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Know Thyself Parshas Mattos-Masei

I recently saw what I thought to be the most brilliant advertisement. It was a large truck and on the side of the truck it had the words: “It’s what’s inside that counts.” Here’s where it gets good. When you think of those words, you think of not judging a person by their cover, and how our middos, our moral character is so much more important than how we look. Right? 

But this ad was an ad for Life Fitness, a company that sells exercise equipment. 

And so under the words, it’s what’s inside that counts, there was an image of the inside of the truck. And what’s inside the truck? Exercise machines. “It’s what’s inside that counts.” 

This ad caused quite a controversy with many people feeling like they were being disingenuous, that this ad was completely out of line with the products and the lifestyle they promote. How can a fitness company that normally highlights perfectly toned bodies tell you that what really matters is what’s on the inside?! What I think many people missed is that this ad was a perfect example of Knowing Thyself and having a deep and honest self-awareness. Let me explain: 

Who was the most successful leader of the Jewish People? 

Undoubtedly that award goes to Moshe. Leads the Jewish People out of Egypt, performs the most memorable miracles known to mankind, facilitates the receiving of the Torah, and leads the Jewish people to the doorstep of the Land of Israel. Moshe is the GOAT, there is no competition. 

But Moshe has flaws. Part of his greatness is that he is cognizant of his flaws. The first flaw we learn about almost causes him to not take the job, and the final flaw we learn about causes him to lose his job. 

What’s the first flaw, or more accurately, the first disability? Moshe’s speech impediment. When Hashem initially asks Moshe to lead the Jewish People, Moshe says he can’t because – k’vad peh anochi, I am a man with a ‘heavy mouth.’ Moshe, as we know, had some form of a stutter. His first role was that of a spokesperson. Standing before Pharaoh and stuttering is not intimidating, and standing before the Jewish People and stuttering is not inspiring. 

How did Hashem respond? Mi sam peh l’adam? Who gives man a mouth? 

?! What does this mean?! What kind of answer is that? 

Rabbeinu Nissim of Gerona, a 14th-century Spanish philosopher, shares a most beautiful idea: G-d was telling Moshe, “You think your speech impediment is a problem, an issue, something that will get in the way of your success as a leader of the Jewish People? It’s not a bug, it’s a feature! In order for you to be successful, you need to have that speech impediment!” 

Rabbeinu Nissim explains: The most important part of Moshe’s job was not to take the Jews out of Egypt, it was to help them receive the Torah. Moshe would be the one who would present G-d’s offer to the Jewish People: Do you want to receive the Torah? There are many laws, there are many responsibilities, it’s a big ask. 

Now imagine Moshe was not Moshe. Imagine Moshe was Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and when he presented this question to the Jewish People, he did so with an English accent. Not only an English accent, but he first delivered the lecture of a lifetime; he wove together philosophy, stories, insights into the psyche of man, and all of this in his impeccable English, perfectly timed pauses, and brilliant prose. Frankly, by the time Rabbi Sacks would be done speaking he could sell me the Brooklyn Bridge. His eloquence translated into a magnetic charisma and he could talk you into just about anything. 

Now imagine Rabbi Sacks gave this delivery and the Jewish People answered their famous answer, “Na’aseh v’nishma!” We will do and we will learn!” and they accept the Torah. A few weeks later, or maybe a few years later, when the magic dissipates, don’t you think the Jewish People might make an argument that they never really willfully accepted the Torah? That they were inspired, enamored, swept up by Rabbi Sacks and his charismatic speeches that they said yes but they didn’t really mean it? It would be a pretty compelling argument, no? 

Says G-d to Moshe: “You think your ‘deficit’ your speech impediment is a ‘problem’? Who do you think gave you that speech impediment? I DID! And I did so for a reason! I did so because it was critical to your life mission!” It was critical for Moshe to not speak perfectly so that no one would ever say that they were duped, that Moshe, the used car salesman talked them into it. No! If you said yes, it was because you meant it. 

