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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays The Laws of Three Weeks

Explaining the Other Laws of the Three Weeks

Halachot that apply during the three weeks: marriage, dancing, playing and listening to music, singing and reciting the Shehechiyanu Bracha.
Dedicated to the memory of
Simcha bat Chana
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The three-week period between Shiva Asar B’Tammuz and Tisha B’Av is kept by klal Yisroel as a time of mourning. In this article, we will review and explain the halachos that apply during the Three Weeks, other than the laws of shaving and haircutting that I discussed last week.

The Mishna teaches us that five tragic events occurred on the 17th day of Tammuz:
1. The luchos (tablets) containing the Aseres Hadibros (The Ten Commandments) were destroyed.
2. The daily korbanos offered in the First Beis Hamikdosh were stopped (see Rambam, Hilchos Taanis 5:2).
3. The walls of the city of Yerushalayim were breached, leading to the destruction of the Second Beis Hamikdosh (Gemara Taanis 28b).
4. The wicked Apostomus, a Greek officer, burned the Torah near a bridge in Eretz Yisroel during the period of the second Beis Hamikdosh (see Talmud Yerushalmi and Tiferes Yisroel).
5. An idol was placed inside the Beis Hamikdosh. According to Rashi, this was done by the evil King Menashe. Others explain that this incident occurred during the Second Beis Hamikdosh time period (Rambam, Hilchos Taanis 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 Gemara Rosh Hoshana 18b; Rambam, Hilchos Taanis 5:1-4). In addition, the custom developed to observe some mourning practices (aveilus) from this day until Tisha B’Av. This three-week season is referred to by Midrash Rabbah (Eicha 1:3) as the period of Bein Hametzorim.
It is noteworthy that neither the Mishna nor the Gemara associate any mourning practices with the Bein Hametzorim period. Rather, the Mishna mentions that the mourning of the Tisha B’Av season begins on Rosh Chodesh Av by "decreasing simcha" (Taanis 26b). The Mishna 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) refers to four activities that are prohibited during the period beginning on Rosh Chodesh to manifest this decrease of simcha:
1. Business activity is decreased. (The poskim dispute what types of business activity are intended, see Mishna Berurah 551:11.)
2. Construction and planting for a simcha are not done (Yerushalmi, Taanis, cited by Tosafos to Yevamos 43a s.v. Milisa).
3. Weddings are not conducted. (An additional reason is cited to forbid weddings during these nine days; notably, that since this is not a good season for Jews, one should postpone a wedding to a more auspicious date (Beis Yosef 551; Mogen Avrohom 551:8).
4. One may not make a festive meal to celebrate an erusin. This approximates our making a tenaim or vort to celebrate an engagement. (Technically, the erusin of Chazal is not our engagement. In modern Hebrew, the word "erusin" means engagement, thus compounding the confusion.) 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 (Mogen Avrohom 551:10; Tur, quoting Rav Nissim; Shulchan Aruch 551:2).

Although the Mishna and Gemara make no mention of beginning the mourning period any earlier than Rosh Chodesh, Ashkenazim begin the aveilus from the 17th of Tammuz. Thus, the Rama (Darchei Moshe 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 (Ben Ish Chai, Parshas Devorim #4; Knesses Hagedola). However, many Sefardic communities permit making weddings until Rosh Chodesh Av, and under certain circumstances even later (Shu"t Yabia Omer 6:Orach Chaim #43. See also Sdei Chemed Vol. 5, pg. 279 #14 who states that it depends on the custom of the community.)

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

Most dancing is prohibited during the Three Weeks (Mogen Avrohom 551:10; Eliyohu Rabbah 551:6; Mishna Berurah 551:16). However, there are poskim who permit dancing at a sheva brochos.

When the 17th of Tammuz falls out during the week, one who chooses to get married on this day should begin the wedding in the daytime of the 16th. There are poskim who contend that even this is permitted only under extenuating circumstances (Piskei Tshuvos 551: 7 footnote 51).
When the 17th falls out on Sunday, most poskim prohibit making a wedding on the night of the 17th (Motzei Shabbos), since they consider that the period of mourning begins already (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 (Eliyohu Rabbah; Shu"t Chaim She’ol #24; Biur Halacha 551:2). However Rav Moshe Feinstein rules that under extenuating circumstances it is permitted to schedule a wedding on the Motzei Shabbos of the 17th of Tammuz (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:168).

Playing or listening to music for enjoyment is prohibited during the Three Weeks (Shu"t Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim Vol. 4:21:4). The Poskim prohibit listening even to tape-recorded music (Shu"t Tzitz Eliezer 15:33).

