by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com

All fasts other than Yom Kippur and Tishah B’Av begin at alos hashachar (dawn).  If one had in mind that one was going to rise before dawn to eat, one may do so. However, dawn is generally very early in the summer months so sometimes this is not so practical.

In regard to rising before dawn, there is a difference between men and women in regard to eating mezonos foods. Men may only eat more than a k’bayah of mezonos if they began more than 30 minutes before dawn. Otherwise, they may only eat less than a k’bayah (2.2 fluid ounces of the food) (MB 89:27). Women have no such restriction, according to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l (Note in Ishei Yisrael 13:71).

WHO SHOULD FAST?

All healthy adults should fast, including women (SA OC 550:1). A girl who is 12 years or older must fast, as must a boy who is 13 years of age or older. The minhag of some women to avoid fasting during the three fasts is incorrect and should be discontinued, as it is against Shulchan Aruch.

The Mishnah Berurah (550:5) rules that children who have reached the age of chinuch for mourning should only eat simple foods so that they can participate in the mourning. A sick person should not fast (MB 550:4, 5) even if he is not a choleh sh’yesh bo sakanah. In other words, as long as he or she is noticeably sick, there is no need to fast. Nonetheless, that person should not engage in extravagant eating but should only eat moderately.

A pregnant or nursing woman does not have to fast (OC SA 554:5) on the three fasts; only on the fourth, Tishah B’Av. Although the Rema writes that it is the custom for a pregnant woman who has no difficulties fasting to fast, it seems from the statistical data available in Israel that they, too, should opt for the leniency of the Shulchan Aruch and not fast.

If one accidentally ate or drank on the fast day, one must continue to fast for the rest of the day (SA OC 568:1). If one made a berachah on something and remembered after the berachah was recited that it is a fast day, that person should taste a little bit so that he will not have made a berachah l’vatalah.

SHOWERING

Showering is permitted on the three fast days because Klal Yisrael did not accept it upon themselves to avoid this. The Mishnah Berurah (550:6), however, writes that a baal nefesh should be stringent and avoid showering in hot water during a fast day. Thus, showering in non-hot water would be completely permitted. It is also completely permitted to wash one’s face, hands and feet in hot water.

ADDITIONS IN TEFILLAH

In Shacharis one recites Avinu Malkeinu and the Selichos for that fast day. In Minchah, one adds the special “Aneinutefillah and Avinu Malkeinu again. If Aneinu was not inserted, the Shemoneh Esreh is not repeated. If someone is not fasting, the Aneinu is not recited.

If someone is not davening with a minyan, the 13 Attributes of Selichos (“Hashem Hashem”) are not said (see MB 565:13).

During the last blessing of the Minchah Shemoneh Esreh the Sim Shalom paragraph is recited instead of the Shalom Rav paragraph. 

FROM THE 17th ONWARD

HAIRCUTS

During the entire three weeks haircuts are forbidden for Ashkenazim (Rema 551:4). This includes both men and women. If a child is under the age of seven and has very long hair that causes the child discomfort, an adult may cut his or her hair (MB 551:82). It is the custom to delay an upsherin until after the 10th of Av. If a married woman has side hairs that cannot be covered easily, she may cut them (MB 551:79).

Plucking eyebrows is permitted during the three weeks according to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, as this is not considered a haircut. According to Rav Elyashiv, if there is a bris, the parents, sandek and mohel may take a haircut even during the week of Tishah B’Av (Halichos v’Hanhagos, p. 4).

Regarding shaving legs during the Three Weeks, the Poskim write of a heter only for married women so that they not appear unseemly in front of their husbands. Rav Feinstein, zt”l, extended this leniency to girls who are dating — in other words, post-seminary girls. There does not seem to be a leniency for girls younger than this.

However, there is the view of the Chasam Sofer’s reading of the Magen Avraham (OC 551), who writes regarding men shaving that if they do so at least twice per week in general, they would be allowed to do so on Fridays lichvod Shabbos. The reason is that the mourning is still recognizable. Although the view of the Chasam Sofer is only followed in some communities, if a young woman feels unable to follow the general halachic view, she should speak to her family Posek, who may advise to adopt the view of the Chasam Sofer.

MUSIC

It is the custom in Israel that neither live nor recorded music be heard during the three weeks (Igros Moshe OC I #166, IV #21, and YD II #137). Most of the leading Poskim forbid a capella music as well, since they view the MP3 player or CD player itself as a musical instrument. A capella is music that is made up only of people singing with no instrumental music. If someone wishes to be lenient, it is best not to make an issue of it.

Listening to music to work out is permitted, but one should try to avoid enjoying the music.

CUTTING NAILS

Cutting one’s nails is permitted until the week of Tishah B’Av. For the purposes of honoring Shabbos, it is permitted on Friday before Shabbos (MB 551:20)

SHEHECHEYANU

It is the custom not to recite the berachah of Shehecheyanu during the Three Weeks (see SA OC 551:17). There is a debate as to the exact reason for this. The debate is between the Magen Avraham and the Maamar Mordechai.

The words of the berachah express thanks to Hashem for having allowed us to reach this “special” time. The Magen Avraham (551:42) explains that the idea of not reciting a Shehecheyanu is because of the wording, and not because of the idea of mourning. He writes, “However, the reason is not on account of mourning, for we do not find that a mourner is forbidden to recite a Shehecheyanu.”

The Maamar Mordechai (551:12) rules that the reason the blessing is not recited is, in fact, on account of our mourning and pain. Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, discusses the purchase of cars during the Three Weeks in his Igros Moshe (OC III #80) and rules in accordance with the Magen Avraham.

The custom is not to buy new clothing during the Three Weeks. Undergarments and shoes are not a problem because they do not generate much excitement. If necessary, however, one can recite a Shehecheyanu on Shabbos — even though this is a debate. The Arizal was stringent.

Weddings are also forbidden during this time (SA OC 551:2). However, one may get engaged because of the principle of “perhaps another will precede the person.”

*Some report that the position of Moreinu Rav Elyashiv, zt”l, is that tapes that were recorded without musical accompaniment are permitted during the Three Weeks and Sefirah and that the theory that the tape recorder is a musical instrument in and of itself is erroneous. This is not merely an unsubstantiated oral ruling, as the provenance of the ruling is rather clear. It is printed in the sefer of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach’s grandson, Rav Tuvya Freund, shlita , under the title “Shalmei Moed” on p. 453, footnote 40. The sefer has haskamos from Rav Azriel Auerbach, shlita, Rav Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg, Rav Yehoshua Neuwirth (of Shemiras Shabbos KeHilchasah) with a michtav berachah from Rav Shmuel Auerbach. This position was also that of Moreinu HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l.

Thus, according to this, both Rav Shlomo Zalman and Rav Elyashiv, zt”l, hold that tapes with music are forbidden, while tapes of singing without music are permitted both during Sefirah and during the Three Weeks.

However — and this is a big however—according to Rav Dovid Morgenstern (as told to this author by Rav Morgenstern), it seems that this question was posed to Rav Elyashiv on Sefirah (5765) by a grandson of Rav Elyashiv. Rav Elyashiv repeated his explanation and answer (in Rav Morgenstern’s presence) five times. He said that it was clearly forbidden because the tape recorder is considered to be a musical instrument. Clearly, we have a contradiction between Rav Freund and Rav Morgenstern as to Rav Elyashiv’s position.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

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