But G-d’s response is not just to Moshe; it’s to all of us. We all have our own ‘kvad peh’ our own impediments, be they physical, material, emotional. And what G-d is asking us to do is to stop seeing them as something that gets in the way and instead recognize that those ‘hindrances’ are a critical key to our life mission. That G-d gave us those handicaps, but not as a handicap, as a gift. For some, it’s figuring out how I can use that impediment to my advantage, like Moshe. And for others, it’s how I can overcome that impediment – that too is a life mission. To be born with something that can hold me back and to learn how to overcome. 

G-d is telling each and every one of us, “That feature that you’re so embarrassed of? That life circumstance that you can’t stand? I gave it to you. I gave it to you because I believe in you. Because I believe that you can transform that impediment into something beautiful. 

Sometimes though the goal is not to transform, sometimes we cannot even overcome, sometimes the goal is simply to be cognizant of our weaknesses, to learn how to see what’s in our blindspot. That too is an accomplishment and not a small order. And this brings us to the end of Moshe’s life. 

There is one consistent character flaw throughout Moshe’s life:

The Jewish People are told not to collect man on Shabbos, some people do. What does Moshe do? He yells at them. 

After the death of Nadav and Avihu die, the Kohanim leave an offering on the altar for too long and it gets burned. What does Moshe do? He angrily reprimands the remaining sons of Aharon. 

And of course, most famously, when the Jewish People complain about a lack of water, Moshe takes his staff and hits the rock. 

Moshe, Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz points out, struggled with anger. Over and over his anger appears. It causes him to forget laws that he had learned, as our Sages teach us, anger causes forgetfulness, and it causes him to lose his leadership through the infamous hitting of the rock. 

Despite the mishap at the rock, Moshe’s anger is still there. Once again, in this week’s Torah portion, we find him angrily reprimanding the Jewish soldiers as they come back from war. It never goes away. It never gets transformed into something beautiful. But Moshe’s greatness, in this instance, is his self-awareness.

How do we know that? When Moshe asks G-d for a successor, he has very specific criteria: “She’yehi sovel kol echad v’echad l’fi da’ato, that he will tolerate and will have patience for each and every person.” 

Moshe recognized his limitation. Moshe, despite being the greatest man to live, never fully transcended that character flaw but what he did do was acknowledge it. “I don’t have the requisite patience, please G-d, find a successor who does.” 

And that’s why I love that ad for Life Fitness. What is the biggest critique against a company that sells products that build your body and your body alone? The critique, the weakness, the deficit, is that by focusing on the externals, it ignores what really matters, what’s on the inside. Life Fitness leaned in, tongue-in-cheek, but they leaned in and acknowledged where they fall short. 

This is something every company and every organization needs to do. Acknowledge your deficit. And then you have to figure out, is this a deficit that can be made into a benefit? Is my speech impediment really a gift? Or maybe it’s something that really is a problem? In which case, at the very least, I’ll acknowledge it. 

I remember when I first became the rabbi of Ner Tamid and people asked me, who goes to the shul? Is it Modern Orthodox? Sort of. Is it traditional? Sort of. Is it for people who are newly observant? Sort of. Truth be told, it was awkward at first. But then I realized that’s not a weakness, it’s our superpower. There’s a word for that – we are the most diverse shul I am aware of! But there are other deficits that we have as an institution that we may not be able to reframe. And that’s okay. As long as we are aware of their existence they won’t hold us back. 

We just started the Nine Days of Mourning. In a week we’ll be sitting on the floor reminding ourselves of the destroyed Bais Hamikdash. Our Sages teach us that any generation in which the Temple is not rebuilt, it is as if during that generation, the Temple is destroyed. So instead of spending these days just thinking about what they did wrong, we need to ask ourselves, what are we doing wrong? What are our flaws? This is a question that needs to be asked as a community, but also for every thinking individual; do I know myself? Am I aware of my flaws? Because let me tell you, if you are not aware of any glaring flaws, then I could tell you what your flaw is, it’s a lack of self-awareness. Ein tzadik ba’aretz asher lo yecheta, there are no perfectly righteous people, only people who think they are. 

There is an apocryphal story told of Abraham Lincoln. Before he was president, he was a prominent lawyer in Illinois. One day, an inidvidual showed up in his office and asked him to help with some legal problems, but it would involve some shady business. Honest Abe said no, I can’t help you. 