It is permitted to play music for non-Jews for parnasa or to teach music for parnasa until the week of Tisha B’Av (Biur Halacha to 551:2 s.v. Memaatima, based on Pri Megadim). Similarly, one may take music lessons that are for parnasa. 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 HaChaim (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".

Sdei Chemed discusses this shayla (Volume 5, page 376:10). He feels it is permitted, but quotes sources who forbid it, and therefore he does not reach a definitive conclusion. One may 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.

There are three opinions among the poskim:
Shehechiyanu should not be recited during the Three Weeks even on Shabbos (Arizal).
Shehechiyanu should not be recited on weekdays but may be recited on Shabbos (Sefer Chassidim #840).
Shehechiyanu may be recited even on weekdays (Taz and Gra 551:17).
Most halachic authorities rule like the middle opinion, permitting shehechiyanu to be recited on Shabbos but not on weekdays (Mogen Avrohom, Eliyohu Rabbah, Chaye Odom; Mishna Berurah). In general, laws of mourning do not apply on Shabbos; thus, shehechiyanu may be recited on Shabbos. (Rav Akiva Eiger rules that shehechiyanu 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 shehechiyanu. Fulfilling the mitzvah supersedes the problem of reciting shehechiyanu 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 shehechiyanu is not on account of the mourning itself 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 shehechiyanu applies even on Shabbos (Mogen Avrohom; Shu"t Chaim She’ol #24).
The Gra contends that there is no halacha source that prohibits a mourner from reciting shehechiyanu. Apparently he does not agree with the reason attributed to the Ari either.

Most poskim hold that one should not (Shu"t Chaim Sheol #24; Sdei 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 shehechiyanu at night (Shu"t Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:168).
Mishna Berurah (511:99) permits a pregnant woman or an ill person to eat a new fruit without reciting the shehechiyanu.

This depends on the age and maturity of the child. If the child is old enough to appreciate the aveilus that is observed, then one should train him or her not to say shehechiyanu during the Three Weeks. However, if he or she is not old enough to appreciate the aveilus, but is old enough to recite the shehechiyanu, one may allow him or her to recite the shehechiyanu (Birkei Yosef 551:9). There is no need to be concerned that the child is wishing this season to return.
According to all opinions, one recites a shehechiyanu when performing the mitzvos of pidyon haben or bris mila (for those who recite a shehechiyanu at a bris). Rema rules that one may also recite a shehechiyanu on a new fruit that will not be available after Tisha B’Av. Otherwise, one should wait to eat the fruit or to buy the clothing that one would recite a shehechiyanu on until after Tisha B’Av. It is permitted to purchase clothes that do not require a shehechiyanu.

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 parnasa one may purchase it during the Three Weeks, but one should not recite the shehechiyanu until after the Three Weeks (Shu"t Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim 3:80). Some poskim permit buying any necessary appliance, such as a refrigerator, washing machine, or bed, to replace one that broke during the Three Weeks (Piskei Tshuvos 551:11).

One should not engage in dangerous activities during the Three Weeks (see Shulchan Aruch 551:18). For this reason, some follow the practice not to schedule elective surgery until after Tisha B’Av (Piskei Tshuvos 551:1).
It is permitted to 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 nedorim (Tshuvos V’Hanhagos 2:263).
There are stringent opinions that forbid tiyulim, trips to the beach, and other entertaining activities during the Three Weeks (see Sdei Chemed, Vol. 5, pg. 376:10). Some poskim suggest that one should not swim in dangerous places or in water deeper than one’s height (Tshuvos V’Hanhagos 2:263).

The most important aspect of the Three Weeks is to focus on the tremendous loss we suffer because of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh. Tzaddikim make a point of reciting every night the tikkun chatzos wherein we mourn the golus in which the Shechina finds itself.
The minhag among the 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 and thereby mourn our loss. To further convey this mood, Yesod V’Shoresh HaAvodah 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 madreiga, we certainly should contemplate the tremendous loss in our spiritual lives without the Beis Hamikdosh. Let us pray intently for the restoration of the Beis Hamikdosh and the return of the Divine Presence to Yerushalayim, speedily in our days!

This article was originally published in the North American edition of the Yated Neeman

This Shiur is published also at Rabbi Kaganof's site
Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff
Was the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Greater Buffalo, the Congregation Darchei Tzedek and also served as a dayan on the Beis Din of Baltimore. Now is a Rabbi in Neve Yaakov, Jerusalem. His Shiurim and Q&A can be found on his site:
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