It seems that years ago we were much more affected by the period of the Nine Days.
We worked hard to make sure not to listen to music, did nothing that would be considered in any way entertaining, certainly did not bathe, nor did we do the wash and, chas v’chalilah, we did not shop, unless the article we were purchasing was one that did not need to have a bracha made over it. As we were thinking about it we laughed when we reviewed some of the halachos recently “online,” where it was noted that one can purchase articles that are on sale that probably will not be available after Tisha B’Av at the same price.
We chuckled to ourselves, pondering what could it be that is so necessary that one must have it due to the fact that it is on sale. A new dress—definitely a must; a new suit—another item to add to the many others in the closet; a cell phone that is on special; an iPod that is suddenly drastically reduced for one week only. Could we not manage without these bargains? Of course we can. We just have become so unaccustomed to not doing what we want when we want to.
It reminds us of so many things from the past that “everyone” did that today one cannot even imagine. Who had two ovens? We have been trying hard to think of anyone who we knew, including rabbonim, that even considered such a luxury. A double sink was unheard of. Who would ever have considered having a sink in the dining room to do netilat yadayim? Some did not even have dining rooms. What was chalav Yisroel, chalav akum or yoshon? A well-known rav in Montreal was quoted years ago as saying that chalav Yisroel was milk that had a drop of mikvah water in it! What meat was glatt? Who knew anything about checking for bugs other than making sure that in romaine lettuce before Pesach one needed to check it carefully? No one even used any type of lettuce other than iceberg. Mesclun and kale were probably, as Nina’s mother would say, “goyish.” No one ever tasted it or cared about it. Who would have considered that there was a risk when eating a strawberry that we might swallow a tiny bug? We, who considered ourselves so very frum in every way, never gave it a thought. None of us did.
In the midst of these very important days we will concentrate on what we feel is most important, and that is to improve our relationships with friends and loved ones. We will turn away while hearing people speak of others negatively. We will discourage those we know from giving us information about others that we really have no interest in. We will reach out to all members of our family, no matter how much Torah they include in their lives, to tell them how much we love them. That, to us, is one of the most important lessons we can learn from the Nine Days.