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Laws of the Tenth of Av, and the Continuation of the Legal Reform Legislation

On the 10th of Av the majority of the Temple was burned, and thus, mourning customs continue on it * The disputes regarding the continuation of the mourning customs are not between Sephardim and Ashkenazim, therefore members of all ethnic groups should be strict until midday, and in times of necessity, may act leniently * The optimum custom for reciting Kiddush Levana is to gather at some point after the fast is over, after having eaten and washed properly * Despite the threats and harsh reactions from the Left, the legal reform legislation should be continued and completed

The Babylonians conquered the Beit HaMikdash on the seventh of Av, setting it ablaze on the ninth of the month, late in the day, and it continued burning throughout the tenth of Av. Rabbi Yochanan commented that had he been alive at the time, he would have established the fast on the tenth of Av, because most of the Temple burned on that day. Some Amora’im (Talmudic Sages) adopted a stringency to fast on both the ninth, and the tenth of Av. However, the prophets and sages established the fast on the ninth, because everything follows the beginning, and the disaster began on the ninth of Av (Ta’anit 29a, Yerushalmi Ta’anit 4:6).

Those Whose Custom is Not to Eat Meat and Drink Wine on the 10th of Av

Since, in practice, the majority of the Temple was burned on the 10th, it was customary in most Jewish communities not to eat meat or drink wine on the 10th of Av, as well.

According to the custom of some of Sephardic Jews, the prohibition lasts the entire day (Shulchan Aruch 558:1; Kaf HaHayim 10), and according to the custom Ashkenazi Jews and some Sephardic Jews, only until midday (Rema ibid., as well as the custom of Turkey, and some Moroccan communities).

On the other hand, there are those who are lenient to eat meat and drink wine immediately after the fast (the custom of Yemen, Djerba and Libya).

Also, it is customary not to bless ‘Shehechiyanu‘ on the 10th of Av, as is the law during the Three Weeks (Chida, Kaf HaHa’im 558: 8).

Laundering, Taking a Haircut, and Listening to Music on the 10th of Av

In communities that practiced some mourning customs on the 10th of Av, they disagreed about doing laundry, taking a haircut, and listening to music.

According to the majority of Achronim, until midday one should be stringent. There are those poskim who are lenient, and are of the opinion that only meat and wine should be avoided on the Tenth day, but it is permissible to cut hair, and do laundry without restriction.

This is Not a Dispute between Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews

It is commonly believed that Ashkenazi Jews are stricter regarding laundering and taking haircuts, and Sephardic Jews are lenient, however, this is not the case as far as the Achronim were concerned. Among the Sephardi poskim, many are strict about laundering and haircuts as well, among them: Chida, Rabbi Haim Palaji, and Kaf HaHaim 558:6. On the other hand, in Knesset HaGedolah and Yechave Da’at 5:41, they ruled leniently. The Mishnah Berurah wrote (in Biur Halakha) that in times of necessity, one may rely on the lenient poskim, and this is the opinion of the majority of poskim. Rabbi Eliyahu (Hilkhot Chaggim 29:3-4) wrote that one should act strictly until midday, and whoever acts strictly all of the 10th day, the more praiseworthy it is. This is also what Kaf HaHaim wrote 558:10.

Therefore, in practice, for members of all ethnicities, le’chatchila (ideally), one should act strictly, and in time of necessity, one may act leniently.

Laundering and Taking a Haircut on the 10th of Av that Falls on Friday

When the tenth of Av falls out on a Friday, one is allowed to take a haircut, do laundry, and bathe, in preparation for the Sabbath, starting from the morning. And if one is pressed for time, he may even start preparing immediately after Tish’a B’Av ends (M.B. 558:3, A.H.S. 558:2).

Birkat HaLevanah

The custom is to postpone Birkat HaLevanah (the Blessing of the Moon) until after the fast of Tish’a B’Av, because the blessing must be recited joyously, and we decrease our joy during the Nine Days. Some poskim say that it is correct to postpone it to another day, and if Tisha B’Av falls on a Thursday, Kiddush HaLevanah should be postponed to Motzei Shabbat (Rema 426:2).

However, the majority of Achronim wrote that the mitzvah should not be postponed, but immediately at the end of Tisha B’Av, one should recite Kiddush HaLevanah (Knesset HaGedolah, Commentary of Rabbi Hannanel, Chida, Chayei Adam, Mishnah Berurah 426:11). Some add another reason: we are slightly happy on the night after Tish’a B’Av, because our tradition tells us that Mashiach is born on Tish’a B’Av; therefore, it is fitting to sanctify the moon then.

In practice, many people are accustomed to recite the blessing immediately after the evening prayer at the end of the fast, but ideally, it is inappropriate to do so, because it is difficult to be happy then, when we have yet to drink, eat, wash our faces and hands, or put on regular shoes. Therefore, each community should set a time – an hour or two after the fast – for the recitation of Birkat HaLevanah, and in the meantime, everyone will have a chance to eat something, and wash up. This way, they will be able to say the blessing joyously. Where there is concern that pushing off Birkat HaLevanah may cause some people to forget to say it, the congregation may say it immediately after the fast, but it is best to take a drink and wash one’s face beforehand (Mishnah Berurah 426: 11).

Reciting Shehechiyanu on a School Bag

Q: A child who enters the first grade and received a new schoolbag, is it a mitzvah for him to recite the blessing Shehechiyanu, and if so, when?

A: Most probably the child is very happy about this, and if so, should recite the blessing over it. He or she may recite the blessing as soon as they receive the schoolbag, or when they go to school with it for the first time.

