BY RABBI YISROEL DOV
DAYAN, YESHIVA EMEK HALACHA
THE THREE WEEKS
WHAT ARE THE THREE WEEKS?
The three weeks (Bein Hametzarim-between the days of distress) is the time period between the 17th of Tamuz, when the first breach was made of the walls of Jerusalem to the 9th of Av, exactly three weeks afterwards when the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed (Eicha Rabba 1-29).
THE SEVENTEENTH OF TAMUZ
Five tragedies occurred on this day (Tannis 26b, Rambam Hilchos Tannis 5-2):
1. The walls of the second Bais Hamikdash were breached by the Roman general Titus. (The Jerusalem Talmud (Tannis 4:5) maintains that the breaching of the walls during the first Bais Hamikdash occurred on the seventeenth of Tamuz. The Babylonian Talmud (Tannis 29a) however, maintains that the breach of the walls of the first Bais Hamikdash occurred on the ninth of Tamuz.
2. The two daily sacrifices (Korban Tamid) ceased during the first Bais Hamikdash because the kohanim were unable to find a lamb to offer as a Korban.
3. The first set of luchos (the ten commandments) were broken when Moshe Rabbanu descended Mount Sinai.
4. Prior to the destruction of the second Bais Hamikdash Apostomus, a Roman officer, burned the Torah.
5. An idol was erected in the Bais Hamikdash (Some say it was erected by Apostomus, others say it was Menasheh, the idolatrous king of Judah during the first Bais Hamikdash ) (Tannis 28b, Rambam 5:2, Jerusalem Talmud Tannis 4:5, Rashi Tannis 26b).
DESIGNATED AS A FAST DAY
Since these five things occurred on the seventeenth of Tamuz, Chazal designated this day as a fast (Rambam, SA 649-1).
The purpose of the fast day is to stir our hearts and do teshuva-repentance for our own deeds and those of our forefathers (MB 549-1, KSA 121-1, Rabbi Chaim Brisker ZT"L see TV Vol. 3-154, Moadim B'Halacha). One should not make a mistake and think that by just refraining from eating and drinking one fulfills this requirement and the purpose of the day. Just the opposite, one must search one's soul and repent for any sins that they may have committed, if one just sits around and wastes the day without contemplating one's deeds one has not fulfilled the purpose of the fast. Similarly, one should not go on a pleasure trip on a fast day (CA 133-1, MB-1, KSA 121-1, Sefer Erech Apayim). In a situation that one does not need to fast (e.g. A sick person), one nevertheless is required to do teshuva (TV Vol. 3-154).
GENERAL HALACHOS OF THE FAST DAY
The fast commences at dawn and ends at nightfall, unlike the fast of Tisha B'Av, which begins with nightfall the evening before and lasts until the following nightfall (SA 550-2).
If one intends to eat or drink early in the morning before dawn, one should have in mind to do so before going to sleep. If one normally drinks a hot beverage before prayers, it is not necessary to have it in mind before going to sleep that one will drink before dawn (SA 564-1, MA-3, CA 132-17, MB-6, KH-9).
Men and Women must fast on the 17th of Tamuz (SA 550-1).
Boys below the age of thirteen years of age and girls below the age of twelve years are not obligated to fast (ER 549). Parents should encourage their children (boys 9-12, girls 9-11) to fast for a few hours, such as delaying their breakfast by an hour or skipping breakfast until lunch. However, they should not be induced to fast an entire day (CA 133-6, MB 550-5, KH-9 & 554-23, BM Vol. 8-98).
Chazal did not prohibit all types of pleasures on this fast day as they did on Tisha B'Av and Yom Kippur. On this fast only eating and drinking was prohibited. Washing, anointing, wearing leather shoes, marital relations are permitted (SA 550-2, Kisav Sofer OC Vol. 100, see Likutai Hoaros on the Kisav Sofer). Some are stringent upon themselves and only allow wearing leather shoes (MA 550-3 in the name of the Shilah, CA 133-7, MB-10), however, many do not follow this view. Furthermore, some are stringent and do not eat meat or drink wine before or after a fast (Marshal 92, ER 558-4, KH 564-12).
On all fast days other than Yom Kippur and Tisha B'Av, an ill person should not fast even if the illness is not life-threatening (MB 550-4, KH -7). One should consult their Rav.
