[Avodah] Why is laundry prohibited during the Nine Days, while an avel may do laundry during the month of mourning (shloshim) after Shiva?
Prof. L. Levine
llevine at stevens.edu
Tue Jul 13 05:38:08 PDT 2021
>From today's OU Kosher Halacha Yomis
Q. Why is laundry prohibited during the Nine Days, while an avel may do laundry during the month of mourning (shloshim) after Shiva?
A. Rav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik, zt”l (Out of the Whirlwind, pp.9-30) discusses at length the Gemara (Yevamos 43b) which distinguishes between aveilus chadasha and aveilus yeshana, i.e., the “new” mourning of the private individual and the “old”, public mourning over the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash. The individual mourns over the loss of a close relative. The community mourns over the loss of the Bais HaMikdash, a historical event which transpired almost two thousand years ago.
The individual mourns over an event which has just transpired with a spontaneous reaction of grief. As the year progresses, the pain over the loss lessens. The Halachos of the individual’s mourning reflect the lessening of this anguish. On the other hand, the public, communal mourning over the loss of the Bais Hamikdash entails reflecting on an ancient historical event. This type of mourning increases with intensity so that by the time Tisha B’Av arrives, it is as if “his deceased relative lies before him.” The Halachos of mourning in this case intensify with time, mirroring the increasing reflection and concentration of the public over an old event to recreate that event as if on Tisha B’Av it just transpired.
It is for this reason that one is prohibited from doing laundry during the Nine Days. In olden times, washing one’s clothes meant continuous public work at the river. This causes hes’ach hada’as, a diversion from the increasing meditation concerning the loss of the Bais HaMikdash, and is thus prohibited (MB 551:21). In contrast, an individual’s period of mourning is naturally intense, and there is no need to restrict laundering which leads to hes’ach hada’as.
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