This article first appeared in Torah.org. It is reprinted with permission from the author and Torah.org,
The first nine days of the month of Av, known as the Nine Days, is a period of time established by the Rabbis to mourn the destruction of the two Batei ha-Mikdash. There are certain activities which are prohibited during this period. Since the Talmud tells us that only one who has properly mourned the Temple's destruction will merit to see its rebuilding, it is important to become more knowledgeable about the exact nature of the prohibitions of the Nine Days. One of them, the injunction against eating meat and drinking wine, is reviewed here.
MEAT AND WINE AT A SEUDAS MITZVAH
The restriction against eating meat and drinking wine is lifted when a seudas mitzvah takes place. This includes a siyum,(14) a bris,(15) or a pidyon ha-ben. Several poskim also include a bar mitzvah dinner which takes place on the day the boy becomes bar mitzvah.(16)
For a seudas mitzvah one may invite any man or woman who would normally be invited at any other time of the year, e.g., relatives or friends. Thus all campers and staff of a summer camp, both men and women, may join in a public siyum.(17) During the week in which Tishah b'Av occurs, only a minyan of people plus close relatives may partake of meat and wine at a seudas mitzvah meal.(18)
There are conflicting opinions about whether or not it is permitted to make a siyum specifically in order to partake of meat and wine.(19) While it is preferable to be stringent, one should follow the custom and the directives of his rabbi.
Regarding the nature of the text upon which it is permitted to make a siyum, the custom follows the halachically preferred option that a siyum be made only on a tractate of the Talmud, either Bavli or Yerushalmi. But there are poskim who allow a siyum to be made upon completing the intensive study of either an entire seder of Mishnayos or on an entire book of Tanach. Some allow a siyum even on three tractates of Mishnayos while others allow it even on one.(20)
L'chatchilah, all the participants should listen to and understand the siyum of the text as it is being read.(21) B'diavad, some poskim permit even those who were not present at the siyum to eat meat and drink wine at the siyum meal,(22) while other poskim are stringent.(23)
When a seudas mitzvah takes place, it is also permitted to drink the wine after Birkas ha-Mazon.(24) But the cup of wine which is usually drunk at a bris [or pidyon ha-ben] should be given either to a minor or to the mother of the child.(25)
Those who are particular to recite Havdalah every week over wine or grape juice should do so during the Nine Days as well,(26) since this too is permitted, just as it is permitted to drink wine at a seudas mitzvah.(27) In some places it is customary for a minor,(28) if one is present, to drink the wine,(29) while in other places an adult drinks the Havdalah wine.(30)
Those who make Havdalah on beer or another chamar medinah year-round should do so this week as well.(31)
AFTER TISHAH B'AV
It is customary not to eat meat(32) or drink wine until midday of the tenth of Av, even when the tenth of Av falls on a Friday. This is because the destruction of the Beis ha-Mikdash, which began on the ninth of Av, continued throughout the night and most of the next day.(33) All of the aforementioned leniencies regarding eating meat and drinking wine during the Nine Days apply to motzaei Tishah b'Av until midday of the tenth of Av.(34)
1 Several reasons for this custom are given: To minimize joyfulness; to mourn the abolishment of the Korban Tamid and Nissuch ha-Yayin; to mark the loss of the Even Shesiya (see Orchos Chayim, Kol Bo and Avudraham).
2 O.C. 551:11. Most Sephardim, too, follow this custom for all of the Nine Days, although some Sephardim do not observe it on Rosh Chodesh day itself; Kaf ha-Chayim 551:125; Yechaveh Da'as 1:41.
3 Kaf ha-Chayim 551:122.
4 Mishnah Berurah 551:63. It makes no difference whether the pareve food is sharp or bland; Orchos Chayim 31.
5 Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 551:68. Some poskim hold that even l'chatchilah it is permitted to put a small amount of meat or wine into a dish if its taste will not be detected.
6 Sha'arei Teshuvah 551:10.
7 Mishnah Berurah 551:70. Some poskim allow children under the age of three to eat meat and some allow it up until age six; Divrei Yatziv O.C. 2:236.
8 Mishnah Berurah 551:61,64 and Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 69. Most poskim hold that hataras nedarim is not required; Yechaveh Da'as 1:41.
9 Igros Moshe O.C. 4:21-4.
10 Mekor Chayim 551:9.
11 Igros Moshe O.C. 4:21-4.
12 Sdei Chemed (Bein ha-Metzarim 1:4).
13 Igros Moshe O.C. 4:112-3.
14 Some poskim recommend that no siyum take place after the sixth of Av (Harav M. Feinstein, Moadei Yeshurun, pg. 132). See also Aruch ha-Shulchan 551:28, who advises that a siyum should not take place at all during the Nine Days, since we cannot properly rejoice and honor the Torah during this time of mourning.
15 Even if it was deferred due to illness, etc.; Sha'arei Teshuvah 551:15.
16 Yad Efrayim 551:31; Divrei Yatziv 2:238.
17 Harav M. Feinstein and Harav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in Nitei Gavriel 18:7).
18 Mishnah Berurah 551:77. Some poskim hold that only a minyan - including the relatives - may eat meat or drink wine; Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 84.
19 See Mishnah Berurah 551:73, Aruch ha-Shulchan 551:28 and Kaf ha-Chayim 551:161.
20 See the various opinions in Ha-elef Lecha Shelomo 386; Igros Moshe O.C. 157 and O.C. 2:12, Yabia Omer 1:26, Yechaveh Da'as 1:40 and B'tzeil ha-Chochmah 4:99.
21 Mishnah Berurah 470:10.
22 Minchas Yitzchak 9:45; Teshuvos v'Hanhagos 1:300 quoting Harav Y.Y. Kanievsky, who says that it is customary to be lenient in this matter, provided that the participant is sincerely "happy" with the siyum taking place. See also the lenient ruling of Harav Y.Y. Fisher concerning a mourner (Pnei Baruch, pg. 463). Harav M. Feinstein is also quoted as being lenient (Moadei Yeshurun, pg. 132).
23 Ben Ish Chai 1:96-25; Chazon Ovadiah, pg. 99; Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (Siddur Pesach K'hilchaso, pg. 168).
24 Mishnah Berurah 551:72.
25 Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (quoted in Otzar ha-Bris, pg. 187).
26 Eishel Avraham 551; Chazon Ish (quoted in Imrei Yosher, pg. 4).
27 Mishnah Berurah 551:67.
28 The preferred minor for this purpose is a boy beyond the age of chinuch but who is not yet old enough to understand the concept of mourning the destruction of the Beis ha-Mikdash; Mishnah Berurah 551:70. [It is difficult to define the age of such a child.] If such a child is not present, any boy under bar mitzvah age will do.
29 Rama O.C. 551:10.
30 Harav M. Feinstein (Moadei Yeshurun, pg. 154).
31 See Aruch ha-Shulchan 551:26.
32 But a meaty food which presently contains no meat is permitted; Beiur Halachah 558:1 (s.v. shelo).
33 O.C. 558:1.
34 Mishnah Berurah 558:2.
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