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Chazal (our Sages, of blessed memory) tell us that “When the month of Av enters, joy diminishes.” Starting from Rosh Chodesh Av, the first day of Av, all forms of joy are suspended until after Tisha b’Av, the Ninth of Av. We call this period “the Nine Days,” even though they actually comprise Nine and a half days.
The month of Av has long been a month of tragedies and terrible events for the Jews. Therefore, if a Jew has a lawsuit, he or she should try to postpone it for sometime after the month of Av is over. From Rosh Chodesh Av until after Tisha b’Av, you should try to decrease your business activities, unless that would cause significant loss of income or lasting damage to your career or business. If you work for someone else (as do most employed people today), it is forbidden to slack off on the job, so this would not apply to you.
The Nine Days begins the night of Rosh Chodesh Av (the first night of the month of Av).
During the Nine Days we may not buy new objects, especially objects related to simchah (joy), such as an engagement ring, or silver for a wedding or newly married couple.
During the Nine Days one should not proceed with any construction, painting, wall-papering, or any kind of decorative home improvement on private homes. However, for a mitzvah, such as building a shul or a mikvah, it is permitted. Likewise, it is permitted (indeed, it is mandatory) to build a fence around a dangerous platform such as a roof, as well as any other safety railing or device. Repairs are generally permitted, but it is best to ask one’s Rabbi before beginning.
During the Nine Days, one may not plant flowers or plants for pleasure.
During the Nine Days engagements are permitted, but no meal may be served. However, cakes and drinks and other refreshments may be served, as long as no bread is served or eaten.
During the Nine Days we may eat no meat nor drink any wine or grape juice. The primary reason for this is because you experience joy when eating meat and/or drinking wine. But it is also forbidden because we must remember and mourn the fact that we were forced to cease offering the Sacrifices at the Bais Hamikdosh (Holy Temple) when it was destroyed. Those sacrifices involved wine, meat or fowl.
This Halachah does not apply during Shabbos/Shabbat. We eat meat or poultry on Shabbos, as we are required to do every Shabbos. We also may drink wine or grape juice on Shabbos, and do so for Kiddush. Customs vary regarding Havdalah after Shabbos. Some have the Custom to use wine or grape juice. Some have the Custom to take a sip and give the rest to a child to drink if one is available. Others use beer for Havdalah during the Nine Days. Generally, children are also required to obstain from grape juice and meat during the Nine Days, but Havdalah is an exception.
Sick people and nursing or pregnant women may eat meat if necessary for health reasons. If possible, it is better in these cases to eat chicken, if the doctor says that’s good enough.
It is permitted to eat meat and drink wine during the Nine Days when attending a Seudas Mitzvah. That would include the seudah (meal) of a Bris Milah, Pidyan HaBen, or at a siyum. A siyum means concluding a mesechta (tractate) of Talmud or a seder (order — i.e., a section) of Mishnah. Anyone invited to the siyum may eat meat at the seudah, including the waiters, even though the only person who learned it was the person who is making the siyum.
During the Nine Days we refrain from washing clothes, linen, handkerchiefs, tablecloths towels, and so forth. It is also forbidden to give your clothing to a non-Jew to clean during the Nine Days. It is permissible for a Jew to clean the clothes of a non-Jew, especially if it is his income. If all your clothing are dirty and you have nothing else to wear, you may wash what you need. It is permitted to wash children’s clothing.
During the Nine Days we also don’t wear freshly cleaned clothing, even if washed before the Nine Days. This applies to bed sheets as well. This does not apply to clothing worn next to the skin, especially if it can cause discomfort, or anything worn to absorb sweat. What people do is wear each article of clothing for a short period of time before the Nine Days begin, and then it is permissible to wear the clothing during the Nine Days. Of course, where health issues are concerned, we may wear fresh clothing or use fresh bed sheets and linen.
During the Nine Days we do not don new clothing of any sort, whether it be a shirt, a dress, socks, etc. This is true even if you bought them before the Three Weeks. Furthermore, you may not buy or make new clothing during the Nine Days even if you do not intend to wear them until after the Nine Days are over.
However, if you suddenly discover during the Nine Days that you do not have the proper footgear for Tisha b’Av (which we shall learn about, Hashem willing), you may buy them.
During the Nine Days, we do not engage in needlecraft, knitting, embroidery, needlepoint, and so forth, even if it is for clothing that won’t be finished or worn until after the Nine Days are over.
If your livelihood is making shoes or clothing, you may continue to do so during the Nine Days, especially if you have no other option or source of income.
It is permitted to repair or patch clothing and shoes during the Nine Days.
During the Nine Days bathing or showering for pleasure is forbidden. It is, however, permitted to bathe (or shower) and wash your body and/or hair in lukewarm water for health reasons or simply to remove dirt or sweat, and even hot water is permitted if absolutely necessary for health or medical reasons. These Halachos also apply to washing or shampooing hair.
Washing your face, hands and feet with cold water for pleasure is permitted.
It is forbidden to swim during the Nine Days, again unless one needs to for health reasons (such as for exercise).
Bathing for a mitzvah (such as a woman before going to the mikvah) is permitted. Someone who bathes or showers every Erev Shabbos likovod Shabbos (to honor Shabbos), as indeed we are supposed to do, may do so Erev Shabbos during the Nine Days. If you bathe or shower every Erev Shabbos with hot water, then you may do so on Erev Shabbos Chazon (the Shabbos before Tisha b’Av) as well. The same applies to shampooing.
The Shabbos during the Nine Days is called “Shabbos Chazon,” because the Haftorah (Reading from the Prophets) this Shabbos begins with the words “Chazon Yishayahu ben Amutz...” “A vision that Yishayahu (Isaiah) the son of Amutz saw regarding Judea and Jerusalem...” from the first chapter of Isaiah. In this chapter the Prophet Yeshaya warns us to repent to avoid the Destruction (which later took place because they did not repent).
May the prophecies of Yeshaya promising us that Hashem will restore us to a rebuilt Jerusalem and rebuild the Holy Temple come true soon!
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