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Sheloshim - The Thirty Day Mourning Period

Harav Aharon Lichtenstein
22.01.2000

 

Translated by David Silverberg

 

 

     The Shulchan Arukh's presentation of the laws concerning bathing during aveilut (mourning) begins: "What is the prohibition of bathing?  One may not wash his entire body, even in cold water.  However, his face, hands and feet – with hot water is forbidden, with cold water is permitted.  If he was dirty from mud or excrement, he may bathe as usual without any concern" (Y.D. 381:1).  The Rama comments:

 

"Strictly speaking, all this is forbidden only during shiva [the first seven days of mourning].  Thereafter, however, one is permitted to bathe.  But now the custom is to forbid all bathing for all thirty days.  Even shampooing one's hair is forbidden.  One should not deviate from the custom, for it is a time-honored custom established according to the 'vatikin' [pious ones]."

 

That Halakha does not, strictly speaking, forbid bathing after shiva, as posited by the Rama, emerges clearly from the Gemara's discussions in this regard.  First, the Gemara does not include bathing together with ironing and haircutting in the prohibitions of sheloshim.[1]  Secondly, as the Vilna Gaon points out (in his glosses to the Shulchan Arukh), the Gemara states explicitly (Mo'ed Katan 19b), "A mourner – once the comforters leave him he is permitted to bathe."  The Rama's additional comments, however, concerning the practice to refrain from bathing during sheloshim, are far less clear, and the Acharonim debate the scope of this custom.  The Shakh (381:1) addresses in a single passage both the text of the Rama's comment as well as the halakhic implications thereof: "'But now the custom is to forbid bathing for all thirty days' – this is the correct text, and indeed this is how it appears in the Iturei Zahav, as opposed to how it was printed in the books – 'any and all bathing,' for undoubtedly there is no prohibition at all against bathing in cold water."  The simple reading of the Shakh indicates that during sheloshim one may wash even his entire body with cold water; indeed, the Eliya Rabba understands the Shakh in this light.  The Dagul Mei-revava, by contrast, comments on the Shakh, "This refers only to one's face, hands and feet; but the entirety of one's body – even with cold water is forbidden for us throughout sheloshim."  Rabbi Akiva Eiger, in his chiddushim to the Shulchan Arukh, adopts this ruling, as well.

 

     The Rama's comments originate from the testimony of the Or Zarua (2:435), who also speculates as to the reasoning behind this practice: "That which people are now accustomed, to refrain from washing after shiva – it seems to me that this is because they are concerned they might then comb their hair, which is forbidden for all thirty days."  Meaning, clearly no prohibition itself applies after shiva.  However, in Ashkenazic communities, the custom developed to forbid washing as a means of ensuring compliance with the prohibition against haircutting.  This appears to have evolved from a parallel halakha regarding a nazir, whom the mishna (Nazir 42a) permits to wash and part his hair, but not to comb it.  The Gemara explains the prohibition against combing as due either to the possibility that hair will fall out in the process (and one view forbids a "davar she-eino mitkavein"), or to the assumption that "whoever combs intends to remove the loose strands" (and therefore even Rabbi Shimon, who permits a "davar she-eino mitkavein," forbids combing).[2]  This parallel, however, is far from clear.  The Torah writes regarding the nazir, "Throughout the term of his vow as nazirite, no razor shall touch his head" (Bamidbar 6:5), and therefore, as stated in the mishna (Nazir 39a) and by the Rambam (Hilkhot Nezirut 5:11), "A nazir who shaved – be it with scissors, with a razor, or if he trimmed just a bit – is liable for punishment."  When it comes to aveilut, by contrast, Halakha forbids not the act of hair removal itself, but rather the resulting enhancement of one's appearance.  One may argue that even the intentional removal of a few hairs does not enhance one's appearance, and should thus be permitted during aveilut.  What  more, the prohibition against combing, on account of which, the Or Zarua speculates, bathing became forbidden, is itself shrouded in ambiguity.  The Or Zarua's speculation here corresponds to his view presented later (siman 446):

 

"A woman may comb her head after shiva, even though we maintain that a man is forbidden from combing all thirty [days], and for this reason the practice developed to refrain from all bathing and shampooing, so as to avoid combing.  Rabbenu Shimshon Ben Rabbi Avraham wrote as follows: It is true what the student said in my name, that I forbade shampooing one's head during mourning until [after] thirty [days], because of the combing forbidden for a nazir, as the mishna states, 'A nazir may wash and part [his hair], but may not comb' – and we learn from nazir based on the common word 'pera.'"

