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The Laws of Fasts - The Nine Days

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In memory of Yissachar Dov Shmuel bar Yakov Yehuda Illoway
and Leah Ruth Illoway bat Natan Naso Jacobs
In memory of Rabbi Aaron M.  Wise z"l
on the occasion of his 10th yahrzeit on 21 Tamuz.
  By the Etshalom and Wise families



In the previous shiur, we studied mourning practices customarily observed during the three week period between Shiva Asar Be-Tamuz and Tisha Be-av, known as Bein Ha-Metzarim.  We discussed four prohibitions that, according to custom, we begin observing on Shiva Asar Be-Tamuz.  These prohibitions mark the beginning of the mourning period for the Beit Ha-Mikdash, which concludes on Tisha Be-av.  Ashkenazic practice prohibits holding weddings and taking haircuts during these three weeks.  In addition, it is customary to refrain from reciting the she-hechiyyanu blessing and to avoid unusually dangerous activities.  These customs are rooted in the idea that these weeks are an inauspicious time period for the Jewish People.  We studied the details and parameters of each practice. 

This shiur, we will study the laws of the Nine Days, beginning with the more general directive to minimize joyous activities during the month of Av, moving to the prohibition of laundering and the custom to refrain from bathing, and concluding with refraining from eating meat and wine during this period. 

Mi-She-Nichnas Av Mema’atin Be-Simcha - Minimizing Joy During the Month of Av

The mishna (Ta’anit 26b) presents the following principle: "Mi-she-nichnas Av me-ma'atin be-simcha" - with the arrival of the month of Av, one minimizes joy.  R. Papa elaborates:

Therefore, a Jew who has any litigation with gentiles should avoid him during Av because his luck is bad.  Rather, he should make himself available in Adar when his luck is good.

Furthermore, the Talmud (Yevamot 43b) teaches:

For it was taught: From the first day of the month [of Av] until the fast the public restricts their activities in trade, building, and planting, and no betrothals or marriages may take place.  During the week in which the Ninth of Av occurs it is forbidden to cut hair, and to wash clothes.

The Arukh Ha-Shulchan (551:1-3; R. Yechiel Michel Ha-levi Epstein [1829 – 1908]) notes that although the major codifiers of Halacha, the Rif, Rambam, and Rosh, cite the mishna in Ta’anit prescribing that one should minimize joy during the month of Av, all omit the beraita from Yevamot, which enumerates the specific activities one should refrain from during the month of Av.  He suggests that since the beraita only relates that “the public restricts their activities in trade, building, and planting,” without employing the phrase “prohibited,” which it used regarding taking haircuts and washing clothes, the Talmud did not intend to prohibit these activities, but rather merely to relate the self-imposed practice of the people.  Based upon this, the Arukh Ha-Shulchan explains that one may understand the common practice NOT to completely refrain from these activities during the month of Av, as the Acharonim record (Beit Yosef 551, Taz 551:1).

He suggests another interpretation as well.  He notes that the mishna (Ta’anit 12b), and consequently the Rambam (Hilkhot Ta’aniyot 3:8), prohibits engaging in these activities on communal fast days instituted in response to severe drought.  The Arukh Ha-Shulchan suggests that the law on these days differs from those observed during the month of Av.  During the month of Av, only trade, building, and planting that are for joyous purposes are prohibited, and those activities are all subsumed under the phrase “with the arrival of the month of Av, one minimizes joy.”  Indeed, the Tur cites two interpretations as to whether ALL trade, building, and planting are prohibited, or only those activities that are for joyous purposes.  The Beit Yosef rules that they are prohibited only when they are performed for joyous purposes, in accordance with the Yerushlami (Ta’anit 4:6).

In any case, the Tur and Shulchan Arukh (551:1) do cite these activities, and, as mentioned, the Shulchan Arukh rules that when done for joyous purposes they are prohibited.

Practically speaking, one should refrain from unnecessary home and garden projects, as well as purchasing furniture, appliances, and other objects that are not necessary for one’s business, but rather only for one’s personal enjoyment.  As we already discussed, it is customary to refrain from purchasing objects upon which one recites the blessing of she-hechiyyanu during the entire Three Weeks. 

Incidentally, the Mishna Berura (11) explains that we are accustomed to be lenient regarding business transactions because even according to the more stringent opinion, one may work “kedei parnasato,” for one’s livelihood.  We generally assume that all work is for one’s livelihood, although the Mishna Berura implies that it may be inappropriate to engage in business matters that can be delayed until after the Nine Days. 

