New York – Halachic Analysis – May One Shower During The Nine Days?


    The Mishna in Maseches Ta’anis famously teaches that “Mishenichnas Av Mema’atin BeSimcha”, ‘When the month of Av arrives (Rosh Chodesh Av), we lessen our joy’. Since many catastrophes and national tragedies befell our people during this time period, including the destruction of both of the Batei HaMikdash on Tisha B’Av, halacha dictates various restrictions on us in order to mourn our great losses, and properly commemorate by feeling the devastation. One of these restrictions is not to bathe during the “Nine Days”, the nine day mourning period from Rosh Chodesh Av until Tisha B’Av. Although bathing is noticeably absent from the Gemara’s restrictions of the Nine Days, all the same, this opinion of the Ravyah is codified as halacha by the Tur, Shulchan Aruch, and Rema (Orach Chaim 551, 16).

    Nevertheless, and quite interestingly, the most common question a Rabbi is likely to receive this time of year is if it is permissible to take a shower during the Nine Days.

    Although, at first glance from a preliminary reading of Rabbinic literature on topic, showering seems to be black on white prohibited, yet, from the works of many contemporary authorities it seems a better question would be if there is a hetter not to take at least some sort of shower during the Nine Days!

    First of all, it must be noted that with the vast majority of world Jewry living in the Northern hemisphere, the Nine Days (not so conveniently) falls out during the hottest part of year, during the blazing summer. When someone is asking his rabbi for a halachic dispensation to take a shower, he is not merely asking a theoretical question. It is usually someone sweating heavily, caked in perspiration and often afflicted from odoriferous emanations. This is especially germane this summer, with the mercury in some places nearing 100°F (37°C) already in June! [I can’t wait for August!] 

    Hygiene or Pleasure ? 

    If we were to ask our suffering friend why he wanted to take a shower, he would most likely reply “to get rid of the sweat and stickiness and feel like a human being again”. The Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 551, 37), already in the 1890’s, ruled that one whose body is dirty can bathe during the Nine Days (even using hot water) in order to get clean, since he is not bathing for pleasure. In other words, the Aruch Hashulchan is teaching us that the restrictions of the Nine Days are meant to lessen our enjoyment, not to force us to give up basic hygiene.

    But, before the righteously indignant among us question how the Aruch Hashulchan made such a distinction, it should be stressed that the halachos of the Nine Days parallel those of a mourner, and even a person mourning the loss of his parents is permitted to be ‘ma’avir es hazuhama’, ‘remove the sweat’, even during shiva, since it is not done for pleasure. The Mishna Berura (554, 15 s.v. sicha & Shaar HaTziyun 38) adds that it’s so obvious that this is permitted during the Nine Days, that there was no need for the Shulchan Aruch to even make mention of it!

    Another proof several contemporary authorities cite is from Hilchos Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, and the only Biblically mandated fast day that comes with its own set of restrictions including washing, the Shulchan Aruch emphatically declares that only pleasure washing is technically forbidden. Although the Mishna Berura stresses that on Yom Kippur one should not rely on this unless in dire need, nevertheless, if hygienic washing to remove sweat on Yom Kippur is me’ikar hadin permitted, then it certainly is permitted during the Nine Days.

    Another important factor is that the Chayei Adam and Mishna Berura explicitly permit certain types of washing during the Nine Days (head, arms and legs) if one is accustomed to bathe every week. Several contemporary authorities, including Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l and Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin zt”l, maintain that nowadays, with everyone (hopefully) showering more than once a week, this dispensation should include everyone, especially when considered necessary. If one is unsure if or when this is relevant to himself, he should ask his spouse, friends, or the guy davening next him in shul! Remember, Mitzvos Bein Adam L’Chaveiro constitute half of the Aseres HaDibros!

    An interesting point raised by Rav Shlomo Zalman Braun zt”l, in his Sha’arim Metzuyanim B’Halacha is that when Chazal enacted the original prohibitions of the Nine Day, the only way to bathe was to go for an enjoyable lengthy dip in a steamy bathhouse. But nowadays, with the advent of quick and easy showers, which are meant for a hygienic wash and not for pleasure bathing, it is possible that they would not be included in the prohibition. Remember, not too long ago showers were not too prevalent.