 

However, we accept the view permitting a mourner to comb, even during shiva (Y.D. 390:6).[3]  The Taz (381:1) therefore concluded that we should not, according to the Or Zarua's explanation, forbid bathing during sheloshim.  Yet, he nevertheless suggests reinforcing the practice on the basis of a different explanation, which he brings in the name of the Maharshal: "They forbade [bathing] because of the prohibition against haircutting, for generally one who goes to the bathhouse cuts his hair."

 

     According to both reasons, we have no reason, at first glance, to distinguish between hot water and cold water with regard to bathing one's entire body during sheloshim.  After all, these views maintain that the bathing is not forbidden per se, but rather out of the concern lest it lead to haircutting.  Although, one might speculate, as does the Arukh Ha-shulchan (381:3), that this concern arises only when one washes with hot water, and not with cold water.  It would appear, however, that there remains room for us to suggest a third explanation for the practice to refrain from bathing during sheloshim.  The Maharam Mei-Rutenberg writes in a responsum, "After seven [days], all people may bathe; however, by force of the laws of the country, people took it upon themselves not to bathe during sheloshim."[4] The expression "hilkhot medina" ("laws of the country") appears in the Gemara in several contexts, including Reish Lakish's view concerning orla in the Diaspora (Kiddushin 38b) and the right of orchard watchmen to partake of the fruit (Bava Metzia 92a).  This term seems to refer to a law that was established – if only by force of custom – in and of itself, not out of concern for what may result otherwise.  We may therefore assume that the prohibition against bathing after shiva emerged as an extension of the mitzva of aveilut.  It would thus resemble other customs that developed regarding aveilut practices, such as the custom recorded by the Rama to refrain from haircutting for twelve months after a parent's death[5], or the Ashkenazic custom to begin from Rosh Chodesh Av the prohibitions of the week of Tisha B'Av.[6]  Such a theory, however, would require explanation.  If, indeed, we deal here with an extension of the laws of aveilut by prolonging the issur rechitza (prohibition against bathing), then we would seemingly accept the view of the Dagul Mei-revava and Rabbi Akiva Eiger, that the custom forbids during sheloshim all that Halakha forbids during shiva.  Thus, according to the custom, we should forbid a mourner throughout sheloshim from washing his face, hands and feet with hot water, or his entire body with cold water, as the Gemara concludes regarding shiva, in Masekhet Ta'anit (13b).  The question then arises, how should we understand the position of the Shakh, that the custom permits bathing one's entire body with cold water during sheloshim – which a mourner is forbidden to do during shiva?[7]

 

     In approaching this issue, we must analyze the difference between the laws of shiva and those of sheloshim.  The Rambam, after listing and explaining the eleven prohibitions of shiva in the fifth chapter of Hilkhot Avel, proceeds to introduce the halakhot of sheloshim in the beginning of the sixth chapter.  He writes:

 

"The Sages legislated that a mourner observe a few practices of mourning all thirty days… These are the activities from which a mourner is forbidden all thirty days: he is forbidden with regard to haircutting, ironing, marriage, social celebration, business trips from one country to another; five activities in all.  How is he forbidden from haircutting?  Just as one may not cut all the hair on his body, shave his moustache or cut his fingers with a file throughout shiva, so is it forbidden all thirty days."

