HALACHOS OF THE 3 WEEKS
The three week period from Shiva Asar B’Tamuz through Tisha B’Av (beginning in a little over a week, from Sunday, July 24 - Sunday, August 14) is known as “Bein HaMitzarim”. The source for this phrase isin Megillas Eicha: “All her enemies have overtaken her Bein HaMitzarim - between the narrow passes” (1:3). The Midrash explains that “the narrow passes” referred to in this pasuk is this 3 week period of national anguish and distress. To commemorate this period, and to prepare a Jew for the intensity of mourning on Tisha B’Av, a number of customs have developed. Many of these prohibitions originally applied only to the week in which Tisha B’Av fell out. However, over the centuries Jewish communities have embraced some of these laws for the entire three week period. Please note that much of what is included is based upon the rulings of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt”l who felt that the time periods of the Three Weeks, the Nine Days, and Tisha B’Av generally correspond to the three different halachic stages of mourning for a parent which are, respectively, the Twelve Months, the Thirty Days, and the Shiva. For Ashkenazim, four prohibitions apply to the three week period (for Sefardim, only #4 is applicable):
1) Weddings– engagement celebrations without music, however, are permitted up to but not including Rosh Chodesh Av.
2) Playing Musical Instruments – this includes listening to live music played on instruments, or recorded music being listened to by a group. (During the Nine Days one should even refrain from privately listening to recordings of musical instruments.) It also includes attending entertainment events where music is a primary feature of the program. A professional musician whose source of income is from playing music is exempt.
3) Haircuts – should not be taken during this time. Other needs personal grooming needs, such as cutting nails, are permitted during this period. Cutting nails is a problem during the week in which Tisha B’Av falls out. Shaving is a source of some dispute. There are those who forbid shaving from the beginning of the three week period, except in case of great necessity (e.g. job related purposes). According to Rav Soloveitchik, one should not shavebeginning with the Nine Days, due to his comparison of the Three Weeks with the Twelve Month mourning period for a parent during which shaving is permitted when a person looks unkempt (which in our culture is every two days, or even less, without shaving as one normally would).
4) Recitation of Shehechiyanu –new clothes (that are bought very infrequently), household furnishings of major significance, or a new fruit, should preferably not be purchased, and certainly not used for the first time during the Three Weeks. This prohibition is suspended when: (1) there is a great necessity for the item; (2) its first use will be on Shabbos (when it was purchased before the Three Weeks).
These customs, as well as the prohibitions of the Nine Days and Tisha B’Av, applies equally to men and women. Some are lenient regarding a haircut for a woman in case of great need. Children from age 6 and older should also be trained to observe these prohibitions.