    Contemporary Consensus

    This ‘Shower Exclusion’ during the Nine Days for hygienic purposes is ruled decisively by the vast majority of contemporary authorities including Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld zt”l, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l, the Klausenberger Rebbe zt”l, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner shlit”a, Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul zt”l, Rav Ovadia Yosef shlit”a, and the Sha’arim Metzuyanim B’Halacha zt”l. However, and although there are differing reports of his true opinion, it must be noted that the Chazon Ish zt”l was quoted as being very stringent with showering during the Nine Days, even for hygienic reasons, and even though most other Rabbanim were mattir.

    Additionally, this ‘Shower Exclusion’ is by no means a blanket hetter. There are several stipulations many of these poskim cite, meant to ensure that the shower will be strictly for cleanliness, minimizing enjoyment and mitigating turning it into ‘pleasure bathing’:

    1. There has to be a real need: i.e. to remove excessive sweat, perspiration, grime, or dirt. (In other words, ‘to actually get clean!’).
    2. One should take a quick shower in water as cold as one can tolerate (preferably cold and not even lukewarm).
    3. It is preferable to wash one limb at a time and not the whole body at once. (This is where an extendable shower head comes in handy). If only one area is dirty, one should only wash that area of the body.
    4. One shouldn’t use soap or shampoo unless necessary, meaning if a quick rinse in water will do the job, there’s no reason to go for overkill. Obviously, if one needs soap or shampoo to get clean he may use it.

    Good Mourning?

    Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, while wryly noting that actual mourners do not usually ask for special halachic allowances related to the halachos of mourning as opposed to many who do so during the Nine Days, nonetheless cautions the overzealous among us not to forget about the spirit of the law. It is important for us all to remember that these restrictions were instituted by Chazal to publicly show our mourning during the most devastating time period on the timeline of the Jewish year. Our goal should be to utilize these restrictions as a catalyst for inspiration towards Teshuva. It is worthwhile to do so, as well.

    As the Kaf Hachaim relates, everyone who observes the halachos of the first ten days of Av, thereby demonstrating their personal mourning over the destruction of Yerushalayim, will merit witnessing ten incredible miracles reserved for the days of Moshiach. May it be speedily in our days.     

    Rabbi Yehuda Spitz serves as the Sho’el U’ Meishiv and Rosh Chabura of the Ohr Lagolah Halacha Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim. He can be reached at his email:

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    1. the oruch hashulchan och 151 36 states how hefker people became in taking showers in the 9 days and its osid leitein es hadin. and the heter of sweat is for a istenes and its not simple and the rma and the taz and the chofetz chaim and the bach and the tur all ASUR TAKING SHOWERS

      • did you even read this article? the oruch hashulchan in the very next seif qualifies it that it is muttar afili bchamin in order to make your body clean. the mb says it as well that reason SHU”A doesnt bring it down is because its a davar pashut that gezera of 9 days was never meant for shvitz. im glad you obviously know more than all the poiskim!!!

    2. For Sefardim, oer the Yalkut Yossef Moadim, hot showers are permitted (not for pleasure, but just regular shower on a regular basis), except during the week of Tisha Be’Av (cold water and soap only then). No lukewarm, not just one area, not just water but with soap/ shampoo (water only doesn’t clean up hair).

      • Not just you. The term “to bathe” was different in the time of the mishna in the first place. People would absolutely bathe for pleasure in vast waters. They did not have bathtubs. They did not use soap or shampoo. They bathed in the waters for a myriad of reasons, many that were directly related to the pleasure of being in the water. In fact, it was small basins of water and perfume that was used to wash dirt and odor or cover odor … it was not bathing. We shower for hygiene now. We live in a world where people work amongst others. Show up at work in the summer without showering and see how quickly your job goes bye bye.

      • It’s about the vanity and pleasure that one avoids for being incompatible with mourning. Mourning focuses you on the loss (e.g. person) and not on yourself, your appearance, your pleasure, etc.