 

This passage implies that only the number of prohibitions decreases during sheloshim; the level of prohibition, however, remains the same.  Any prohibition of shiva that remains in effect during sheloshim resembles almost identically during sheloshim its application during shiva.[8]  True, practically this affects only haircutting, for the prohibition against ironing, which the Gemara (27b) mentions together with haircutting – "three days for crying, seven for eulogy, thirty for ironing and haircutting" – is not a lesser form of the prohibition against laundry, but rather an independent halakha.  Nevertheless, the principle of continuity from shiva to sheloshim remains valid as a fundamental outlook on the relationship between the two periods.

 

     This approach, however, is not universally accepted.  The Ramban, in his "Torat Ha-adam," discusses the issue of trimming a moustache that disrupts one's eating.  The Gemara (Mo'ed Katan 18a) records the view of Rebbi permitting one to shave such a moustache.  The Ramban writes:

 

"The Ra'avad z"l wrote that this applies specifically on the festival [chol ha-mo'ed]; during aveilut, however, this is forbidden, as the berayta states in Avel Rabbati: 'What is the prohibition of haircutting?  He is forbidden from removing hair, both the hair on his head and any hair on him, and his beard'… But Rabbi Yitzchak Ben Geiut z"l permitted [trimming] one's moustache, all [hair] that disturbs [his eating], during sheloshim; during shiva, however, this is forbidden.  This is how it was ruled in the Pesukot [of the Geonim] and in the Gedolot [the Behag].  But it stands to reason that even during shiva, as well, this is permissible.  This emerges from the dispute of our rabbi z"l [the Rif] regarding [cutting] fingernails, as we have proven his view, that it is permissible even during shiva, for it does not seem reasonable that one's moustache should be dirtied by eating; he may therefore trim whatever disrupts him."[9]

 

The two extreme positions – of the Ra'avad, forbidding trimming even during sheloshim, as this does, after all, constitute haircutting[10], and of the Ramban, permitting even during shiva, as this does not involve enhancement of one's appearance – seem clear.  The view of the Geonim, however, which is accepted as Halakha, requires explanation.  Why do they permit trimming one's moustache during sheloshim, but not during shiva?

 

     We find a similar phenomenon regarding the prohibition against laundry.  Most Rishonim maintain that no prohibition whatsoever – neither washing clothes nor wearing freshly laundered clothes – applies after shiva.  Tosefot (Mo'ed Katan 23a, s.v. kol), however, cite the view of the Riva forbidding laundry during sheloshim.  They then add, "That which is said earlier (15a) that a mourner is forbidden with regard to laundry, implying that after shiva it is permissible – that refers to water, not with soap or detergent, and this [washing with only water] might be permissible after shiva."  Tosefot thus understood that according to the Riva and those following his position, the definition of kibbus (laundry) with respect to shiva differs from its definition concerning sheloshim.  This then corresponds to the position of Rabbenu Yitzchak Geiut and the Behag with regard to haircutting.

 

     We may extract the explanation behind these views from the writings of the Ramban himself.  A famous dispute exists among the Geonim and Rishonim regarding the Biblical or rabbinic origin of the laws of aveilut.  The Ramban discusses this issue at length and is inclined to accept the position of the Rif and Ramban, who hold that the observance of the first day of mourning constitutes a Torah obligation, whereas the remainder of aveilut was established by Chazal.  Towards the end of his discussion, however, he suggests a different view:

 

"It further seems that the primary, Biblical [law] of aveilut involves only luxuries, such as bathing, smearing ointment, marital relations, tefillin, which are an expression of grandeur ['pe'er'], and laundry and haircutting, which are joyous.  Aveilut, as its name suggests, requires that one not engage in matters of joy, but rather in matters of mourning, and this is the 'grief in the heart' from which they derived that one should not engage in matters of joy.  However, wearing shoes and sandals and [the obligation of] wrapping one's head do not originate from the Torah, for the Torah did not require afflicting oneself or denying oneself that to which people generally are accustomed."[11]

 

The Ramban here introduces a distinction between two different levels of aveilut so as to distinguish between aveilut required by Torah law and that established by Chazal.  We may, however, enlist the principle he establishes in other contexts, in two senses.  First, even when dealing with prohibitions that are entirely Biblical in origin or entirely mi-de'rabbanan, we might nevertheless categorize them into two groups.  Secondly, we might distinguish not only between different prohibitions and categorize them accordingly, but identify different levels within a single prohibition: one level involving the requirement "that he not engage in matters of joy," and another demanding that he "afflict himself and deny himself that to which people generally are accustomed."

