Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik
by R. Aharon Ziegler
Sefirah, we know, is a semi-mourning period between Pesach and Shavuot. These sad days, which vary according to custom, entail various mourning observances such as refraining from haircutting, marrying and listening to live music.
The Magen Avraham (493:1) rules that we may not sing and dance during the mourning period of Sefirah. This restriction evidently falls into the mourning practice of refraining from “simchat me–rei’ut”, as per Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah 391:2. which would include any event of joyous friendship, qualitatively speaking. Rav Aharon Soloveitchik, the younger brother of the Rav argued, that going to a sports game, is more enjoyable when the crowd is bigger. Therefore, it is a group activity where the friends add to the joy, and therefore, going to a ball game would be prohibited. However, watching a ball game in the privacy of one’s home is not regarded as a simchat me-rei’im, and therefore, not restricted.
Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, the brother of Rav Aharon, disagreed and was more stringent. He felt that all entertainment is forbidden-for a mourner, during the Three Weeks and during the restricted period of Sefirah. He even disagreed with Rav Moshe Feinstein who permitted weddings to take place on the evening of Shiva Asar Be-Tammuz, the first night of the Three Weeks, since the fast does not begin until dawn. The Rav argued that although one may begin the fast in the morning, however, the aveilut aspect of the Three Weeks mourning begins even the night before.