Building, planting, or purchasing for the sake of the public (Mishna Berura 12), in order to avoid financial loss (ibid.  11), or in order to prevent damage or physical harm are permitted.

We noted last week that although technically one may perform a wedding until the Nine Days, the Ashekenazic custom is to refrain from weddings and other festive activities during the entire Three Weeks.

The Laws of “Shavua She-Chal Bo” - The Week of Tish Be-Av: Laundering During the Nine Days

The mishna (Ta’anit 26b) teaches that “During the week in which Tisha Be-av falls, haircutting and laundry are forbidden.”  We discussed in a previous shiur that the Ashkenazic custom is to refrain from taking haircuts for the entire Three Weeks, beginning from Shiva Asar Be-Tamuz.

As for laundering, the Talmud and the Rishonim discuss the definition and scope of this prohibition.

Regarding the definition of laundering, the Talmud relates to a number of points.  First, the Talmud (Ta’anit 29b) cites a debate regarding whether one may launder for future use. 

R. Nachman said: This restriction only applies to the washing of clothes for immediate wear, but the washing of clothes for storing is permissible.  R. Sheshet said: It is forbidden to wash clothes even for storing.  R. Sheshet said: a proof for this is that the launderers in the house of Rav are then idle.

Rashi (s.v. afilu) explains that according to R. Sheshet one should one should not launder at all, as “it appears as if one is distracted [from mourning] since he is involved in laundering.”

          Furthermore, the Rishonim debate whether the prohibition of laundering includes wearing freshly laundered clothing as well.  Rashi (cited by Tosafot, Mo’ed Katan 24b s.v. birkat aveilim) writes in the context of the laws of aveilut that a mourner may wear clothing washed before the mourning period.  One might suggest that Rashi would permit someone, during the week of Tisha Be-av, to wear clothing laundered before the prohibition began as well.  Some (see Lechem Mishna on Rambam, Hilkhot Ta’aniyot 5:6) suggest that this may also be the Rambam’s position.

          Most Rishonim (Ramban, Torat Ha-adam: Inyan Aveilut Yeshana, s.v. Matnitin; Ran on Rif, Ta’anit 9b s.v. u-kavus; Rashba, Teshuvot 1:187), however, disagree, and prohibit wearing laundered clothing as well. 

Practically, the Shulchan Arukh (551:3) prohibits laundering clothing, as well as linens, handkerchiefs, tablecloths, and towels, for all purposes, as well as wearing clothing that was laundered before the Nine Days.  Furthermore, the Rama adds that one should not even give one’s clothing to a non-Jewish launderer to have them cleaned during the Nine Days.  The Mishna Berura (34) discusses whether one may give one’s clothes to a non-Jewish cleaner in order to launder them after Tisha Be-av. 

Additionally, the Rama (4) records that Ashkenazim are accustomed to observe this prohibition for the entire Nine days, and not just during the week of Tisha Be-av.

          The Acharonim record a number of leniencies regarding these laws.

          First, the Mishna Berura (29) writes that one who has only one garment may launder his clothing from Rosh Chodesh Av until Shabbat.  Similarly, one whose clothing has all been soiled and has no other clothing to wear may wash his clothing, and one need not buy extra clothing in order to have enough for the week.  The Posekim disagree as to whether one who is traveling during the Nine Days must bring along enough clothing in order to avoid the need to launder (Piskei Teshuvot 551:21).  Similarly, one who does not have clean clothing for Shabbat may launder his clothing (Mishna Berura 32).

          Second, the Rama (551:14) cites the Beit Yosef (551), who permits washing cloth diapers for children, and he extends this lenience to all children’s clothing.  The Mishna Berura (83) writes that one should not wash a lot of clothing at once, and once should wash the clothing in private, and not in a public place (i.e., at the river, or a Laundromat). 

          Third, although one is not permitted even to wear freshly laundered clothing, just as a mourner may wear clothing which was previously worn for a short period by another person (Tosafot Mo’ed Katan 24b; Orchot Chayyim p. 584; Rama Yoreh De’ah 389:1), it has similarly become customary to wear one’s freshly laundered clothing for a brief time before Rosh Chodesh, and to then wear them during the Nine Days.  R. Yitzchak Ya’akov Weiss (Minchat Yizchak 10:44) cites those who permit throwing laundered clothing on the floor, as this is similar to wearing them before Rosh Chodesh.  Seemingly, when garments are packed in a suitcase they also loose the freshly laundered quality, and one should be permitted to wear them during the Nine Days.