The individual pulled out 50 dollars, a nice sum of money in the mid-19th century. Again, Lincoln said no. The man pulled out 100 dollars and put it on the table. Lincoln shook his head and said, no. Until the man pulled $500, equivalent to around $10,000, and at this point Abraham Lincoln  said: “Sir, everyone has a price and you’re getting awfully close to mine.” He picked the man up and threw him out the door. Know thyself; know your flaws and know your limitations. 

***

Life Fitness is right. “It’s what’s on the inside that really matters.”

They may not live up to that standard but at least, they know themselves. When we’re awake to our deficits and deficiencies, sometimes, we can transform that embarrassing flaw into a beautiful feature. But at the very least, the knowledge of our weakness is in and of itself the most incredible strength. 

 

Interview with Morah Tziri

Interview with Morah Tziri

1. Tell us about yourself
Hi, my name is Tziri (pronounced almost like Siri). To all my students and their families, though, I’m Morah Tziri. I grew up in Monsey, NY and moved to Baltimore after Meir and I got married in 2013. We have 4 adorable children ka”h. I taught Kindergarten for 10 years, and every alumnus of my class has since become an extension of my family.

2. What made you decide to go into teaching and now directing a school?
Back in high school, I worked for a camp director who was an incredible role model; a power-house rebbetzin and a Kindergarten teacher. I knew that when I grew up, I was going to be like her. The love I have for teaching has grown over the years, and I’m enthusiastic about inspiring more teachers to feel the same way through my new role.

3. Can you describe your educational approach?
My approach to learning for all ages is EXPERIENTIAL. Children learn best when they are PART of the learning process (and so do adults!). Children need to feel like they are a valuable asset to the class and school is their home for the (many) hours they are there. Music and movement throughout the day and outlets for creativity and imagination are essential for so many preschoolers.

4. What is your vision for the Montessori school?
I would love to infuse Montessori with a cohesive warmth and trademark love of Judaism and life. These features are already there and my goal is to build on the decades of the school’s success. Our goal is for the students to come out well-rounded in education, confident to take on years of further learning, and each achieving tailor-made goals.

5. Are there any spots for students at the school for the upcoming year?
Registration is full! You can register for enrollment in December for the year 2023-2024.

6. Rumor has it that you have a closet full of costumes. Is that true?
Tell us more. Adult costumes or childrens costumes? I like to dress up to make learning more exciting for the children. Until the day my kids get embarrassed, that is. In terms of the kids, I am really a costume junkie. I specifically scout out costumes which remind me of events from the Tanach. I learned from a very special mentor how to make the weekly Parsha come alive with “Parsha Drama,” a true Kindergarten highlight. I have a ton of props and educational toys to reinforce learning, which I use for dramatic play and block centers. These kinds of centers rotate through the seasons and themes of learning.

7. What’s one piece of advice you can share with parents of preschool-aged children?
There is no one approach to teaching and raising children. We, as parents and educators, have a lot to learn from THEM. Explore their interests and create outlets for their talents. A challenging child is not a bad child; they are just screaming for your attention and love.

8. Can you share your greatest source of pride as a teacher?
Honestly, as cliche as it sounds, watching the children grow up, as their character develops (and they get more mature than me!), is something I can’t put words to. I had a mailbox in my classroom for students from prior years to communicate with me, and for so many children, this got them through the day as they struggled in other areas of schoolwork and life.

9. What would it be like working for you as a teacher?
As the school year has not yet begun, I can only hope that it will be fun, experiential, eye-opening, and fulfilling. To be a superstar teacher in today’s day and age is an unbelievable responsibility and privilege. I know that teachers can never get enough appreciation and encouragement, but I will do my best! If you are giving, warm, and have a knack for kids, please apply to join our outstanding team of teachers! Email us today at montessori@nertamid.net. Thank you for this interview! And may Hashem give us all the koach to raise many generations of Jewish children in our community and beyond.

