Tu B’Av and Shidduchim

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 Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur were the most festive days in the Jewish calendar, and on these days maidens would go out in the field in order for the eligible males to select their matches. Although the unique holiness of Yom Kippur is well-known, what is special about Tu B’Av, and why was it considered a day particularly suited for the making of shidduchim?

Harav Moshe Shapiro, zt”l, posits that Tu B’Av is not inherently a day for matchmaking, but rather its essence is a yom tefillah — a day of prayer for our needs, which certainly includes shidduchim. The Gemara (Taanis 30b) teaches that after the Jewish people were sentenced to wander in the wilderness for 40 years as punishment for 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 that 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 they saw the full moon and recognized that Tishah B’Av had clearly passed. The fact that they were all still alive was a sign that Hashem’s anger had ended, they had been forgiven for the sin of the spies, and that those who were supposed to die would remain alive — a cause for tremendous celebration. When they realized that they had received a reprieve from the Divine death decree, they attained a newfound confidence in the efficacy of their prayers on this day.

Along these lines, Harav Yisroel Reisman cites the calculation of the Pnei Yehoshua (Brachos 32a) in support of Chazal’s teaching that Moshe Rabbeinu beseeched Hashem 515 times to be permitted to enter the Land of Israel. Rashi writes (Devarim 3:23) that Moshe began to entreat Hashem after conquering the lands of Sichon and Og because this area would later possess some of the holiness of the Land of Israel.

Since Moshe Rabbeinu was permitted to enter this region, he thought that perhaps Hashem had revoked His oath prohibiting him from entering Eretz Yisrael. Even before the actual military battle, Moshe know that the Jewish people would emerge victorious, for Hashem told him not to fear Sichon and Og (2:31, 3:2) since He had already delivered the angel in charge of their lands into Moshe’s hands. The Gemara relates (Bava Basra 121a) that Hashem told this to Moshe on the 15th of Av.

From the 15th of Av until the day of Moshe’s death on 7 Adar there are 200 days. If Moshe implored Hashem during each of the three daily prayers, he would have petitioned a total of 600 times. However, it is forbidden to pray for one’s personal needs on Shabbos (Mishnah Berurah 288:22). Subtracting the prayers that he was not permitted to say on Shabbos, of which there were 28 during this period, leaves a total of 516 prayers.

However, prophecy did not return to Moshe on the 15th of Av until the morning, leaving him without a reason to beseech Hashem during that day’s evening prayers. Thus, from the morning of the 15th of Av until his death on 7 Adar, at the time of Minchah (Tosefos Menachos 30a), Moshe prayed for the nullification of the decree precisely 515 times.

In line with Rav Shapiro’s insight, Rav Reisman suggests that Moshe also recognized the power of prayer on Tu B’Av. Just as the rest of the nation saw on this day that Hashem’s ruling that they would die in the wilderness had been lightened, so too did Moshe understand that it was an auspicious time for him to begin imploring Hashem to annul the decree preventing him from entering Eretz Yisrael. Tu B’Av offers us a unique opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Moshe Rabbeinu and our ancestors in the wilderness by strengthening ourselves in our commitment to prayer — for shidduchim, health, and success in all our endeavors.

Q: After Hashem decreed that Moshe and Aharon would not merit leading the Jewish nation into the Land of Israel, Moshe repeatedly petitioned Hashem to reconsider and rescind the decree, but Hashem did not accept his prayers (3:23-26). Was there anything that Moshe could have done differently to nullify the decree?

A: Harav Dovid Povarsky, zt”l, quotes a Midrash that teaches that had Moshe prayed for the annulment of the decree preventing him from entering the Land of Israel immediately after it was made, it would have been rescinded. When he did not pray right away, this demonstrated that he did not properly value the overturning of the edict, at which point Hashem made an irreversible oath that He would not annul it.

Alternatively, the Midrash teaches that Moshe petitioned Hashem 515 times, which is the numerical value of the word Va’eschanan, to rescind His decree and allow him to enter the Land. The Maharil Diskin and Harav Shlomo Margolis quote a Midrash that teaches that had Moshe prayed one more time regarding this subject, his request would have been granted.

As to why Moshe did not do so when entering Eretz Yisrael was so valuable to him, Rav Margolis notes that Hashem answered him (3:26) “Rav lach” — it is enough. Rashi explains that Moshe’s repeated requests had the potential to cause a desecration of Hashem’s Name.

Even though Moshe recognized that one additional prayer had the potential to bring him to his precious goal of meriting to enter the Land of Israel, he was willing to give it all up in order to honor Hashem’s request and to avoid the possibility of decreasing Hashem’s honor in the world.

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.