          Some Posekim write that socks, underwear, and even shirts, which are classified as “bigdei zei’a,” clothes that are intended to absorb perspiration, may be worn during the Nine Days even without being worn previously.  Some even permit wearing laundered clothing for the sake of an important meeting or for “shidduchim” (see Piskei Teshuvot 551:17). 

          One may remove a small stain on one’s clothing in order to avoid embarrassment. 

Of course, a hospital may launder sheets, towels, hospital garments, and the like, as the intention is to avoid the spread of disease and not for pleasure.  Similarly, R. Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 13:61) writes that a hotel may change sheets for new guests, as this is similar to “washing in order to remove filth,” which is also permitted during the Nine Days.  Furthermore, he adds that by washing sheets for new guests the hotel fulfils the mitzvah of hakhnasat orchim, and washing for the sake of a mitzvah  is permitted (Rema 551:3). 

          The Rama (551:1) writes that one does not change into Shabbat clothing for Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat before Tisha Be-av.  The Arukh Ha-Shulchan (551:11) records that for at least two to three generations this ruling of the Rama had not been observed.  The Mishna Berura (6) also relates that in Vilna, the custom was in accordance with that of the Gra, and even laundered clothing was worn on Shabbat.  R. Epstein suggests that generations ago the difference between weekday and Shabbat clothing may not have been so noticeable, and they therefore would wear their weekday clothing on Shabbat.  Nowadays, however, wearing weekday clothes on Shabbat would be akin to public mourning, and this practice is therefore not observed.  He concludes by expressing his dissatisfaction with the current custom, and recommends adhering to the original ruling of the Rama.  The custom is in accordance with the Mishna Berura

          In addition to laundering clothing, the Shulchan Arukh (551:6-7) adds that one should not purchase, make, or wear new clothing during the Nine Days.  Similarly, knitting and needlecraft is also prohibited during the Nine Days (R. Shimon Eider, Halachos of the Three Weeks, p. 11).  Repairing a torn garment, however, is permitted (Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chaim 3:79).

As mentioned above, Ashkenazim observe these laws during the entire Nine Days.


          The Talmud does not mention that bathing, which is prohibited on Tisha Be-av, is prohibited during the Nine Days, nor during the week of Tisha Be-av.  The gemara (Ta’anit 30a) briefly mentions a possible prohibition of bathing in the context of Erev Tisha Be-av, the day preceding the fast.

          The Rambam (Hilkhot Ta’aniyot 5:6), however, writes:

All of Israel has already become accustomed to refrain from eating meat on the week of Tisha Be-av, and they do not enter the bathhouse until after the fast. 

The Acharonim note that the Rambam refers only to the week of Tisha Be-av, and that he restricts this custom to bathing in hot water (in a bathhouse). 

R. Elazar of Worms (1160 – 1230), in his Rokeach (312), reports that he asked R. Kalonymos of Rome whether one should abstain from bathing on Rosh Chodesh Av or the day before.  Apparently, already in the eleventh century German Jews abstained from bathing during the Nine Days.  R. Kalonymos responded:

One must refrain from washing from Rosh Chodesh Av, and it is forbidden on Rosh Chodesh itself, because it says, '[I will end all her rejoicing:] her festivals, new moons, and Sabbaths' [Hoshea 2:13].  Before Rosh Chodesh, however, it is permissible.

Apparently, this custom was prevalent in Ashkenazic communities, as it appears in the Mordekhai (Ta'anit 638), the Or Zaru'a (2:414), and others.  Indeed, the Terumat Ha-Deshen (150), apparently assuming that some form of bathing was prohibited during the entire Nine Days, questions whether “bathing in cold water, such as in the river” is permitted from Rosh Chodesh Av.  He writes that although he recalls from his youth that people used to bathe in the river after Rosh Chodesh, he believed the custom was to refrain from bathing even in cold water, “and one who is stringent will be blessed.”

The Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 551:16) cites both opinions, without relating to the temperature of the water.  R. Ovadya Yosef (Yabi’a Omer, Orach Chaim 5:41, Yechave Da’at 1:38) insists that the Sephardic Rishonim, including the Rambam, Ramban, Ra’ah (Pekudat Ha-levi’im, Ta’anit 29a), the Ran (Ta’anit, Rif 9b s.v. mutar) and others all maintain that it is customary to refrain from bathing in hot water during the week of Tisha Be-av alone.