 

     It seems that we may distinguish in this regard between shiva and sheloshim.  During shiva, Halakha demands of the avel – either on the level of de-orayta or de-rabbanan – to descend to a standard below "that to which people generally are accustomed."  During sheloshim, by contrast, when the aveilut lessens not only in scope, but also in intensity, the mourner may maintain the accepted life routine; it is forbidden only for him to ascend beyond the normal routine and treat himself to additional forms of luxury and joy. 

 

According to these assumptions, we can easily understand the aforementioned views of Rabbenu Yitzchak Geiut and the Riva.  Haircutting performed to enhance one's appearance is seen as a form of luxury or delight, and is thus forbidden even during sheloshim.  By contrast, haircutting performed to enable one to eat properly clearly lacks this luxurious quality.  To the contrary, refraining from this haircutting entails a degree of distress and discomfort, and Halakha therefore forbids it only during shiva.  The same applies to washing clothes in water or wearing clothing washed in water.  Without the use of detergent, this washing does not involve any degree of luxury, and it can therefore be forbidden only during shiva.

 

     Having arrived at this point, we can now understand the Shakh's comments concerning washing one's entire body with cold water according to their straightforward meaning.  Washing in hot water involves a dimension of physical pleasure, which has an element of joy.  Therefore, by force of custom, it is forbidden during sheloshim.  Washing in cold water, however, merely removes one's discomfort, without providing any pleasure or joy.  It is therefore permissible after shiva even according to the custom of the Rama.[12]

 

     The Arukh Ha-shulchan (381:3) rejects the position of the Dagul Mei-revava and Rabbi Akiva Eiger, and prefers taking the Shakh's comments at face value.  In explaining his stance, the Arukh Ha-shulchan refers us to, among other sources, the Gemara's discussion in Masekhet Ta'anit (13a).  He claims:

 

"There in Ta'anit they say that any [prohibition] involving enjoyment – [bathing] in hot water is forbidden, in cold water is permitted.  We see that [when bathing] in cold water, one receives no enjoyment.  Therefore, why should we forbid [bathing in cold water during sheloshim]?  If [one argues that we should forbid this] because of aveilut – the status of aveilut applies only during shiva."

 

The Arukh Ha-shulchan here appears to build upon the halakha permitting bathing that does not involve enjoyment ("she-eina shel ta'anug")[13].  At first glance, this corresponds to what we have suggested; upon further reflection, however, the difference becomes clear.  The element of "ta'anug" qualifies washing and smearing generally, and does not relate specifically to the laws of aveilut.  Case in point, several Rishonim maintain[14] that even on Yom Kippur, when the prohibition of washing results from the obligation of "inuy" (afflicting oneself) and has nothing to do with mourning, one may wash for purposes other than enjoyment, and from this emerges the ruling allowing immersion in a mikveh on Yom Kippur.  By contrast, the distinction we suggested, based on the Ramban, was said specifically within the framework of the laws of aveilut.  Moreover, it is difficult to build upon the concept of "eina shel ta'anug" regarding bathing during aveilut, for whereas the Shulchan Arukh mentions this qualification of the bathing prohibition in the laws of Yom Kippur, he omits it in the contexts of aveilut and Tisha B'Av.[15]  Regarding these laws the Shulchan Arukh speaks of "eina shel ta'anug" only when dealing with smearing ointment.  It becomes very difficult, then, to establish the permissibility of washing for an avel on the basis of the absence of physical enjoyment.  The Arukh Ha-shulchan himself seems to have sensed this problem, and he thus concludes, "If [one argues that we should forbid this] because of aveilut" – regarding which even non-ta'anug bathing is forbidden – "the status of aveilut applies only during shiva."  But this itself appears very difficult to accept.  Is the period of sheloshim not also due to the status of aveilut?  Necessarily, then, we must distinguish between different levels within the framework of aveilut.  In light of the Ramban's analysis, it seems reasonable to build upon the component of luxury, irrespective of the element of ta'anug; therefore, according to the Ashkenazim custom, bathing would be forbidden during sheloshim whenever the component of luxury exists, even without physical enjoyment.

