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Overview and laws of the period leading up to Tisha B'Av.
The "Three Weeks" between the 17th of Tammuz and the Tisha B'Av have historically been days of misfortune and calamity for the Jewish people. During this time, both the First and Second Temples were destroyed, amongst other terrible tragedies.
These days are referred to as the period "within the straits" (bein hametzarim), in accordance with the verse: "all her oppressors have overtaken her within the straits" (Lamentations 1:3).
On Shabbat during the Three Weeks, the Haftorahs are taken from chapters in Isaiah and Jeremiah dealing with the Temple's destruction and the exile of the Jewish people.
During this time, various aspects of mourning are observed by the entire nation. We minimize joy and celebration. And, since the attribute of Divine judgement (“din”) is acutely felt, we avoid potentially dangerous or risky endeavors.
ASPECTS OF MOURNING DURING THE THREE WEEKS
THE NINE DAYS
The period commencing with Rosh Chodesh Av is called the "Nine Days." During this time, a stricter level of mourning is observed, in accordance with the Talmudic dictum (Ta'anit 26): "When the month of Av begins, we reduce our joy."
(1) We avoid purchasing any items that bring great joy.
(2) We suspend home improvements, or the planting of trees and flowers.
(3) We avoid litigation with non-Jews, since fortune is inauspicious at this time.
(4) We abstain from the consumption of meat (including poultry) and wine. These foods are symbolic of the Temple service, and are generally expressions of celebration and joy.
(5) We refrain from wearing newly laundered garments, or laundering any clothes.
(6) We do not bathe for pleasure.
with thanks to Rabbi Moshe Lazerus