Selling Meat During the Nine Days

An annually occurring issue for meat restaurant owners is whether or not to remain open during the “Nine Days.” In Israel, and ostensibly around the entire world, this is especially relevant since there are many people who are committed to eating only kosher food though they are not careful with many of the more minor observances, such as the prohibition against eating meat during the Nine Days.

Owners of such restaurants are faced with a major dilemma during the Nine Days. On the one hand, if the restaurant were to close during the Nine Days, customers would simply go elsewhere. This consideration is exacerbated with the concern that once one’s customers try (and enjoy) other restaurants, it is not always easy to lure them back to one’s own. On the other hand, remaining open during the Nine Days may violate the prohibition of "lifnei iver," causing others to sin, and should therefore be prohibited accordingly.

A number of authorities rule that remaining open during the Nine Days is not a violation of "lifnei iver."[1] This is because "lifnei iver" is defined as causing someone to violate a prohibition that they would not have otherwise violated if not for one’s influence. If, however, a person could have just as easily gone somewhere else to violate a prohibition then one will not be in violation of "lifnei iver" just because one made it more “convenient” for the person to sin.[2]

Based on this approach, it is permissible for meat restaurants to remain open during the Nine Days. This is especially true if there is a concern that if the meat restaurants were to be closed during the Nine Days then patrons would seek non-kosher alternatives.[3] Indeed, it is far better to violate the custom of not eating meat during the Nine Days rather than to violate the biblical prohibition against eating forbidden foods. It is also noted that those who are ill or weak, or are otherwise required to eat meat regularly are permitted to do so during the Nine Days -- even in a restaurant.[4] Children under the age of chinuch may eat meat during the Nine Days.[5]

Those who sell raw meat, such as butchers and supermarkets, are permitted to continue to do so as normal during the Nine Days. This is because there are many situations where eating meat is permissible, and as such, people will legitimately need to buy and cook meat. For example, it is permitted to serve meat during the Nine Days at the festive meal that follows a brit or a pidyon haben. One may also eat meat at a siyum celebration during the Nine Days.[6] So too, it is permitted to purchase meat during the Nine Days for use on Shabbat or after Tisha B'av.[7]

It would be remiss not to mention that in a number of Sefardic communities the custom is to only refrain from meat during the week in which Tisha B’av falls out, and not necessarily for the entire nine day period. So too, there was once a custom, no longer observed, to refrain from eating meat during the entire “Three Weeks” and not just during the Nine Days.[8] The predominant custom in Israel among observant Jews of all stripes is to refrain from meat during the entire Nine Days.[9] Nevertheless, it is customary in a number of Sefardic communities to eat meat on Rosh Chodesh Av in honor of the day, while Ashkenazim generally have no such custom.[10]

[1] Yechave Daat 3:38.

[2] Avoda Zara 6b; Tosfot, Avoda Zara 6b s.v. minayin; Rema, YD 151:1.

[3] Rivevot Ephraim 2:158.

[4] Chullin 4a; Rema, OC 551:9; Yechave Daat 3:38; Teshuvot V'hanhagot 2:257.

[5] Magen Avraham 551:31; Chayei Adam 133:16; Or L’tzion 3:26:6.

[6] Igrot Moshe, OC 4:112; Shraga Hameir 3:9.

[7] Shraga Hameir 3:9.

[8] OC 551:9.

[9] Yechave Daat 1:41.

[10] Mishna Berura 551:58; Yechave Daat 1:41.