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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays The Ninth of Av

The Laws of the Nine Days

When the month of Av arrives, rejoicing should be minimized. A Jew must therefore avoid undertaking construction projects from which pleasure will be derived. Also, transactions should be minimized and one must refrain from consuming meat and wine.
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1. Ill Fortune
2. Building and Planting
3. Purchases and Sales
4. Meat and Wine
5. Sewing Clothes

Ill Fortune
If a Jew has to have a lawsuit with a non-Jew, he should evade having it with him in Av, as this is a time of ill fortune for a Jew (Taanit 29b). The Jew should avoid this from the first of Av until the tenth of Av. Some authorities are of the opinion that one should avoid this until the fifteenth of Av (Ben Ish Chai, Devarim 1).

Building and Planting
When the month of Av arrives, rejoicing should be minimized. One must avoid undertaking construction projects from which pleasure will be derived, or construction for the purpose of luxury. However, it is permissible for a family which lives in overcrowded conditions to expand their house (Shulchan Arukh 551:2; Kaf HaChaim ad loc. note 24; see Ben Ish Chai, Devarim 3).

At any rate, if the construction was commenced before the first of Av, one need not stop.

One may not whitewash or paint the house from the first of Av. However, if this is necessary because, for example, the moving date is immediately after the ninth of Av, it is permissible to whitewash even after the first of Av (Mishnah Berurah 551:2, note 12).

If a Jew signs a contract with a non-Jewish contractor to build, whitewash, and paint his house in a manner forbidden after the first of Av (as outlined above), the homeowner should request of the non-Jew to postpone the work until after the ninth of Av. If it is possible to compensate him a bit so that he wait until after the ninth of Av, this is the correct path. If not, it is permitted (see ibid.).

Contractors carrying out construction projects for the community are permitted to build during the nine days, for this constitutes a fulfillment of the commandment to settle the land of Israel. Furthermore, not working would involve a loss of income for many workers, and the same holds true with regard to financial loss.

From the beginning of the month of Av it is forbidden to plant, buy, or transplant ornamental trees and plants. However, it is permissible to care for them. A cultivator who must plant fruit trees for his livelihood is permitted to plant those trees for which these days correspond to the planting season (Incidentally, it should be remembered that the rule regarding trees which are planted without a lump of soil after the fifteenth of Av is that the year of their planting is not counted as one of the Orla years) (Shulchan Arukh 551:2).

Purchases and Sales
From the beginning of the month of Av one should minimize transaction. Some authorities are strict and forbid all transaction. Others only prohibit purchasing clothes from which pleasure is derived - for example, clothes for a bride and groom - and this is the accepted custom.

It is best to avoid general, non-essential transactions. And where there is fear of financial loss if the purchase be postponed until after the ninth of Av, it is even permissible to buy wedding clothes for brides and grooms during this period (see Shulchan Arukh 551: 2 and 7; ibid. 554:22; Kaf HaChaim 551:21; Ben Ish Chai, Devarim 2).

From the beginning of Av, it is forbidden to purchase any garment which calls for the "Shehecheyanu" blessing, even if the purchaser intends to wear it after the ninth of Av. However, even underclothing, socks, etc. (which do not call for the "Shehecheyanu" blessing) are best bought before the first of the month. If one must, it is permitted to buy them after the first of Av, yet not wear them.

Shoes for Tisha B'Av may be worn for the first time on Tisha B'Av. However, it is best to wear them first on Yom Kippur (Shulchan Arukh 551:7; Kaf HaChaim ad loc. note 96).

Meat and Wine
All Jews are accustomed to refrain from consuming meat and wine during the first nine days of Av. On the first of the month itself (Rosh Chodesh), it is permissible to eat meat and drink wine, but after this it is forbidden (see Kaf HaChaim, note 124, 125). Ashkenazi Jews are accustomed to refrain from meat and wine even on the first of the month (Mishnah Berurah ad loc. note 58) and this remains forbidden until the tenth of Av. This is true even regarding a dish which contains meat fat, and even chicken meat is forbidden (see Shulchan Arukh 551:9; Kaf HaChaim ad loc. notes 125, 126, 130, 145, and 146; Ben Ish Chai, Devarim 15).

Meatless meat-flavored soup powder may be consumed even during the nine days because it does not contain actual meat. The same is true of vegetarian "meat" where such substitutes are commonplace (later authorities).

