Rav Moshe Twersky Hy”d on Inyanei Tisha B’Av

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By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman

Shavua Sheh’chal Bo When Tisha B’Av Falls on Shabbos

The Tur (Orach Chaim 551) brings varying opinions regarding the status of the week preceding Tisha B’Av when it falls on Shabbos. Although the minhag of Ashkenazim is to refrain from laundering (or wearing freshly laundered clothers) beginning from Rosh Chodesh Av, and from haircuts beginning from Shiva Asar b’Tamuz, this was adopted as a custom in addition to the basic enactment that Chazal mandated. Chazal’s enactment is only on the actual week of Tisha B’Av – this is called shavua sheh’chal bo. Regarding the halacha of that basic enactment, there is a difference of opinion when Tisha B’Av falls out on Shabbos. The first opinion that the Tur brings is that when Tisha B’Av falls out on Shabbos, there is no shavua sheh’chal bo. Since, reasons this opinion, the fast is postponed to Sunday, you cannot call the preceding week, the week in which Tisha B’Av falls. And insofar as the following week is concerned (from Monday and on), that’s already after the fast which definitely does not have any restrictions of laundering or haircutting. However, continues the Tur, the Sefer Ha’Mitzvos says that the accepted practice when Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbos is to indeed treat the preceding week as shavua sheh’chal bo and to refrain from laundering and haircuts. The straightforward understanding of the first opinion, which is based on the words of the Ran and the Rosh, is that they do not accept this statement of the Sefer Ha’Mitzvos. They hold that when Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbos, there is no shavua sheh’chal bo; period.

Let’s try to understand what may be the underlying reasoning for this. The prohibition of not laundering or taking haircuts on the week of Tisha B’Av is an expression of aveilus, mourning. The question we can ask, though, is how do we classify this aveilus requirement: is it an independent, self-contained requirement of aveilus over the destruction of the Beis Ha’Mikdash – distinct from the aveilus of the actual day of Tisha B’Av – or is it merely an extension, adjunct, and lead-up to the full-fledged aveilus of Tisha B’Av? It would seem that the Ran and the Rosh understood the enactment of shavua sheh’chal bo according to the latter proposition. Namely, that the prohibitions of shavua sheh’chal bo are not an independent unit of aveilus, rather they are just an extension of the aveilus of Tisha B’Av itself. Obviously, it is the week-unit that connects the days preceding Tisha B’Av to Tisha B’Av, and that is why those days of the same week can be infused with an extension of Tisha B’Av’s aveilus. However, if Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbos – which of course cannot have any aveilus (at least open displays of aveilus) – and is pushed off to the following Sunday, then there is nothing to connect the days of the preceding week to Tisha B’Av, and the aveilus therefore cannot be extended to them. The Sefer Ha’Mitzvos, on the other hand, seems to hold like the other approach – that shavua sheh’chal bo is not an extension of Tisha B’Av’s aveilus; rather, it is its own, independent unit of aveilus. And its only connection to Tisha B’Av is in terms of determining which week is deemed shavua sheh’chal bo. Accordingly, the fact that there is no aveilus on the ninth day of Av when it falls on Shabbos is immaterial. The week preceding it is still the week preceding it, and it is that week which is assigned the status of shavua sheh’chal bo.


Heter of a Baal Bris to Eat When Tisha B’Av Falls on Shabbos

When Tisha B’Av falls out on Shabbos and the fast is nidcheh, postponed until Sunday – and there is a bris on that day – the parents of the baby, the mohel, and the sandak are all allowed to eat as they are all designated as “baalei ha’bris”(Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 559:9, and Mishnah Brurah 36). We see from this that when the fast is nidcheh, it is not as stringent. However, it is important to understand the precise parameters of this leniency. The Tur quotes the source for this halachah: such a thing actually happened once with Rabbeinu Yaavetz, and he ate after Minchah. As the source for what he did, he pointed to the Gemara in Eiruvin 41a that says the following. “Said Rabi Elazar bar Tzadok, I am from the descendants of Sanah ben Binyamin. One time, Tisha B’Av fell out on Shabbos and the fast was postponed until Sunday. We started off fasting, but we did not complete the fast, because that day was our Yomtov.” In the time of the Beis Ha’Mikdash, various families would donate wood for usage therein on a rotation basis. The day for the family of Sanah ben Binyamin was the tenth of Av, and it was thus their Yomtov. What we see from this statement of Rabbeinu Yaavetz is that a personal Yomtov – such as the day of bringing the korban eitzim or the baalei bris when there is a bris milah – has the power to override a postponed Tisha B’Av fast. In the later Poskim, we find leniencies for ill people, nursing mothers, and the like when Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbos and the fast is postponed to Sunday, but in the Rishonim we do not find any mention for that type of leniency as it is of a totally different category. The only thing we find is, as we said, this concept that a personal Yomtov overrides a postponed fast of Tisha B’Av, but not more than that.


