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Laws of the Fast of Tamuz and the "Three Weeks"

Submitted by rabbikurzer on 8 July 2020 - 4:24pm

Thursday 9th July 2020 is the Fast of Tamuz:

  • The fast begins at dawn (1:12am) and continues until the end of the day (10:14pm).
  • Medications prescribed by a doctor may be taken on this fast day.  If one has difficulty swallowing pills without water, s/he may drink a small amount of water required to swallow the medicine.
  • If a healthy person accidentally ate some food, the fast should be resumed and completed.

The Fast of Tamuz also begins a period known as the ‘Three Weeks’.  It is a time that we reflect on many communal tragedies throughout our history, most notably, the destruction of the First and Second Temple.  Restrictions include:

  • Taking haircuts.
  • Weddings and other large parties, with the exception of Mitzvah celebrations (e.g. Brit, Pidyon HaBen, Sheva Brachot, etc).
  • Listening to music or dancing.  If music is necessary to lift one’s spirits rather than for entertainment alone, in many cases it is permitted.
  • New clothing and fruit (which would necessitate the blessing of “Shehechiyanu”) should not be purchased, worn or eaten.

From Rosh Chodesh Av (22nd July 2020), the mourning intensifies for the ‘Nine Days’ and further restrictions include:

  • Shaving (for men).  If one is unable to avoid shaving for the full nine-days (e.g. for work), one should try not to shave during the week in which Tisha B’Av falls, and particularly not on Tisha B’Av itself.
  • Freshly dry-cleaned or laundered clothing should be avoided on weekdays.  This applies to outer clothing such as shirts, suits, etc. as opposed to undergarments.  Clothes should not be cleaned or laundered during the Nine Days unless there is no other option (e.g. for young children or if one runs out).
  • New clothing may not be purchased or worn (even those which do not require the blessing of “Shehechiyanu”).  If necessary, non-leather shoes for Tisha B’Av may be purchased.
  • Meat and wine/grape juice may not be eaten/drunk, except on Shabbat (even if you start Shabbat early) or at a Mitzvah celebration (e.g. Brit, Pidyon HaBen, etc.).
  • Havdallah after Shabbat should be made on wine or grape juice as usual.  If possible a child should drink the grape juice but if not, one can drink it oneself.
  • Swimming and bathing for pleasure is restricted.  However, it is permitted to wash for cleanliness although one should ideally do so in colder water than usual.  Washing in warm water is permitted on Friday in honour of Shabbat.
  • Unnecessary, long trips should be avoided during the nine days, though travel for education or business is permitted.

The Three Weeks culminates in Tisha B'Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar.