Frequently Asked Questions about the Three Weeks and the Nine Days[1]

1) Can you please provide some background to the mourning practices observed during this period?


The three week period between Shiva Asar B'Tammuz and Tisha B'Av is known as the Bein HaMetzarim (literally, between the boundaries) period. It is known colloquially as "The Three Weeks." During this period, we observe certain mourning practices to commemorate the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash. The degree of mourning intensifies as we approach Tisha B'Av. The second level of mourning begins on Rosh Chodesh Av and is commonly known as "The Nine Days." The third level of mourning begins the Saturday Night[2] preceding Tisha B'Av and is known as "shavu'a shechal bo." The most intense form of mourning is observed on Tisha B'Av itself.


2) Do the restrictions apply to children? Does it matter what age they are?


In general these restrictions apply to children, not only to train them, but in order to invoke a feeling of mourning among the adults who tend to children.[3] Nevertheless, the needs of a child are comparable to the needs of an adult who is ill. Therefore, during the 9 days when for an adult it is forbidden, one may launder the soiled clothing of a child;[4] bathe a child who is in need of a bath;[5] and give a child meat if it is necessary for his diet.[6]


3) Is it permissible to shave or get haircuts during the Three Weeks?


Sefardic custom is to refrain from cutting one’s hair or shaving during the week prior to Tisha B’Av.[7] Ashkenazim generally refrain from Shaving and haircuts during the entire three week period commencing with Shiva Asar B”Tammuz.[8] However,) If not shaving may lead to a loss of money, one may shave during the Three Weeks and the Nine Days

There are certain instances where certain types of haircutting would indeed be permitted. These include:

1. Mustaches. The Shulchan Aruch rules that if a mustache is growing in a way

that it inhibits eating, one may trim it[9].


2. Trimming eyebrows. Rav Moshe Feinstein was of the opinion that one cannot trim eyebrows during shloshim, and therefore may not do so during the three weeks either. Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky[10] maintains that it is permissible to trim eyebrows (and eyelashes) during the three weeks. They felt that such hair removal is not considered to fall into the halachic category of “haircutting”.


3. Taking a haircut for the purposes of a mitzvah. The Mishnah Berura (551:79) rules that if a woman’s hair is growing in such a way that it is difficult for her to keep it under her head covering, she may cut the hair during the three weeks.


4. Unattractive hair removal. Rav Moshe Feinstein allowed women to shave their legs during the three weeks. The logic for this ruling is that the growth of hair on women’s legs is not only uncomfortable, but is also something that makes a woman appear unattractive to her husband.


5. Styling Sheitals - Women may get their sheitels cut or styled during the three weeks but not during the Nine Days, as this is not considered to be their hair, but their clothing.


6. Brissim. On the day of a baby’s bris, the father, mohel and sandak may all take haircuts[11].

Even if the bris falls on shabbos they may take haircuts on the Friday preceding the bris. Others argue that they may wear nice clean clothing for the bris, but that other prohibited activities such as haircutting remain forbidden.[12]


4) Can I get engaged during the three weeks?

The Shulchan Aruch (551:2) rules that one may betroth a woman even on Tisha b'Av itself, lest somebody else beat him to it, and he loses the opportunity to marry this woman. However, the Shulchan Aruch rules that one should not have a festive meal celebrating the betrothal during the nine days. The Mishnah Berurah rules that one may arrange a Tenaim, during this period as well. It seems obvious that one would also be permitted to get engaged during this period. The Rema comments that our custom is not to get married starting from Shiva Asar b'Tamuz, but makes no mention of such a custom relating to festive meals celebrating engagements. The Mishnah Berurah[13]rules that one may have a meal to celebrate an engagement during the three weeks.


5) What are the restrictions regarding music during this period?

It is our custom to refrain from listening to instrumental music, live or recorded, during the three weeks. Sefaradim allow the listening of music as part of a Seudas Mitzva like a Bris even during Shavua She’Chal Bo [14] but recommend not singing even without musical accompaniment during the week throughout the 3 weeks[15]

Children who take music lessons or are in camp may be instructed in music and singing that is part of camp activities. Still, due to the mood of the time of the year, excess here should be discouraged[16]


6) Is it permissible to purchase something online that will not arrive until after Tisha B'Av?

