The nine days

There is a lot of buzz over the internet in the last day or two about the upcoming 9 days that start tonight. This is a period of mourning for us Jews. To signify that we don’t eat meat, nor do we cut our hair, nor have celebrations of any sort. Rabbi Haber has a comprehensive article which is much more detailed.

But the main buzz among my G-d Squad (the people with whom I have religious discussion) on Twitter is how on earth can we manage the next 9 days without meat. People are talking about stocking up on steak, discussions have started about how to keep Shabbat going (on Shabbat we can eat meat) until the fast of Av by eating every 72 minutes to prolong the meal. I am not sure I understand how that works, but hey, whatever floats your boat.

So we can’t eat meat or chicken. Big deal. There are plenty of culinary delights in the dairy and fish world. One of my G-d Squad went as far as to call these militant meat eaters wusses for needing to stock up on their carnivoressness! I am surprised they haven’t come up with meat supplements to be taken orally or by, giggle, suppositories. You can do that with caffeine, why not with cow?

But if we have to give up meat and chicken, and for some it seems to be a real sacrifice, what does a vegetarian give up? How do they show their mourning food-wise? No tofu?

I have another question not food related, but nine days related. My seven year old son asked me why exactly he cannot go swimming. He said its just like taking a bath, Ima, just bigger. I told him because its not our custom to go the pool in the 9 days. But really, he is a kid, and children don’t mourn. So what’s wrong with little kids swimming?

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  1. Rafi G says:

    people are babies. They can’t deal a few days under adverse conditions. It is not such a big deal. I eat very little dairy and no fish, mostly meat, but 9 days are fine. Shabbos is in the middle anyway.

    It is like how some people have a difficult time managing, or at least so they kvetch, with no chametz on pesach. It is just a week and is not such a big deal.

  2. Mark says:

    It’s an interesting question. The swimming, I mean. Swimming for pure pleasure is clearly prohibited, but what about other swimming. Swimming for exercise, for example? Is that prohibited as well? What if you enjoy the exercise to some extent?

    What about going into the pool to learn how to swim? I’ve been teaching my two sons how to swim, and they’ve been doing very well. Should I stop teaching them for 9 days, or should I continue teaching them?

  3. Mark says:

    I completely agree with Rafi, I’m also a meat eater primarily, but I have no problem with the “milchigen tagen”, the 9 1/2 days of not eating meat. I also have no problem with eating on Pesach, in fact, I like Pesach eating very much. So many people are just whiners. About almost everything. Maybe we are all just too spoiled?

  4. shorty says:

    I was a vegetarian for ten years. It’s not so bad. Our wedding, was a vegetarian meal. I wasn’t about to kill 100 chickens because my guests couldn’t deal with a veg meal for a night.

    I think its great exercise for everyone – meat is a luxury. the Rambam believes that our lives were shortened because we started eating meat – notice how Adam and Noah lived to 900 but after that no one made it to 200?? Before Noah, we were not allowed to kill animals for food.

    There are plenty of resources on the web for recipes. Canned beans make things totally easy, and the dishes are really yummy.

    as for swimming, no they can’t mourn, but they can understand about the meaning of this time. Perhaps explain that instead of swimming think of Tikkun Olam activities that they can do – bake some goodies for a nursing home or visit kids in the hospital or…

    rather the focus on the “can’t” focus on the what can they do…?

    just some ideas…

    Be well

    Shorty

  5. shoshi says:

    What you said about vegetarians also applies to children who do not like to bathe: 9 days without bath, they could even push it to not showering.

    by the way: as far as I understood taking a bath (in warm water) is “more prohibited” than going swimming (in cold water)

  6. shoshi says:

    ps: for the meat-eaters: you can have a watermelon-binge.
    That’s great!

  7. Noah Roth says:

    Let’s start with a related question that must be answered before we can answer yours:
    Is it permitted for a Jew to be a vegetarian?

  8. hadassahsabo says:

    noah – there is no commandment that you have to eat meat…right?

  9. Noah Roth says:

    Rambam includes eating meat and drinking wine under the commandment of Oneg Shabbat…

  10. Noah Roth says:

    Poultry was originally not considered meat until a rabbinical decree changed that so the poor could afford to execute their responsibilities under this commandment…

    (Fish was considered also, but rejected.)

