06 Jul HALACHICALLY SPEAKING: THE “NINE DAYS”
In this issue we will discuss the halachos that apply to the nine days. During the nine days we are not allowed to do many more actions than those that are customarily not done from Shivah Asar B’Tammuz through during the time before Rosh Chodesh Av. Issues such as painting, buying clothing, showering, swimming, cutting nails, eating meat, washing clothing and many other halachos will be discussed in this issue. (Please note: Hhaircuts, Wweddings, Mmusic and reciting a Shehecheiyanu apply to the complete three- week period, and we will not be discussing them in this issue.).
Rosh Chodesh Av – Less Joy
The month of Av is a sad time for Jews, so we refrain from many activities. One reason that the restrictions begin from Rosh Chodesh is that when the Beais Hamikdaosh stood, Rosh Chodesh was a Yom Tov, when koarbanos were brought. It was a day that all Jews were unified. We are saddened today when the Beais Hamikdaosh is not here, so we start the mourning from Rosh Chodesh.
Many have the custom to call this month as Menachem Av, in order to bentch each other that this month should not be a month of mourning.
The Mishnah says that when Rosh Chodesh Av is upon us we lessen our joy (see footnote). This is codified by the poskim as well. Activities of joy include business dealings, building and planting. Each one of these will be discussed below. All these activities are permitted on the tenth of Av.
An interesting question arises as to whether the restrictions begin from shekiah of Rosh Chodesh Av or from tzeis hakchochavim. The custom is to refrain from shekiah. Those who wait until seventy-two minutes for other areas in halachah can do the same here as well.
One who has a court date with a non-Jew should push it off until after the nine days have passed since it is a time of bad mazal. SomeOthers say to push it off until Rosh Chodesh Elul, while others say until Tu B’Av. One should not undergo surgery during the nine days because of bad mazal. According to the lenient opinion, one would be allowed to have surgery after Tishah B’Ava’v.
According to the Shulchan Aruch one should lessen his business dealings from Rosh Chodesh Av until after Tishah B’Aav. However, the custom is that regular business dealings are permitted since only dealings of joy are forbidden. Based on the above, the Aruch Hashulchan says that we conduct our regular business dealings during the nine days. Others permit regular business dealings because we need the business for our livelihood. If abstaining will cause a loss because the opportunity will not present itself again, then it is permitted.
Building – House Decorating
From Rosh Chodesh Av until after Tishah B’Aav (refer below until when this is avoided) we do not construct a joyous building. This includes a home for a newlywed, or a beautiful design. One may not paint, put up wallpaper, or install a carpet or tiles during the nine days. A structurally damaged wall may be repaired, even if there is no danger of injury. A car wash is permitted during the nine days.
Any construction that is for pleasure but is not essential should be avoided during the nine days. One who is in need of an extension because his home is too small or he needs a porch may do so. Fixing a chair or table is permitted. One should not buy furniture during the nine days since it beautifies the home.
If one hired a non-Jew before Rosh Chodesh Av to do a project, then the non-Jew may continue even during the nine days. This is permitted since the non-Jew is acting on his own.
One who rented an apartment or bought a house may paint and make necessary repairs if occupancy will not occur until after the nine days.
Building for a
Building for a mitzvah is permitted during the nine days. Therefore, a ma’akeh (fence in a dangerous place) may be built during the nine days. Furthermore, building a shul or beais meidrash is permitted. In addition any public need is defined as a mitzvah need.
Planting which brings one joy is not permitted during the nine days. This includes planting flowers to beautify the lawn. Overgrown grass may be trimmed if it impedes normal walking. If the mowing only serves to beautify the lawn, it is forbidden. Planting a tree or plant during the nine days is permitted since it does not bring joy. Watering plants is permitted during the nine days.
Clothing – Laundry
According to the Ashkenazi custom, clothing may not be washed during the nine days even if they will not be worn until after Tishah B’Ava’v. This applies to ironing as well. Clothing worn for a mitzvah is permitted. The reason for the issur is because it shows that one is not thinking about the aveilus. Others explain that wearing freshly laundered clothes brings joy. Therefore, a non-Jew may not wash a Jew’s clothes (see below). One who does not have other clothes may wash them in honor of Shabbos.
Some say that one may begin a load of laundry on the afternoon of eErev Rosh Chodesh, even if the load is not completed until night.
One who needs to wear nice clothes for his job may do so during the nine days.
Spot Cleaning and Other Cleaning
The opinion of many poskim is that even spot cleaning a stain on a garment is considered washing clothing and is prohibited. However, it seems that the custom is to be lenient with regard to this. One may dust off a garment, or use a brush or scratch with a fingernail to remove a stain. Using a vacuum cleaner during the nine days is permitted.
Washing a Sheitel
There is a discussion in the poskim whether washing a sheitel is defined as washing clothing. Some poskim prohibit this. However, the custom of many is to permit this, but it is still preferable that one should still wait until after Tishah B’Aav.
Going to the Cleaners
One may not drop off clothing at the cleaners from Rosh Chodesh Av until after Tishah B’Aav, even if the cleaners were told to clean it after Tishah B’Aav. However, the clothing may be delivered before Rosh Chodesh Av even if they will be cleaned during the nine days. Some say that one may pick up clothes during the nine days, as no one might think that the clothes were dropped off during the nine days.
A non-Jewish maid may not wash clothes during the nine days.
Wearing Laundered Clothes – Making Them Dirty
One may not wear freshly laundered clothing during the nine days. There are a number of means to prepare clothing for the nine days. One option is to wear the garments before the nine days start. There is a difference of opinion as to how long one has to wear the garments. Some say that any amount of time is good, while other opinions require one hour, a half hour, orand fifteen minutes. One may wear many garments at the same time.
Another option is to throw the garments on the floor in a way that it they gets somewhat dirty. One may step on them as well. Throwing it them on a clean floor is insufficient.
Freshly laundered linen is also considered laundered clothing. Some say that one who stays in a hotel may sleep on the fresh sheets, but should put them on the floor beforehand if possible (see above). One should notify the cleaning crew not to change the sheets throughout his stay. Others say that most people are disgusted by sleeping on soiled linen, so one may prepare freshly laundered linen for a guest.
Changing the sheets is permitted in a hospital or nursing home since it is done for the health of the patients.
According to some poskim, if one did not have time to prepare his clothing before Shabbos Chazzon, then he may do so on Shabbos Chazzon as along as he does not say that he is doing it for the nine days.
Sephfardim wear laundered clothing until the week of Tishah B’aAv. During this period, an Ashkenazi may ask a Sephfardi to wear clothes for him, and then he may wear them.