 

     We should note, however, that this approach might hinge on a fundamental question regarding the equation or contrast between shiva and sheloshim and their respective characters.  Rav Soloveitchik zt"l developed an approach towards explaining aveilut in general that has long since earned its place in the Torah world.  He claimed that although aveilut indeed obligates the mourner in specific practices – both concrete actions as well as the obligation to refrain from certain activities, the essential kiyum (fulfillment) of aveilut occurs only in the heart, in the internal feeling and experiential dimension.  For this reason, aveilut is incompatible with Yom Tov; despite the fact that the two may be reconciled in terms of the practical observance of aveilut, an emotional conflict undoubtedly exists.  In this context, the Rav zt"l noted that no such conflict appears to arise between Yom Tov and sheloshim.  After all, Halakha follows the position that the days of Yom Tov count towards the thirty-day period of sheloshim.  He explained:

 

"The reason is simple.  The aveilut of sheloshim differs from aveilut of shiva.  Regarding the aveilut of shiva, the kiyum of aveilut in the heart, which has no place during festivals, is in effect.  Regarding the aveilut of sheloshim, however, there is no formal kiyum of aveilut.  Rather, only the prohibitions involving the five forbidden activities apply, but this entails only prohibitions, without any formal observance.  Therefore, all those matters that do not undermine the honor and enjoyment of the festival apply; and once it applies, we can count towards the thirty days even the [days of the] festival."[16]

 

     It would seem that if we accept this assumption, it becomes very difficult to adopt the approach suggested earlier.  When the Ramban delineates the different categories of prohibitions, he does not distinguish solely based on the factor of luxury and delight.  Rather, in his discussion of the first category, he adds, "Aveilut, as its name suggests, requires that one not engage in matters of joy, but rather in matters of mourning, and this is the 'grief in the heart' from which they derived that one should not engage in matters of joy."  He thus equates luxury with internal joy, and refraining from luxury with "grief in the heart."  Therefore, if we restrict the prohibitions of sheloshim to refraining from luxuries, this necessarily highlights the aspect of internal mourning, rather than diminishing it.  For according to the approach we suggested, only that which conflicts with the internal, emotional aspect of mourning is prohibited during sheloshim, whereas during shiva, according to the Ramban, several activities are forbidden in order to generate discomfort and distress, and are not intended to ensure emotional grief.

 

     It would appear that this point might depend upon the source of sheloshim.  In the context of the prohibition against haircutting, the Gemara (Mo'ed Katan 19b) brings that we derive the law of sheloshim from the word "pera" used in the context of mourning as well as that of the nazir.  Just as nezirut generally applies thirty days, so does the prohibition against a mourner's cutting his hair apply thirty days.  The Ra'avad (on the Rambam, Hilkhot Avel 6:1) views this as the source for the laws of sheloshim in general.[17]  The Rambam, however, brings a different source (ibid.): "On what did the Sages base this thirty-day period?  On that which is stated, 'she will lament her father and mother for a month's time' – this implies that a mourner grieves for thirty days."[18]  We also find the thirty-day period extracted from the period of mourning observed after the death of Moshe Rabbenu, only in two different formulations.  The berayta in Masekhet Semachot (chapter 7), as part of its list of different areas of Halakha involving a thirty-day period, comments, "For mourning – as it says, 'The Israelites bewailed Moshe in the steppes of Moav for thirty days'."  The Yerushalmi (Mo'ed Katan 3:5), however, cites Reish Lakish as deriving the halakha from the end of the verse: "'The days of wailing and mourning for Moshe came to an end' – 'days' means seven days, 'wailing' means two days, and 'mourning' means thirty days.  Others explain differently: 'days' means two, 'wailing' means seven, and 'mourning' means thirty."  According to the Rambam and Masekhet Semachot, the allusion to sheloshim emerges from the term "bechi" – wailing, which focuses on the internal feeling and emotion.  And although the Rambam later (13:10) establishes, based on the Gemara (27b), "One should not cry for a deceased [relative] for more than three days or eulogize beyond seven days," this refers to actual crying.  In the beginning of chapter 6, however, he brings from the parasha of the captive woman the concept of the thirty-day period of internal "crying" – the feelings of grief and loss.  By contrast, according to the Ra'avad and Yerushalmi, we might explain, on the basis of the approach of the Rav zt"l, that the "mourning" to be observed during sheloshim entails merely the external observance and actions, which are not rooted in the emotional kiyum of aveilut.

