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    Q. I have almost finished learning a Masechta (volume of Talmud). May I slow down (i.e., learn other topics or in greater depth), so that I will be able to finish my learning and make a siyum at a time that is more convenient for me? What about timing it so that I can make a siyum during the nine days?

    A. The Shach (YD 246:27) writes that one may leave over a small portion of their learning so that a siyum can be celebrated at a time that is more convenient. However, the Elya Rabba (551:26, also quoted by the Mishnah Berurah 551:73) writes that one may not speed up or slow down their learn- ing just so that they will be able to make a siyum with meat during the nine days. Also, it is questionable if one may serve meat at a siyum during the nine days, if ordinarily when they finish a Mesechta, they do not make a siyum. The Minchas Yitzchak (2:93) explains that all agree in general that one can speed up or delay a siyum for a more convenient time, but the Elya Rabba did not permit doing this to make a siyum during the nine days. Doing so would demonstrate that the siyum is simply an excuse to eat meat. If that is the case, it is not a seudas mitzvah, but an excuse to have plea- sure. However, the Minchas Yitzchak writes that not all poskim agree with the Elya Rabba. He infers from the writings of Rav Yaakov Emden (Sid- dur Yaavetz – Bein Hametzarim) that one may speed up or slow down their learning in order to make a siyum dur- ing the nine days. Those who are le- nient are following this opinion.

    Q. What are the various halachos concerning the use of freshly cleaned towels, bed sheets, tablecloths and handkerchiefs during the Nine Days?

    A. A fresh towel may be used during the Nine Days if the towel one was using became soiled (Kitzur Hilchos Bein Hametzarim p. 10:9). Bed sheets may not be changed during the Nine Days (Mishna Berura 551:33) unless they are soiled. However, if a guest arrives during the Nine Days then one may place clean sheets on the bed (Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer 13:61). A clean tablecloth can be used on Shabbos during the Nine Days (Taz OC 551:4). A fresh handkerchief may be used only if the old one is dirty and unusable (Shu”t Rivevos Ephraim OC 2:555).

    Q. What happened on the 7th of Av? How is this observed?

    A. The Gemara (Taanis 29a) relates the events that led up to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. Although the walls of Yerushalayim were breached on the seventeenth of Tammuz, the fighting continued. It was not until the seventh of Av that the Babylonians entered the Beis Hamikdash and desecrated it. On the ninth of Av, close to sunset, they set the Beis Hamikdash on fire. The Magen Avrohom (554:9) writes that even those who must eat meat or drink wine during The Nine Days, if possible, should refrain from meat and wine beginning the 7th of Av, in recognition of the increasing calamity. Nonetheless, the Mishnah Berurah (551:61) writes that the restriction of the Magen Avrohom does not apply to someone who is ill and must eat meat for reasons of health. Piskei Teshuvos (551:38) cites sefer Otzer HaChaim that even those who permit serving meat at a siyum during The Nine Days may not do so beginning the 7th of Av. Similarly, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt’l ruled that one may not serve meat or wine at a seudas Bar Mitzvah from the 7th of Av and onward (Mivakshei Torah vol. 48, chapter 4).