Got my nails done the other day. It was the beginning of The 3 weeks. That period that begins the 3 weeks before Tisha B’Av, the day when we commemorate the destruction of the Temple and attribute all the other bad things in history that have happened to the Jewish people.
Technically, the 3 weeks begins on the 17th day of Tammuz and is observed by fasting. It marks the day the Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem in 69 CE. This day begins the saddest period of the Jewish calendar and culminates on Tisha B’Av, 3 weeks later.
While I do not fast, I thought I’d mark the day by taking off the bright pink nail polish I was wearing and changing it to something less garish and bright. So I found a nail place and in the best Hebrew I could muster explained what I was looking for. What followed was an arduous exercise wherein I had to convince the young woman manicurist that I did not want another loud bright color (even though I secretly really did) but required something quite muted. Finally I outed myself by identifying myself as a Rabbah, explaining that the 3 weeks were starting and that I wanted my nails to be appropriate. How ridiculous does that sound?! But she bought it.
And all was right with my world. Until the next question…
"!את רבה? אך זה? אי אפשר? יש תפילין? אסור!"
“You are a Rabbi? How is that possible? No way? Do you have/use Tefillin/phylacteries? It’s forbidden!!”
And so it began. She wanted to know how I could possibly wear tefillin. Where was it written that it was allowed? I countered with asking where was it written that it was forbidden. In the end, as my nail polish was setting, we agreed that the Jewish world was better off for having lots of different types and opinions and the key was everyone respecting everyone else. Pluralism at the nail salon. She agreed, a bit skeptically.
All I wanted was to have my nails done in peace to commemorate the upcoming commemoration of the destruction of the Temple(s). But I suppose, if at least one of the Temples was destroyed because of Sinat Chinam, baseless hatred, then this conversation was a good start toward repairing the world. At least I hope it was. And the nails came out looking okay.
NOTE: The prayer the Siddur is open to in the picture below is Baruch She'amar - Blessed is the One Who Spoke and the World Was... Our world, our very existence is fueled by words. Seemed only appropriate to chose this page.