Laws and Customs of the Three Weeks – Part I
A. The Fast of Tammuz
a) According to the letter of the law it is permissible to wash on 17 Tammuz. However, those who are stringent do not wash the entire body with hot water, but either wash the entire body in cold water or just the face, hands and legs with hot water. However, on all accounts, no-one should wash for the pleasure of it alone.
b) It is permissible to launder on the 17th of Tammuz.
c) Children under Barmitzvah do not need to fast at all – not even a few hours – and can eat as per usual. However, they should prevent themselves from eating candies.
d) Pregnant and nursing women do not need to fast at all and can eat as per usual, however, they should prevent themselves from eating meat or poultry.
e) The fast starts at dawn (Alos Hashachar). However, those who want to eat at night before dawn in order to alleviate the difficulty associated with the fast should do as follows:
i. One should make a condition (t’nai) before going to sleep that he intends to eat or drink before dawn. Should one forgot however to make such a condition, he is permitted to drink but NOT eat. Should one not sleep at all or sleep less than what is considered a “shanas keva” (20 minutes or more), one is not required to make such a condition before eating or drinking.
ii. Since there is a prohibition to eat before praying, the law therefore is as follows:
1. Drinking coffee or tea etc. is allowed until dawn.
2. “Tasting” bread or mezonos less than a kasayis (approx. 29 grams) is permissible until dawn.
3. With regards to eating bread or mezonos more that a kazayis, if one started to eat a half-hour before dawn or more, he can continue to eat until dawn. However, from half an hour before dawn, it is prohibited to start eating bread or mezonos.
In certain calendars there are 2 times for dawn [based on the differing Halachic Opinions] and one should therefore finish his eating or drinking according to the earlier of the two times [90 minutes before sunrise]. With regards to not starting half an hour before dawn, one can however be lenient in an “emergency” (shaas hadechak) and use the later time of dawn.
f) According to the Zohar HaKadosh, if one slept and woke up before dawn, he cannot eat in all accounts. Therefore, with regards to those who follow the customs of the Kabbalists, should it be extremely difficult for them to fast without having eaten before dawn, they have on whom to rely and may eat according to the points outlined above.
B. Laws of Bein Hametzarim from 17 Tammuz to Rosh Chodesh Av
This period of mourning (Bein Hametzarim) is named after the verse in Eicha: “all of her [Tzion’s] pursuers overcame her between the straits”, which we commemorate by diminishing our joy by refraining to perform weddings, haircuts, blessings of Shehechiyanu and music. This period of time starts from sunset before 17 Tammuz. However, one who has an urgent need to have a haircut at this specific time should ask a Posek.
C. Marriages and Seudos:
Marriages – We do not perform marriages from the 17th of Tammuz until after the 9th of Av.
Engagements – It is permissible to make Shidduchim and Seudas T’naim, however without musical instruments.
Seudos Mitzvah – Barmitzvahs, Bris Milahs and the Completion of Mesechets of Talmud are permitted except without musical instruments.
Adults – Both men and women are prohibited from haircuts even in honor of Shabbos. [If the hair is long and one’s only intention of cutting is for Shabbos, there is room to be lenient].
Children – Adults are not permitted to cut the hair of children. However if there is a specific need to cut the hair of a child, there is room in which to be lenient.
“Baalei Bris” – Baalei Bris, a Mohel and Sandak, are according to the letter of the law allowed to cut their hair.
Barmizvah, Pidyon Haben, Chalaka (Upshirin) – One should ask a Posek if it is permissible to have a hair cut or not.
Specific Needs – with regards to Shidduchim, Modesty, Barriers (Chatzitzos), Healing, Mustaches which interfere with one’s eating, is it permissible to cut hair.
Brushing/Combing hair – is permissible.
E. Cutting Nails – is permissible