The Nine Days In Halacha
QUESTION: In practical terms, how should one conduct himself with
to the Nine Days' prohibition against full-body bathing?
DISCUSSION: One of the Nine Days' restrictions is the prohibition
bathing and showering.(1) Nowadays, people find it most uncomfortable to
observe this restriction, since we are all accustomed to bathing or
showering daily, unlike in earlier times when people bathed much less
It is important to distinguish between the two reasons why people
bathe: 1) for reasons of hygiene and cleanliness; 2) for pleasure; the hot
water soothes them, the cold water cools them - it is a pleasurable
experience. It is safe to assume that most people bathe or shower for both
reasons - for cleanliness and for pleasure.
It is clearly forbidden to bathe or shower during the Nine Days for
pleasure. Thus it is forbidden to take a hot bath, a long, hot, relaxing
shower, or to go swimming in a lake or a pool. The primary purpose of
these activities is the pleasure derived from them.
But one who became dirty or sweaty and must take a shower in order
to rid himself of the odor, dirt or sweat, may take a short, cold or
lukewarm shower. If he requires soap or shampoo in order to remove the
dirt or sweat, that is permitted as well. If the dirt or sweat cannot be
removed unless hot water is used, hot water may be used for those areas
where it is needed.(2)
One who needs to take a hot shower or bath or go swimming for
medical reasons is permitted to do so.
QUESTION: Which types of clothing are included in the prohibition
wearing freshly laundered clothes in the Nine Days?
DISCUSSION:Shulchan Aruch rules that all freshly laundered (or dry-
cleaned) clothes and linens (such as towels, sheets and tablecloths), may
not be worn or used during the Nine Days.(3) It has become customary,
therefore, that freshly laundered clothes are worn for a short while(4)
before the onset of the Nine Days, so that the clothes are no longer
considered "freshly laundered".
Contemporary authorities debate whether or not garments that are
constantly being changed because of perspiration - like socks and
undergarments - must also be worn briefly before the Nine Days. Some
poskim hold that they must,(5) while many others hold that such garments
are not included in the prohibition of wearing freshly laundered clothes
and one need not prepare them before the Nine Days begin.(6) The
widespread custom in the U.S. follows the second opinion.
QUESTION: Who is eligible to join a siyum and eat meat and drink
during the Nine Days?
DISCUSSION: The restriction against eating meat and drinking wine
lifted when a seudas mitzvah takes place. This includes a siyum,(7) a bris,
(8) or a pidyon ha-ben. Several poskim also include a bar mitzvah dinner
which takes place on the day the boy becomes bar mitzvah.(9)
For a seudas mitzvah one may invite any man or woman who would
normally be invited at any other time of the year, e.g., relatives or
friends. Thus all campers and staff of a summer camp, both men and women,
may join in a public siyum.(10) During the week in which Tishah b'Av
occurs, only a minyan of people plus close relatives may partake of meat
and wine at a seudas mitzvah meal.(11)
There are conflicting opinions about whether or not it is permitted
to make a siyum specifically in order to partake of meat and wine.(12)
While it is preferable to be stringent, one should follow the custom and
the directives of his rabbi.
Regarding the nature of the text upon which it is permitted to make
a siyum, the custom follows the halachically preferred option that a siyum
be made only on a tractate of the Talmud, either Bavli or Yerushalmi. But
there are poskim who allow a siyum to be made upon completing the
intensive study of either an entire seder of Mishnayos or on an entire
book of Tanach. Some allow a siyum even on three tractates of Mishnayos
while others allow it even on one.(13)
L'chatchilah, all the participants should listen to and understand
the siyum of the text as it is being read.(14) B'diavad, some poskim
permit even those who were not present at the siyum to eat meat and drink
wine at the siyum meal,(15) while other poskim are stringent.(16)
When a seudas mitzvah takes place, it is also permitted to drink the
wine after Birkas ha-Mazon.(17) But the cup of wine which is usually drunk
at a bris should be given either to a minor or to the mother of the child.
Those who are particular to recite Havdalah every week over wine or
grape juice should do so during the Nine Days as well,(19) since this too
is permitted, just as it is permitted to drink wine at a seudas mitzvah.
