Once a year we reach a high on Tu B’Av, the 15th day of the month of Av, after reaching the lowest point in the Jewish calendar on the 9th day of Av.
The Jewish people see this contrast from sadness and reflection to happiness and rejoicing. We go from Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year full of prayer and fasting, just like angels, to physically building a sukkah in the most physical sense. Immediately, the very night after we left our saintly position, when we stood like angels all day in the synagogue, we go to preparing for Succos, the holiday of happiness.
Here in Israel we have a very sad day set aside to remember all the soldiers and casualties from terrorist attacks who died protecting this country, and a day later we celebrate Israel Independence Day. Once again, a major switch in our feelings and activities.
And after the saddest day of the year, the day the temple was destroyed, just a few days later we have one of the happiest days of the year called Tu B’Av.
According to the Mishna, Tu B’Av was a joyous holiday in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, marking the beginning of the grape harvest. Yom Kippur marked the end of the grape harvest. On both dates the unmarried girls of Jerusalem dressed in white garments, and went out to dance in the vineyards, in search of husbands. That same section in the Talmud states that there were no holy days as happy for the Jews as Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur.
So how is it that we are able to make these changes emotionally and physically so quickly? On the one hand we have so many laws and customs revolving around the sad and serious days, and just moments later we are commanded to be happy and rejoice.
This is true also regarding the laws of mourning our loved ones who have passed away. We are sad when they leave us, and yet the laws of mourning are very specific, making sure the mourners get up and live their lives again despite the terrible losses and sadness they feel.
We see how the holy Torah guides our lives in every way, from high and joyous days, to sad and low days.
Hashem, in His infinite wisdom, created our lives and the Jewish calendar so that we live through every day, in a way that will help us deal with whatever comes our way.
We are the only nation in the world that has such extreme contrast in their calendar year after year. The Jewish calendar isn’t just history, it’s alive and continuing every second of the year. As the same holiday or special day of remembrance, comes around, we are reminded not only of our past but of our future.
These days are meant to build us and give us strength to keep our faith alive.
We are living in such trying times, whether it’s politically, physically, with all the coronavirus, or emotionally, each one with their own daily experiences. Where are we meant to get the strength to go on?
Our Jewish heritage and rich Jewish calendar days help direct and keep us on track. We are constantly reminded of our past and why we do the things we do, and in the same breath we are given the ability to adapt to the new and at times very complex situations that appear in the world. The contrast of very high and spiritual days, to very sad and low ones, trains us to be able to bounce back and keep fighting no matter what comes our way.
It’s like a metal rod. In order to make the rod strong, it’s put into the fire and then cooled down and once again into the fire and heated up. This opposite effect makes it strong.
So too, the Jewish nation is constantly going through highs and lows. And through the observance of the Jewish days that we were commanded to keep, we are instantly made stronger and can withstand anything that comes our way.
May we enter the month-and-a-half until Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, with a lot of strength and happiness to endure all Hashem sends our way. And may the happy and joyous days be greater and everlasting, making the sad and harsh days, disappear forever.