Some Poskim are of the opinion that a pregnant woman or nursing mother should fast. If she is suffering or is very weak, even if there is no danger to her life, she should not fast (SA 554-5, MB-5, YO Vol. 7-49). Other Poskim disagree, and rule that a pregnant woman or nursing mothers are not required to fast (Nitai Gavriel 2:6). The Steipler Rav ZT"L held that if she is a little weak she does not need to fast on this day (Orchos Rabbanu Vol. 2 Page 127). One should consult their Rav.
Those that are not required to fast should not indulge in sweets and candies. Even young children above the age of six years old, if they understand the meaning of the fast, should not be given chocolate and cake, but only that which is necessary for their sustenance ( MA 550-2, DT 550, MB-5, Nitai Gavriel 2-4, KH 550-9, BM Vol. 8-98). If the child take items by himself than one is not required to stop them (BM).
Smoking is permitted on a fast day (ZE Vol. 1-73, Birkai Yoseph 567, PM 567, See MB 555-8 that one should be stringent upon himself), however, there are those praiseworthy people who go beyond the requirements of the law and do not smoke (Kineses Hagodel 567-3, Marsham Vol. 4-145). If it is possible, one should smoke in private.
One is permitted to wash on a minor fast day (SA 550-2, Taz-1) There are some people who are more stringent and do not wash on a minor fast day. Washing for medical purposes is permitted according to all opinions, even with hot water (MB 550-6, KH-13). A woman who will go to the mikvah may make her preparation for the mikvah during the day even though she will take a hot bath (MA 550-3, Kisav Sofer Vol. 1-100, Rivovos Eprahim Vol. 1-363(4)).
One is permitted to wash one's face, hands and feet with hot water (PM 550).
Although washing with cold water is permitted and therefore one is permitted to go swimming on this fast day. Some Poskim are of the opinion that one should not go swimming on this day (BM Vol. 3-77). Other Poskim permit one to go into the water to cool oneself off if it is a hot day or for health reasons (Rivovos Ephraim Vol. 1. 363 (1), BM).
One is permitted to brush one's teeth with a dry toothbrush on all minor fast days except Yom Kippur and Tisha B'Av. If this causes discomfort, it is permissible to brush one's teeth with toothpaste and water,(except for Yom Kippur and Tisha B'Av). However, one must be careful not to lean one's head back so as not to swallow any water (MB 567-11, AH-3, BM Vol. 8-94, Minchas Yitzchock Vol. 2-109). Likewise, it is permissible to use mouthwash on the minor fast days with caution to avoid swallowing (BM Vol. 8-94, see Kinyan Torah B'Halacha Vol. 2-49).
One is permitted to swallow one's saliva (MB 567-13, see CA 132-22, Bais Meir, ME 612-7).
It is permissible for an ill person to take medication on minor fast days. A pill or bitter-tasting liquid medicine should be taken without water, if possible. If they need water, only a small amount should be taken. Some add salt or other substance to the water to make it somewhat bitter (Halachos Kitanos Vol. 2-97, KH 554-34, Igros Moshe OC Vol. 3-91, TE Vol. 10-25 Chap. 22, Yalkut Yoseph, Daas Torah 567-1).
If one made a mistake and recited a bracha and than remembered that it is a fast day, one should not taste the food but rather say "Boruch Shem K'vod Malchuso Leolam Vaed" (ST 568-1, MH 7-80,TV Vol. 1-329, YO Vol. 2 YD-5).
If one made a mistake and ate something on the fast day, one should nevertheless continue to fast. One is not obligated to fast another day (Matai Eprahim 602-23, Marsham Vol. 4-20, MB 549-3 & 548-8, KH 549:7, YD, TV Vol. 1-328).
One is permitted to taste the food one is cooking to see if it needs spices, however, one must not swallow the taste but spit it out into a napkin (MA 567-1, CA 132-19, MB 1 & 6, KH-1 & 10, MB 568-10).
One should try not to get angry on a fast day ( ER 568-18).
One is permitted to go to the dentist on a fast day, however not scheduling the appointment for this day is better. If one has to go, one should be careful not to swallow any water (Lev Avraham Vol. 2 Chap., 4-5).
One should not chew gum on a minor fast day (Ohel Moshe Vol. 2-113, Yalkut Yoseph, Hillel Omer OC 278).
Written in loving memory of my Mother in law Channa Sara Bas R' Pesach A"h
Niftaras 13th of Tamuz 5756 (1996) and my daughter Ita Tzipporah A"H Niftaras 23d of Minachem Av 5753 (1993)
26th of Sivan 5757
revised 13th of Tamuz 5758
Back to index