(20) In some places it is customary for a minor,(21) if one is present, to
drink the wine,(22) while in other places an adult drinks the Havdalah
Those who make Havdalah on beer or another chamar medinah year-round
should do so this week as well.(24)
QUESTION: Do the restrictions of the Nine Days remain in effect
chatzos of Friday when Tishah b'Av falls on Thursday?
DISCUSSION: The poskim rule that due to the honor of the
Shabbos, several of the restrictions of the Nine Days that normally remain
in effect until chatzos of the tenth of Av, are lifted.(25) But they
debate whether the restrictions are lifted as soon as the fast is over on
Thursday night, or if they remain in place until it is actually erev
Shabbos - on Friday morning. The poskim also debate whether or not these
restrictions are completely suspended and these activities are permitted
even for non-Shabbos needs, or if they are lifted only when they are
needed for the sake of Shabbos. We will briefly review the various
restrictions and the opinions of the poskim:
* Laundry - Although some poskim suggest waiting until Friday morning to
do laundry,(26) the consensus of contemporary authorities is that doing
laundry is permitted immediately on Thursday night.(27) Whether or not it
is permitted to wash laundry which will not be used for Shabbos is a
matter of dispute: Some permit it outright,(28) while others only allow
adding such laundry to the load which is being washed for Shabbos use.(29)
* Haircuts, Shaves, Hot Showers and Baths - If possible, it is recommended
to wait until Friday morning.(30) If this will prove difficult or
impractical, it is permitted on Thursday night as well.(31) Whether or not
it is permitted to shower or bathe when doing so is clearly not for the
sake of Shabbos, e.g., one is planning to take another shower closer to
Shabbos, or whether it is permitted to go swimming for pleasure, is a
matter of dispute: Many permit it,(32) while others do not.(33)
The following activities have no connection at all with the approaching
Shabbos. Thus all of them are forbidden until chatzos on Friday:
* Eating meat(34) and drinking wine.(35)
* Playing music and dancing.(36)
* Wearing freshly laundered clothes.(37)
* Reciting shehecheyanu.(38)
1 O.C. 551:16.
2 Entire Discussion based on Aruch ha-Shulchan 551:37; Harav Y.C.
Sonnenfeld (Salmas Chayim 4:20; Toras Chayim, pg. 83); Igros Moshe, E.H.
4:84-4; Emes l'Yaakov 551, note 14; She'arim Metzuyanim b'Halachah 122:12.
3 O.C. 551:3.
4 There are several views - ranging from several days to several minutes -
as to how long a garment should be worn in order for it be considered no
longer fresh. In actual practice, the garment should be worn long enough
so that it loses that special crispness and freshness that one associates
with freshly laundered or dry cleaned clothes.
5 Kaf ha-Chayim 551:91; Orchos Rabbeinu, vol. 2, pg. 130; Minchas Yitzchak
10:44; Harav C. Kanievsky, quoted in Nechams Yisrael 19:7.
6 Aruch ha-Shulchan Y.D. 389:6 (concerning shivah) Gesher ha-Chayim 21:10
(concerning shivah); Salmas Chayim 4:4; Harav M. Feinstein (oral ruling,
quoted in Rivevos Efrayim 1:377 and 3:340, Moadei Yeshurun, pg. 134 and
Kitzur Hilchos Bein ha-Meitzarim, pg. 9); Kinyan Torah 1:109; mi-Beis
Levi, vol. 13, pg. 26.
7 Some poskim recommend that no siyum take place after the sixth of Av
(Harav M. Feinstein, Moadei Yeshurun, pg. 132). See also Aruch ha-Shulchan
551:28, who advises that a siyum should not take place at all during the
Nine Days, since we cannot properly rejoice and honor the Torah during
this time of mourning.
8 Even if it was deferred due to illness, etc.; Sha'arei Teshuvah 551:15.
9 Yad Efrayim 551:31; Divrei Yatziv 2:238.
10 Harav M. Feinstein and Harav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in Nitei Gavriel
11 Mishnah Berurah 551:77. Some poskim hold that only a minyan - including
the relatives - may eat meat or drink wine; Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 84.