Chasing Inspiration Parshas Pinchas

Introduction: More often than not, I write my sermon Friday morning. I knew this Friday would be a little busy so I woke up early and wrote it before davening. It was a wonderful feeling, some pressure of my back, and a certain lightness that accompanied me to shacharis that morning. After davening, Murray Friedman approached me and said: “Rabbi, I just want to confirm that the Haftorah this week is the special one for the Three Weeks, right?” 

 

He was right and I, had just spent a good amount of time writing a drasha that revolved around the wrong Haftorah… 

 

I quickly figured out what I would do, but I decided to have some fun with it and placed a poll on Twitter. I wrote: Rabbi Fail – I forgot that we switch this weeks haftorah because it’s the Three Weeks and spent the morning writing a drasha on what is NOT the Haftorah. Do I… 

 

I then listed three options and asked people to vote, which over 50 people actually did. Option one was rewrite the whole thing. 11% thought that was a good idea. I think that’s a chutzpah. Option two, voted on by 20% was, Use the D’var Torah, no one will know the difference… And the final option, the option that I decided already to go with was, Use the D’var Torah and acknowledge that I am human and make mistakes. And hope I don’t get fired for not knowing what Haftorah it is…   

 

Imagine the following scene – 

Rob and Ray over there grab water hoses and start spraying water all over and all around this pulpit. Like a LOT of water. Then, we turn the sprinkling system on (we don’t actually have a sprinkling system, but work with me) and it’s pouring water all over. And then, I lift my hands up like this, and yell: “G-d, if You exist, if You can see us and care about the decisions we make, if You want us to be meticulous in Mitzvah observance, if You want each of us to turn our lives around, then send down a HUGE fire from heaven and burn this pulpit to a pulp!” 

 

And then, a fire appears right above the pulpit, and slowly descends, and with all the water spraying everywhere, it consumes this pulpit in an inferno. 

 

Now of course the first thing that will cross your mind is, “Wow, I didn’t know the rabbi’s also a magician…” BUT THIS IS NOT A MAGIC SHOW! You’ll know, somehow, that this is legit. 

 

Would that change your life? A fire descending from heaven. It does not get more old-school miraculous than that. Would that change you? Would that make you a greater believer? Would that impact the way you daven? Would that change how you spend your Shabbos? Your every day? Knowing for a FACT – because you saw it with your own eyes – that G-d exists, that He sees you, that He cares about you. I can’t think of anything more inspiring or life-changing than witnessing a full-blown miracle. 

 

About two thousand five hundred years ago, your great-great-grandparents lived in Israel. They weren’t that different than us. They went to shul, they kept some mitzvos, they identified themselves as good Jews, buuuut they also did some other stuff that didn’t exactly fit that billing. They weren’t always so careful about this Mitzvah or that Mitzvah. They believed but they had their doubts. Sounds familiar? 

 

Eliyahu Hanavi, the great prophet, had a fabulous idea – I am going to inspire the Jewish People, by giving them the most magnificent, spiritual experience, so that this inner struggle, the inconsistency, the apathy, it will all be done with, once and for all. 

 

And so Eliyahu gathers the Jewish People to a Mt. Carmel, and he does exactly what we just envisioned. He takes an animal, places it on an altar, surrounds the altar with buckets of water, and then he prays. And in full sight of the entirety of the Jewish People, a fire comes down from the sky, lower and lower, and then burns the wet animal, sitting in buckets of water, to a crisp. You know what happens? 

 

The people go crazy – “HASHEM HU ELOKIM! Hashem is our G-d,” they yell out in a frenzy. Game over. Eliyahu nailed it. This is the life-changing, inspiring moment they’ve all been waiting for. Shabbos is going to be Shabbos; I won’t even dip my feet in the pool. Kosher is going to be Kosher; no messing around, even when I’m on vacation. I’m going to pray every day. Like, really pray. I might even show up to weekday minyan. I’m going to be kidn to people, not only in public, but behind closed doors. Torah study, lashon hara, you name it. 

 

And it works. This group of Jews who were, in the words of Eliyahu, posei’ah al shnei se’ifim, who were wildly inconsistent, they change overnight. 

 

But then, a day later, maybe a week later, it all falls apart. Despite that intense experience of rapture, it doesn’t stick. Before you know it, the Jewish People are back to their inconsistent, apathetic, Jewish life. 

