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Weekly Halacha

Parshas Devarim

By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.


The ninth day of Av, the day on which both Batei Mikdash were destroyed, not only commemorates the destruction of both Temples, but is also a national day of mourning for all of the tragedies and calamities that have befallen the Jewish people. This sorrowful fast day, which culminates the Three Weeks period of mourning, is replete with special halachos. In this discussion, we will attempt to review some of the special restrictions that apply to Tishah b'Av as well as the circumstances under which these restrictions do not apply:


1.A person who is sick, or an old or weak person who may become ill if he does not eat or drink, even if his illness will not endanger his life(1). He may eat as much food as he usually does(2), but he should not indulge himself.

2.A woman up to thirty days after giving birth(3), even if the baby was stillborn(4).

3.A pregnant women should consult a rav about fasting(5).

4.Boys under the age of 13 and girls under the age of 12(6).

5.A medical condition(7). According to some poskim, it is permitted to swallow a bit of water along with a prescribed medication if the medicine cannot be swallowed otherwise(8).


1.Dirty or soiled hands or other parts of the body. Any substance or discharge (e.g., a glutinous gel in the eye) may be rinsed off(9). [If soap is needed, it may be used.(10)]

2. Awakening in the morning. One may wash netilas yadayim three times on each hand(11), but the water should reach only until the knuckles(12). After the hands are wiped but remain slightly damp, they may be passed over the face or the eyes(13).

3. After using the bathroom and/or after touching a part of the body that is normally covered, but the water should reach only until the knuckles(14).

4. Rinsing the mouth, but only in case of great discomfort(15). Care must be taken not to swallow the water. Mouthwash should not be used(16).

5. Preparing food(17). If warm water is necessary, it may be used(18).

6. Medical needs(19). Hot water may be used when needed(20).

7. Preparation for davening(21). Some say that only the tips of the fingers [until the first joint(22)] should be washed(23).

8. Washing dishes [after midday], if leaving them unwashed will attract insects(24), etc. It is proper not to use warm water.

9. Eating bread, for those who are allowed to eat on Tishah b'Av. The hands should be washed to the wrists in the usual manner(25). Several poskim mention that one may also wash with mayim acharonim if he is always particular to do so(26).

10. A baby who is bathed daily(27).

11. A bride, who is allowed to wash her face up to 30 days after her wedding(28).


1. Medical needs. It is permitted, therefore, to apply ointment to a skin rash(29) or to apply a mosquito repellent(30).

2. Preventing a bad odor(31). Deodorant, therefore, may be applied(32).

3. A bride up to 30 days after her wedding(33).


1. A person who has to walk a long distance over stones or mud, and no other suitable footwear is available(34).

2. Medical needs(35).

3. Children who are too young to understand about the destruction of the Batei Mikdash(36).


1. If the learning pertains to the story of the destruction of Jerusalem and/or the Batei Mikdash, e.g., Eichah, its midrashim and commentaries; parts of Yirmeyahu; Gitin 56-58; Sanhedrin 104; Yerushalmi, end of Ta'anis; Josephus.

2. Sefer Iyov with commentaries.

3. The relevant halachos of Tishah b'Av and mourning. In-depth study should be avoided(37).

4. Sifrei Mussar(38) (moralistic instruction and ethics).

5. To prepare the Torah reading for either Shacharis or Minchah of Tishah b'Av(39).

6. Several poskim permit reciting Tehilim for a sick person(40).


1. It is prohibited to greet other people [the entire Tishah b'Av]. Greeting another person, which includes saying "hello", "good night", "good morning", etc.(41), is permitted only if one must respond to a greeting. The response should be uttered in a serious tone(42).

2. Sending a gift is permitted only if the recipient is a needy person(43). It is also prohibited to promise another person to give him a gift(44).

3. Sitting on any type of chair is permitted only after midday(45); before that one should sit on the floor or on a low stool.

4. Unless it will result in a major and irretrievable loss, business should not be conducted until midday(46). Many G-d-fearing people do not conduct business on Tishah b'Av even after midday(47).

5. Mourners should be consoled after midday only. Under extenuating circumstances, it is permitted to visit a mourner and recite ha-Makom even before midday. Other words of comfort should not be said at that time(48).


1 Mishnah Berurah 554:11. See also Chayei Adam 135:2. A mere headache or minor discomfort, however, does not allow one to break his fast.

2 Although some poskim (Maharam Shick O.C. 289 [see, however, 290]; Sdei Chemed, Bein ha-Metzarim 2:3; Beiur Halachah 554:6 quoting Pischei Olam; Marcheshes 1:14) maintain that one should try to eat less than a shiur (like on Yom Kippur), the majority of the poskim do not agree; see Avnei Nezer 540; Aruch ha-Shulchan 554:7; Kaf ha-Chayim 554:31 (see, however, 35); Chazon Ish (quoted in Toras ha-Yoledes 48 note 9); Harav Y.Z. Soloveitchik (quoted in Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 2:261); Shevet ha-Levi 4:56; Tzitz Eliezer 10:25-16. This is also the custom; Nitei Gavriel, pg. 80, quoting Puppa Rav; Shraga ha-Meir 1:59.

