My Nine On The Nine
"Even the Wise might fear to withstand the Nine." - Gandalf
Before the Nine Days move to their culmination and climax with the start of Tisha B'Av tomorrow night, I thought I'd share a few - nine, to be exact - of my own Nine Days related customs.
Notwithstanding the cookie-cutter halacha sheets sent out these days by anyone with a laser printer and an overdeveloped sense of authority, the truth is - as anyone who has learned Maseches Moed Katan knows - that most of the mourning-related customs observed today are of relatively recent vintage. So these are simply my personal practices; yours may, and indeed should, vary. What's important is that whatever changes you make in your life during this time are ones that help you get into the spirit of somber reflection that the Nine Days is really all about. Or at least, ones that alter your routine enough to set a context for getting into that spirit.
So with that, here's my Nine on the Nine:
1) Music: I avoid live music during the Sefira and the Three Weeks, but not recorded/radio music, as I don't consider that to have been part of the original ban (see here for more). However, during the Nine Days I do avoid even non-live music. And I don't make exceptions for a cappella or other types of "sefira music".
Aside: For those who do listen to some types of music during this period, is this one of the permitted groups?2) Movies: I avoid movies during Sefira and the Three Weeks, even though I do watch television/DVDs. A somewhat arbitrary distinction, but I guess movies just feel more like public rejoicing to me.
3) Meat: None, except on Shabbos, when I eat it for all three meals, up until the last possible moment before sunset on Shabbos afternoon! Of all the Nine Days customs, going meatless is the hardest for me. Once or twice I have made use of a siyum to eat meat during the Nine Days, but only when I personally was involved in the learning. Otherwise, I pine for it, and pretend I'm pining for korbanos.
4) Wine: None, again except on Shabbos. For havdalah after Shabbos Chazon I use beer, or if I'm out of beer, some other beverage, but not wine or grape juice.
5) Laundry: When we had small kids, we did have to do quite a bit of laundry during the Nine Days, just to make it through. Now we try to avoid it for all outerwear, but do usually need to do a load of underwear/socks/pajamas somewhere in there... which seems to be permitted even according to (most of) those ubiquitous halacha sheets.
6) Bathing: Not less frequently, but in lukewarm water, so the shower is solely about cleanliness and not about pleasure. This is one of my "soapbox" (pun intended!) issues. The thought that civilized human beings, in the heat of summer, go without bathing for a week makes me want to gag. If you're one of them, please don't tell me!
7) Clothing: Similarly, I do change my shirts every day, but place the new shirt on the ground for a few minutes first so it isn't totally "fresh".
8) New Beginnings: I try to avoid starting any new initiatives, at home or at work. This one is easy for me since I have difficulty with change all year 'round!
9) Tisha B'Av Itself: Most difficult "affliction" of the day for me? Not any of the "big five", or not being able to learn Torah (wish I was on the level to miss that the most!) or even the caffeine withdrawal. No, for me the hardest aspect of the day is sleeping with only one pillow instead of my usual two. I toss and turn all night long.
And there you have it - my nine-days, nine-ways disclosure.
It occurs to me that this would make a good meme, but I won't take it upon myself to "tag" anyone. However, if anyone would like to follow up on your own, I'd be interested!