The “Three Weeks” period of mourning commemorating the tragedies that befell Klal Yisrael throughout history, commences on the 17th of Tammuz.
It was on this day that the first tablets, the Ten Commandments, were broken; the daily sacrifices in the first Bais Hamikdosh suspended; Jerusalem’s walls were penetrated prior to the 2nd Temple’s destruction; the Torah was burned by Apostomus the wicked; and an idol was placed in the Bais Hamikdosh.
The period of mourning reaches its height on Tisha B’Av, the darkest day of the Jewish calendar. This day of punishment witnesses: the sentencing of our forefathers to die outside the Land of Israel; the destruction of both Temples; the decimation of Betar; the laying waste of Zion by Turnus-Rufus the wicked; the eviction of Spanish Jewry in 1492; and the beginning of World War I (whose effects lasted well into the Holocaust period).
The following is a compendium of Laws concerning the three week interval. This list is not meant to be exhaustive in nature. If in doubt, please consult your Rabbi.
Shiva Asar b’Tammuz (17th of Tammuz – Sun 20th of July):
The fast begins at Amud HaShachar (72 minutes prior to sunrise) this year, 5768/2008 at 6:08 AM. Eating and drinking are prohibited for all males and females above 13 and 12 years of age, respectively. (Younger children should partake of less treats to manifest an understanding of the severity of the day). Women who are pregnant/nursing and other weakened individuals may eat if greatly discomforted by fasting.
The fast ends at 6:05 PM.
General Laws of The Three Weeks
- Music (record, tapes, and concerts) is prohibited. A cappella is permitted Weddings are prohibited (becoming engaged & writing T’naim are permissible).
- Hair cutting and shaving are prohibited (unless non-shaving complicates one’s livelihood etc.)
- Articles requiring a Birchas Shehechiyanu should not be purchased during this period. Swimming for pleasure is permitted until Rosh Chodesh Av.
The Nine Days: Rosh Chodesh Av - Tisha B’Av:
- Wine/meat: Partaking of wine (grape juice) or meat (poultry) (excluding Shabbos – this year falls on Rosh Chodesh 2nd August and Erev Tisha B’Av 9th August) is prohibited. Included in this Issur are dishes made/garnished with the above items. An individual completing a major portion of learning (Mesechta, Tractate of Mishnayos, etc.) may partake of wine and meat and may invite others who would normally join him in his simchah to share his meal. This leniency should not be abused.
- Havdalah wine on Saturday night should be given to a minor. In the absence of a child one may drink it himself.
- Laundering: Except for children’s clothing that is habitually dirtied, clothes should not be washed, dry cleaned, or ironed during the nine days. Newly washed or starched clothing and bed sheets may not be used even if cleaned prior to Rosh Chodesh. One may wear freshly cleaned clothing briefly before the nine days to facilitate the wear afterwards.
- Unstarched shirts, stockings and underwear needed for the nine days may be washed beforehand and worn. Regular Shabbos clothes may be worn on Shabbos.
- New clothing should not be worn.
- Fresh towels may be used during the entire 9 days. A fresh tablecloth may only be used on Shabbos. Major home improvements should not be done.
- Swimming and bathing for pleasure are prohibited during the 9 days, but showering to remove dirt or sweat is permissible (Aruch HaShulchan orach chayim siman 551:37 and Moadai Yeshurun citing R’ Moshe Feinstein), as are full preparations required for family purity. Washing one’s face, hands and feet with cold water is permissible. Warm water soap and shampoo may be used if needed for the removal of dirt/perspiration.
- Individuals accustomed to bathing/shampooing with hot water every Erev Shabbos may do so Erev Shabbos Chazon as well (according to Rav Moshe Feinstein).
Regular Erev Tisha b’Av (8th of Av):
After chatzos (Halachic Midday), one should refrain from learning Torah topics unrelated to the events of Tisha B’Av (Rama, Orach Chayim 553:2), even when this coincides with Shabbos. Others maintain that all learning is permissible on Erev Tisha B’av following chatzos, regardless if it coincides with Shabbos, or not (Mishneh B’rurah Orach Chaim 553:8 and 9).