There are two factors to consider regarding purchasing items. First, during the Three Weeks we try to refrain from reciting Shehechiyanu.[17] Second, during the Nine Days, we try to avoid transactions that are not necessary.[18] Regarding the Shehechiyanu factor, if the item will not arrive until after Tisha B'Av[19] or is an item that is not special enough to warrant a Shehechiyanu, there is no concern.[20] Regarding, the transaction factor, one should only purchase something that one needs soon after Tisha B'Av, even if it won't arrive until after Tisha B'Av.[21] One may purchase an item that is on sale and won't be available at that price after Tisha B'Av.[22] One may purchase new clothes until Rosh Chodesh Av if s/he will not wear them until after Tisha B”Av[23]


7) Is it permissible to get a manicure during the Three Weeks?

During the Three Weeks and the Nine Days, it is permissible to cut one's nails. During shavu'a shechal bo, it is preferable to refrain from cutting one's nails unless it is for the mikveh or for Shabbat.[24] Sefardim traditionally refrain from cutting nails on Shavua Sh’Chal Bo except in cases of great need.[25]


8) What are the restrictions regarding bathing?

According to Ashkenzai tradition, one should refrain from bathing in warm water during the Nine Days.[26] The Chazon Ish ruled that if one normally showers daily during the summer, he may do so during the Nine Days, staying in the shower the minimum time necessary for cleanliness. Sefardim bathe in the normal fashion (even in hot water) until Shavua She’Chal Bo[27]. During Shavua She’Chal Bo the tradition is to allow bathing in cold water.[28]


9) Is it permissible to swim for exercise or to learn how to swim?

From the 17th of Tammuz until Rosh Chodesh Av there is no problem going swimming[29]. Still, many are reluctant to swim in places that are more dangerous like rivers and the like[30]. According to Ashkenazic tradition, Swimming is a form of bathing for pleasure, and is prohibited during the Nine Days[31]. If a physician or physical therapist recommended a swimming regimen to cure an ailment such as a bad back, it is permissible.[32] Sefardim allow Swimming until Shavua SheChal Bo[33]

10) During the Nine Days, may I eat meat or drink wine?

Although this prohibition is not clearly mentioned in the Talmud as binding halachah, it is an age-old custom which is recorded by many Rishonim([34]) and has become universally accepted. Thus, today it may not be sucompromised in any way, and one who does so is considered a poreitz geder, literally, a "fence-breaker." The restriction against eating meat and drinking wine begins at sunset [or after davening Ma'ariv] on Rosh Chodesh Av and ends at midday on the tenth of Av.

All meat and poultry and their derivatives, even if no meat or poultry is actually visible, e.g., chicken soup, are included. All wines and grape juices are prohibited. Beer, whiskey, and wine vinegar are permitted[35].

On Friday afternoon close to the onset of Shabbos, it is permitted to feed children - who normally eat at that time - the regular meaty Shabbos foods[36]. A woman who needs to taste the Shabbos foods while cooking may do so on Friday afternoon after midday[37]. On Shabbos there is no restriction against eating meat or drinking wine even if one began Shabbos early - any time after plag ha-Minchah. It is forbidden, however, to eat food left over from Shabbos even for melaveh malkah[38].

11) Can I eat meat or drink wine at a Siyum or Seudas Mitzva?

The restriction against eating meat and drinking wine is lifted when a seudas mitzvah takes place. This includes a siyum[39], a bris,[40] or a pidyon ha-ben. For a seudas mitzvah one may invite any man or woman who would normally be invited at any other time of the year, e.g., relatives or friends. Thus all campers and staff of a summer camp, both men and women, may join in a public siyum. During the week in which Tishah b'Av occurs, only a minyan of people plus close relatives may partake of meat and wine at a seudas mitzvah meal[41].

