The first nine days of Menachem Av are known as a period of mourning over the destruction of The Beit haMikdash in Jerusalem. We refrain from eating meat and drinking wine – except on Shabbat and on celebrations, such as a bar mitzvah, a brit (circumcision) or the completion of a tractate of the Talmud – Siyum.
Though festivities are inappropriate for these days, the joy of a mitzvah is permitted. The Rebbe initiated the custom of conducting or participating in a Siyum on each of the Nine Days and even encouraged his followers to share this joy with others by organizing public siyums and even broadcasting them on the radio.
We also refrain from washing clothing (except for those of a baby). We don’t wear freshly washed garments, swim or bathe for pleasure. We put off home remodeling and avoid unnecessary travel. The Kiddush Levana (sanctification of the moon) and celebrating a couple’s engagement are postponed until after Tisha B’Av. (The particular mourning customs vary from community to community, so consult a competent Rabbi for details).
As we lament the destruction, we are also promised renewal. The Rebbe stresses: the present days are uniquely appropriate for the coming of Mashiach. For our Sages declared that:
A lion (Nebuchadneztar) came in the month whose sign is a lion (Av) to destroy Ariel (“the lion of G‑d,” the Beis HaMikdash), so that a lion (HaShem) will come in the month whose sign is a lion and build Ariel.
The month of Av, despite the bitter beginning, can be transformed into a month of opportunity.
The Rebbe explains:
– The name of this month – Menachem Av, – suggests that it’s the most appropriate time for “consolation” and redemption.That’s why the word “Av” is preceded by the word “Menachem” – “comforter”. This month is meant to bring Geulah. There will be a consolation for all the negative factors associated with the beginning of “Av”. The descent and decline, related to “Av”, will be turned into good and will lead to great ascent – “Menachem”. (Excerpted from the Rebbe’s talk on Shabbat Parshat Devarim, 5751).