Mourners at the Western Wall, Jerusalem, on Tisha b'Av. (Hillel Maier/TPS) (Hillel Maier/TPS)
mourners at Western Wall, Jerusalem, tisha b'av

When the month of Av begins, so do the Nine Days, and mourning restrictions go up a notch.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

We now find ourselves during a period that is known as “The Three Weeks.” These three weeks began with the fast of “the 17th of Tammuz,” on which we commemorate five different tragedies. The mourning culminates on Tisha B’Av, the Ninth of Av (the day the First and Second Temples were destroyed).

While certain mourning customs begin on the 17th of Tammuz, others begin on the first day of the month of Av and continue through Tisha B’Av. The Three Weeks are often referred to as “Bein Hametzarim” which can be translated as “The period of troubles.” The period of time between the beginning of Av and Tisha B’Av is more simply known as “The Nine Days.”

The reason for all these restrictions is because they are all activities and experiences that bring a person happiness, and we are to curb our happiness during this time. Sephardi Jews have varying customs.

An Inauspicious Time

The Three Weeks are considered to be an especially inauspicious time. This is not only true right back from the biblical and Talmudic era, but even in modern times too. For example, the Jewish expulsions from England, France, and Spain took place during this time. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne — which sparked World War I, and by extension, was the seed of World War II and the Holocaust — took place on Tisha B’Av itself.

One of the more well-known restrictions of the Three Weeks is to avoid dangerous situations.

This is especially true during the last Nine Days, when even the biggest skeptics are known to exercise caution.

Don’t get into any physical altercations during the Three Weeks, even as simple as slapping a child in an act of discipline. It is also recommended not to have surgery done during this time unless truly necessary. At the very least, try not to have surgery during the Nine Days.

One should also not listen to music during the Three Weeks, though music needed for comfort or exercise is permitted. We do not buy new clothes during this time unless there is a major sale, or one will otherwise be unable to get the garment after the Three Weeks are over. Haircuts are not taken, and men should refrain from shaving where possible. Weddings are not held during this time, either.

The Nine Days

When the month of Av begins, so do the Nine Days, and mourning restrictions go up a notch.

For example, laundry is not done. Urgent laundry, such as baby clothes or underwear for adults which is changed daily, may be laundered as needed. But dry cleaners in religious neighborhoods are shuttered.

Meat, poultry, and wine are not consumed during the Nine Days in order to remember the destruction of the Temple. Besides being a sign of mourning, this also recalls the cessation of animal sacrifices and their accompanying wine libations.

One should also not go swimming for pleasure during this time.

On Shabbat, there are little or no restrictions, and hence, meat and wine are consumed as regular on the Shabbat during the Nine Days. Meat and wine may also be served at a brit that takes place during this time.

According to Kabbalah and folklore, there is a bad spirit that is active during this time known as “Ketev Meriri.” This is especially true from late morning until midafternoon. As such, extra “caution” is required when walking outdoors during this time. For example, it is recommended that one not walk around alone during this time.

Thankfully, most authorities rule that the “Ketev Meriri” fears and precautions only apply outside of a city, but not inside a city where many people are found.

Some of the restrictions continue into the 10th day of Av until midday because the Temple continued smoldering. However, this year the day of fasting is postponed due to the 9th of Av falling on Shabbat. Therefore, all restrictions are lifted when the fast ends on Sunday night.



Farmers near the Gaza border lost family, friends and workers. Spring is here, and they desperately need help to replant the farms. Join us in blessing the People and Land of Israel.

“I will ordain My blessing for you…” (Leviticus 25:4)