A person who is sick, a woman who has recently given birth, or somebody who must eat meat for medical reasons, is permitted to eat chicken meat. One who does this should at any rate try to refrain from all meat from the seventh of Av until the ninth, for it was on the seventh of Av that the enemy entered the Sanctuary. One who must nonetheless eat meat may do so even on that day (see Kaf HaChaim ibid. notes 146, 147, and 148).

At a seudat mitzvah (a meal which accompanies a religious celebration) it is permitted for all those who are close relatives of the main celebrant to eat meat and drink wine. Close relatives include parents, siblings, children, and ten more people who are accustomed to participate in the celebrity's celebrations. This rule applies even on the eighth of Av until noon (see Kaf HaChaim ibid. notes 163, 164, and Mishnah Berurah ad loc. 75 and 76)

What qualifies as a seudat mitzvah? Answer: a meal accompanying a Brit Mila (religious circumcision) or Pidyon Haben (redemption of the firstborn), even if these ceremonies are not held at their designated times; a Bar Mitzvah celebration at which the child gives a Torah-related speech; or a Siyum Masekhet (celebration accompanying the completion of a Talmudic tractate). Some, however, refrain from eating meat even on these occasions (see Ben Ish Chai, Devarim 15). At any rate, the meal customarily eaten on the evening before a Brit Mila does not have the status of a seudat mitzvah (see also Sdeh Chemed 5, Maarekhet 6, Clal Dan).

According to Rema, it is permissible to eat meat at a Siyum Masekhet even if one generally does not eat meat on such an occasion, so long as only ten participants are invited. According to Yaavetz, it is possible to invite even more, so long as they are somehow involved in the study.

It is not a good idea to intentionally delay a Siyum Masekhet until the month of Av. Nonetheless, it is essentially permissible to arrange the completion of a tractate during this period (see Mishnah Berurah 551:9 notes 75 and 76).

Those who are accustomed to tasting the Sabbath dishes before Sabbath (in keeping with the verse "those who taste, merit life") are permitted to do this before the Sabbath preceding the ninth of Av.

Ben Ish Chai cites a custom not to eat meat even at a Brit Mila meal etc., because it is difficult to limit the number of guests, and it is possible to eat fish, etc.

Meat which is left over from the Sabbath or from Rosh Chodesh (the first of the month), may only be eaten during seudah reviit (the "fourth meal"; the Saturday night meal which "escorts" the departing Sabbath Queen) (see Shulchan Arukh 551:10; Sdeh Chemed 6, Maarekhet Bein HaMeitzarim 3). Ashkenazi Jews forbid this practice (Mishnah Berurah ad loc. note 58).

Regarding the wine of Havdalah (the ceremony which concludes the Sabbath), the Sefardi custom is to permit the one reading the prayer to drink the wine. The Ashkenazi custom is to give the wine to a child to drink. If no child is available, the officiator may himself drink the wine (Rema 551:10). One may not bless over wine with the Grace After Meals unless the meal has the status of a seudat mitzvah (see Kaf HaChaim ad loc. note 152; Mishnah Berurah ad loc. note 72).

Sewing Clothes
One may not sew new clothes or shoes during the nine days. Neither may one knit or weave new clothes even through the agency of a non-Jewish artisan (see Shulchan Arukh 551:7; Kaf HaChaim ad loc. note 96, 97; Ben Ish Chai, Devarim 9).

It is permissible to sew by the agency of a non-Jew if there is great need - for example, for a wedding which will be held immediately after the ninth of Av (Kaf HaChaim ibid. note 101).

If a factory or private artisan receives a garment before the first of the month (Rosh Chodesh), it is permissible to sew it until the week of the ninth of Av.

If an artisan who lacks food to eat receives an order beforehand, he may work even on the week of the ninth of Av (see Ben Ish Chai, Devarim 9).

It is permissible to mend a used garment even during the week of the ninth of Av (see Kaf HaChaim 551 note 99 who remarks that there are those who forbid this). Professional mending is forbidden, but sewing a button is permitted during the nine days.

A woman must prepare a number of pairs of socks so that if one pair becomes torn she will not have to wear new socks. However, if this does happen, it is permissible for her to wear new socks even on the ninth of Av itself, for the sake of modesty.

There are women who customarily refrain from preparing warp threads for weaving because this is called "shti" and is reminiscent of the Holy Temple's foundation stone ("Shti"-yah) which lies idle. Such women are stringent and begin to refrain even from the first of the month (Ben Ish Chai, Devarim 11).

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