 

***

Out of all the challenges people present to me, there is one that I really struggle addressing. I get some pretty wild and difficult questions sent my way, and they’re painful, they rip your heart to shreds, but I’m not afraid of them. But there’s one question that scares me: 

 

“Rabbi, I don’t feel inspired. How do I get back that spark of inspiration in my spiritual life?” 

 

You ask me that question, in my head, I run for the door. 

 

I’ll be honest, it’s embarrassing. You want to ask me why bad things happen to good people? I could spend the next ten hours giving you a lecture on the topic. Your relationship is on the rocks? I could try share some practical advice and happy to help finding you a good therapist. But the one question which is probably the most basic to my job – helping people feel connected to G-d, guiding people in finding a spark and passion, ensuring that there is a spirit of inspiration in our lives, that question… I can’t answer it. Or to say it better, I can’t answer it in a way that you, the questioner will be satisfied. And that’s a problem. 

 

If you’ve ever experienced that feeling of being really inspired – maybe you felt your breath caught in your chest, or the room expanding, or you felt absolutely certain about something, or total clarity, or just a sense that you were standing before G-d – that feeling is bliss, right?  But as we all know, those feelings don’t last for very long. And so those blissful feelings end up being the biggest tease. Because we know what they are; we’ve experienced them, they were awesome. But now we can’t. And so now, we feel like we’re groping in the dark. 

 

“Rabbi, I don’t feel inspired anymore.” 

“Rabbi, what do I do to feel connected?” 

“Rabbi, how do I recreate that amazing sense of connection that I used to have?” 

***

 

I’m comforted by today’s almost Haftorah. In the Haftorah we did not read, I learned that I’m not the only one who doesn’t know how to deal with this. Eliyahu Hanavi, after bringing that heavenly fire down to earth, after facilitating the most spiritual experience ever, after witnessing the Jewish People change overnight, and then witnessing them lose that inspiration entirely, he ran away. Now, part of the reason he ran away is because some people wanted to kill him. But he also ran away because he was experiencing an existential crisis; what did I do wrong? I did everything I can to bring the Jewish People back to G-d, and it failed. What else can I have possibly done to inspire the Jewish People? Eliyahu is down, he’s depressed, he can’t understand what went wrong. So G-d shows up and gives him a masterclass in inspiration and it goes like this: 

 

First G-d sends a powerful wind, and Eliyahu assumes, this is an image of G-d, but he doesn’t see G-d in the wind. And then G-d sends an earthquake, and Eliyahu assumes that G-d is found in that earthquake, but He’s not. And then G-d sends a fire, and Eliyahu just know that this fire is a representation of G-d, but it’s not. And then finally, G-d sends forth, a thin still voice, kol d’mamah daka, and G-d, we read, is found there, in that thin still voice.  

To paraphrase Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: G-d was trying to teach Eliyahu by not appearing in the whirlwind, by not appearing in the earthquake, and by not appearing in the fire, that G-d is not to be found in violent confrontation, in drama, with spectacle. Rather G-d is found in gentleness and the word softly spoken. G-d was telling Eliyahu that true G-dliness is found far away from the drama. 

And that’s why it’s so hard to guide people to be inspired. That’s why it’s so hard to say some words, and poof, the listener feels turned on. What we’re after is a fallacy. It doesn’t work. It’s not meant to work. 

Moishe Bane, President of the Orthodox Union, summed it up quite nicely in a recent article. He wrote: “Perhaps we confuse holiness with religious exuberance just as young people often mistake infatuation for love. Infatuation, though exhilarating and intense, inevitably fades. Authentic love, by contrast, builds slowly over time. An authentic relationship with our Creator is the same.” 

True love is not Hollywood. True love is showing up day in and day out. At times, it’s draining and difficult and not fun. Fireworks is getting the kids out the door in the morning. Passion is scrubbing the floor vigorously after someone spilled a bottle of milk. Romance is unplugging a toilet. 

 

But between all that, there are sparks, a smile, a gaze, a touch. There is richness, there is beauty, and there is love, but it’s found thin voice and silence. And that’s exactly how inspiration works. 

