapter 11-12).

Although we may not be on such a spiritual level, we certainly should contemplate the tremendous loss in our spiritual lives without 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!

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.)

WHAT ARE THE LAWS ABOUT HAVING HAIRCUTS AND SHAVING DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

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.)

SEFARDIM LIVING IN AN ASHKENAZI COMMUNITY

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).

WHY DOES THIS NOT VIOLATE LO SISGODEDU?

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.

EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES

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).

SHAVING BECAUSE OF FINANCIAL LOSS

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.

SHAVING FOR A SIMCHA

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.)

CHOSON

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).

UPSHEREN

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).

MAY I CLIP MY FINGERNAILS DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

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).

FOCUS OF THE THREE WEEKS

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!

 

May I Attend a Wedding during the Three Weeks?

Questions:

I live in a predominantly Ashkenazic community where the “Three Weeks” are observed with no music, and certainly no celebrations or weddings. A Sefardic family in the neighborhood has scheduled a wedding for the 20th of Tamuz.

(A) May they do so? Should we stop them from breaking the community’s custom?

(B) May an Ashkenazi attend the wedding? May he/she remain while music is playing? May he/she join the dancing?

Answer:

Before answering these questions, we must first understand the halachic and historical background to the observances of the period between the Seventeenth of Tamuz and Tisha B’Av, which the Midrash refers to as the period of Bein HaMetzarim, between the straits (Midrash Rabbah, Eicha 1:3).

WHAT DID THE MISHNAH FORBID?

Neither the Mishnah nor the Gemara requires any mourning period during the month of Tamuz. The earliest source to mention any annual mourning season, the Mishnah, requires mourning only from the beginning of the month of AvMishenichnas Av mema’atim b’simcha,” “Once Av enters, we decrease our happiness” (Taanis 26b). This includes the Nine Days that begin on Rosh Chodesh Av and continue through Tisha B’Av.

Although the Mishnah does not clarify what practices are forbidden during the Nine Days, simply stating that “we decrease our happiness,” the Gemara (Yevamos 43a) lists several activities that are consequently forbidden, including refraining from conducting weddings (see the Ramban in Toras HaAdam, page 244 of the Mosad Rav Kook edition). However, this proscription against weddings during the time leading up to Tisha B’Av prohibits them only during the Nine Days.

WHO FORBADE MARRYING DURING THE THREE WEEKS?

If neither the Mishnah nor the Gemara prohibited marrying before Rosh Chodesh Av, why do we observe mourning from the Seventeenth of the Av?

The Rama (Darchei Moshe 551:5 and Hagahos 551:2) notes that accepted Ashkenazic practice forbids marriage from the Seventeenth of Tamuz onwards. Since the Tur (Fourteenth Century) mentions no such custom, it seems that Ashkenazim adopted the custom some time after the Tur’s era, extending the proscription against weddings for the entire Three Weeks. Thus, whereas mourning during the “The Nine Days” is already mentioned by the Mishnah and has the status of a rabbinic injunction (takanas chachamim), the observance of mourning in the Three Weeks developed only about 1300 years later and is therefore categorized as minhag, custom. Of course, we must observe minhagim of this nature; but we often find that they do not apply under extenuating circumstances.

Why did custom extend the takanas chachamim and prohibit these activities on these additional days? After all, if our Sages felt that nine days of commemoration of the Churban is sufficient, why should minhag extend it for three weeks?

I once heard explained that since earlier generations were much more cognizant of the loss of the Churban, a few days were a sufficient memorial for them. Today, however, we require a greater reminder to reinforce our consciousness of the Churban.

SEFARDIC PRACTICE

Although the Rama, a primary Ashkenazic source, mentions a mourning period that begins on the 17th of Tamuz, the Shulchan Aruch, the main Sefardic source, makes no mention of observing mourning before Rosh Chodesh. It appears that in his day and place, there was still no observance of “Three Weeks,” but only of Nine Days. However, other Sefardic authorities mention that this practice spread to their communities (Keneses HaGedolah, Hagahos Tur end of 551; Ben Ish Chai, Parshas Devarim #4; Kaf HaChayim 551:33, 101), and by the Nineteenth Century it appears that most Sefardic communities observed the entire Three Weeks period, certainly to the extent of prohibiting weddings. For example, the Ben Ish Chai assumed that weddings are not performed the entire Three Weeks, as did the Sedei Chemed.

CRIMEAN CUSTOM

Although most of us associate Crimea with the war by that name, waged between the Moslem Ottoman Turks and Orthodox Christian Czarist Russia, there was actually a thriving Jewish community there for hundreds of years, if not longer. The Sedei Chemed records that when he became Rav of the Crimea (then a Sefardic community) he was requested to perform a wedding at the end of Tamuz. At first, he refused to do so, stating that this violates accepted custom. He then researched the community records and discovered several instances when weddings were conducted at the end of Tamuz. Concluding that the custom not to marry before Rosh Chodesh had never reached the Crimea, he performed the wedding ceremony (Vol. 5, pg. 279 #14).

