Question: If the fast of Tisha B’Av concludes the mourning period for the destruction of the Temple, why wait until the 15th of Av to rejoice?

Sara Gutman

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Answer: Rejoicing on the 15th of Av has no connection to mourning on Tisha B’Av. Tisha B’Av will become a yom tov of its own when Moshiach comes.

The final Tosefta in Ta’anit (3:13) teaches: “These days [Shiv’a Asar B’Tammuz and Tisha B’Av] will in the future become festivals for Israel as it states, ‘Thus says Hashem, Master of Legions: The fast of the fourth [i.e., Shiv’a Asar B’Tammuz], the fast of the fifth [i.e., Tisha B’Av], the fast of the seventh [i.e., Tzom Gedalia], and the fast of the tenth [i.e., Asara B’Tevet] will become for the house of Judah times of joy and gladness and happy festivals’ (Zechariah 8:19).

“All who mourn [for Jerusalem] in this world will rejoice with her in the World to Come, as it is stated (Isaiah 66:10), ‘Be glad with Jerusalem and rejoice with her, all you who love her; rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourned for her.’” The Gemara (Ta’anit 30b) teaches conversely, “He who labors on the ninth of Av and does not mourn for Jerusalem will not bear witness to her joy.”

As for the 15th of Av, the Gemara (Ta’anit ad loc. 30b-31a; cf. Bava Batra 121) states as follows: “R. Yehudah said in the name of Shmuel: This [the 15th of Av] was the day when individuals from different tribes were permitted to marry one another.” Rashi (s.v. “shehutru shevatim…”) explains: “As the Torah states in Parshat Maasei, ‘Vechol bat yoreshet nachala mimattot Bnei Yisrael [le’echad mimishpachat matteh aviha tih’yeh le’ishah, l’ma’an yirshu Bnei Yisrael ish nachalat avotav] – Every daughter who possesses an inheritance of the tribes of Israel [shall become the wife of someone of a family of her father’s tribe so that everyone of the Children of Israel will inherit the inheritance of his father].’

“The following verse states, ‘V’lo tisov nachala mimatteh lematteh acher [ki ish b’nachalato yidbeku mattot Bnei Yisrael] – An inheritance shall not pass from one tribe to another tribe [for every one of the tribes of the Children of Israel shall cleave to his own inheritance].’ The sages conferred and issued a decree removing this restriction on the 15th of Av.”

The Gemara discusses the Biblical source for the decree. “They based it on an earlier verse (Numbers 36:6), ‘Zeh hadavar asher tziva Hashem l’bnot Tzelophehad… – This is the matter that Hashem has commanded regarding the daughters of Tzelophehad…’ This matter was only in practice in that generation [of the daughters of Tzelophehad].” Thus, a daughter who inherits if there is no son may, indeed, marry a man from another tribe.

R. Yosef says in the name of R. Nachman that the 15th of Av was when the tribe of Benjamin was permitted to marry the daughters of other tribes. The Book of Judges (ch. 19-20) relates that a concubine went, together with her common-law husband, to Gibeah, a town in the land of the tribe of Benjamin. Ruffians in Gibeah wished to molest the husband but wound up abusing the woman. Such was their treachery and brutality that she died as a result of their attack.

The subsequent outcry of protest throughout Israel instigated a war that nearly wiped out Benjamin. The men who survived had few women to marry, but “v’ish Yisrael nishba bamitzpa le’mor, ish mimenu lo yiten bito l’Binyamin le’ishah – the men of Israel had taken an oath at Mitzpah saying, ‘None from among us will give his daughter as a wife to [someone from] Benjamin’” (Judges 21:1).

The Gemara asks, “What was the Scriptural source that permitted them to lift the prohibition?” Rav says the verse states “mimenu – from among us,” not “baneinu – [from among] our children.”

Rabbah b. Bar Chana said in the name of R. Yochanan that the 15th of Av was the day on which the generation of the wilderness ceased to die. A sage taught that as long as the generation of the wilderness continued to die, Hashem did not communicate with Moses. Rashi (s.v. “Lo haya hadibbur im Moshe”) explains that there was no direct endearing conversation. None of the conversations were “peh el peh – mouth to mouth.” They all came as visions at night.

The Torah states (Deuteronomy 2:16-17), “Va’yehi ka’asher tamu kol anshei hamilchama lamut [mikerev ha’am], Va’yedabber Hashem elai lemor – When it came to pass that all the men of war finished dying [from amidst the people], Hashem spoke to me, saying….” The Gemara explains that on that day – the 15th of Av – direct Divine communication with Moses resumed.

Ulla said the 15th of Av was the day that Hoshea b. Elah removed the guards that Jeroboam son of Nebat, the first king of Israel, had placed on the roads to prevent Jews from ascending to Jerusalem for the festival pilgrimages. The Gemara (Gittin 88) says Hoshea b. Elah was a wicked king but not as wicked as other kings of Israel. He permitted pilgrimages to Jerusalem, but he also allowed the people to worship idols.

R. Mattena says the 15th of Av was the day permission was granted to bury those killed in Betar during the Bar Kochba revolt. The Gemara relates that the town’s inhabitants – including women and children – were slain and their blood flowed for seven years. On the 15th of Av, permission was granted to bury them. To commemorate this day (and the miracle that the corpses had not putrefied), the Sages in Yavneh composed the blessing of “Hatov V’hameitiv.” This blessing was later added to the text of Birkat Hamazon.

Rabbah and R. Yosef both say that the 15th of Av was the day on which trees were no longer chopped down for firewood for the altar. They base this statement on a baraita that cites R. Eliezer the Elder as saying that from the 15th of Av and on, the rays of the sun weaken and trees cut for firewood do not dry sufficiently. Rashi (s.v. “Milichrot”) explains that moist wood might harbor worms, making it unfit for the altar. Thus, no more wood was chopped on that day (Middot 2:5). R. Menashya says the 15th of Av was called “the day of the breaking of the axe.”

The Gemara also relates that on the 15th of Av the daughters of Jerusalem would dance in vineyards in borrowed white garments so that they all looked alike and appeared to be of the same social status. (Young ladies of lesser means would therefore not be embarrassed.) Young unmarried men would then come to find a match.

On the 15th of Av, we don’t fast, deliver eulogies, or say Tachanun. If the 15th of Av falls on Shabbat, we do not recite Hazkarat Neshamot or Tzidkat’cha at Minchah.

Tu B’Av is a joyous time in its own right, and we yearn for the time when the days of fasting and mourning are transformed into days of rejoicing and festivity. May our redeemer, Moshiach ben David, come speedily in our days.

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