There are conflicting opinions about whether or not it is permitted to make a siyum specifically in order to partake of meat and wine[42]. L'chatchilah, all the participants should listen to and understand the siyum of the text as it is being read. B'diavad, some poskim permit even those who were not present at the siyum to eat meat and drink wine at the siyum meal, while other poskim are stringent.[43]

12) How should I recite Havdala after Shabbos during the 9 days?

Those who are particular to recite Havdalah every week over wine or grape juice should do so during the Nine Days as well[44], since this too is permitted, just as it is permitted to drink wine at a seudas mitzvah. In some places it is customary for a minor, if one is present, to drink the wine[45], while in other places an adult drinks the Havdalah wine[46].Those who make Havdalah on beer or another chamar medinah year-round should do so this week as well.[47]  

13) During the Nine Days, may I eat pareve food that was cooked in a meat utensil?

Yes. Even if there is some meat residue that may have come into contact with the food, if it is not recognizable and comprises less than 1/60 of the food, it is permissible.[48]


14) If someone is on a diet that requires eating meat, is it permissible to eat meat during the Nine Days?

If someone has an ailment that requires eating meat, it is permissible to eat meat. If someone has difficulty eating dairy and pareve foods, he may eat chicken but not beef.[49]


15) During the 9 days we do not launder clothes[50]. What garments are included in the restrictions against laundering clothes and wearing freshly laundered clothing?

These restrictions apply to all clothing, including undergarments.[51] However, nowadays, when people are accustomed to changing undergarments and socks on a regular basis, many permit wearing freshly laundered undergarments when there is a concern for discomfort or irritation.[52] Preferably, one should try to wear all of the clothing that one is going to need during the Nine Days before the Nine Days start, including undergarments.[53] If one does not have enough undergarments and socks to last the entire Nine Days, one may wash them during the Nine Days, but not during shavu'a shechal bo.[54]


16) I forgot to wear my laundered clothing before the Nine Days and the clothing that I need during the Nine Days is freshly laundered. What should I do?

There are two solutions to this problem. First, you can leave the clothing on the floor so that they become slightly wrinkled and dusty and lose their freshly laundered status.[55] Second, you can wear the clothing on Shabbat for a brief period of time. You should only do this at a time when you normally change clothing so that it does not appear as preparing for the week.[56]


17) Is it permissible to give clothing to a tailor that will be fixed during the Nine Days but not picked up until after Tisha B'Av?

If the tailor is Jewish it is permissible provided that the clothing is dropped off prior to Rosh Chodesh and the tailor does not work on it during shavu'a shechal bo.[57] If the tailor is not Jewish, it is permissible to drop off the clothing during the Nine days[58] (but not during shavua shechal bo).[59] However, if it is possible, one should avoid dropping off clothing during the Nine Days.[60] If the alterations are not being performed by the store where the clothing was purchased, it is prohibited to drop off clothing during the Nine Days, even to a non-Jew.[61]


18) Do these restrictions apply to Shabbos?

It is our custom to dress for Shabbat as we do for the entire year, including wearing freshly laundered garments. It is permissible to eat meat and drink wine on Shabbat.[62] It is permissible to host a large Shabbat meal or gathering.[63] However, one should not hold a large gathering that is not held on other Shabbosos.[64]


19) I am in the middle of construction on my home. My contractor was supposed to finish before the Nine Days, but he is not finished. What should I do?

If the contractor is a non-Jew, and he does not have to complete the work by a certain date, he is technically permitted to work during the Nine Days. If he can do the work after Tisha B'Av, it is preferable, even if the contractor will charge a small fee.[65] Furthermore, if he is performing a necessary repair (e.g. leaking roof, air conditioner repair), there is no concern.[66]


20) Are leisure and social activities permissible during these days?

One should refrain from social gatherings during the Nine Days, though they are permissible if they don't include music.[67]


21) Is it permissible to fly on an airplane during the Nine Days?

During the Nine Days, one should avoid any activities that can be potentially dangerous, but they are not prohibited.


22) When do these restrictions finish?


The fast of the 9th of Av ends at nightfall. However, the mourning practices continue until the midday (Chatzos- in Elizabeth this year – 1:02 pm) point on the 10th of Av. We do not eat meat or drink wine except if it is a Seudas Mitzvah until that time. Also, one should not bathe in hot water, take a haircut, or do adults’ laundry, until after Chatzos of the 10th of Av.