THE CUSTOMS OF BAGHDAD

Apparently, these practices sometimes varied within the very same community. The Ben Ish Chai, who lived in Nineteenth Century Baghdad, records that Sefardim do not marry during the entire Three Weeks, although Rav Ovadyah Yosef quotes Rav Solomon Chugi Avodi, the Chief Rabbi of Baghdad in the 1940’s, as saying that, in his day, they conducted weddings there until Rosh Chodesh. Of course, this is strange: once it became Baghdadi custom to ban weddings for the entire Three Weeks, how could one subsequently permit them? Rav Ovadyah suggests that the Ben Ish Chai, a very holy person, was more involved with his halachic and kabbalistic studies than in noting community practices.

Rav Ovadyah contends that many Sefardic communities permit weddings until Rosh Chodesh Av, and that this was the accepted practice among Sefardim in Eretz Yisrael. Furthermore, he maintains that Sefardim from communities in the exile that prohibited weddings during the entire Three Weeks may follow the more lenient practice upon moving to Eretz Yisrael. This follows the general approach that, upon relocating permanently, one follows the accepted practices, including even the leniencies, of one’s new domicile (Shu’t Yabia Omer 6: Orach Chayim #43). He further notes that, upon becoming the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv in 5729 (1969), he discovered that the Chief Rabbinate there had banned weddings for the entire Three Weeks. He instructed the administrators that they could henceforth schedule weddings for members of the Sefardic community from the Seventeenth of Tamuz until the end of the month, in accordance with the accepted practice among Sefardic communities in Israel. Of course, Ashkenazic practice, both in Tel Aviv and everywhere else, continued to prohibit marriages during the entire Three Weeks.

SOMEONE NEVER MARRIED BEFORE

Although the Gemara prohibits marrying during the first nine days of Av, there is halachic discussion whether this injunction applies even to someone who does not yet have a son and a daughter, and has therefore not yet fulfilled the mitzvah of peru urvu, be fruitful and multiply. Indeed, many prominent authorities permit such a man to marry during the Nine Days, and certainly during the Three Weeks.

WHERE DO WE SEE SUCH A DISTINCTION?

When drought strikes a community, its leadership should declare a series of fasts and other mourning as a spur to teshuvah (Taanis 10a – 12b). Included in these enactments is not performing weddings during this period. However, this rule does not extend to those who have not yet fulfilled the mitzvah of peru urvu. The prohibitions do not apply if, as a result, people will not perform a mitzvah.

The Beis Yosef (Orach Chayim 551) asks why this exception is mentioned only regarding marrying during a drought, but not in the context of marrying during the Nine Days. He suggests three reasons why even someone who has not yet fulfilled peru urvu should not marry during the Nine Days:

1. There are two reasons why people do not marry during the Nine Days:

(A) It is a mourning period.

(B) It is not a good omen to marry during the season that tragic events befell the Jewish People.

Because people want to marry during a time of good omen, they refrain from marrying during the Nine Days, even where it is halachically permitted, such as when one has yet not fulfilled peru urvu.

2. The Nine Days, as a period of public bereavement, are more stringent than a period of drought, which is a period of teshuvah rather than mourning. Therefore, weddings are not conducted during the Nine Days, even if this results in people postponing the mitzvah of peru urvu.

3. Since the prohibition against marriage caused by a drought may, unfortunately, extend for a long time, we do not want to cause people to postpone their weddings for a lengthy period. But it is not unreasonable to postpone weddings for nine days, the limit enacted by Chazal.

There are interesting halachic differences among these reasons. If the basis is only that it is not a good omen, then someone not concerned about the sign may schedule his wedding during these days. Indeed, the Shevus Yaakov (2:35) discusses whether someone who has as yet not fulfilled peru urvu may marry during the Three Weeks. Basing himself on the first reason of the Beis Yosef, the Shevus Yaakov suggested permitting this marriage during the Three Weeks even according to Ashkenazic custom, because the groom had as yet not fulfilled peru urvu. Furthermore, the Shevus Yaakov opined that this marriage be permitted based on the fact that a mourner who has not yet fulfilled mitzvas peru urvu may marry even during his thirty days of sheloshim. Although the Shevus Yaakov weighs the merits of permitting this marriage, he concludes that the wedding must be postponed until after Tisha B’Av, ruling that a public mourning season is stricter than an individual’s private mourning.

