The Mishnah in Masechet Ta’anit (26b) tells us that on Erev Tisha Be’av during the last meal one eats before the fast, one may not eat meat, drink wine, or eat two cooked foods, such as rice and an egg. Although the letter of the law dictates that the prohibition to eat meat only applies during the last meal one eats before the fast of Tisha Be’av, nevertheless, the custom of the Jewish nation is to abstain from eating meat from Rosh Chodesh Av until the Tenth of Av. These customs have already been mentioned by the Geonim and early Poskim and have been accepted by the Jewish people. There is no distinction between meat and chicken, as it is prohibited to consume any of them. Even a food cooked with meat, for instance a soup cooked with meat, should not be eaten even after the meat has been removed, due to its meat flavor. Fish is not included in this prohibition and is permitted to be eaten.
Eating Meat on Rosh Chodesh and on the Tenth of Av
The Sephardic custom is to permit eating meat on the day of Rosh Chodesh itself, as we have explained in the previous Halacha; Ashkenazim customarily forbid this even on the day of Rosh Chodesh. Regarding this aspect, Sephardim are more lenient than Ashkenazim. On the other hand, regarding eating meat on the Tenth of Av, the Sephardic custom is to prohibit eating meat during the entire day of the Tenth of Av (i.e. until sunset of the Tenth of Av), whereas the Ashkenazi custom is to permit consumption of meat and wine following halachic mid-day of the Tenth of Av.
The Yemenite Custom Regarding Eating Meat
The custom of Yemenite Jews was to only abstain from eating meat and drinking wine during the meal immediately preceding the fast of Tisha Be’av; however, they would not abstain from doing so during the other days of the month of Av, in accordance with the letter of the law of the Talmud. Nevertheless, now that they have merited settling to Israel where the prevalent custom is to abstain from this during the “Nine Days,” Maran Rabbeinu zt”l writes that they should accept upon themselves the local custom and they may not act differently. This is especially true since the destruction of the holy Temple is felt in Israel more than in other places, for the location of the destruction is clearly visible for all to see and it is thus certainly befitting to act stringently in this matter (Chazon Ovadia-Arba Ta’aniyot, page 170).
Eating Meat on Erev Shabbat
On Shabbatot within the “Nine Days”, one should certainly eat meat. On may also act leniently and taste meat dishes on Erev Shabbat to see if the dish requires any improvement (such as more salt and the like). Some say that one may be lenient to taste from such Shabbat dishes even when it is not necessary to do so, for according to the Mekubalim, it is important to taste Shabbat dishes on Erev Shabbat. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that one may be lenient regarding this matter; however, one who acts stringently is truly praiseworthy.
Meat Left Over from Shabbat
Maran Rabbeinu zt”l writes that if some meat is left over from dishes that were cooked in honor of Shabbat, one may partake of this meat on Motza’ei Shabbat during “Seuda Revi’it” (the fourth meal of Shabbat which is eaten upon the conclusion of Shabbat). This is especially true if one regularly eats meat during “Seuda Revi’it.” One who is lenient and partakes of meat left over from dishes cooked in honor of Shabbat even during the other days of the week indeed has on whom to rely. Regarding minors who have not yet reached Bar/Bat Mitzvah age, they may be lenient and partake of such leftover meat on other weekdays as well. (All this applies only when one did not intentionally cook a large amount for Shabbat in order for there to be leftovers for during the week.) Regarding young children who do not comprehend the matter of the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash at all, one may feed them meat during these days and one may even cook meat for them during the week during which Tisha Be’av falls out.
An Individual who is Weak and Needs to Eat Meat
One who is ill, even with a non-life-threatening illness, may eat meat during these days. Similarly, a woman who is within thirty days of giving birth may eat meat during these days. Furthermore, if a woman is nursing a weak child and abstaining from eating meat could possibly impact the health of the baby, she may eat meat during this time. Similarly, a pregnant woman who suffers very much during her pregnancy may act leniently and eat meat during these days. However, if a healthy individual eats meat during this period when everyone else customarily abstains from doing so, his sin is too great to bear, he is considered a “fence-breacher,” and he is liable for punishment.
Drinking Havdala Wine
Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 551, Section 10) rules that one may drink the Havdala wine during this period. Nevertheless, Ashkenazim customarily follow the ruling of the Rama and give the wine (or grape juice) to a young child to drink.