        • RobertS:

          Thank you for your response. Growing up in my family personal hygiene was never considered a vanity or pleasure issue. Therefore, I understand why there can be multiple interpretations.


      • The simple fact is that Halacha makes a clear distinction between bathing for pleasure or hygiene, health and comfort. The first is prohibited, while all the others are clearly permitted. Taking a daily shower is a routine part pf every normal person’s life. Especially in the weather conditions of high temperatures and humidity. that we are experiencing during this time of year. Therefore, all this talk about restrictions and conditions for taking a shower are nonsense.

    3. I always understood that since bathing used to take place in public houses designated for such purposes, the socializing was deemed inappropriate and therefore prohibited. I really don’t remember where I heard this, but I am very sure I did.

    4. Ultimately, your true words will determine your real observation and not your experience of pleasure or otherwise somewhat easier days. G-d does not judge us on all of our self imposed hardships in so much as he judges us as to how we interact and treat one another. So if you want to know the facts, you may be detrimental to the future of the Jewish people by not showering for your own “pleasure” of “atonement”.

    5. Until the 20th century people bathed weekly if that often, so abstaing during the 9 days was easy. Now in America a daily shower is routine and everyone I know showers quickly with cooler water during the 9 days..

    6. Nine Days Rulings From Rav Elyashiv zt”l
      One should avoid all places of danger during this time. One should also avoid trips. Travelling to relatives is not considered “trips.” If there is some need, one may leave Israel to travel to Chutz LaAretz, or for medical purposes, but just a trip to Chutz LaAretz is forbidden.
      Making reservations for after the Nine days is permitted to do during the Nine Days.
      It is preferable as much as possible not to schedule surgeries that are not Pikuach Nefesh emergencies for these times.
      He did not understand why they used the regular haftorah tune at the shul of the Chazon Ish instead of the mournful one for Chazon Yishayahu. The source for using the mournful tune is in Rishonim.
      For eating meat at a Seudas Mitzvah only a bare minyan should be eating the meat – first degree relatives. For a Bris Milah celebration only the father, Sandek and Mohel should be wearing Shabbos clothing. A bar Mitzvah celebration during this time should serve meat only to the closest relatives, if they wish to honor the guests they should serve fish not meat.
      If you do not have Tisha B’Av shoes you may purchase them during the Nine Days.

    7. Nine Days Rulings From Rav Elyashiv zt”l (continued)

      If a group of Yeshiva students is graduating during the Nine Days he ruled that it was inappropriate to take pictures for a yearbook during this time. And that the Nine Days are becoming a zilzul.

      If children under Bar Mitzvah normally shower daily then one can be lenient for them during the Nine Days.

      {I am mediyuk from the last one that it is ONLY for those under bar/bas mitzva who we can be lenient with.}

      • where did you get this from? – look in Ashrei ha-ish on Orach chaiyim vol. 3 pg. 469 seif 36 where he writes that rav elyashiv held that if a person is dirty or sweaty and especially nowadays he may take a shower for hygiene.
        and isnt this sefer the most authentic of his psakim?!!

      • I’m medayek that either (1) this is a daas yochid (no pictures during the 9 days?), or (2) he meant regular showering for kids, 9-days showering for adults (like on chol hamoed–regular bathing for little kids, eiver eiver for adults).

    8. It’s issues like this that make soooo many young Jews leave the Jewish Religion.
      There are many other ways to mourn the loss of the Batei HaMikdash.
      As a Modern Orthodox Jew, I would feel I was committing a Chilul Hashem by riding public transportation or going to work and emit an offensive odor all day. That “odor” results from dead bacteria which should be washed off every day.

