May 22, 2024
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May 22, 2024
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By Rabbi Noach Goldstein

After an entire masechta devoted to the gloomy halachot of fast days that culminates with the details of Tisha B’Av, Masechet Taanit attempts to end on a high note. In the final Mishnah, R. Shimon ben Gamliel declares that there were no days as joyous as Yom Kippur and Tu B’Av.

The Gemara immediately asks the obvious question: Yom Kippur is the amazing day when we’re forgiven for our sins, and when Moshe received the second luchot  —?ט״ו באב-מאי היא. What even is Tu B’Av?

The Gemara’s multiple answers only strengthen the question: Tu B’Av was the day Shevet Binyamin was again allowed to marry the other tribes after it was almost wiped out at the end of the catastrophic episode of the Pilegesh B’Giv’ah in Sefer Shoftim. It was the day that the Jews stopped dying after 40 years in the desert. The day the Kingdom of the Ten Tribes stopped posting guards to ban its subjects from entering the Beit HaMikdash. The day the Romans finally allowed the Jews to bury the annihilated inhabitants of Beitar.

But, still, why is there such joy here? All we see in these cases is that some perpetual disaster finally ended. Why should that alone justify such celebration? Pilegesh B’Giv’ah ends with the Jews shattered and leaderless, Shevet Binyamin nearly extinct. The king who permitted the Ten Tribes to visit the Beit HaMikdash was Hosea Ben Elah—the last king of Yisrael, whose new policy only lasted a few years before his entire kingdom was exiled. The dead of Beitar could be buried, but the city was still destroyed.  The dying in the desert stopped (see Tosafot, Bava Batra 121a), but at least the vast majority of the generation was gone. So what justifies the celebrations of Tu B’Av?!

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Tu B’Av comes so closely after Tisha B’Av. It does always feel funny having this holiday so soon after the extensive mourning of the Three Weeks. But Tu B’Av helps highlight a pattern that we find throughout Jewish history. Whenever a calamity strikes, soon after we inevitably encounter a small sign of salvation from HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Not necessarily something that undoes the disaster, but something that hints to us that despite what occurred, Hashem is still in our midst.  Yosef is sold as a slave, but finds himself traveling in a perfume wagon. The first Beit HaMikdash is destroyed, but right afterwards the navi tells us about exiled King Yehoyachin being released from prison and given honor. The second Beit HaMikdash is destroyed, but R. Yochanan Ben Zakkai salvages Yavneh and its Sages.

The power of Tu B’Av is how it highlights that Hashem allows no darkness to last forever. He is always with us, and thus no matter how long any given tragedy endures, we have always been able to outlast it. That is the greatest possible sign that one day He will redeem us fully, and this is certainly worth celebrating until Mashiach’s arrival, במהרה בימינו.


Rabbi Noach Goldstein is the rosh beit midrash of the YU Torah Mitzion Kollel of Chicago. He was a fellow in the Kollel Elyon at YU while serving as Assistant Rabbi at the Jewish Center in Manhattan. He earned semikha from RIETS, an master’s in Medieval Jewish History from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, and a bachelor’s from Yeshiva College.

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