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The Mourning Customs
- The Mourning period:
- It is accustomed amongst Jewry to observe certain customs of mourning within the period between Pesach and Shavuos.
- The reason: The reason behind this custom is because during this time period 12,000 study partners, who were the twenty-four thousand students of Rebbe Akiva, passed away. In commemoration of this tragedy, we practice mourning customs throughout this period of time. [The purpose of this commemoration is in order so we distance ourselves from hatred, haughtiness, and fame, and rather acquire in our souls attributes of love, humility and peace. Alternatively, the reason behind the mourning period during this time is due to that according to some opinions the period of Gihenom for the Reshaim is from Pesach until Shavuos. Alternatively, it is because this is a time of judgment over the grains.]
- When between Pesach and Shavuos is one to practice the mourning customs?
- Sefaradim keep the mourning customs from after Pesach until the 34th day of Omer.
- Ashkenazim keep the mourning customs at various times, each community according to his custom.
- Chabad keeps the mourning customs from after Pesach until Erev Shavuos.
The mourning customs:
All customs listed below are only practiced during the period of time in which one is accustomed to observe the mourning customs, as explained in the previous Halacha. For semantic purposes we will refer to this as “the mourning period of Sefira”. All mourning customs apply both to men and women unless explicitly stated otherwise!
- Engagements and Weddings:
- The custom is to avoid getting married and making weddings during the mourning period of Sefira. [Getting married during the mourning period of Sefira is a danger to the future marriage and hence a Rav should not allow it to be done even if there are many sides to be lenient.]
- Shidduchim and Engagements: It is permitted to date [Shidduchim] and get engaged during Sefira. It is permitted to have a Lechaim/Vort [engagement party], celebrated with a feast, during Sefira. It is forbidden however to dance during the party within Sefira.
- It is forbidden to dance during the mourning period of Sefira.
- This applies even during joyous occasions, such as an engagement party, and certainly applies during a non-Mitzvah related occasion.
- Some Poskim rule it is forbidden to dance during a non-Mitzvah meal throughout the entire Sefira, even outside of one’s mourning period.
- May one listen to music during Sefira? Based on a widespread custom of Jewry, it is forbidden to listen to music during Sefira even if one will not be dancing. This applies whether the music is live or recorded. This applies likewise to Chassidic Niggunim, whether a slow or fast Niggun.
- Festive meals:
- It is permitted to make festive meals during Sefira even for non-Mitzvah purposes. It is however forbidden to dance during these meals or perform other extra forms of joy.
- The custom is to avoid getting a haircut during the mourning period of Sefira. Once the mourning period that one keeps has ended, it is permitted to take a haircut. It is permitted for all Ashkenazim to take haircuts on Lag BaOmer day.
- Ruling of Kabbalah: According to Kabbalah, one is to avoid taking haircuts for the entire period of Sefira [even past one’s accustomed mourning period], from Pesach until Erev Shavuos. This includes avoiding haircuts even on Lag BaOmer, and even during Shlosha Yimei Hagbala. Many are careful to abide by this custom. Practically, the Chabad custom is to avoid haircuts from Pesach until Erev Shavuos.
- May one cut body hair during one’s mourning period of Sefira? No. The prohibition against haircutting applies to all body hair.
- May one trim his mustache during one’s mourning period of Sefira? It is permitted to trim the mustache hairs that are getting in the way of one’s food. [One may not trim past this point.]
- Does the above prohibition of taking a haircut apply also to women? Yes. However, in a time of need, a woman may cut her hair during Sefirah.
- May one cut the hair of a child? One is not to cut a child’s hair. This applies even if the child is below the age of Chinuch. [However, in a case of need, one may be lenient to do so.]
- May one move houses during Sefira? Some write that one should abstain from moving during the period of Sefira. Accordingly, if one must move during this time, it is best to do so on Rosh Chodesh or on Lag BaOmer. Others however rule that no restrictions exist at all regarding moving during Sefira and it may be thus done on any day.
- May one paint his home during Sefira?
- May one cut his nails during Sefira? There is no custom to abstain from cutting nails during Sefirah.
- May one swim or visit the beach during Sefira? However, some Poskim rule one must avoid doing so due to danger.
- May one travel during Sefira? However, some Poskim rule one must avoid doing so due to danger.
- Shehechiyanu: It is permitted to recite Shehechiyanu during Sefira. Nevertheless, many are accustomed to abstain from saying Shehechiyanu throughout the entire weekday period of Sefira, from after Pesach until Erev Shavuos. Practically, so is the Chabad custom. Those who are accustomed to say Shehechiyanu throughout Sefira may continue to do so without hesitation.
- May one recite Shehechiyanu on Shabbos? On Shabbos, even those who are accustomed to abstain from reciting Shehechiyanu during Sefira may do so, and so is the Chabad custom. However, some Poskim write that one is to avoid reciting Shehechiyanu even on Shabbos.
- May one recite Shehechiyanu on Lag BaOmer? On Lag BaOmer even those who are accustomed to avoid reciting Shehechiyanu during Sefira may do so, and so is the Chabad custom.
- May one buy new clothing during Sefira? It is permitted to buy new clothing during Sefira. However, some Poskim rule it is forbidden to do so. Practically, each community is to follow their custom. [One may however buy new underclothing and other non-important clothing, according to all.]
- May one wear new clothing during Sefira? Some Poskim rule one is not to do so [even on Shabbos]. Other Poskim however rule it is permitted. [Practically, the custom of many is to be stringent in this matter. Some Rabbanim suggest that according to the Chabad custom to not say Shehechiyanu only during the week, one is to wear the new clothing on Shabbos.]. One may wear new underclothing and other non-important clothing. One may wear new shoes during Sefira. However, some are stringent. Children may wear new clothing if they need to do so. One whose clothing tore and is hence in need of new clothing, may wear new clothing during Sefira. In all times of need, one may be lenient to wear new clothing during Sefira.
- Learning Miseches Sota: It is customary to study Tractate Sota during the period of Sefira. This is an old age Chabad custom and is a directive of the Rebbe Rayatz. One studies one page per day. This is in addition to one’s regular study sessions.