sittingatkotelThe following brief guide relates to customs of Sephardic Jews. Jews of Ashkenazic background have significantly different practices for this three week period. Anyone with questions should feel free to write me at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

We have just begun the period of בין המצרים, initiated this past Sunday with the fast of the seventeenth of Tamuz.

From the start of the three weeks until after Tisha Be'av , the night of July 29, we avoid eating new fruits or purchasing the type of clothing on which we would be obliged to recite the beracha of שהחיינו – "Shehehiyanu".  The reason for this custom is that the full text of the beracha thanks G-d for sustaining us and bringing us to "this time." Since the three week period preceding Tisha Be'av is an unfortunate time for our people, the text of the blessing is inappropriate to recite. 

The laws of the three weeks intensify as we move towards the month of Av. This year, Rosh Hodesh Av falls out on Thursday night July 19th, and Friday, July 20th.  

Although the letter of the law only prohibits the consumption of meat and wine (grape juice included!) during the Seudah Hamafseket – the last meal prior to Tisha Be'av – a widespread post-Talmudic custom developed not to consume these products earlier in the three-week period.  For Sephardim, there are two main customs regarding the consumption of meat and wine:

a) One view is that the custom only applies during the week of Tisha Be'av. This year, Tisha Be'av falls on Sunday, and so practically, there would be no prohibition of eating meat or drinking wine this year prior to Tisha Be'av. 

b) Another view is to refrain from these products following Rosh Hodesh Av. Upon further reflection, I am recommending following this latter custom. One who needs to consume meat   for health reasons should rely on the lenient view mentioned in section (a)

How does custom (b) play itself out practically this year?

  • Rosh Hodesh Av is Friday, July 20th, and one may have wine and meat on that day
  • In honor of Shabbat, there is no public mourning, and we consume meat and wine, including Seudah on Shabbat afternoon, if we wish. We say Hagefen on the Havdala wine and drink it.

Therefore, this restriction begins Saturday night, July 21st, and continues until the next Friday nightShabbat Hazon, July 28th, when once again we may eat meat and drink wine in honor of Shabbat.

So the schedule looks like this:

Friday, July 20th

Permitted to eat meat and drink wine

Friday night and all of Shabbat, July 21st

Permitted to eat meat and drink wine

Saturday night, July 21st until Friday afternoon, July 27th

Custom not to eat meat and drink wine. One may consume the wine of Havdala

Saturday night July 28 until Sunday night, July 29th

Tisha Be'av – Fast Day

Sunday night, July 29th

Permitted to eat meat and drink wine

 

As we mentioned earlier, this year, Tisha Be'av is pushed off until Saturday night, July 28th-Sunday 29th;  there is no formal "week of Tisha Be'av" in which restrictions regarding shaving, laundering, washing in warm water, swimming, etc apply. We will reserve our discussion on those halachot for next year!