Tu B'A ---it aint' so minor
By Debbie Shapiro
Tu B'Av always falls smack in the middle of bein hazmanim. So nu, just when I'm in the middle of packing a picnic lunch to take to the park or organizing my things to catch the bus to the beach, one of the kids will say something like, "Hey, today's Tu B'Av," and another one might answer "Oh, happy Tu B'Av. Where's my new ball?" and that will be the end of it.
But although Tu B'av is one holiday that, at the most (and usually less), I only note in passing, the Mishnah compares it to Yom Kippur:
Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel states, "
has no days as festive as the fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur…" Israel
"On these days, the young maidens of Yerushalayim would emerge in the streets wearing borrowed white clothing [so as not to embarrass the poor who did not have garments of their own. They would form a circle and dance in the vineyards. What would they say as they danced? 'Young man, lift up your eyes and appreciate whom you select to marry. Don't look at our beauty. Instead, look at our family.'"
Both Yom Kippur and Tu B'av are days of forgiveness. On Yom Kippur, Hashem accepted Moshe Rabbeinu's plea to pardon bnei Yisrael after the sin of the chet ha'egel. To seal that bond of forgiveness, Moshe Rabbeinu came down from Har Sinai with the second set of luchos.
On Tu B'av the Jews in the desert realized that they were forgiven for the chet hamaraglim, the sin of the spies. After the Jews believed the spies' slander about Eretz Yisrael and refused to enter the
Holy Land, Hashem decreed that they would wander in the desert for forty years. During those during those forty years all the men who had been twenty and over at the time of the sin -- the generation of yetzias Mitzrayim -- would die. Bnei Yisrael wept on the ninth of Av when they heard the Spies slanderous report, therefore, every Tisha B'av during their wanderings in the desert another fifteen thousand men would died.
If the Jews who had been condemned to death were to die throughout the year, it would appear to be a natural death rather than a divine decree. Therefore, erev Erev Tisha B'Av every male Jews who had been twenty years or older at the time of the sin would dig a grave and sleep in it that night. In the morning when they woke up they would discover who was still alive. But on the last Tisha B'av before entering Eretz Yisrael when the remaining fifteen thousand men woke up in the morning, they discovered that they had all been spared. Not a single one had died that night.
At first they assumed that there had been a mistake -- that they had miscalculated the date --- so they slept in their graves the following night. But after over a week of preparing to meet their death, they saw that the moon was already full and realized that it was the middle of the month. There was no mistake. Hashem had granted them forgiveness and they would be able to enter Eretz Yisrael with the rest of the Yidden!
The Talmud tells us that as long as those destined to die in the desert were alive, the Divine Communication between Hashem and Moshe was on a lower and less personal level, to the extent that the Talmud considers it "no Divine Communication." Once Tu B'av passed and it was confirmed that the decree was rescinded, Hashem once again spoke to Moshe in the same way that he had spoken to him before the decree.
@Six Reasons to Rejoice
The Gemara (Ta'anis 30b-31a) explains that six things happened on Tu B'av, all of them reasons to rejoice.
The first reason, given by Rav Yehudah in the name of Shmuel, is that on Tu B'av the shvatim were allowed to intermarry with each other.
Moshe Rabbeinu commanded the daughters of Tzelofchad to marry within their own tribe. This injunction also applied to any woman who inherited real-estate from her father. But once the
was divided amongst the shevatim, this injunction was lifted. This occurred on the fifteenth of Av – Tu B'av. Land of Israel
The second reason as explained by Rav Yosef in the name of Rav Nachman is that on Tu B'Av it was permitted for women to marry into the tribe of Binyamin.
In the time of the Shoftim under the rule of Osniel a terrible civil war broke out between shevet Binyamin and the other tribes. After Binyamin was almost completely annihilated, the tribes made a decree forbidding women from the other shvatim from marrying into shevet Binyamin, a ban that would have eliminated the entire shevet. Some time later, on Tu B'a it was ruled that this injunction applied only to the generation that had participated in the war and that it was now permissible for other shevatim to marry into shevet Binyamin.
The third reason is the one explained above, that the Jews in the Midbar understood that they Hashem forgave them for the sin of the chet ha'egel.
