|Al Regel Achat: Tu B'Av: Completing the circle|
|Written by Yossie Mayerfeld|
Mesechet Ta'anit ends with a fascinating and somewhat enigmatic Mishna:
Chazal often use the metaphor of a wedding for the giving of the Torah; Hashem, the groom, joining in an intimate relationship with His people. In fact, the Alshich explains that when Moshe broke the first luchot upon seeing the chet ha'eigel, his intent was to save Klal Yisrael - since the ring (the luchot) had not yet been given, rather than being like a married woman who has committed adultery, the Jews were still only in the 'betrothed' stage".
Yom Kippur was the day that Moshe brought the second luchot down; therefore the Mishna compares it to a wedding day. And Shlomo HaMelech consecrated the first Beit Hamikdash on Yom Kippur - that year they did not fast, but rather celebrated it as a festival.
What is so special about Tu B’Av?
The Gemara (Ta'anit 30b) raises the obvious question:
At least six reasons are recounted; each, it seems to me, has the common denominator of a renewed relationship, and ultimately, hope for the future.
While in the desert, each tribe would only marry within, so as not to complicate the division of the land (since a woman's property would transfer to her husband upon her death). On Tu B'Av of the fortieth year, this ban was lifted. This allowed for a renewal of the inter-tribal relationship.
The ban, due to the incident of Pilegesh B'Givah (see Shoftim 19-20), only applied to that generation. This, as well, allowed for a renewal of the familial relationship between all the sh’vatim.
Rabah bar bar Chanah
Rashi explains, every year on Tisha B'Av, the men who were between the ages of 20 and 60 at the time of God's decree, would dig graves and lay in them. In the morning, an announcement was made, "Let the living separate from the dead". In the fortieth year, no one died - the people thought they had erred in their calculation and repeated the procedure every night until the 15th of Av, at which point they realized that the decree had expired. Alternately, Tosafot (B"B 121a) raise the possibility that people did die in that year, but the mourners got up from Shiva on Tu B'Av, the seventh day (inclusive) after Tisha B'Av.
The Gemara continues, only then did Hashem continue to speak to Moshe "face to face" - in the interim, Moshe received prophecy, but not in the intimate manner that he did before the "dying in the desert" began or after it ended. This was a renewal of the special relationship between Hakodosh Baruch Hu and Moshe Rabeinu – which really benefitted all of Klal Yisrael.
Yeravam ben Nevat was the first king of the divided kingdom of the ten tribes of Israel. In order to sever the people's attachment to Jerusalem, and to prevent them from going up on the shalosh regalim and seeing the glory of the Davidic Kingdom, he established and enforced the idolatry of the golden calves (see I Melachim 12).
The removal of these guards, allowing all the people to again go up to the Beit Hamikdash in Yerushalyim was clearly a renewal of the relationship both within Klal Yisrael, as well as between the people and Hashem.
The destruction of Beitar was seemingly the end of hope for the kingdom of Judah. This had been the stronghold of Bar Kochba - the last hope for organized rebellion. The Gemara says that 2.1 million people were killed there by the sword. The Emperor Hadrian did not allow the bodies to be buried; rather, the corpses were used as "fences" around his vineyards. After his death, (12 years later) the new Caesar allowed their interment - on Tu B'Av. This showed the people that they had not been rejected by Hashem, and gave them renewed hope for the future.
Raba and R. Yosef
The simple understanding of this is, as the Rashbam says, the celebration was for the completion of a great mitzvah (indeed, Nemukei Yosef cites this as the source for celebrating the completion of a Mitzva). Rabeinu Gershom, however, says that until now there was great bitul Torah, while people were busy cutting down the massive amount of wood needed. My Rav, Rabbi Sacks, explains that this last reason is the primary one. Now that the men could go back to learning Torah full-time – a renewal of their commitment to the Torah, as it were - this alone was cause for great celebration.
Completing the circle
The Gemara, as it often does, concludes the mesechta with an aggadic teaching:
Ben Yehoyada explains that just as a bride circles her groom, so the righteous will form a circle, as it were, around God. Further, the "finger" suggests a bride's ring finger.
The Yaavetz points out that the word used here for circle "Machol", has the same shoresh as “mechila”, forgiveness. The Gemara thus implies that in future God will forgive all the sins of Israel, enabling all of Israel the privilege of joining this circle.
The Apter Rebbe wrote,
The circle has no top and no bottom, no beginning or end. So too, in the future the righteous will experience no jealousy or dislike, for no one will be said to be on a higher level than another...
So perhaps the last verse quoted by our Mishna can also be referring to Tu B'Av. Certainly, it is a day of weddings, of gladness of the heart, and of Torah. Further, the Pri Tzaddik writes that the future Beit HaMikdash is destined to be built during the month of Av.
"May it be rebuilt speedily in our days! Amen."