Halacha for Tuesday 20 Tammuz 5778 July 3 2018

The Laws of Taking Haircuts During the “Three Weeks"

The Customary Prohibition of Haircuts
As a result of the mourning observed during the “Three Weeks,” the Ashkenazi custom is to abstain from shaving and taking haircuts beginning from the Seventeenth of Tammuz until the Tenth of Av.

The Sephardic Custom
Nevertheless, the Sephardic custom is not as stringent and follows the letter of the law established by a Tannaic enactment (following the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash) which is to prohibit taking haircuts and laundering clothing during the week during which Tisha Be’av falls out. The Rambam and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch rule likewise. The week during which Tisha Be’av falls out refers to the very week the fast of Tisha Be’av is observed, beginning from Sunday of that week. For instance, if Tisha Be’av occurs on Wednesday, all of the mourning customs associated with the week during which Tisha Be’av falls out begin from the previous Sunday.

The Week During Which Tisha Be’av Falls Out this Year, 5778
This year, 5778, Tisha Be’av falls out on Shabbat. Therefore, the fast of Tisha Be’av is postponed to the following day, Sunday. Thus, the laws of the week during which Tisha Be’av falls out do not apply this year based on the ruling of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Chazon Ovadia-Arba Ta’aniyot, page 223) and as we shall explain further, G-d-willing. All of the customs unique to the week during which Tisha Be’av falls out, such as taking haircuts and laundering clothing, do not apply this year besides for the day of Tisha Be’av itself during which it is certainly forbidden to take a haircut or launder clothing.

Haircuts for Women
Regarding a woman taking a haircut during the week during which Tisha Be’av falls out or during the “Three Weeks” according to the Ashkenazi custom, this depends on a related disagreement among the Poskim, as follows:

The Poskim disagree regarding whether a woman who is in mourning for one of seven relatives (father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, or husband) is forbidden to take a haircut just as it is forbidden for a male mourner or does this prohibition not apply to women.

Halachically speaking, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, whose rulings are followed by Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jews, writes that the prohibition to take a haircut does not apply to women. Thus, immediately following the initial seven days of mourning (Shiva), a woman may take a haircut. Nevertheless, the Rama, whose rulings are followed by Ashkenazi Jews, writes that the prohibition to take a haircut applies to women as well.

It therefore seems that according to Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch and the Sephardic custom, the prohibition to take haircuts observed in mourning the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash does not apply to women either. However, according to the Rama and the Ashkenazi custom, women are also included in this prohibition. Hagaon Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l and other great Poskim rule likewise.

On the other hand, there are Ashkenazi Poskim who write that although women are prohibited to take haircuts while in actual mourning for a relative, nevertheless, woman may, in fact, act leniently and take haircuts during the “Three Weeks,” for this (not taking haircuts throughout the entire “Three Weeks”) is not as much a halachic prohibition according to the letter of the law as it is a custom which has been accepted. However, during the week during which Tisha Be’av falls out, when it is an actual prohibition to take a haircut based on the edict of the Sages of the Mishnah and not merely customary, there is no distinction between men and women.

Nevertheless, halachically speaking, the prohibition of taking haircuts does not apply this year at all according to the Sephardic custom besides for the day of Tisha Be’av itself. According to the Ashkenazi custom, however, several great Poskim rule stringently and write that even women should not take haircuts.

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