3 Aruch ha-Shulchan 554:8. Although the Mishnah Berurah's view seems to be that from seven days after the birth it is proper to fast, contemporary poskim tend to be lenient in their ruling since nowadays women are weak. When in doubt, consult a rav.

4 Beiur Halachah 617:4, quoting Sdei Chemed.

5 See Halichos Beisah 25:2 quoting Harav S.Z. Auerbach and Divrei Yatziv O.C. 231,232.

6 Some have the custom that younger children fast for a few hours to accustom themselves to fasting. Not all communities share this custom.

7 Kaf ha-Chayim 554:34.

8 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Nishmas Avraham 5:46).

9 O.C. 554:9, 11.

10 Nitei Gavriel, pg. 82.

11 Those who usually wash four times (see Mishnah Berurah 4:10) may do so on Tishah b'Av also; Kitzur Hilchos Moadim, pg. 109.

12 O.C. 554:10. One need not be exact (Orchos Rabbeinu 2:207, quoting Chazon Ish).

13 Mishnah Berurah 554:22.

14 O.C. 613:3 and Mishnah Berurah 4,5,6. See also Aruch ha-Shulchan 6. [See Kaf ha-Chayim 554:73 who quotes Ben Ish Chai that one who touches shoes, even non-leather ones, should wash his hands.]

15 Mishnah Berurah 567:11; Minchas Yitzchak 4:109. Aruch ha-Shulchan 567:3 is more stringent.

16 Because of the prohibition of washing (Harav M. Feinstein, oral ruling quoted in Halachos of the Three Weeks, pg. 19).

17 Mishnah Berurah 554:19.

18 Kaf ha-Chayim 554:46.

19 Mishnah Berurah 554:26. A woman who has given birth may wash herself as much as needed (Aruch ha-Shulchan 613:9).

20 Kaf ha-Chayim 554:63.

21 Mishnah Berurah 554:21.

22 Harav M. Feinstein (oral ruling quoted in Moadei Yeshurun, pg. 140).

23 Sha'arei Teshuvah 554:9. See also Aruch ha-Shulchan 554:10.

24 The poskim debate whether it is permissible to wash dishes on Tishah b'Av. Clearly, though, if the dirty dishes will attract insects, one may be lenient; see Pischei Teshuvah 554:22; Machazeh Eliyahu 87; Moadei Yeshurun, pg. 140; Nitei Gavriel, pg. 83.

25 She'arim Metzuyanim b'Halachah 133:16 quoting Levushei Mordechai Y.D. 2:11; Kaf ha-Chayim 554:53 quoting, Tosfos Chayim 155:10; Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 39, note 101); Shevet ha-Levi 8:139.

26 Taharas ha-Shulchan 557. See, however, Moadei Yeshurun, pg. 141.

27 Chanoch l'Na'ar, pg. 57.

28 Mishnah Berurah 554:29.

29 O.C. 554:15.

30 Piskei Teshuvos, pg. 113.

31 Beiur Halachah 554:15.

32 Harav M. Feinstein (oral ruling quoted in Moadei Yeshurun, pg. 141); Halachos of The Three Weeks, pg. 22. Note, however, that on Yom Kippur deodorant is prohibited; see O.C. 614:1 and Beiur Halachah 554:15.

33 Mishnah Berurah 554:29.

34 Mishnah Berurah 554:32.

35 O.C. 614:3.

36 See Chochmas Adam 152:17, who holds that even children above this age may wear leather shoes. See, however, Igros Moshe Y.D. 1:224 who rules that once a child reaches the age of chinuch, he is forbidden to wear leather shoes. Many people have the custom that their children do not wear leather shoes even before the age of chinuch. See Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 551:91 for a possible source.

37 Mishnah Berurah 554:4.

38 Tosfos Chayim on Chayei Adam 135:2; Yabia Omer 2:26, who quotes the Meiri, Moed Katan 21a, who allows a mourner to study sefarim that bring a person to repentance. [Harav C. Kanievsky is quoted (Rivevos Efrayim 1:386) as prohibiting studying sefarim which are based on pesukim and words of our Sages.]

39 Mishnah Berurah 554:8.

40 Divrei Malkiel 6:9; Chazon Ish (quoted in Orchos Rabbeinu 2:142). Moadei Yeshurun, pg. 145 quotes an oral ruling from Harav M. Feinstein as prohibiting it.

41 To bless another person, such as to wish him mazal tov, is permitted.

42 O.C. 554:20.

43 Kaf ha-Chayim 554:91.

44 Hisorerus Teshuvah 3:31.

45 O.C. 559:3.

46 O.C. 554:24.

47 Chayei Adam 135:19; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 124:15.

48 Igros Moshe O.C. 5:20-22.

Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc.

Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.

The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available--please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross

The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118--HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D'Asra



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