One can rally sources from earlier authorities both in favor of and in opposition to the Shevus Yaakov’s conclusion. The Shulchan Aruch does not mention whether someone who has not yet fulfilled peru urvu may marry during the Nine Days, implying that this person may not. On the other hand, the Rama (551:2) rules that, in general, the prohibitions of the Three Weeks and the Nine Days do not apply to someone who is fulfilling a mitzvah. Upon the basis of this Rama, the Chayei Adam (133:11) rules that someone who has not fulfilled peru urvu may indeed marry even during the Nine Days, although he notes that the custom is not to. The Kaf HaChayim (551:33, 101) cites this Chayei Adam, but disagrees with him, quoting other authorities who conclude that even someone who has not yet fulfilled peru urvu should not marry during the Nine Days. It is interesting that the Kaf HaChayim concludes that a childless Ashkenazi has more basis to be lenient and marry than a childless Sefardi, since the Rama permits one to override restrictions of the Bein HaMetzarim period in order to fulfill a mitzvah, whereas the Beis Yosef concluded otherwise!

However, other Sefardic authorities rule that someone who has not yet fulfilled peru urvu may marry even during the Nine Days and certainly during the Three Weeks (Shu’t Yabia Omer). (It is also noteworthy that some authorities permit music and dancing at a sheva berachos celebrated during the Three Weeks, because of the same rationale: that performing a mitzvah supersedes the mourning of the season [see Kaf HaChayim 551:40].)

Nevertheless, established practice in our locales is to not marry during the entire Three Weeks, even for someone who has not yet fulfilled the mitzvah of peru urvu. Does this mean that a Sefardi who follows the practice of marrying before Rosh Chodesh (or those who permit marriage for someone who has not fulfilled peru urvu) may not marry if he lives in a predominantly Ashkenazi community?

We can now refer to our first question:

I live in a predominantly Ashkenazic community where the “Three Weeks” are observed with no music, and certainly, no celebrations or weddings. A Sefardic family in the neighborhood has scheduled a wedding during the Three Weeks. May they do so? Should we stop them from breaking the community’s custom?

This takes us into a different area of halacha – must the entire community observe the same practice?

LO SISGODADU – DO NOT FORM DISPARATE GROUPS

Generally, a community is required to observe one practice, so that it does not appear that Hashem’s Chosen People are following two different versions of the Torah, G-d forbid (Yevamos 13b). Because of this law, the Rama requires that an entire community observe the mourning of the sefirah period during the same dates (Darchei Moshe 493:3). It would appear that this same prohibition applies during the Three Weeks. This would result in prohibiting someone who has a different halachic custom from marrying during the Three Weeks, even if he has not yet fulfilled peru urvu, in a place that conflicts with the prevailing custom.

However, several prominent authorities note that only a community that has only one beis din or only one rav must universally follow the same interpretation of halacha. However, where there are many kehillos in a city, each with its own custom or halachic authority, each community may follow its own accepted practice or authority (Yevamos 14a). For this reason, there is no requirement that everyone in a large city follow the same custom for sefirah, unless it has been accepted that the community has one standard practice (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:159).

Based on the same logic, it is usually accepted that Ashkenazim and Sefardim following different approaches is not a violation of lo sisgodadu. As a result, Rav Ovadyah Yosef permits Sefardic bachurim studying in an Ashkenazi Yeshiva to shave during the Three Weeks, since it is understood that they are following a different custom (Shu’t Yechaveh Daas 4:36). For the final ruling in your community, ask your local rav.

ATTENDING THE WEDDING

We may now address the second set of questions that I asked at the beginning of this article: May an Ashkenazi attend the wedding of someone whose halachic authority permitted it? Assuming that one may attend, may one listen to music or dance at such a wedding, since music and dancing are generally prohibited during the Three Weeks? (Magen Avraham 551:10; Eliyah Rabbah 551:6)

Although I found no discussion of whether one may attend such a wedding during the Three Weeks, authorities discuss whether one may attend and dance at a wedding during the period that one observes sefirah. Rav Moshe Feinstein and others permit attending such a wedding, including listening to music and dancing (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 1:159). However, Rav Moshe rules that if one is going to a wedding on a day that he keeps sefirah, he should not shave unless his unkempt appearance will disturb the simcha (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:95).

Nevertheless, since one can make a distinction between the intensity of the mourning of the Three Weeks and that of sefirah, I suggest that anyone faced with this question ask his or her own shaylah.

FOCUS OF THE THREE WEEKS

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 the older 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. The Yesod VeShoresh HaAvodah prohibits even 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 as yet have achieved such a high spiritual level, we should certainly contemplate the tremendous loss in our spiritual lives without the Beis Hamikdash. Let us pray intensely for the restoration of the Beis Hamikdash and the return of the Divine Presence to Yerushalayim, speedily in our days!

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