A large meal enabling one to fast well should be eaten prior to Minchah. After minchah the Seudah Hamafsekes (last meal) is eaten, consisting of a cold hardboiled egg (customarily dipped in ashes), bread and water, eaten while seated on the ground, away from others. Three men having sat together do not recite Birchas Hamazon B’Zimun.
Erev Tisha b’Av Falling on Shabbos (8th of Av - Shabbos 9th August):
Sneakers, etc. should be brought to Shul on Friday, before Shabbos. No classic Seudah Hamafseskes is partaken of, and Seudah Shlishis may consist of meat, wine and any cooked dishes one has prepared before Shabbos. As usual though, one may eat only until sunset (5:40 PM), so minchah (4:00 PM) is davened at an earlier time. Birchas Hamazon may be recited b’zimun (3 or more men).
Maariv: The Chazzan recites “Baruch Hamavdil” and puts on his sneakers before Borchu. All others change their shoes after “Borchu” People joining the minyan after Maariv for Eicha, should recite baruch hamavdil bein kodesh l’chol at home and then change their footwear. If one necessarily touches one’s shoes in this exchange, one should recite Baruch hamavdil, change shoes, and wash one’s hands up to one’s knuckles, before Maariv starts.
Havdalah: A) the blessing over the fire is said on Saturday night. B) The blessing over the wine and Hamavdil are said on Sunday night. C) No blessing over the spice is said at all.
The laws of Tisha B’Av go into effect at sunset of the 9th day of Av and end at approximately 45 minutes after sunset the following evening.
- Eating, drinking, washing one’s body, anointing one’s self, wearing leather shoes and marital relations are forbidden on Tisha B’Av. Nursing mothers, whose fasting may jeopardize the infant, should consult a physician. Everyone else, being in good heath, should fast.
- One may not wash any part of the body, except the fingers of both hands up to the knuckles, upon rising in the morning and after using the bathroom. One may use the moist residue to clear his eyes in the morning. Dirt may be removed by using water solely on that locale. One who perspires greatly may use a deodorant.
- Sitting: If possible (excluding people with back problems), one should not sit higher than 12 inches above the ground until chatzos, Halachic mid-day, which this year is on Sunday at 12:26 PM. One’s manner of sleep should be altered on Tisha B’Av night (using fewer pillows, etc) to manifest the discomfort felt over the loss of the Bais Hamikdosh.
- Torah study dealing with subjects other than Tisha B’Av is forbidden. Permitted study includes Sefer Iyov, Yirmiyahu, Gemara Gittin 56b). Preparations for the meal - after-the-fast should not be made until after chatzos.
- Prayers on Tisha B’Av: Megillas Eicha (Lamentations) is recited on the night of Tisha B’Av and during the day, following the recitations of Kinos.
- The Tallis Katan (tzitzis) is put on in the morning with a Brachah. One should not kiss the tzitzis during the Sh’ma.
- Tallis and Tfillin are not worn until the minchah. After Shachris, it is customary to visit a Jewish cemetery.
- The prayer Nacheim is added in the Minchah Shemoneh Esrai in the blessing of Bonai Yerushalayim.
- Shemoneh Esrai is not repeated if Nacheim is forgotten.
- One who must eat on Tisha B’Av should recite the Nacheim in Birkat Hamazon before the brochah of U’vnai Yerushalayim.
- The blessing of the new moon is recited after Maariv when one has changed into his shoes.
The Tenth of Av (Mon 11th August)
Since the majority of the Bais Hamikdash actually burned down on the 10th of Av, several restrictions remain until after halachic mid-day of the 10th (12:26 PM). These include the eating of meat and wine, listening to music, shaving, showering, laundering & haircutting. (Showers may be taken to remove sweat or dirt).