 

Can I invite you in to my davening experience? 

 

I daven three times a day, every single day. And almost every day, I take three steps back, and I try to speak G-d. I say all the words and I try to say them with meaning. But more often than not it feels like I am smashing my head against a wall. Lightly. The words aren’t going anywhere. They fall flat. I could feel them falling flat. And then – once every, I don’t even know, the room melts away, and the words are like magic, they roll off my tongue, and I sense, I know, that they’re connecting to Hashem, and I feel G-d’s Presence right there in front of me. And then, smashing my head against a spiritual wall for weeks on end. 

 

But that’s the only way it works, and that’s okay. Embrace it. Inspiration is found by showing up. Connection to G-d, that feeling of being lifted up and inspired is no different than love. You could dim the lights all you want, that’s not how romance works in real life. Day in and day out, consistency, the thin still voice, no drama. And in between the humdrum, the regular, the daily Mitzvos, the tefilos, the Torah study, that’s where love, and that’s where a deep and exciting and passionate connection to G-d is really found. 

 

We’re celebrating the Bar Mitzvah of Yehuda Friedman. Yehuda, it has been a pleasure watching you grow up, and I mean that literally. Wow. In addition to height, G-d gave you many talents and qualities; you’re creative, you’re an artist, a sensitive soul. You’re protective over your younger siblings, you’re doting on your mother. You’re responsible – if anyone needs their lawn mowed, let Yehuda know. And today, Yehuda, you’re beginning a journey called Judaism. 

 

Yehuda, I need to warn you – I hope over the next couple of years you have a wildy inspiring experience. Many of us, somewhere between teenagehood and young adulthood, have some life-defining spiritual experience that we never forget. But then, life’s going to get busy, you’re going to grow up, and you’re going to wonder, where’s that inspiration I once felt? Where’s that rush and intensity that I once had? Was it nothing? Can I ever access it again? How else will I feel connected to Hashem? How else will I feel inspired to be a good Jew? 

 

And I hope you remember this speech. I hope you remember the lesson from Eliyahu Hanavi, the kol d’mamah daka, that in the thin still voice, and know to look there for inspiration. 

 

But the truth is, even if you forget this speech, and even if you forget me, I’m not worried. Because you’ll have your Aba and Ima to look to. And you’ll see two paragons of quiet consistency, two people who if you look closely, glow ever so faintly, two people who so clearly are invested in one another, invested in you, and in their quiet and consistent way are teaching you what love really  is, love of a spouse, love of a child, but also the recipe for love of G-d: kol d’mama daka, that thin, consistent, and still voice. Don’t give up. Show up. Because that’s where the magic is found.  

 

 

 

 

Laws of the Three Weeks and Nine Days 2022

The Three Weeks of Mourning begin Saturday evening, July 16th. It is a time of mournful reflection on the destroyed Bais HaMikdash and subsequent tragedies. In order to instill within ourselves a sense of loss, our Sages instituted numerous restrictions to create a feeling of sadness. The Talmud writes that one who mourns the destroyed Jerusalem will merit to see it rebuilt.

It is customary not to say the blessing of She’hechiyanu during the Three Weeks. Therefore, one should avoid eating fruits that they have not eaten for a year, as this would necessitate saying the blessing. In addition, one should not wear new clothing that requires making the blessing of She’hechiyanu. This includes new suits and new coats. One may purchase these items during the Three Weeks as it is wearing them for the first time that is a problem. One may purchase and wear any other type of clothing during the Three Weeks.

One may not cut hair during the Three Weeks. Waxing and eyebrow care are permitted.

One may not listen to lively music during the Three Weeks. This is true for live music as well as recorded music. Most have the tradition to not listen to any music, even if it is not lively.

A Capella music is a matter of debate but there is what to rely upon to listen to such music.

Listening to music as a way of staying awake in a car, to help one concentrate, or something of that nature is permitted.

The custom is to refrain from doing anything that can even be remotely dangerous during the Three Weeks because of the bad track record the Jewish People have during this time period.Traditionally, this has included swimming in lakes or rivers and getting elective surgery. 

