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To what extent, if any, does the practice of bathing in hot water before Shabbos override the prohibition of bathing during the Nine Days? I ask specifically regarding Ashkenazi practice (I guess for Sefardim this is a non-issue), and for one who is generally strict about bathing before Shabbos.

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yoel, welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for the timely question! I look forward to seeing you around. –  Isaac Moses Aug 5 '11 at 21:02
    
Thanks! To clarify, I meant stringent regarding bathing before Shabbos. –  yoel Aug 5 '11 at 21:16

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The Aruch HaShulchan writes (551:36):

ודע שבדורינו התחילו לזלזל ברחיצה בחמין בערב שבת חזון, ומרגלא בפומייהו: שמי שרוחץ כל ערב שבת – רשאי גם בשבת זו. ואינו כן, שהרי רבינו הרמ"א לא התיר רק חפיפת הראש, כמו שכתבתי. ותמיד היו המרחצאות נעולים בערב שבת חזון. וזה לא כביר התחילו לזלזל, ועתידים ליתן את הדין. ופשוט הוא דלרפואה – מותר לרחוץ בחמין, אפילו בערב תשעה באב.

Nowadays people are tarnishing the custom to refrain from washing with warm water on erev Shabbos Hazon, thinking that if they use warm water every erev Shabbos they can on this erev Shabbos too -- but they are not correct -- the Rema only allowed washing the head with warm water, (but not the whole body)... and people who tarnish this custom are going to pay the price in the future.

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Thank you, the Rema works for me. –  yoel Aug 5 '11 at 21:17
    
It's worth noting that many pulpit rabbis seem to be more lenient than the Aruch HaShulchan about some of these matters. The AS also thinks that one should wear weekday clothes on Shabbos Hazon -- see sif 11 there -- which is not the common practice that I notice. –  Curiouser Aug 5 '11 at 21:32
    
That seems stranger to me as I was under the impression that we certainly suspend any mourning prohibitions during Shabbos itself. –  yoel Aug 5 '11 at 21:39
    
The AS writes that since nowadays (in his time) our weekday clothes look the same as Shabbos clothes -- the only difference is quality/cost, then we wear weekday clothes. In the old days (and presumably for certain Hasidim), when the Shabbos clothes were a totally different style and would be noticed if absent, then they would continue to wear Shabbos clothes. –  Curiouser Aug 5 '11 at 21:54
    
So for one who wears black and white during the week and only wears a nicer suit and hat for Shabbos, this seems to apply. What about one who wears jeans during the week? What about one who is particular to wear black and white on monday and thursday? –  yoel Aug 5 '11 at 21:59

Just saw this today. But R. David Bar-Hayim argues that not bathing is breaking a halacha for the sake of a minhag.

That is l'chavod shabbat is much strong positive halacha, then the minhag of not bathing during the first 9 days of the month of av.

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The Rav's points are wise and insightful, but what of the principle that Jewish customs are equivalent to the Torah? Presumably the Rav is adjuring against Sefardim and Mizrachim adopting the Ashkenazi minhag out of excessive piety - otherwise it is difficult to understand his position. –  yoel Aug 7 '11 at 4:50
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-1: David Bar-Hayim is not speaking specifically to Sepharadim and Mizrachim. He's trying to invent a "minhag eretz yisrael", and some of his psakim in doing so are directly intended to uproot Minhag Ashkenaz, for example this one permitting kitniot on pesach for all Jews. If you have any respect at all for the concept of mesorah, you should ignore what he says. –  Chanoch Aug 7 '11 at 5:05
    
I confess not to understand at all the Rav's position. To denigrate our customs as "meaningless" is extremely troubling and in fact contrary to the essence of the Torah. –  yoel Aug 7 '11 at 5:41
    
@Yoel, a Minhag is not equivalent to Torah. A Minhag is like 'halacha'.. Meaning, you can't just ditch them for the heck of it, and you must revere them. Any minhag that goes directly against a halacha is null and void. (see Or Zarua 1:7). –  avi Aug 7 '11 at 11:44
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@Yoel The same way I understand statements which suggest that any particular mitzvah is the same as keeping the entire Torah. They are not halachicaly true, only hashkaficly. You can't say that since you are wearing Tzizit, you don't have to daven. Or because you are learning Torah you don't have to bench. –  avi Aug 8 '11 at 4:39

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