12 See Mishnah Berurah 551:73, Aruch ha-Shulchan 551:28 and Kaf ha-Chayim
13 See the various opinions in Ha-elef Lecha Shelomo 386; Igros Moshe O.C.
157 and O.C. 2:12, Yabia Omer 1:26, Yechaveh Da'as 1:40 and B'tzeil ha-
14 Mishnah Berurah 470:10.
15 Minchas Yitzchak 9:45; Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 1:300 quoting Harav Y.Y.
Kanievsky, who says that it is customary to be lenient in this matter,
provided that the participant is sincerely "happy" with the siyum taking
place. See also the lenient ruling of Harav Y.Y. Fisher concerning a
mourner (Pnei Baruch, pg. 463). Harav M. Feinstein is also quoted as being
lenient (Moadei Yeshurun, pg. 132).
16 Ben Ish Chai 1:96-25; Chazon Ovadiah, pg. 99; Harav Y.S. Elyashiv
(Siddur Pesach K'hilchaso, pg. 168).
17 Mishnah Berurah 551:72.
18 Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (quoted in Otzar ha-Bris, pg. 187).
19 Eishel Avraham 551; Chazon Ish (quoted in Imrei Yosher, pg. 4).
20 Mishnah Berurah 551:67.
21 The preferred minor for this purpose is a boy beyond the age of chinuch
but who is not yet old enough to understand the concept of mourning the
destruction of the Beis ha-Mikdash; Mishnah Berurah 551:70. [It is
difficult to define the age of such a child.] If such a child is not
present, any boy under bar mitzvah age will do.
22 Rama O.C. 551:10.
23 Harav M. Feinstein (Moadei Yeshurun, pg. 154).
24 See Aruch ha-Shulchan 551:26.
25 Mishnah Berurah 558:3.
26 Harav M. Feinstein (oral ruling, quoted in Kitzur Hilchos Bein ha-
Meitzarim, pg. 32); Toras ha-Moadim, pg. 13, quoting Harav C. Kanievsky.
27 Siddur Ya'avetz; Harav Y. Kamenetsky (Emes l'Yaakov, O.C. 558, note
527); Harav Y.Y. Fisher (Even Yisrael 7:27); Harav N. Karelitz (Chut
Shani, vol. 2, pg. 328); Harav S. Wosner (mi-Beis Levi, Bein ha-Meitzarim,
pg. 37); Lehoros Nosson 2:36; Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 42:5; Machazeh
28 Harav M. Feinstein (Kol ha-Torah, vol. 54, pg. 8); Harav N. Karelitz
(Chut Shani, vol. 2, pg. 328)
29 Harav S.Z. Auerbach (Tikunim u'Miluim 42:16); Harav S. Wosner (mi-Beis
Levi, Bein ha-Meitzarim, pg. 37) Shevet ha-Kehasi 3:182.
30 To satisfy the view of several poskim who allow these activities only
on Friday morning; see Be'er Moshe 3:79 and Toras ha-Moadim, pg. 13.
31 Harav Y.Y. Fisher (Even Yisrael 7:27); Machazeh Eliyahu 86.
32 Harav N. Karelitz (Chut Shani, vol. 2, pg. 328); Harav C. Kanievsky and
Harav S. Duvlitzky (quoted in Nechamas Yisrael 40:8). See also Machazeh
33 Koveitz Hilchos Bein ha-Meitzarim, pg. 84. This may be the opinion of
Harav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in note 5) as well.
34 It is permitted, however, to eat a meaty dish on Thursday night if no
meat or poultry is actually visible, e.g., clear chicken soup; Beiur
Halachah 558:1, s.v. shelo.
35 Aruch ha-Shulchan 558:2. A minority opinion holds that it is permitted
to eat meat and drink wine on Friday morning after Shacharis; see Orchos
Chaim 558:1, quoting Rav Levi Yitzhchak of Barditchev.
36 Machazeh Eliyahu 86.
37 Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah 42, note 16.
38 Machazeh Eliyahu 86.
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