 Laws of the Nine Days

The ‘9 Days’ begin Thursday evening, July 28th. In a very general sense, what is forbidden to be done during this period is: Home improvements, laundering, buying or wearing new clothes, eating meat, drinking wine, and bathing for pleasure. We will discuss the details of all these restrictions below.

Home Improvement and Gardening: It is forbidden to do any home improvements such as painting, building, adding extensions. One may not hire a non-Jew to do this type of work either. Light housework, such as sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, and basic cleaning is permitted. In terms of gardening, basic upkeep such as mowing the lawn, watering plants and flowers is permitted. Planting new seeds or flowers is not allowed.

Laundering: Included in the prohibition of laundering during the Nine Days is ironing, or sending any clothes to the dry cleaners (even if they will be ready after the Nine Days).

One may wash clothing for children aged six and under.

If one has no clean clothing for Shabbos one may wash clothing on Thursday and Friday so that they will have clean clothing for Shabbos.

Spot cleaning is permitted.

During the first days of mourning for a loved one, one may not wear freshly laundered clothing. The same holds true for the Nine Days when we all mourn the destruction of the Batei Mikdash. The definition of freshly laundered clothing is clothing that has not been worn since it has been laundered. This does not mean that one must wear dirty clothing. Rather, once clothing has been worn for a half hour [prior to the Nine Days] it can be worn during the Nine Days. The prohibition of wearing freshly laundered clothing is limited to outer garments as opposed to undergarments and pajamas.

One is allowed to wear freshly-laundered clothing on Shabbos.

[For all you clever people out there, this may seem to indicate a loophole of sorts. If one can wear new clothing on Shabbos then perhaps one need not wear clothing before the nine days in order to take away their freshness. Instead one can wear them for the first time on Shabbos and ‘break them in’ that way. The problem with this idea is that it violates another prohibition – one may not prepare on Shabbos for the week to come. Therefore one would not be able to ‘prepare’ clothing that they only want to wear during the week by wearing them on Shabbos. Instead,]

If one runs out of clothing that was pre-worn before the Nine Days, one may cause the clothing to be considered not fresh by putting them on a floor that is dusty, removing the creases by stepping on the clothing, or by placing the clothing in a laundry basket with dirty laundry. All of these methods are only to be used post-facto. Ideally, one should prepare clothing before the Nine Days by wearing any outer garment that will be worn for at least a half hour.

As opposed to the Three Weeks when buying clothing of significance is forbidden, during the Nine Days buying any article of clothing is prohibited. (As a practical tip – before going Nine Days without laundry, it’s worth double checking that you have enough clothing! Also, don’t forget to buy non-leather shoes before Tisha B’av.) If there is a major sale that will be over before the Nine Days have passed it is permitted to buy a new article of clothing.

It is forbidden to make any new clothing (sewing, weaving, knitting, etc.) but it is permitted to sew up a tear or a button etc.

It is forbidden to eat meat/poultry or drink wine through the Nine Days. There are two reasons why this is so – 1) meat and wine increase happiness 2) it serves as a reminder of the meat of the sacrifices and the wine libations that are no longer.

One may use meat utensils but may not eat food that was cooked with meat (like eating a potato from a meat chulent).

There are no restrictions of meat and wine on Shabbos.

Included in the prohibition of drinking wine is drinking grape juice. However, any other alcoholic beverage is permitted. Wine that is used for cooking is allowed provided that there is no distinct taste of wine in the food.

Drinking wine/ grape juice on Shabbos is permitted. Havdallah poses a challenge as it is after Shabbos. For Havdallah, one should not use beer in place of wine. Rather, if there is a child between the age of 6 and 9 available they should drink the wine/ grape juice. If not, the one who made Havdallah should drink it. As is the case every Saturday night, one should ideally drink a r’viis which measures approximately 3.8 fl. oz.

A few final laws and customs that pertain to the Nine Days:

During the Nine Days, it is forbidden to swim, be it for pleasure or for exercise. If one must swim for medical reasons, please feel free to contact me to discuss further.

One should try not to be involved in a court case during the Nine Days if possible.

The custom is to push off saying Kiddush Levana until after Tisha B’Av because Kiddush Levana is supposed to be said in a state of joy.