      • “There are many other ways to mourn the loss of the Batei HaMikdash.”
        And how as an MO do you? BTW what is a “modern orthodox Jew? Is that similar to jews for gevina? Is it that you pick and choose which halachas to follow and which aren’t “modern” enough? Like not turning on lights on Shabbos. Yea rubbing 2 sticks of wood together is hard work. But todaY! It’s just fliping on the light switch. Do you not hold from mikvah because it’s not modern? Do you not wear a jacket to shul because it’s not modern? Do your women wear their hair uncovered because that’s “modern”?
        You say “It’s issues like this that make sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo many young Jews leave the Jewish Religion”. B’H! If they leave the religion for not showering in the 9 days, tuutaluu. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out! Very weak Jews. Your very weak as well if you can say such a thing. BTW I know of not even 1 Jew who left our religion over this. This and other such meaningless and stupid quotes from the MO are just self satisfying statements to justify the MO’s willingness and ease to go off the derech or at least compramise Judaism without any halachic psak from Shulchan Oruch.

        • apologies, you sound like a very angry woman who feels the Modern Orthodox are weak, and you are right! “We do pick and choose”. We pick and choose to be Attorneys, MD’s, Wall Streeters etc…… We realize that we are in Golus and have to fit in, and with the help of our Rabbi’s, insure we will make a Parnossah for our families and be able to give Tzedakah to the less fortunate and the State of Israel. May we all see Moshiach come where we can all sit in the Mikva every morning and then go learn the rest of the day. When that time comes we will all abstain from bathing on the 9 days. Ms., that’s what MO is about

          • What does you working have to do with being MO? Or MO people working have to do with the subject? Most of the charaydee Jews work and mingle with non-Jews all the time! I shower every day. But during the 9 days I will not unless I really need to. THAT is the law in Shulchan Oruch. I don’t do what I FEEL LIKE DOING.My point was an orthodox Jew does what his Rov tells him to do. That’s a real Jew. The MO do not listen necessarily to what their rabonim tell them. They do what they feel like but still like to “look” like a form of JEW, but be able to easily fit in with the gentile. Short, sleeves and skirts and necklines and no hair covering for women, no hat or jacket in shul for man. (It goes without saying no payis). We congregants can not make statements like “These days things are different”. It’s not for a layman to say that. Ask your Rov and do what he says.

        • In defense of the modern orthodox person which you are very much insulting (which was his point that are other ways to mourn or learn lessons that a bait hamikdash to be built). The article mentions that the mishna doesn’t bring down the shower issue during the 9 days. It is only a ravyah that shulchan aruch and tur bringing down. I know your going to insult me to by saying that I think I am a bigger chahcam than the ravyah but then I can throw back the same question back at you was the ravyah a bigger chacham then the mishna which doesn’t quote anything about showers. The problem is you live in a cookie cutter society where shulchan aruch is the only posek you can follow, according to you we might as well put the other rishonim or achronim with other opinions in the genizah.

          • My friend your point is well and fine. We are allowed to think for ourselves. We are given a brain by Hashem. However when it comes to p’sak a Jew MUST listen to his Rov. He can’t do what he wants. What then do we need rabbonim for? It breaks down the whole system of the Torah if you don’t listen and say you know better.
            While you have a good kasha about the Ravyah being a bigger chochom, and how a latter day posek can differ from an earlier on, it does not change the fact that you still HAVE TO listen to your Rov. The one who lives in YOUR time. IF he is maykil on something, he probably has a good source for it. But for people to come on here and say “they do what THEY feel is right, then thats……….I won’t say what.

          • BTW what did you mean by “The problem is you live in a cookie cutter society where shulchan aruch is the only posek you can follow”. So whom should we follow?

    9. Anyone else here think the michaber of the shulchan aruch living in eretz yisroel had hotter summers than us here in America? And he still wrote what he wrote.

    10. We live in a civilized society with Yidden taking subways and busses with people from all over the world. If you don’t clean yourself for 9 days in 100F temperature, you are injuring those people around you which is not fair. You don’t want people shouting “Dirty Jew” and have a reason for it.

    11. My wife was approached by goyim at her work a couple of years ago regarding the smell of a MO intern who apparently wasn’t showering during the nine days. As an obviously orthodox Jew they wanted to know from my wife if it was for a religious reason he was being offensive and how to handle it. After he completed his internship, he was not invited back to work.


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