 

Notes:

 

1.  See Mo'ed Katan 27b.

 

2.      In the mishna and Gemara, the prohibition against combing appears only with regard to a nazir.  Some, however, deduce from the sugya in the fourth chapter of Masekhet Shabbat, which discusses scrubbing hair on Shabbat, that it applies on Shabbat, as well.  For an elaborate discussion on this issue, see Rivash, 394.

 

3. Later, the Shakh (390:3) brings a version of the text of the Shulchan Arukh according to which the Mechaber permits combing during shiva only for women.  However, the Shakh then proceeds to reject this version of the text as well as the position itself.

 

4.  Lemberg edition, siman 227, cited in "Teshuvot, Pesakim U-minhagim," ed. Y.Z. Kehana, 3:13 (siman 8).  See also p. 81 (siman 54).  We should point out, however, that the expression "hilkhot medina" appears as well in other responsa of the Maharam, where it may very well refer simply to the given custom's origin, without shedding any light on its nature.  For instance, "Why do you question the laws of taxes, which originate in 'hilkhot medina' – and 'every river has its own course'?  They have many differences in custom; what need is there to inform you of the custom of our location, if perhaps the custom in your location is different?" (Prague edition, siman 995; see also siman 106).  Clearly, however, even if we cannot draw support from the comments of the Maharam, we may easily suggest this approach in its own right.

 

5. See the Rama's comments in 390:4.  This practice is brought as opposing the Rama's conclusion earlier in that passage, that three months already qualifies as "shi'ur ge'ara" (the period after which we assume one's colleagues would urge him to cut his hair).  In the Or Zarua (2:446), however, this practice is cited as opposing the opinion that considers even one or two days the period of "ge'ara" and hence sufficient as an additional period of aveilut for one's parents, beyond the period observed for other relatives.

 

6.  See O.C. 551:3.

 

7. This question, of course, works of the basic assumption that we should explain minhagim (customs) as evolving from halakhic considerations, in the spirit of "let Israel be – if they are not prophets, then they are the children of prophets."  For those who prefer to view most minhagim as merely a spiritual awakening, of sorts, among the people that need not be traced to halakhic roots, then there is no room for this question at all.  We may assume, however, that the Ashkenazic authorities who bring this custom would have adopted the first approach, but clearly this is not the context for a full discussion of this issue.

 

8. An exception to this rule is hair removal by a woman after shiva, which the Rambam, following the Rif (Mo'ed Katan, 14b in the Rif), on the basis of his version of the text in Masekhet Semachot (ch. 7), permits.  It is unclear, however, how to define "hair removal" for purposes of this halakha.  From the aforementioned passage in the Rif it appears that he uses "netilat sei'ar" ("hair removal") synonymously with "tisporet" (haircutting), and we would thus permit regular haircutting for a woman, as well, during sheloshim.  On the other hand, the difference in terminology would suggest that we deal here with something other than standard haircutting.  Indeed, the Ramban brings (in Torat Ha-adam, p.196), "Some among the French scholars z"l explained this 'hair removal' permitted for a woman to mean running a comb over the pubic area."  It is very difficult to fit this explanation into the Rambam's wording.  The Rosh (Mo'ed Katan, 3:51), however, explained, "The 'hair removal' which Avel Rabbati permits for a woman refers to treatment with lotion, so that she does not appear distasteful to her husband.  It is not relevant to speak of 'haircutting' with regard to women, who grow long hair."  This understanding can, indeed, be ascribed to the Rambam, as well, such that actual haircutting would be forbidden during sheloshim even for women.  Nevertheless, this still reflects a distinction between shiva and sheloshim, and this point thus requires further clarification.