  11. Noah Roth says:

    We’ve established that meat is used for joy.
    It not unintentional that abstinence from meat is a sign of mourning as during the 9 days…

  12. Noah Roth says:

    In temple times people were required to eat and not leave over parts of animal sacrifice…

  13. hadassahsabo says:

    ok…but we are to abstain from wine also in the 9 days. does that mean its assur to be a teetotaller because we are supposed to drink wine on shabbat?

  14. Noah Roth says:

    There is a commonly misquoted Gemrah that in common folklore says, “אין שמחה אלא בבשר וביין.”- There is no joy but through meat and wine

    In reality it says, “בזמן בית המקדש קיים אין שמחה אלא בבשר בזמן שאין בית המקדש קיים אין שמחה אלא ביין.”- During temple times joy is only through meat, and in non-temple times joy is only through wine.

    Specifically using meat to signify our joy/sadness in no temple times may have been intentionally chosen by the rabbis for a commemorative purpose- thereby leading to the often misquoted citation above.

    Also distinguishing b/w the two for shabbat.

  15. Noah Roth says:

    For the record- I believe that vegetarianism is defensible in Jewish law. Just playing devil’s advocate challenging the underlying assumptions.

  16. Hannah says:

    You should hear what people say when I tell them I don’t want to serve kugel at my son’s kiddush!

  17. Mark says:

    Before Noah, we were not allowed to kill animals for food.

    Havel never ate any of his animals? Were they all sacrifices for Hashem?

  18. Ari says:

    I’m no rabbi — far from it — but my understanding is that swimming instruction is ok during the 9 days. If you ask most kids, it’s tedious and hardly fun.

    As for bathing: you must understand that when it was originally prohibited, bathing was a social event, in a public bathhouse, and a luxury, especially if you could do it with warm water and soft towels (if you were lucky).

    Our kind of bathing is not a luxury or a special event because our social norms, technology, and standards of personal hygeine have changed. A steam shower with massaging shower heads, a dip in the hot tub…yeah, that’s overindulging on the 9 days. I don’t think you need to physically cringe from the shock of a cold shower to prove you feel sad for historical and current events. Maybe just skip the body wash creme, yes?

    As for special diet, my thinking is: if you’re vegeterian, then go without a food that you consider exceptional, a luxury. Maybe go without dessert. The point is not to mechanically check a box to fulfill a technical requirement in the spiritual olympics. The point is to make it both halachic and personally meaningful.

    Hmmm. Maybe I should have gone into the rabbinate.

  19. Mark says:

    I’m no rabbi — far from it — but my understanding is that swimming instruction is ok during the 9 days. If you ask most kids, it’s tedious and hardly fun.

    For my kids, I make swimming lessons fun. That’s because I’ve found that the best way to learn anything is by making the process of learning it enjoyable.

  20. Tzvi Haber says:

    Noah, if one doesn’t have joy in meat and wine there is no chiyuv on YTov and the like. I have that on good authority.
    Additionally, there were a group of Jews after the destruction who swore off meat and wine. They were stopped by R’ Yehoshua because it was a gezeira shain hatzibur yachol lamod bo, not because its forbidden to be a vegi.

  21. Noah Roth says:

    DISCLAIMER: This time I’m not just playing devils advocate.

    Where did the idea come from that the individual application of halakha is subjective?

    The underlying question is was this action prohibited by the rabbis or not. Whether or not you enjoy that particular action is irrelevant.

    Certainly one is not required to take on additional prohibitions if he does not partake in rabbinicly prohibited behaviors anyway.

    Nor does a prohibited behavior being unenjoyable exempt you from rabbinic injunction.

  22. Noah Roth says:

    Tzvi- See comment 15. :)

  23. Tzvi Haber says:

    Noah – sorry missed that.

  24. simonsynett says:

    Much as I enjoy meat (even eating it for breakfast quite often), eight days of abstention don’t bother me in the least bit.

    What is weird is the fact that in a few minutes I’m going to go and wear a bunch of clothes for a few minutes each so that I will have a supply of non laundered clothes that are nevertheless not offensively dirty!

    As far as swimming for kids, I seem to remember that we allow kids to have a paddling pool (perhaps better not in a very public way), on the basis that kids are not really included in the aveilus. That isn’t meant in any way as a ruling, but just a recollection of how we have acted in the past.

  25. le7 says:

    Hmmm the second that the 9 days started, I started craving a hamburger.

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