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The Three Weeks: Haircuts & Shaving

 

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
 
According to Ashkenazi custom, the three weeks between the seventeenth of Tammuz and Tisha B’av are observed as a period of mourning in memory of the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash.[1] The seventeenth of Tammuz was considered to be an appropriate time to begin the mourning practices as it was on that day that the daily offerings ceased to be brought in the Beit Hamikdash.[2] So too, it is also the date that the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the enemy culminating with its destruction three weeks later.[3] This three week period is referred to as “Bein Hametzarim” meaning, “Between the Troubles”.
 
Although there are a number of mourning-like restrictions which are observed during this period, among the more noticeable of them is the prohibition to cut one’s hair. For men, this usually includes shaving, as well. Sefardic practice is only to prohibit haircutting during the week in which Tisha B’av falls.[4] Sefardim who find themselves living among Ashkenazim who don’t shave are not required to conform and may continue to shave as normal.[5] A number of Ashkenazi authorities allow one to shave in honor of Shabbat during the three weeks.[6]
 
There are a number of exceptions to the prohibition on shaving during the three weeks. For example, one is permitted to trim one’s moustache if it interferes with eating.[7] Similarly, one whose beard causes him extreme discomfort may be permitted to shave, as well.[8] One who completes the period of mourning for a parent during the three weeks is permitted to take a hair cut.[9] So too, one who is making a brit during the three weeks is permitted to take a haircut in honor of the occasion. This includes the father of the baby, the mohel, and the sandak.[10] It is best that parents refrain from giving their children haircuts during the three weeks as well,[11] especially during the week in which Tisha B’av falls.[12] Most authorities permit one to trim one’s nails without reservation.[13]
 
One who is concerned that an untidy and unattractive appearance from not shaving will compromise the stability of one’s employment is permitted to shave. Nevertheless, one is expected to endure the minor social discomfort that comes with an unkempt appearance.[14] Although the prohibition on haircutting applies equally to women, they are permitted to shave as normal. This is because the purpose of the restrictions are to convey a feeling of mourning, not one of repugnance.[15] As such, one can and should maintain a dignified appearance including brushing one’s hair, teeth, and wearing proper clothing during this time.[16]


[1] Rema, OC 551:2.
[2] Rambam, Hilchot Taanit 5:2.
[3] Taanit 28b.
[4] OC 551:3.
[5] Yechaveh Daat 4:36.
[6] She’arim Metzuyanim B’halacha 122:5; Biur Halacha 551:3; Kaf Hachaim, OC 551:66; Nefesh Harav pg. 191; Chatam Sofer, YD 348.
[7] OC 551:13.
[8] She’arim Hametzuyanim B’halacha 122:5.
[9] Be’er Heitev, OC 551:18; Mishna Berura 551:87.
[10] Chatam Sofer, OC 158.
[11] Shaar Hatziun 551:91; Elya Rabba 551:28.
[12] OC 551:14.
[13] Magen Avraham 551:11; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 122:5.
[14] Igrot Moshe, OC 4:102; CM 1:93.
[15] Piskei Teshuvot 551:43, Rivevot Ephraim 5:376:2.
[16] Mishna Berura 551:20.

 
 
The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.
 

25 Responses

  1. joel rich says:

    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/735559

    A. The basic halacha. The Rama (551) writes that one may not take a
    haircut from Shiva Assar b’Tamuz until chatzos on the tenth day of Av. This is an
    Ashkenazic practice. Sefardic practice is to follow the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch not to take haircuts only during the week of Tisha b’Av,. Before discussing
    the details of this halacha, it is important to note that Rav Soloveitchik
    developed an idea that leads us to drastically different conclusions than many
    of the other poskim. Rav Soloveitchik believed that the period of the three
    weeks mirrors the period of twelve months of mourning one observes after the
    death of a parent, and our practice is to shave regularly (after initially allowing
    a few days of growth), one may do the same during the three weeks

    KT

  2. Rav Gav says:

    Interestingly, I saw that Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l allows single girls to have a hair-cut for the purposes of shidduchim up to Shavua Shechal Bo. (Halichot Beita, Siman 25, Haarah 70)

  3. HaDarda"i says:

    R. Aharon Lichtenstein permits shaving for Shabbat during the 3 weeks.

  4. Ari Enkin says:

    Hadardai-

    That’s the ruling of Rabbi Akiva Eiger.

    Ari Enkin

  5. IH says:

    Sefardim who find themselves living among Ashkenazim

    What does this phrase mean in the 21st century?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Note 6 makes it sound like all those authorities conclude that one can shave in honor of Shabbos during the 3 weeks. Assuming they all don’t actually conclude that way, it would be a much better idea, I would think, to write “see Biur Halacha…” etc….just to make it clear since it appears misleading now.

