Shabbat Parashat Devarim | 5769
Ask the Rabbi: Remodeling work on a kitchen during the 9 days
Question: We are doing remodeling work on our kitchen. My wife ordered and signed a contract for work to be done on cabinets and other things that is supposed to start on July 15. May work continue during the Nine Days [before and including Tisha B’Av] or must it be stopped?
Answer: The gemara (Yevamot 43b) says that from the beginning of Av until Tisha B’Av, one should lessen his business dealings and his building activities. The gemara does not say specify the type of transaction and building it refers to, nor does it explain what it means to lessen. However, in the context of similar restrictions on fast days called to deal with drought, the gemara (Ta’anit 14b) refers to “building of joy” and gives the example of the house where one’s son will be getting married and living in. The Yerushalmi gives a counter example of a type of building that is permitted: when one’s wall needs support so that it does not cave in. What happens in between these two extremes?
The poskim come to the following basic consensus. If there is fear of collapse, one can do what is needed even for the needs of a joyous building (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 551:2). In general, though, any type of building whose purpose is to enhance and not for necessity should not be done during this time (Mishna Berura 551:12). This would apply to most cases of kitchen renovations, which usually take a functional kitchen and make it more attractive or more convenient. There are opinions (against the simple reading of the classical sources) that this is forbidden even from the beginning of the Three Weeks (which start this year on July 9th) (Biur Halacha, ad loc.) but one has the right to be lenient on the matter, especially if he already made an agreement with workers.
This brings us to what may be a major point of leniency in this case. Several poskim (including Eliya Rabba 551:3; Mishna Berura 551:12 – based on the Maharil) say that if one hired a non-Jew before the Nine Days to do the work in a manner that he is paid by the job (and not by the hour), the work relates to the non-Jew and may be done during the Nine Days. However, they say that if the worker will accept a small fee to delay the work, the owner should prefer that option. Another case where it is not be required to push off the work during this time is when the delay will cause a significant loss (Mishna Berura 551:13). Some examples include: the work or materials will be more expensive later; given that the work has begun, the interim setup is a difficult one to maintain.
In general, there are three ideas behind refraining from certain types of acquisitions and building during the Nine Days. One is that it is a time when the mazal of Bnei Yisrael is low (which is something you may want to consider). The other is that it is a time when it is inappropriate to do things that are in a category that is considered too happy. There is a third idea, that the entire period of the Three Weeks is a time that is historically tragic and we are, therefore, not supposed to say Shehechiyanu about “hazeman hazeh” (this time) (Shulchan Aruch, OC 551:17). If you plan to make Shehechiyanu on the renovations (which is a good question that is beyond our present scope- see Mishna Berura 223:12), it should not be during this time. This would make it problematic to have the job finished until the middle of the 10th of Av (see Igrot Moshe, OC III 80). Even if you will not make the beracha, it still is better that the finished product not be ready during the Nine Days, as this is a greater joy than the interim progress on the work. So even if you have little choice but to have the workers do the bulk of the work during the Nine Days, still try to have the entire overall job finished afterward. Work should also not be done on Tisha B’Av itself.
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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of
R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld
Hemdat Yamim is endowed by
and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.
Hemdat Yamim of this week
is dedicated in memory of
Yitzchak Eizik ben Yehuda Leib a"h,
whose Yahrtzeit is the 29th of Av