The Three Weeks

During the period known as “The Three Weeks,” we commemorate the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. It begins with the fast of Shiva Asar B’Tammuz (the 17th day of the month of Tammuz).

According to rabbinic tradition a number of sad events took place on shiva asar b’Tammuz, including the smashing of the Tablets following the Sin of the Golden Calf and the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem preceding the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash.

This year, the 17th day of Tammuz falls on Saturday, July 20th, so the fast is nidche (postponed) to Sunday, July 21st. Because the fast is nidche the restrictions of the fast day are relaxed in certain circumstances.

The fast of Shiva Asar B’Tammuz

Restrictions during “The Three Weeks”

Because of the tragedies associated with the three weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av, the custom is to refrain from certain joyous behaviors during this time. These include:

“The Nine Days”

The Mishna in Masechet Taanit states “Once we enter the month of Av we reduce our joy.”  This year Av begins at night on Thursday, August 1st. The time between the beginning of Av and Tisha B‘Av (the 9th of Av) is known as “The Nine Days.” In order to create an atmosphere of mourning, we refrain from certain behaviors. These consist of 5 main restrictions:

  1. Refraining from eating meat and drinking wine
  1. This includes beef and chicken, but not fish.  The prohibition is waived for a seudat mitzva (a religious celebratory meal, like a siyum). This also does not apply on Shabbat (in this year’s case, on both August 2nd and August 9th). Ideally grape juice should be used for havdalla and someone under the age of bar/bat mitzvah should drink, if possible.
  1. Refraining from pleasurable construction and planting
  1. Decoration and renovation tend to be associated with excitement and enjoyment, and should therefore be avoided. Any building that is done out of necessity (such as repairs) is permitted.
  1. Refraining from pleasurable shopping
  1. Like renovations, purchasing certain items that bring the buyer excitement and joy should be avoided.
  1. Refraining from laundering clothing
  1. During the nine days, one should avoid wearing freshly laundered clothing or using freshly laundered linens and towels.  Additionally, one should not do laundry during this time, even to use these articles following Tisha B’Av.  Clothing that is worn directly on the skin (socks, undergarments, undershirts) may be worn freshly laundered, though it is best not to wash during the nine days, if possible. One may wear freshly laundered shabbat clothing on shabbat itself (in this year’s case, on both August 2nd and August 9th). Children’s clothing may be laundered during the nine days.
  1. Refraining from pleasurable bathing
  1. One should avoid swimming, bathing, and showering for pleasure.  When one is bathing for cleanliness, it is appropriate to lower the water temperature slightly to minimize one’s pleasure.

Tisha B’Av (9th of Av)

On Tisha B’Av we commemorate the greatest tragedies in Jewish history, from God’s decree forbidding the Israelite’s initial entry into the Land of Israel to the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem to the destruction of European Jewry in the Holocaust. As a result, it is a particularly sad day with restrictions in place in order to convey its somberness. This year, since the 9th of Av falls on Shabbat, it is nidche (postponed) until the evening on Saturday, August 10th, through Sunday, August 11th. Because the fast is nidche the restrictions of the fast day are relaxed in certain circumstances.

The Restrictions on Tisha B’Av

There are five main restrictions on Tisha B’Av

  1. Eating and drinking
  1. Since this year Tisha B’Av is nidche, pregnant and nursing women are exempt from fasting in the event they feel weak or unwell. All other healthy individuals are required to fast
  2. It is important to note that an individual who is taking medication regularly must continue to take their medicine even on the fast day.
  1. Anointing
  1. This includes the application of non-medicinal ointments and creams.
  1. Bathing
  1. This does include showering, but does not include washing one’s hands after using the restroom
  1. Wearing leather shoes
  2. Marital relations

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to ravjared@annarborminyan.org or 248-408-3269.

May we merit to see the time when these days of mourning are turned into days of rejoicing.