The fourth reason is that on Tu B'av King Hoshea ben Elah (the last King of the
, approximately the eighteen king following Yeravam) permitted the Jews to travel to the Bais Hamikdash. Kingdom of Israel
When the northern ten tribes seceded and established an independent kingdom, the Kingdom of Israel (as compared to the Kingdom of Yehudah) Yeruvam ben Nevat, the first king of the newly formed empire, set up roadblocks to stop the oleh regel from making the pilgrimage to the Beis Hamikdash. Instead, he erected two centers of avodah zarah, one in the north and one in the south, as a replacement for the
in Yerushalayim. This situation continued until one Tu B'av, many years later, Hoshea ben Elah removed the roadblocks and permitted the oleh regel to travel to Beis Hamikdash. Temple
The fifth reason, as explained by Rav Masna, is that on Tu B'Av the martyred Jews of Beitar were finally interred.
One of the many calamities we mourn on Tisha B'Av is the capture of Beitar in 135BC, fifty two years after the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash. The city was the last stronghold for the leaders of the Bar Kochba revolt and its destruction marked the end of Bar Kochba's rebellion.
After a three year siege, the Romans captured Beitar and brutally murdered the 580,000 Jews who had found refuge there. To demoralize the people, the Romans did not allow the Jews to bury their dead. Instead, the Roman governor ordered the corpses to be stacked in such a way that they formed a human fence around his vineyard. Although the bodies lay exposed to the elements for close to eleven years (others say fifteen) Hashem in His rachamim made a tremendous nes and they did not decompose. On Tu B'av eleven (some say fifteen) years after they were murdered, the Romans finally granted permission for the surviving Jews to bury the martyrs of Beitar.
This miracle was cause for great celebration. In fact, the fourth blessing that we recite in the Birchas Hamazon, "Hatov v'hameitiv" – was composed in commemoration of this event.
The sixth reason, given by Rabba and Rav Yosef, is that in the time of the Bais Hamikdash, Tu B'av was Yom Tabar Ma'agel - The Day of the breaking of the Axes, the last day that wood was chopped to be used to feed the fires on the mizbeyach.
In the time of the second Beis Hamikdash, a number of brave people volunteered to make the dangerous journey to a distant forest to gather the wood that would be burned on the mizbeyach. Since the wood had to be completely free of even the slightest trace of infestation, and worms are attracted to damp wood, the wood was put out in the sun to day.
But after the fifteenth of Av the days begin getting shorter, which means that there is not enough sunlight to sufficiently dry out the freshly cut wood. The last day that the trees were cut down and brought in for storage during the long winter months was Tu B'Av. Just as we celebrate when we complete other mitzvos, completing this mitzvah, of preparing that year's wood, was also marked with great rejoicing..
We have six reasons to celebrate on Tu B'av, but l'maashe, how do we celebrate? What special thing do we do to mark this special day?
A lot of couples plan their weddings to coincide with Tu B'Av. The Bnei Yissaschar point out that two of he six the reasons given by the rabbis for celebrating the holiday have to do with marriage; both the decision to allow intermarriage among the twelve shevatim and the decision allow the other shevatim to marry into shevet Binyamin took place on Tu B'av. An additional perk for a Tu b'Av wedding, although couples customary fast on their wedding day, if they get married on Tu B'av, they don't.
Are there any other minhagim? Well, we refrain from reciting Tachanun both on Tu B'av itself as well as on the afternoon prior to Tu B'av.
After Tu B'av the days gradually become shorter (and then there a giant leap when we jump back from daylight savings time!). The Talmud encourages us to take advantage of these peaceful nighttime hours for Torah study; after all, what better preparation for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur than learning Torah! In
Eastern Europe, where the summer nights are extremely short – sometimes less than six hours -- Tikkun Chatzos was not recited from Pesach until Tu B'av. Tu B'av marked the resumption of reciting Tikkun Chatzot.
Tu B'Av is just six weeks before Rosh Hashanah. With the High Holidays just around the corner, Tu B'Av is the day when people begin wishing others, "a kesiva v'chasima tova," may you be inscribed and sealed for a good year," or, if you belong to the Yiddish speaking crowd, "a gut b'bentcht yahr."
But no matter how we say it, with just six weeks to Rosh Hashanah I am taking advantage of this opportunity to wish our readers a k'siva v'chasima tova and a gut g'bentcht yahr.