The 15th day of the month of Av is commonly referred to as Tu B’Av, and it traditionally falls close to Shabbos Parashas Va’eschanan. Our Sages teach (Taanis 4:8) that it is one of the two most festive days in the Jewish calendar (the other being Yom Kippur). The Gemara (Taanis 30b) questions what is so unique about this date, and proceeds to enumerate six different joyous episodes in our history which all occurred on this day.
First, although women who inherited land in Israel from their fathers because they had no brothers were initially forbidden to marry men from other tribes (see Bamidbar 36:8–9) in order to prevent their tribal land from being transferred to another tribe, after a period of time, the Sages derived on Tu B’Av that the prohibition was no longer in effect, and they were once again permitted to intermarry with other tribes.
Second, as a result of the tragic episode of Pilegesh b’Givah, all of the other tribes swore that they would not allow their daughters to marry men from the tribe of Binyamin (see Shoftim 19–21). On Tu B’Av, the Sages ruled that the prohibition was only applicable to those living in the generation when it was made, but not to future generations, who were once again permitted to intermarry with the tribe of Binyamin.
Third, after the Jewish people were sentenced to wander in the wilderness for 40 years as a result of the sin of the spies, each year on Tishah B’Av they would dig graves and sleep in them. Every year, more than 15,000 Jews would die on that night. In the final year, all of those who went to sleep in their graves were shocked to discover in the morning that not one of them had died. They assumed they had been in error about the date, so each successive night they again slept in their graves. On the 15th day of the month, when they saw the full moon, they understood that Tishah B’Av had clearly passed, and the fact that they were all still alive was a sign that they had been forgiven for the sin of the spies, which was a cause for celebration.
Fourth, the wicked king Yeravam ben Nevat placed sentries along the road to prevent people from ascending to the Temple and to encourage them to instead worship his idols (see I Melachim 1:12). On Tu B’Av, these sentries were removed by King Hoshea ben Elah.
Fifth, many years after the horrific destruction of the city of Beitar, the Romans finally permitted those who had been slaughtered there to be buried; miraculously, despite the passage of time, none of the bodies had decomposed.
Finally, the wood for the Altar in the Temple was collected during the summer when the sun was strong enough to dry it out and prevent it from becoming infested with worms. As the sun’s strength begins to wane on Tu B’Av, this was the last day to perform this mitzvah, and its completion was a cause for rejoicing.
Harav Yitzchok Breitowitz points out that when counting from Tishah B’Av, 15 Av is the seventh day, which symbolically represents the fact that we have now completed the traditional seven-day mourning period, and we are now picking ourselves up and moving on with life. In this light, he brilliantly suggests that the aforementioned six causes of joy on Tu B’Av parallel the five tragedies that our Sages teach (Taanis 4:6) occurred on Tishah B’Av.
The first calamity was the decree that those who accepted the negative report of the spies about the Land of Israel would die in the wilderness. This decree was overturned in the final year, when all of the Jews who dug graves and slept in them were spared and emerged alive.
The second tragedy was the destruction of the First Temple, which was destroyed for the sins of idolatry, murder and forbidden relationships (Yoma 9b). Their rejection of Hashem and pursuit of foreign gods was rectified by the removal of Yeravam’s idol-associated sentries by Hoshea ben Elah.
The third tragedy that took place on Tishah B’Av was the destruction of the Second Temple due to the sin of baseless hatred (Yoma 9b). The interpersonal conflicts were rectified on Tu B’Av, when permission was given for women who had inherited land to marry whomever they wanted, even men from other tribes, and for all of the tribes to once again intermarry with the tribe of Binyamin.
The fourth calamity that occurred on Tishah B’Av was the horrific massacre of the Jews in Beitar, which was nullified when they were able to be buried on Tu B’Av, and it was discovered that none of their bodies had rotted.
The fifth and final tragedy that occurred on Tishah B’Av was the fact that Yerushalayim was plowed over after the destruction of the Temple, which left it completely barren and infertile. The fact that they were able to obtain wood for the offerings that were burned on the Altar demonstrated that Hashem had not forsaken them and was providing them with their needs.
Tishah B’Av is the emotional climax of a three-week period during which we mourn devastation and destruction. On Tu B’Av, we figuratively “get up” from shivah, as we focus on moving on and rebuilding, just as our Gedolim taught us by example after the Holocaust. In fact, our Sages teach that prior to creating the world in which we live, Hashem first created many other worlds and destroyed them all, which teaches that the proper response to destruction — even the destruction of an entire world — is to channel our energy and efforts into building anew. As we now begin the seven-week period of comfort, we should strengthen ourselves through the recognition that no matter what challenges and tragedies we may be dealt in life, Hashem will never forsake us, and we always have the opportunity to follow in His footsteps by continuing to grow and rebuild.
Q: If a person removes a mezuzah from his doorpost in order to have it checked by a sofer, should he leave the empty cover on the doorpost in its absence?
A: The Shevus Yaakov rules that just as a person is obligated to avoid suspicion on Chanukah by lighting more than one menorah if he has multiple entrances to his house facing in different directions (Orach Chaim 671:13), so, too, a person who takes down his mezuzah to have it checked must leave the cover in place, lest he be suspected of neglecting to place a mezuzah on his doorpost altogether.
Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.