  7. avi says:

    “One who is concerned that an untidy and unattractive appearance from not shaving will compromise the stability of one’s employment is permitted to shave. ”

    For those who don’t allow one to shave for the honor of shabbat. Why do they allow one to save for a fear of employment? Shouldn’t Kavod Shabbat and Oneg Shabbat be more important than fear of what might happen regarding your employment?

  8. Ari Enkin says:

    Avi-

    Apparently not. “chas hakadosh baruch hu al mammon yisrael”. Halacha takes the need to make a living very seriously.

  9. alon shevut says:

    R. Lichtenstein does not shave for shabbat during the three weeks, as he does during the Omer. He believes one should be extra stringent for the aveilus over the churban.

  10. Aryeh says:

    For Sephardim that don’t shave/haircut during shavua shechal bo, they arguably don’t have any restriction with the the motzei Shabbos scenario this year.

  11. Hesh says:

    Unless you hold that, since Tisha B’av is actually on Shabbat, the entire prior week is shavua shechal bo. I thought there was a machloket about this.

  12. avi says:

    So that means I can work on Shabbat if I’m concerned I might lose my job?

  13. avi says:

    So that means I can work on Shabbat if I’m concerned I might lose my job? Of course not! Halacha takes kavod shabbat very seriously too.

  14. Ari Enkin says:

    Shabbat is d’oraita. Not shaving is a minhag. Big difference.

  15. Sass says:

    “That’s the ruling of Rabbi Akiva Eiger.

    Ari Enkin”

    Do you have the mareh makom on that?

  16. avi says:

    Exactly, so why is one allowed to show dishonor to scabbard over a minhag?

  17. Ari Enkin says:

    See Biur Halacha 551:3.

  18. avi says:

    my previous comment should read:

    Exactly, so why is one allowed to show dishonor to shabbat over a minhag? (darn phones)

    Before I look up the Biur Halacha, did he consider a beard to be a bad thing or a good thing?

  19. Shlomo says:

    It could be worse. I know someone whose message “I’m going to shacharit” was changed to “I’m going to eucharist”.

  20. Baruch says:

    I think the Three Weeks is a time to wonder what we are mourning and how we expect the problem to be solved — do we think the Beis Hamikdash will just miraculously come down from heavan one day or do we believe that building the Third Commonwealth is our job? If the latter, we ought to start acting rather than mourning.

  21. Josh says:

    “Nevertheless, one is expected to endure the minor social discomfort that comes with an unkempt appearance. . . . [T]he purpose of the restrictions are to convey a feeling of mourning, not one of repugnance.”

    Nowadays, an unkempt appearance–in the form of being unshaven–may go beyond “minor social discomfort” and produce just such a feeling of repugnance. What then?

  22. Ariel says:

    avi: So that means I can work on Shabbat if I’m concerned I might lose my job? Of course not! Halacha takes kavod shabbat very seriously too.

    Just because the force of needing parnasa is enough to beat a minhag where a hidur midivrei sofrim is not, does NOT mean that it is strong enough to override a deoraita lav with karet.

    (And why do you say that we avoid melacha because of kavod shabbat? They are too separate things, otherwise you would let me cook on shabbat lekavod shabbat, right?)

  23. Stan says:

    May one shave or trim one’s beard before Shabbat? The Rema (551:3) writes that one may wear laundered clothes for Shabbat during the Nine Days, and implies that one may wash them as well. The Magen Avraham (14) cites the Darchei Moshe (R. Moshe Isserlis’s commentary to the Tur), who records that the custom is to refrain from laundering even for the Shabbat. He adds, however, that if one doesn’t have another shirt, one may wash one’s shirt for Shabbat. Finally, he concludes that apparently we do not permit haircuts before Shabbat, as people are not generally accustomed to taking a haircut every week, as they are to laundering (and bathing!).

    The Chatam Sofer (Yoreh De’ah 348) suggests that this rationale would imply that one who shaves daily should certainly be able to shave for Shabbat. Furthermore, the Biur Halakha questions whether one should distinguish between laundering and cutting one’s hair, and cites the comments of R. Akiva Eiger, who notes that according to Tosafot (Ta’anit 29) one may even take a haircut for Shabbat during the Nine Days. Based upon the above, some posekim permit shaving before Shabbat during the Three Weeks.

    http://vbm-torah.org/archive/moadim69/22-69moed.htm

  24. Srully Epstein says:

    Rabbi Enkin,

    Regarding shaving, I’m surprised you haven’t differentiated between the Three Weeks and Shavua Shechal Bo Tisha B’Av. The teshuvah you cite from Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, clearly states that even for reasons of income, one may not shave during the week of Tisha B’Av.

 
 

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