[1] The information provided herein is a result of the collaboration of Rav Teitz and Rav Schwartz. The positions reflected herein and their wording have been approved by both Rabbis.

[2] If Tisha B'Av occurs on Shabbat and is delayed until Saturday Night, there is a dispute whether shavu'a shechal bo is observed in the previous week. See Shulchan Aruch, O.C. 551:2. Shulchan Aruch seems to rule leniently.

[3] Mishna Berurah 551:81.

[4] Rama, O.C. 551:14.

[5] Mishna Berurah 551:93.

[6] See Mishna Berurah 551:61, regarding an adult with such a need.

[7] Shulchan Aruch 551:3. See also Shut Yabia Omer Volume 3 Number 31:5 who notes that there is no problem of “Lo Tisgodidu” in a merged Shul or community when Sefardim and Ashkenazim follow different traditions such as this.

[8] Rema 551:4

[9] 551:13

[10] Emes l’Yaakov on Shulchan Aruch 551:512.

[11] Sha'ar Ha'Tziyun (551:4) cites the Chasam Sofer #158

[12] See Be’er Heiteiv

[13] 551:26 and Sha'ar Hatziyun 19

[14] See Sdei Chemed, Pe’as HaSadeh Maareces Bein HaMetzarim 1:10. see also Rav Ovadiah Yosef (Yechave Da'at VI:34).

[15] Yalkut Yosef, Moadim, Dinei Tisha B”Av, 5

[16] Emes l’yaakov 551:508

[17] Shulchan Aruch, O.C. 551:17.

[18] Shulchan Aruch, O.C. 551:2, Mishna Berurah 551:12 and Sha'ar HaTziyun 551:13.

[19] Although, Shulchan Aruch, O.C. 223:4, rules that one recites Shehechiyanu at the time of the transaction, even before using it, there are a number of reasons why one would not recite Shehechiyanu on an internet purchase until the item is delivered. First, in Sha'ar HaTziyun 223:21, the opinion of R. Akiva Eger is quoted that if the item is not usable because it requires tevilat keilim, one should not recite Shehechiyanu until it is usable. R. Chaim P. Scheinberg (cited in V'Zot HaBeracha pg. 118) adds that if the item requires any form of assembly or configuration, one does not recite Shehechiyanu until the assembly. Second, R. Moshe Levi, Birkat HaShem Vol. IV 2:54, rules that if the item is shipped, one should not recite Shehechiyanu until the item is delivered. Third, it is not clear if there is a halachic transaction that takes place prior to delivery when one orders an item online. See Beit Yitzchak Vol. 38 pp. 97-106.

[20] Mishna Berurah 551:45.

[21] R. Shlomo Z. Auerbach, cited in Halichot Shlomo, Av 14:22.

[22] Mishna Berurah 551:11. Though Rav Yaakov Kamenetzsky recommends paying a minimum price and putting it away on lay-a-way (Emes L’Yaakov 551:509).

[23] Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach cited in “VAleihu Lo Yibol”, 320.

[24] Mishna Berurah 551:20.

[25] There is a custom for people to cut their nails on Erev Shabbos Chazon – See Mishna Berurah 551:20, Yalkut Yosef, Moadim p. 563.

[26] Rama, O.C. 551:16.

[27] See Shut Yabia Omer V:41; Yichaveh Daas I:38

[28] See Terumas haDeshen 150

[29] See Shut Teshuvos V’Hanhagos II:263

[30] Mekor Chaim of Chavos Yair, Siman 551.

[31] O.C. 551:16 and Mogen Avraham, 38.

[32] R. Yehoshua Neuwirth, cited in Nishmat Avraham, O.C. 551:3.

[33] Yalkut Yosef Moadim, p. 566.

