Rabbi Mijael Even David
The three weeks, “Bein Hametzarim” (17th Tammuz to 9th of Av, 11th of July to 1st of August)
“Bein Hametzarim” is the period of three weeks between the fasts of 17th of Tammuz and 9th of Av, a period of national mourning about the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, together with many other calamities that happened to our people during these days.
This year the fast of 17th of Tammuz is on Tuesday 11th of July. It is a fast of half day, from sunrise to sunset (1:39am to 9:50pm) and begins the period of the three weeks.
There are a few restrictions and customs related to mourning during this period:
· It is forbidden to celebrate a wedding (it is permitted to get engaged though)
· We do not listen to happy music
· We avoid events that include music and dances
· We avoid hikes or especially enjoyable activities
· We do not get a haircut and do not shave
Says in the Talmud that “one who enters Av reduces happiness” and therefore starting with Rosh Hodesh Av we add more mourning customs. Rosh Hodesh Av this year is on Monday 24th of July. We add the following customs:
· We avoid purchasing things that will make us especially happy
· We do not renovate our houses and we do not plant trees or flowers
· We do not eat meat and we do not drink wine, as these are considered symbols of happiness and reminders of the service in the Temple. In Shabbat they are permitted in honour of the Shabbat.
· If there is child we give him the wine of Havdalah because by then it is not Shabbat anymore and adults are forbidden to drink wine. If there is no child we are allowed to drink it ourselves.
· There are people that avoid washing clothes and wearing fresh clean garments. Again, this is not valid in Shabbat. If a piece of clothing was used even for a
second is not considered “fresh clean” and we are allowed to wear it. Children clothes are allowed to be washed as usual.
· We do not shower or take baths for pleasure. We are allowed to do it for hygiene, but it is preferable to use water at a temperature lower than we usually like. A warm and pleasant shower is permitted as part of our preparations for Shabbat.
Tisha B’Av eve (Monday 9th of Av, 31st of July)
Towards the evening we start to prepare for the fast:
· Seudah Mafseket, the last meal before the fast. This meal is made in semi-mourning and can’t include meat and wine. We avoid to bench in groups larger than two in order not to have a joint Birkat Hamazon. We must finish the meal by 8:49pm, the start time of the fast.
· We take off our leather shoes and we go to Shul for the Maariv service and the reading of the Eicha scroll. In EMS we will start Maariv at 9:00pm.
The following are the restrictions and customs of Tisha B’Av:
· We are not allowed to eat or drink.
· We are not allowed to shower or wash, besides something specific like cleaning our eyes in the morning.
· We are not allowed to use creams or oils for our body (deodorant is fine).
· We are not allowed to have sexual intercourse.
· We are not allowed to wear leather shoes.
· We are not allowed to study Torah, besides laws of mourning or related to the destruction of the Temple.
· We do not sit on chairs, but on the floor or low chairs (after noon time this prohibition is rescinded).
· We are not supposed to work, except in cases where this could cause a big monetary loss.
· We do not greet each other or bless people.
· We avoid vain conversations or fun activities.
Tisha B’Av during the day (Tuesday 1st of August)
During Shacharit service we do not use Tallit and Tefillin. In EMS we will have Shacharit service at 7:30am, including reading of the Torah, Haftorah and Kinot (special poetry of Tisha B’Av).
During the day we continue to keep the same regulations, but we start relaxing them after noon time.
During Mincha services we use Tallit and Tefillin, we read Torah and we say a special blessing for Jerusalem. In EMS we will have Mincha services at 7pm, followed by a film and Maariv. We will then break the fast together. The fast finishes at 9:29pm.
Some of the restrictions, as avoiding wine and meat, haircuts, washing of clothes and listening to music will continue to be in force till noon time of Wednesday, because according to tradition the Temple continued burning until then.