 

9. Torat Ha-adam, pp.193-4.  The comments of Rabbenu Yitzchak Ben Geiut appear in "Sha'arei Simcha," Hilkhot Avel, p.49.  The Rif's view concerning fingernails appears in Mo'ed Katan, 10a in the Rif.

 

10. As for the Rambam's position in this regard, the Bet Yosef (Y.D. 390) writes, "The Rambam wrote in chapter 6, 'Just as it is forbidden to cut any hair on one's body, shave his moustache or cut his nails with a file throughout shiva, so is it forbidden throughout sheloshim' – his comments clearly follow the view of the Ra'avad z"l."  We might add that this passage expresses not a ruling on this specific instance, but rather an overarching comparison between the two periods of aveilut, as we explained.

 

11. Torat Ha-adam, p.212.  See also the Ramban's elaborate discussion on the issue of the Biblical origins of aveilut, pp.207-214.

 

12. We do not address here at all the differences in bathing habits in different periods, which would yield both more stringent and more lenient conclusions.  On the one hand, the Magen Avraham determines that strictly speaking, and even within the Ashkenazic custom, we may permit a woman after childbirth to bathe during the nine days, and even on Tisha B'Av itself.  Yet, he nevertheless concludes, "One should not act leniently in this regard, for we do not bathe so frequently" (551:40).  On the other hand, clearly on the basis of the law regarding an "istenis" (sensitive person, who may bathe during aveilut – Berakhot 16b), and considering the changes that have occurred in this area in modern times generally, and in particular in the climate here in Israel (which obviously corresponds to that of Chazal, though differs drastically from that of the Ashkenazic scholars), there is undoubtedly room to question the applicability of these halakhot to current circumstances.  Comprehensive treatment of this issue, however, lies beyond the scope of this discussion.

Similarly, one might distinguish between washing in cold water for cleanliness purposes and swimming, as well as regarding swimming itself, between swimming for enjoyment and swimming for health purposes.

 

13. The source of this heter appears in the Yerushalmi (Berakhot 2:7): "To what does this apply?  To bathing for pleasure; bathing not for the purposes of pleasure – is permitted."  Many Rishonim cite this Yerushalmi and discuss it at length.

 

14. See, for example, Tosefot Yeshanim, Yoma 77b s.v. mishum.

 

15. See O.C. 613:1; Y.D. 381:1-2; O.C. 554:7,15.

 

16. "Shiurim Le-zekher Abba Mari z"l," 2:192.

 

17. We may assume, however, that although the Ra'avad cites this source in his objection to the source brought by the Rambam, that which the Ramban cites in his name (Torat Ha-adam, p.214), that the laws of sheloshim apply mi-de'orayta, refers only to ironing and haircutting.  The other prohibitions, by contrast, apply only mi-de'rabbanan, according to all opinions.  We should note, however, that even if the observance of sheloshim is obligated only on the level of de-rabbanan, this period nevertheless bears halakhic significance even on the level of de-orayta, with respect to aveilut upon hearing of a relative's death, which is required within thirty days of the death, assuming that this obligation applies mi-de'orayta.

 

18. Hilkhot Avel 6:1.  The phrase, "samekhu Chakhamim," as well as the opening clause of this halakha – "mi-divrei Sofrim… " – clearly indicate that we deal here with obligations and prohibitions enacted by Chazal.  However, the Shevut Yaakov (3:93) deduces from the term "noheig" that the Rambam speaks of merely a minhag.  But this is very difficult to accept, for the term "noheig" appears in the Gemara even in the context of the observance of shiva – see Mo'ed Katan 14b: "Avel eino noheig aveiluto be-regel" – which undoubtedly applies on the level of strict Halakha, rather than by force of custom.

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