[34]Several reasons for this custom are given: To minimize joyfulness; to mourn the abolishment of the Korban Tamid and Nissuch ha-Yayin; to mark the loss of the Even Shesiya (see Orchos Chayim, Kol Bo and Avudraham). See O.C. 551:11. Most Sephardim, too, follow this custom for all of the Nine Days, although some Sephardim do not observe it on Rosh Chodesh day itself; Kaf ha-Chayim 551:125; Yechaveh Da'as 1:41.

[35] Sha'arei Teshuvah 551:10.

[36] Igros Moshe O.C. 4:21-4.

[37] Mekor Chayim 551:9.

[38] Igros Moshe O.C. 4:21-4.

[39] Some poskim recommend that no siyum take place after the sixth of Av (Harav M. Feinstein, Moadei Yeshurun, pg. 132). See also Aruch ha-Shulchan 551:28, who advises that a siyum should not take place at all during the Nine Days, since we cannot properly rejoice and honor the Torah during this time of mourning.

[40] Sha'arei Teshuvah 551:15.

[41] Mishnah Berurah 551:77. Some poskim hold that only a minyan - including the relatives - may eat meat or drink wine; Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 84.

[42] Mishnah Berurah 551:73, Aruch ha-Shulchan 551:28 and Kaf ha-Chayim 551:161.

[43] Mishnah Berurah 470:10. See also Minchas Yitzchak 9:45; Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 1:300 quoting Harav Y.Y. Kanievsky, who says that it is customary to be lenient in this matter, provided that the participant is sincerely "happy" with the siyum taking place. See also the lenient ruling of Harav Y.Y. Fisher concerning a mourner (Pnei Baruch, pg. 463). Harav M. Feinstein is also quoted as being lenient (Moadei Yeshurun, pg. 132). However, Ben Ish Chai 1:96-25; Chazon Ovadiah, pg. 99; Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (Siddur Pesach K'hilchaso, pg. 168) are all strict here.

[44] Mishnah Berurah 551:72

[45] Rama O.C. 551:10.

[46] Harav M. Feinstein (Moadei Yeshurun, pg. 154).

[47] Aruch ha-Shulchan 551:26.

[48] Mishna Berurah 551:63.

[49] Mishna Berurah 551:64.

[50] Sefaradim begin this practice only on Shavua She’Chal Bo

[51] Shulchan Aruch, O.C. 551:3.

[52] R. Moshe Feinstein, cited in A Summary of Halachos of the Three Weeks pg. 9 and R. Shlomo Z. Auerbach, cited in Halichot Shlomo, Av 14:12.

[53] R. Yisrael Y. Kanievski, cited in Orchot Rabbeinu Vol. II pg. 130.

[54] Piskei Teshuvot 551:21.

[55] R. Meir Brandsdorfer, K'nei Bosem 3:57. R. Yitzchak Weiss, Minchat Yitzchak 10:44, mentions this solution regarding bed sheets that were laundered.

[56] R. Shlomo Z. Auerbach, Tikkunim U'Miluim to Shemirat Shabbat KeHilchata 28:76.

[57] Rama, O.C. 551:7, Mishna Berurah 551:51 and Bei'ur Halacha 551:7, s.v. V'Nahagu.

[58] Rama, O.C. 551:7.

[59] Bei'ur Halacha 551:7, s.v. V'Nahagu, in deference to the Vilna Gaon who disagrees with Rama.

[60] Rama, O.C. 551:7.

[61] R. Yisrael Dardik, Nechmat Yisrael 22:9 (and footnote 289) suggests that Rama's leniency is only prior to purchasing the garment from the non-Jewish tailor. Nowadays, where it is common to purchase clothing and then bring it to a tailor for alterations, it is prohibited because the clothing is owned by the Jew. R. Dardik's suggestion is based on the comments of Mishna Berurah 551:53, explaining Rama's leniency.

[62] Rama, O.C. 551:9 and Mishna Berurah 551:58.

[63] Opinion of Bechor Shor, cited in Mishna Berurah 552:23.

[64] Opinion of Magen Avraham cited in Mishna Berurah 552:23.

[65] Mishna Berurah 551:12.

[66] Mishna Berurah 551:13.

[67] S'dei Chemed, Ma'arechet Bein HaMetzarim 1:10.