The Rama (551:16), however, rules in accordance with the Terumat Ha-Deshen and insists that it is customary to refrain from bathing even in cold water beginning from Rosh Chodesh.  The Mishna Berura (94) comments that certainly one may wash one’s face, hands, and feet in cold water.

It is important to note that one may certainly remove dirt from one’s body, even with hot water (Arukh Ha-Shulchan 37).  Therefore, one who because soiled with paint, mud, or another substance may bathe in on order to clean oneself.

Moreover, the Talmud (Berachot 16b) tells how R. Gamliel bathed on the first night after his wife’s death, during the seven days of aveilut.  In response to his students’ queries, he asserted that since he was an “istenis,” one who is particularly sensitive, he may wash even during the seven days of mourning.  The Shulchan Arukh (Yoreh De’ah 381:3) rules accordingly regarding the seven days of mourning,.

One cannot deny that our level of personal hygiene in general, as well as the frequency of bathing and tolerance of body cleanliness and odor, has evolved over the years.  Furthermore, the climate of Eastern Europe during the Nine Days is significantly cooler than that of New York or Jerusalem.  (For example, the average high temperature during August in Krakow, Poland, home of the Rama, is 64 degrees Fahrenheit; in Lithuania, it’s around 70 degrees.  In New York City and Jerusalem, the average August high temperature is around 85 degrees!)

Regarding one who perspires due to the summer heat, R. Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe, Even Ha-Ezer 3:84) permitted Yeshiva students to bathe on a hot summer day in order to remove their perspiration.  In addition, one who cannot go to work with excessive body odor for reasons related to parsnassa (one’s livelihood) or one who feels he can not go out in public because of kavod ha-beriyot (human dignity) may certainly shower.

Seemingly, one who showers during the Nine Days should be careful to shower only for hygienic reasons, and not for personal pleasure.  Therefore, it would be appropriate to bathe in cooler water and for a shorter period of time. 

Askenazic custom clearly prohibits swimming for pleasure during the Nine Days.  As mentioned above, R. Ovadya Yosef permits Sephardim to swim during the Nine Days, even during the week of Tisha Be-av, but not all Sephardic authorities concur.  R. Yosef Chayyim b. Eliyahu al-Chakam (1835 – 1909), author of the Ben Ish Chai, records that it was customary in Bagdad to refrain from swimming, even in cold water, during the week of Tisha Be-av (Ben Ish Chai, Devarim 16).  In fact, in his responsa, Rav Po’alim (Orach Chaim 4:29), he describes how the children of Baghdad, where the average high temperature during August approaches 110 degrees (!), would swim in the Tigris River during the summer.  He adds that those who began to learn how to swim before the Three Weeks and have yet to complete their sessions may continue swimming in the river even after Rosh Chodesh, as they are engaged in their “profession” and are not swimming for pleasure.  He concludes that while it is still proper to be stringent in this matter, one should not criticize those who act leniently.  This may be the basis for those who permit “instructional swim” during the Nine Days.

May one bathe before Shabbat Chazon? The Rama (551:6) writes that one should not bathe even for Shabbat Chazon, and the Arukh Ha-Shulchan (551:36) severely censures those who are lenient.  Common custom, however, is to bathe regularly, with soap and shampoo, for Shabbat Chazon, as bathing for Shabbat constitutes a mitzva (Shabbat 25a; Shulchan Arukh 260:1). 

          Incidentally, last week we noted that R. Soloveitchik argued that the mourning practices of the Nine Days, not to launder or bathe, correspond to the laws of Shloshim.  R. Soloveitchik suggested, therefore, that nowadays, since we are not accustomed to prohibit bathing for the entire month after the burial of a close relative, it should follow that the custom to refrain from bathing during the Nine Days should no longer be applicable (Nefesh Ha-Rav).

May one cut one’s nail during the Nine Days? The Taz (551:13) prohibits cutting one’s nails during the week of Tisha Be-av, while the Magen Avraham (551:11) permits it.  The Mishna Berura (551:20) concludes that a woman may certainly cut her nails before immersing in the mikva, and one may similarly cut one’s nail before Shabbat

Eating Meat and Drinking Wine

The mishna (Ta’anit 26b) teaches that at the se’udat ha-mafseket, the final meal eaten before the fast of Tisha Be-av, one should not eat meat nor drink wine.  Aside from the se’udat ha-mafseket, the Talmud makes no mention of any prohibition of eating meat or drinking wine during the week preceding Tisha Be-av.

