13 Aug How Long is the Nine Days?
During a brief period lead- ing up to Tisha B’Av, Jews ob- serve additional mourning practices. For Ashkenazim, the quotes three opinions on the time period of these additional restrictions, all based on the verse: “I will also cause all her joy to cease, her feasts (chagah), her new moons (chodshah), and her sabbaths (shabbatah), and all her appointed seasons” (Hosea 2:13). R. Meir believes it lasts from Rosh Chodesh (chagah) through the fast (i.e. nine days). R. Yehudah believes it lasts the entire month of Av (chodshah). R. Shimon ben Gamliel believes it lasts the entire week of Tisha Be-Av (shabbatah), from Sunday through Friday. The Gemara concludes that we follow both R. Meir and R. Shimon ben Gamliel leniently, meaning we begin the week of the fast and end at the fast. Maharshal argues that if the Gemara concludes we end the observances with the fast, extending them further constitutes a rejection of Talmudic authority. This custom contradicts the Gemara and therefore should be abandoned. initial period begins with 17 Tammuz and the intense period begins with Rosh Chodesh Av, the first day of the month whose mourning culminates with the ninth day, Tisha Be-Av. These nine days include customary restrictions on eating meat, drinking wine and more. Sephardim begin these restrictions on the Sunday of the week in which Tisha Be- Av falls. Can these restrictions continue for longer than nine days?
I. Extending the Practice
Rav Shlomo Luria (Maharshal, Response, no. 52) was asked about a custom observed by some women to continue the Nine Days restrictions until Shabbos Nachamu, the Shabbos after Tisha Be- Av. Is this custom legitimate and worthy of continuation? The inquirer notes that the practice is mentioned in Sefer Ha- Minhagim by Rav Yitzchak Isaac Tyrnau (15th century, Austria).
Maharshal answers that this practice is nonsense. The Gemara (Ta’anis 29b)
You do not even need to annul the vow of the custom. He points to Berakhos (10b) where R. Tarfon is criticized for endangering himself in order to follow Beis Shammai’s view that Shema at night must be recited while sitting down. Ma- harshal proves from here that we may not follow a rejected opinion like that of Beis Shammai.
Additionally, two reasons are offered for refraining from meat and wine dur- ing this period (see Beis Yosef, Or- ach Chaim 551): 1) Refraining from specific pleasures as a sign of sadness over the destruction of the Temple, 2) commemorating the cessation of the animal and wine sacrifices in the Temple. Neither of these make sense after Tisha Be-Av, when mourn- ing for the Temple has concluded. Rather, Maharshal insists, this practice began due to the lack of desire to serve meat and wine before Shabbos if Tisha Be-Av falls on a Thursday. Andevenifitoccursearlierinthe week, people did not want to spend money on meat and wine. Some people mistook this pragmatic practice as a religious custom.
You can ask why Maharshal does not object to the Ashkenazic custom of beginning the restrictions on Rosh Chodesh. Doesn’t this constitute following R. Meir against the conclusion of the Gemara? Rav Yechezkel Landau (Noda Bi-Yehudah, Orach Chaim 2:105) addresses this. He ex- plains that even though the Gemara concludes that the restrictions begin the week of Tisha Be-Av, it also re- quires that people generally decrease their happiness starting on Rosh Ch- odesh Av. We fulfill this general requirement through specific restrictions. In contrast, there is nothing in our tradition about mourning the destruction of the Temple well past
II. Defending the Practice
Rav Yoel Sirkes (Bach, Orach Chaim 551) disagrees with Maharshal’s conclusion. Not only does Minhagim Tyrnau cite this custom, but so does Maharil. It is hard to designate as a mistake such a well-attested custom. Rather, this is an additional custom to mourn the destruction of the Temple. As such, like you must do with any legitimate custom, you must annul this custom properly be- fore abandoning it.
Bach differentiates between refraining from meat and wine in memory of the destroyed Temple and sitting for Shema at night. According to the Gemara’s conclusion, nothing is gained from the latter — there is no halakhic benefit. Therefore, it is forbidden to follow the rejected opinion. But because there is always benefit to mourning the Temple, you may act strictly beyond the Gemara’s conclusion.
Rav David Ha-Levi (Taz, Orach Chaim 551:10) adds that you should not specifically say that you follow R. Shi- mon ben Gamliel. Rav Avraham Gombiner (Magen Avraham 551:16) similarly rejects the Maharshal’s objection to this custom. However, he adds that if the joyous day of Tu Be-Av falls on the Friday after Tisha Be-Av, you cannot suspend your custom to refrain from eating meat and drinking wine.
While this custom is not normative, and indeed I have never heard of people observing it, it teaches us the value of internalizing the mourning practices. Too often, we do whatever we can to avoid the mourning observances. This custom represents the sensibilities of people who truly mourned the Temple and wished to express their sadness in practice, above and beyond the requirements.