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Halacha How To: The Nine Days

07/16/2020 04:35:17 PM


Beginning Tuesday night July 21, we will transition from the "three weeks" to the "nine days". The conceptual difference between the two is that while during the three weeks we refrain from celebratory and musical events that are beyond the typical daily routine, during the nine days we diminish even simple everyday pleasures. In the words of the Mishna, ממעטין בשמחה, we consciously diminish our joy. The premise of this practice is that it is difficult to enter the state of mourning on Tisha B'Av without preparation. Through creating a palpable sense of mournful tension in the week+ leading up, we are able to begin the reading of Eicha on the night of Tisha B'Av already emotionally open to its words.

Here are the basic laws & customs of the nine days. Please do not hesitate to ask questions as they arise!

1. We do not eat meat or drink wine, other than on Shabbat. Regarding the Havdalah, it is preferable to either give the cup of wine or grape juice to a minor, or to use a "significant beverage" such as beer or brewed coffee. If neither of these options is readily available, the person reciting havdalah should simply drink the wine or grape juice as normal. 

2. As has been true since the 17th of Tammuz, we do not attend parties or celebrations during the nine days.

3. We shower with cool (not warm) water & only for the time necessary to satisfy the needs of basic hygiene. Friday afternoon is an exception to this rule.

4. We do not swim during the nine days. (Instructional swimming is exempted until the beginning of the week in which Tisha B'Av actually falls, though this activity is likely less common this year).

5. We do not have our hair cut, and unless it is impossible to not do so, do not shave during this period.

6. We withhold from ourselves the luxury of wearing new garments. Except for on Shabbat, we refrain from wearing freshly cleaned or freshly laundered outer garments. [Please note, that the Halacha gives us a little bit of a break; it means "freshly laundered" in a very literal way. Clothing worn for even a few minutes before the nine days began is no longer defined as "freshly laundered."]

7. We do not wash clothing during the nine days, even though we are not intending to wear that clothing until after Tisha B'Av. (Children's clothing that must be washed is exempted.)

8. In most calendar years we extend the practices of the nine days through midday on the 10th of Av. This year, however, since Tisha B'Av falls on a Thursday, our practice is modified. In order to honor Shabbat, it is completely permissible to do laundry, get a haircut, etc immediately after the fast ends. Thus the practice of extending mourning practices beyond the fast day itself does not apply this year, with one important exception: We still refrain from eating meat and drinking wine until midday on Friday (Mishnah Berurah 558:3-4).


Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky

Rabbanit Alissa Thomas-Newborn

Mon, December 4 2023 21 Kislev 5784