Early sources, however, record a custom to refrain from eating meat and drinking wine during this period.  The Shibolei Ha-Leket (263), for example, in the name of R. Saadia Ga’on, recounts that some were accustomed to refrain from eating meat and drinking wine.  Similarly, the Kolbo (62) relates that he “saw precious women who refrain from eating meat and drinking wine… and they insist that they received this tradition from their mothers, generation after generation.” He attributes this to the cessation of the offering of the korban tamid, which occurred on Shiva Asar Be-Tamuz, as we learned previously.  The Mordechai (Ta’anit 639), Rambam (Hilkhot Ta’aniyot 5:6), Ramban (Torat Ha-adam, Inyan Aveilut Yeshana s.v. matnitin), and Rashba (Teshuvot 1:306) also cite this custom.

          Interestingly, R. Vidal of Tolouse (1300 – 1370), author of the Maggid Mishna, a commentary on the Rambam’s Mishna Torah, reports that this custom did not spread to his region, where people would eat meat until the day before Tisha Be-av (Hilkhot Ta’aniyot 5:6).

          The Shulchan Arukh (551:9) records these various customs:

Some are accustomed not to eat meat or to drink wine during this week [of Tisha Be-av)… and some add from Rosh Chodesh until the fast.  And some add from Shiva Asar Be-Tamuz

          Ashkenazim (Mishna Berura 58) follow the second view and refrain from eating meat and drinking wine from, and including, Rosh Chodesh Av

What is the reason for this custom? Some understand that just as we minimize our joyous behavior during the month of Av, as described above, we should also refrain from eating meat and drinking wine, which are foods traditionally associated with “simcha” (happiness).  Others attribute this to the abolishment of the daily Tamid sacrifice, which as we learned, occurred on Shiva Asar Be-Tamuz.  Alternatively, the Gra (551:11) relates this custom to the following fascinating Talmudic passage.

Our Rabbis taught: When the Temple was destroyed for the second time, large numbers in Israel became ascetics, binding themselves neither to eat meat nor to drink wine.  R.  Yehoshua entered a conversation with them and said to them: My sons, why do you not eat meat nor drink wine? They replied: Shall we eat flesh which used to be brought as an offering on the altar, now that this altar is in abeyance? Shall we drink wine which used to be poured as a libation on the altar, but now no longer? He said to them: If that is so, we should not eat bread either, because the meal offerings have ceased.  They said: [That is so, and] we can manage with fruit.  We should not eat fruit either, [he said,] because there is no longer an offering of first fruits.  Then we can manage with other fruits [they said].  But, [he said,] we should not drink water, because there is no longer any ceremony of the pouring of water.  To this they could find no answer …  It has been taught: R. Yishmael ben Elisha said: Since the day of the destruction of the Temple we should by rights bind ourselves not to eat meat nor drink wine, only we do not lay a hardship on the community unless the majority can endure it (Bava Batra 60b).

The Gra explains that while R. Yishmael found it to be unrealistic to prohibit meat and wine forever, as a beit din does not create a legislation which the majority of the community is unable to follow, he fundamentally accepts the premise that after the destruction of the Beit Ha-Mikdash we should not eat meat or drink wine.  Therefore, for this minimal time before Tisha Be-av, it is appropriate to fulfill the sentiment expressed by R. Yishmael. 

          Although not eating meat during the Nine Days is only a custom, the Mordechai (Ta’anit 639) writes that one who eats meat during this period violates “one should not forgo the law of your mother” (Mishlei 1:8).  The Arukh Ha-Shulchan (551:23) adds that one who eats meat during these days violate a Torah prohibition, as this custom has attained the status of a communal vow. 

          What type of meat does this custom prohibit? The Kolbo (62) writes that while it is customary not to meat during the Nine Days, one need not refrain from eating foods that were cooked with meat.  The Shulchan Arukh (551:10) cites this view.  The Arukh Ha-Shulchan (24) concurs, explaining that the custom is not concerned with “netinat ta’am,” the taste of meat, but rather with meat itself.  The Mishna Berura (63) disagrees, and insists that the custom is to refrain from eating all meat mixtures.  All agree, however, that pareve food cooked in a meat pot may be eaten.