Even an older child who received a new schoolbag, if happy about it, should recite the Shehechiyanu blessing over it.

Shehechiyanu for Receiving a Prize, for example, a Sefer Kodesh

It is our custom in the community of Har Bracha, that every young boy or girl or teenager who finishes a book from the ‘Peninei Halakha’ series, receives from me in synagogue, during the sermon between Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv, a new book that they will study, and when they finish it, receive another book until they’ve completed the entire series. The prestigious event takes place approximately once a month, and usually more than twenty children receive the books. In preparation for Shabbat Chazon, perhaps due to the large number of students who have time to learn during the school break, a lot of new children participated, and the question arose whether to hold the ceremony on Shabbat Chazon as well. The matter depends on another question – do the children need to recite the blessing Shehechiyanu over the book, since it is preferable to avoid the ‘Shehechiyanu’ blessing on Shabbat Chazon.

To this end, I asked some children if they are happy with the new book as with a nice shirt, or an interesting game, and the like. It turned out that they were really happy with the book, both in terms of its value, and in terms of its added value – as it was given as a token of respect for their investment. Moreover, nowadays, when children of many Jews do not learn Torah, it is appropriate to be extra happy about every child who does learn.

Therefore, we postponed the distribution of the books to those who finished learning, until Shabbat Nachamu.

Is Shehechiyanu Recited over Sifrei Kodesh

Indeed, there are those poskim who believe that Shehechiyanu should not be recited on sifrei kodesh (Torah books), because they are intended for a mitzvah, and ‘mitzvot were not given to be enjoyed’ (Magen Avraham223: 5, Machzik Bracha, and others). However, in the opinion of the majority of poskim, Shehechiyanu is also recited over sifrei kodesh, including: Radbaz 3; 412; Mor u’Ketzia 223, Shulchan Melachim 223:12; Magen Giborim 2; Bnei Zion, Vol.3, 223:5, and others (see, Peninei Halakha: Berachot 17, footnote 1).

Therefore, one who is indeed happy with a sefer kodesh he or she received or bought, should bless Shehechiyanu over it.

Concerning the Changes Required in the Legal System

In recent months, various people approached me with a request to call for unity and compromise between the coalition and the opposition, but I refrained from doing so. I will briefly clarify my position.

Like many good people who are loyal to the nation and the country, I also believe that there is an urgent need for changes in the judicial system. Despite the good intentions, the judicial system is the institution that most harms the Jewish identity of the State of Israel, in its security, and ability to settle the Land. Certain rulings even put the future of the country at danger, such as the rulings that prevented the government from opposing the reunification of Arab families out of concern for the state’s Jewish identity, and the rulings that invalidated laws designed to allow the state to encourage infiltrators and illegal residents to leave the country and, if necessary, deport them. The same holds true in matters of security, and settlement.

Members of the coalition are public emissaries, and must fulfill their mission in correcting the judicial system. If the corrections can be carried out through agreement, it is appropriate to forgo and compromise for this purpose on some of the required overhauls, provided the compromise is mutual, and the main problems are resolved.

However, so far we have not heard from the representatives of the opposition, or the justice system, an understanding of the harsh claims against the justice system, and no practical proposal that takes into account the harsh allegations against it, which have been claimed for over twenty years.

It is very unfortunate that an important and worthy public is not ready to understand the other side, but, with no willingness to offer a real compromise (agreeing to a discussion is not an offer), the public duty of the coalition members is to continue fulfilling their mission to make changes in the legal system, as required to preserve the Jewish identity of the State of Israel.

The Fears and Hopes

The harsh threats of the leftists and the excessive coverage they receive in the media, harm the State of Israel. However, in the long term, and probably even in the medium term, even if all the threats materialize, for the sake of the existence of the State of Israel and its prosperity, it is preferable to reform the judicial system.

Is it Worth Getting Involved

Indeed, important and righteous rabbis have published various calls for unity and compromise, but I refrain from doing so, because in order to intervene in these issues, one must be familiar with the issues themselves on a professional level, as well as the complicated reality, and also, all the political manipulations, for if not, we will easily be exploited by one side or the other. We will be bombarded with false “facts”, and they will use us for goals we never imagined.

In general, I believe elected public representatives are mostly responsible people, who have the public’s best interests at heart, and can be trusted not to plunge the State of Israel into dangerous places. True, the media and the legal system often criticize them, and even despise them, in order to undermine their credibility in the eyes of the voters, and reduce their authority to act in the interest of the state. However, the essence of a democratic regime is that we entrust the elected representatives with the authority and responsibility to run the country. We have the right to replace them in the next election – which is not the case in regards to the judicial system, which is not elected, and when it assumes powers, it is liable to lead the public into serious disputes, as the late former Supreme Court President Moshe Landoi correctly assessed.

The Responsibility of the Rabbis

Still, the role assigned to rabbis and educators is no less important – to educate towards the values of truth and goodness, Torah, work and science, love of the Nation and the Land, and to guard them. We also have a very important role in the issue of unity. It is appropriate for the public representatives to strive for a dignified compromise, but whether they succeed in doing so or not, we must learn and teach that every serious opinion must be respected, listened to attentively, and try to delve deeper and see how the entirety of important values can be integrated. In addition, we need to delve deeper and understand the sharp criticism hurled at the National, Religious, and Haredi camps, and try to correct what is appropriate. In this way, it will be possible to establish true unity, based on giving a dignified and true place to all opinions, and their representatives.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.

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