The three week period of national aveilus, mourning, referred to as, "bein hamitzarim," between the straits or borders, begins Sunday, July 21, 2019, with the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz.

" Hamitzarim " also means difficult or painful, and references the time period between the historically tragic 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av.

This period of collective soul searching commemorates the destruction of a) both Temples in Jerusalem b) the disruption of Jewish kingship and c) Am Yisroel's long exile.

According to seforim, it's an appropriate time to do intensify Torah study and do teshuvah.

To help recall these events and to encourage yearning for the third bais hamikdash, our sages imposed restrictions on joyous events and limited certain pleasurable activities during this period.

These restrictions intensify over the three weeks, culminating with the fast of Tisha B'av.

The following are general rules for the three weeks. As we approach Shabbos Chazon and Tisha B'av, we will present those particular laws in a separate halachic primer.

- One may not marry during the three weeks. However, one may get "engaged" and even throw a party to celebrate his/her engagement.

- We refrain from listening to live music. According to many poskim, taped/recorded music is included in this prohibition. Small children may listen to music and a supervising parent may be present. Background music in a store or played during radio commercials are likewise permitted.

- We do not haircut or shave during this period. If one needs to haircut or shave for "livelihood" purposes, a Rabbi should be consulted. Cutting nails is permitted.

- We refrain from reciting the shechiyanu blessing during the three weeks on clothing or food. However, one may purchase new items and delay usage or consumption until after Tisha B'av.

- The shechiyanu blessing may be recited on shabbos chazon or rosh chodesh during the three week period.

- If a new food item will be unavailable at a later time, one may recite the shechiyanu and consume the food even on a weekday.

May we merit to witness the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the ingathering of the Exile speedily in our day! Amen.