          Regarding wine, one should refrain from drinking diluted wine or grape juice (Sha’arei Teshuva 19).  The Rama (9) writes that one may drink wine vinegar, as well as other alcoholic beverages (11), during the Nine Days. 

How should one recite havdala during the Nine Days?  The Shulchan Arukh (551:10) rules that an adult may drink wine at havdala.  The Gra explains that the nation did not accept upon itself not to drink wine at havdala.  The Rama disagrees, writing that preferably the wine should be given to a child.  The Mishna Berura (68, 70) explains that the wine must be given to a child old enough to understand havdala, as the blessing over the wine is actually recited for him, but not yet old enough to understand the significance of mourning for Jerusalem. 

Practically, while some do give the wine or grape juice to a child, others (Arukh Ha-Shulchan 26) recommend using beer (chamar medina) for havdala during the Nine Days, while others insist that it may be better to simply make havdala over grape juice and to drink oneself than to rely on a minor or to use a different beverage. 

Incidentally, the Magen Avraham (31) deduces from the Rama’s ruling that the wine should be given to a minor that, in general, one may feed meat and wine to minors who do not yet understand the mourning over Jerusalem during the Nine Days.  The Mishna Berura (70) disagrees. 

On Shabbat, one may eat meat and drink wine regularly, even if the fast begins immediately after Shabbat (Shulchan Arukh 552:10).  Before Shabbat, one may taste the food in preparation for Shabbat (Mekor Chayyim 551:9), as it is a mitzvah to taste the Shabbat food before Shabbat (Magen Avraham 250:1).  The Sha’arei Teshuva (11) cites the Birkei Yosef, who permits eating leftover Shabbat food (i.e., meat) for the Se’udat Melave Malka.  He concludes, however, that we are not accustomed to eat meat after Shabbat during the Nine Days.  Furthermore, R.  Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chaim 4:21:4) rules that even one who eats a full meat meal every Motzaei Shabbat for Maleva Malka should still not eat meat during the Nine Days.

          May one eat meat on special occasions during the Nine Days? The Rama (551:1) writes:

At a Seudat Mitzva, such as a brit mila, a pidyon ha-ben, a siyum masekhet (completion of a tractate), and the celebration of a betrothal, all who are part of the celebration may eat meat and drink wine, although one should limit and not add [the amount of people].  During the week of Tisha Be-av, only a small group should eat meat and drink wine…

R. Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam (1904 – 1995), known as the Klausenberger Rebbe, in his Divrei Yatziv (Orach Chaim 2:238), adds that a Bar Mitzva celebration held on the day of the boy’s Bar Mitzvah, or even if delayed but during which the boy speaks words of Torah, is also be considered a se’udat mitzva and the participants may eat meat.  Apparently the custom was to exclude these events from the prohibition to partake of meat and wine.


Many communities, as well as summer camps, are accustomed to holding “siyumim” during the Nine Days and serving meat.  Indeed, the Talmud (Shabbat 118b) teaches:

Abaye said: May I be rewarded for that when I saw that a disciple had completed his tractate, I made it a festive day for the scholars.

Some Acharonim (Eliyahu Rabbah 551:26; Mishnah Berurah 551:73; Aruch Ha-Shulchan 551:28) severely censure those who deliberately hurry or slow down their learning in order to hold a siyum during the Nine Days.  The Arukh Ha-Shulchan, for example, asks, “How are we not ashamed and embarrassed! Indeed many of the non-Jews refrain from eating meat and milk and eggs for weeks, and the nation of Israel, regarding whom it says ‘and you shall be sanctified’ (Vayikra 19), are unable to restrain themselves for eight days of the year in remembrance of our Temple…” He reports that he would deliberately postpone a siyum until after the Nine Days.  Interestingly, some Acharonim (Kaf Ha-Chayyim 551:161; see Piske Teshuvot 551:38) were permit rushing one’s learning or leaving a section of the tractate until the Nine Days in order to hold a siyum, as long as one’s primary intention is not to eat meat. 

Furthermore, some reproach those participants of a siyum during the Nine Days who would not ordinarily participate in such an event during the rest of the year.  R. Moshe Feinstein and R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (cited in Nitei Gavriel 18:7), however, rule that in a summer camp or learning program, all the campers or participants, including the women, may participate in the siyum.

