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Shabbat Parashat Masei 5771

Ask the Rabbi: Chanukat Habayit During the Three Weeks

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: May I make a chanukat habayit (“inauguration” of a home) celebration in Israel during the Three Weeks, before Rosh Chodesh and the beginning of the Nine Days. 

Answer: Of the different levels of national mourning leading up to Tisha B’Av, the lowest level is that of bein hametzarim (the Three Weeks, but before Rosh Chodesh). During this time, for example, the minhag for Sephardim is to even allow weddings, whereas Ashkenazim do not.

These matters are tricky to analyze halachically. On one hand, the more important a matter is, the more we want to allow things that are usually forbidden. That is why it is accepted to eat meat at a siyum during the Nine Days, when Ashkenazim usually do not eat meat. On the other hand, the stronger an event’s happiness, the more likely it is that the celebration itself is significant enough to be forbidden even if celebrated without flourishes. Therefore, it is forbidden to get married even without a celebratory meal (Mishna Berura 551:15).

A chanukat habayit is essentially a form of Jewish expression of the joy of moving into a home that is new for its inhabitants. During the Nine Days, it is forbidden to do non-essential/ beautification work on a home (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 551:2). Along the same lines, we avoid entering a new home during this time unless needed to avoid loss (see Bemareh Habazak III, 60). Since one may enter a home before the Nine Days, the problem is only from the perspective of the added activities of the celebration.

A lot has to do with the nature of the celebration. Many Sephardim have the minhag to have a ceremony, with specific Torah texts to recite, on the day they enter the house, and some will not sleep in the house before doing so. Here, the words of Torah are the purpose, and accompanying festivities are ancillary, and such an event is certainly permitted. This is further bolstered by the fact that many consider a chanukat habayit in Israel a mitzva, which then allows for the leniencies connected to a seudat mitzva. The Torah (Devarim 20:5) views inaugurating a home as significant enough to allow someone to leave the battlefront, but only in Eretz Yisrael (Yerushalmi, Sota). While one can distinguish between actually living there and the celebration, the B’er Sheva (70) says that the celebration is a seudat mitzva in Eretz Yisrael, and not abroad. While it is not simple to allow this celebration during the Nine Days (see Levushei Mordechai, OC 101), it is permitted before Rosh Chodesh.

If the celebration is not on the day one enters the home, there are two reasons to be more stringent. One is that the level of mitzva may be lower when it is not on the same day. The other is that if one is already delaying the celebration, it makes more sense to delay further until after Tisha B’Av. That being said, since there is no classical source to forbid a chanukat habayit before the Nine Days, if one has good reasons to do it specifically at that time, we would not forbid it but would urge him to remember to put a stress on divrei Torah and thanks to Hashem.

However, certain things that might go on at the celebration are problematic. We do not say Shehecheyanu during the Three Weeks because “this time” is a sad one (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 551:17). Some people normally make Shehecheyanu as they enter the home as well, which is problematic during the Three Weeks. However, we anyway believe that this is not the correct beracha to make (see Bemareh Habazak, ibid.). It is accepted not to play music or dance during the Three Weeks (Mishna Berura 551:16). Since it is not an integral part of a chanukat habayit, it is proper to forgo music, certainly live music, which is more stringent than recorded, or dancing at the celebration (see Shemen Afarsimon, siman 10).

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