Motzaei Tisha B’Av

The Tur and Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 558) bring down that, because the majority of the Beis Ha’Mikdash burned on the tenth of Av, it is appropriate to refrain from eating meat and drinking wine the day after Tisha B’Av. The Rama says that the minhag of Ashkenazim is to refrain until midday, but no longer. Although the Mishnah Brurah cites the Achronim who followed in the footsteps of the Maharshal to forbid bathing and haircuts as well, in the Biur Halachah he quotes other Poskim who point out that the Tur, Shulchan Aruch, and Rama did not make any mention of such a thing clearly indicates that they held that the only thing we refrain from on the tenth of Av is meat and wine, but bathing and haircuts are totally permissible. Of course, the question is why the differentiation? My grandfather, Rav Yosef Dov Ha’Levi Soloveitchik zt”l explained that the prohibition of eating meat and drinking wine following Tisha B’Av is akin to the halachah of an onein, someone whose close relative just died. An onein is forbidden from partaking of the meat of korbanos, and this prohibition includes the night following the burial. Only consumption of meat and wine can be likened to this, whereas bathing and haircuts has no association with this whatsoever.


Taanis vs Aveilus

The Ramban holds that the prohibitions of bathing and anointing begin immediately following the seudah ha’mafsekes despite the fact that it is still permissible to drink and eat (this shitah of the Ramban is not brought l’halachah in the Shulchan Aruch or Mishnah Brurah). Why is that? The answer is that the prohibitions of Tisha B’Av break up into two main categories: aveilus and taanis. A fast-day is always a specific, calendar day. As such, there wouldn’t be any reason for the prohibitions of eating and drinking to begin before that day actually commences. However, insofar as the aveilus component of the day is concerned, that can begin even before the actual day starts, like the Rambam says that already from the seudah ha’mafsekes we are in a state of “when the deceased is lying before him”. Another difference between aveilus and taanis is the prohibition of washing only the hands, face, and feet as well as washing with only cold water. That’s only a function of the fast-day status, because aveilus does not forbid those things.

Now, in general, the Rambam and Ramban have a difference of opinion regarding when the aveilus status commences for one who has lost a close relative. The Ramban holds that the aveilus status begins immediately, whereas the Rambam holds that it only begins following the burial. The Ramban holds that it is the relative’s death that is the obligating catalyst of aveilus, whereas the Rambam holds that it is the burial that is the obligating catalyst of aveilus.

With this in mind, we can better understand the Ramban’s statement that immediately following the seudah ha’mafsekes one may not bathe or anoint. During the seudah ha’mafsekes, we already feel the destruction of the Beis Ha’Mikdash, it is akin to one whose deceased relative has just died and is lying before him. And that, according to the Ramban, is what marks the beginning point for aveilus. Hence, immediately following the seudah ha’mafsekes, the aveilus prohibitions of bathing and anointing come into effect. However, there is a kashya on this understanding of the Ramban; and that is that if it is true that the Ramban holds that the aveilus status begins immediately following the seudah ha’mafsekes, then it should also be prohibited to learn Torah (because that prohibition is also a function of aveilus), but the Ramban makes no mention of that?! Furthermore, he explains the commencement of the bathing and anointing prohibitions in such a way that implies that learning Torah is still permissible. He says that the reason why one may not bathe or anoint beginning immediately following the seudah ha’mafsekes is that the pleasure and benefit will carry on into Tisha B’Av.



“Always be in the middle of a project – a person should never have to ask himself, “What do I do now?”



It was very rare for me to see my father cry. I can only recall three times. One was at the levayah of my father’s rebbi, Rav Elya Weintraub zt”l. When someone read Rav Elya’s tzavaah, there was a line that apparently very much moved my father, and he began to heave with sobbing. Another time he cried – very intensely – was when he once had to be rushed to the hospital on Shabbos/Erev Pesach. The fact that he was forced to break Shabbos was so heartrending to him that he just broke out into bitter tears. And the third time that I saw my father crying was on Tisha B’Av. The tears were cascading down his face, and it made a powerful impression on me.

(Reb Avrohom Twersky)

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