          What type of “completion” warrants a se’udat mitzvah? The Rama (555:1) mentions the complete of a tractate (of Talmud).  Interesting, some of the commentators on the Shulchan Arukh take issue with the Rama for permitting eating meat at the celebration of a betrothal, as earlier (551:2) the Shulchan Arukh prohibits holding an engagement meal during this time! While some simply erase this phrase from the Rama (Magen Avraham 34),  R. Reuven Margaliot (1889-1971), in his commentary of the first section of the Shulchan Arukh, Nefesh Chaya, suggests that a scribal error may have crept into this passage.  He speculates that originally the letters “vav, sameach, alef” may have appeared, which were later interpreted to refer to a se’udat eirusin (engagement meal), while they originally referred to “ve-sefarim acherim,” “and other books.” In other words, the Rama may have intended that one may hold a siyum of a tractate or other books during the Nine Days.

In any case, some Acharonim write that one may hold a siyum upon the completion of a book of Tanach, a seder of Mishna, possibly even a single tractate of mishna, or a section of the Shulchan Arukh.  Some add that such as siyum would only be considered a se’udat mitzvah if the topic was learned seriously, with proper attention and depth, and for a significant amount of time.  R. Menashe Klein (b.1925), in his Mishne Halachot (6:166), writes that one may hold a siyum upon the completion of a section of the Shulchan Arukh or even a specific topic of study, such as Hilkhot Shabbat.  Similarly, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion, R. Yehuda Amital, permitted those who took their semicha exams during the Nine Days to celebrate with a meat meal. 

One who is ill or weak and needs to eat meat to restore his or her strength, including a woman who has given birth or a pregnant or nursing mother, may eat meat during the Nine Days (Arukh Ha-Shulkhan 551:26).

The Tenth of Av

The Talmud (Ta’anit 29a), while reconciling two seemingly conflicting verses regarding the day upon which the Temple was destroyed (Melakhim 2 25:8-9 and Yirmiyahu 52:12), teaches:

On the seventh day, the heathens entered the Temple and ate therein and desecrated it throughout the seventh and eight [of Av], and towards dusk of the ninth they set it to fire and it continued to burn the whole of that day… and this is what R.  Yochanan meant when he said: Had I been alive in that generation, I should have fixed [the mourning for] the tenth, because the greater part of the Temple was burnt thereon.  How will the Rabbis then [explain the contradiction]? The beginning of any misfortune is the greater moment.


In fact, the Yerushalmi (Ta’aniyot 4:6) reports that R. Avin would fast on both the ninth AND tenth of Av, and R.  Levi would fast through the night of the tenth.

Based upon this, the Abudraham (Seder Tefillat Ha-Ta’aniyot) relates that the Rosh would not eat meat on the night of the tenth of Av.  The Hagahot Maymoniyot (Ta’aniyot 5:10) writes that some wait until after midday on the tenth of Av.

The Shulchan Arukh (558:1) writes that it is a “worthy custom not to eat meat or drink wine on the night and day of the tenth [of Av].” The Rama adds that some are stringent until midday, but not later.  Many Acharonim (Maharshal, Teshuvot 92; Magen Avraham 1; Eliya Rabba 2; Mishna Berura 3, etc.) rule that one should not bathe or launder until this time as well.  In other words, the laws of the Nine Days extend until noon of the tenth of Av.  The Bi’ur Halakha (s.v.  ad) cites the Ma’amar Mordekhai, who limits this stringency to meat and wine. 

          When Tisha Be-av fall out on Shabbat, in which case the fast is observed on Sunday, as we will discuss in a future lecture, one may eat meat immediately the next morning (Rama).  The Mishna Berura (4) writes that one may cut one’s hair even that evening.  Seemingly, one may launder as well.

          When Tisha Be-av falls out on Thursday, in which case the tenth of Av is on Friday, Erev Shabbat, bathing, haircuts, and laundering are permitted in preparation for Shabbat (kavod Shabbat).  Many Posekim even permit these activities at night, immediately after the fast (see Piskei Teshuvot 558:3, nt.  17).  One should not consume meat or wine or engage in the above activities that are not necessary for Shabbat until after noon. 

Even during a in which Tisha Be-av does not fall out on a Shabbat or Thursday, in extenuating circumstances, such as one who is leaving one’s house early the next morning for an extended period of time, one may launder and wear clean clothes, relying upon the opinion of the Ma’amar Mordekhai cited above (Nitei Gavriel 41:16).

          Next week, we will begin our study of the laws of Tisha Be-av.


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