QUESTION: Rabah and Rav Yosef say that the reason why the Fifteenth of Av was
made into a festive day is because the cutting of the wood for use as fuel
upon the Mizbe'ach ended on the day, since the sun was no longer strong
enough to keep the wood dry.
What is so special about the day that they stopped cutting wood? Why does
that event warrant celebration?
ANSWER: RABEINU GERSHOM (Bava Basra 121b) says that because they no longer
needed to cut wood, they had much more time to learn Torah. That was why they
celebrated -- they had more time to learn!
According to Rabeinu Gershom, this reason is connected to the following
statement in the Gemara that says that from this time on the days begin to
get shorter and the nights longer, and that this extra time must be used to
learn Torah. This is the reason why the Fifteenth of Av is a day of
QUESTION: The Gemara discusses the joyous days of Yom Kipur and the Fifteenth
of Av. Why does the Mishnah and Gemara discuss this at the end of Maseches
Ta'anis? How is it related to the topics of the rest of the Maseches?
(a) The simple answer is that the Maseches discusses topics of inauspicious
times, such as the fast days for troubles that befall us and the fast days
that we observe in mourning for the Beis ha'Mikdash, we want to conclude the
Maseches with something good. Therefore, we conclude by discussing days of
Simchah such as Yom Kipur and the Fifteenth of Av. But there is more to it
QUESTION: We can ask, similarly, about the content of the end of the last
Mishnah. The end of the Mishnah (26b) says that "there were no Yamim Tovim
for the Jewish people like the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kipur... and so it
says (Shir ha'Shirim 3:11), 'Daughters of Jerusalem, go out and see Shlomo in
the crown that his mother crowned him with on his wedding day' -- this refers
to the day of the giving of the Torah -- 'And on the day of the joy of his
heart' - this refers to the building of the Beis ha'Mikdash that will be
rebuilt speedily in our days!"
(b) The end of the Maseches discussed the fast days of the Seventeenth of
Tamuz and the Ninth of Av. On the Seventeenth of Tamuz, Moshe Rabeinu
descended the mountain and found that the people had built the Egel ha'Zahav,
and he threw down and broke the Luchos which he was carrying. On the Ninth of
Av, it was decreed that the Jewish people who were guilty of the sin of the
Meraglim would not enter Eretz Yisrael. We end the Maseches with a good thing
specifically related to those tragic events. We discuss how Hashem returned
to us what we had lost on those occasions. On Yom Kipur, the Jewish people
were atoned for the sin of the Egel ha'Zahav, and Hashem gave them the second
set of Luchos. On the Fifteenth of Av, the people in the Midbar stopped dying
-- the decree was annulled and the Jewish people were permitted to enter
What is the connection between the verse in Shir ha'Shirim and the statement
that there were no Yamim Tovim like the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kipur? It is
especially difficult because the Mishnah introduces the verse with the words
"and so it says," which clearly imply that this verse *proves* that the
Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kipur were days of joy!
ANSWER: RASHI (26b, DH Zeh Matan Torah) explains that the "day of the giving
of the Torah" mentioned in the Mishnah refers to Yom Kipur, when the second
set of Luchos were given to Moshe after Hashem forgave the people for the sin
of the Egel ha'Zahav which occurred on the Seventeenth of Tamuz.
What about the "building of the Beis ha'Mikdash?" What does that have to do
with either Yom Kipur or the Fifteenth of Av? (See Bartenura.)
Perhaps we may suggest that the reference of the verse is not to the building
of the *first* Beis ha'Midkash, but rather, as the Mishnah says, to "the Beis
ha'Midkash that will be rebuilt speedily in our days" -- the *third* Beis
ha'Midkash, which will be rebuilt when Mashi'ach comes. At that time, the sin
which brought about the destruction of the Beis ha'Midkash on the Tisha b'Av
in the first place will have been rectified, and the Jewish people will be
completely restored to Hashem's good favor. Thus the happiness of "the day of
the building of the Beis ha'Midkash" is the rejoicing in the complete
forgiveness of the sins of Tisha b'Av, which precipitated the destruction of
the Beis ha'Midkash.
We were offered a "taste" of that complete forgiveness, albeit on a limited
scale, on the Fifteenth of Av over three millennia ago, in the desert as we
traveled to Eretz Yisrael. At that time, on that day, Hashem allowed the
sinners who were still living to enter Eretz Yisrael (see Insights to 30:1).
It is therefore on that same date that we can look forward with joyous
anticipation to the "day of the joy of his heart," the blissful day of the
restoration of the Beis ha'Midkash! In this light, the Mishnah is indeed
bringing a source for the celebrations of the Fifteenth of Av as well as for
the rejoicing of Yom Kipur.
These days were made into days of Simchah in the hope that the fast days of
the Seventeenth of Tamuz and the Ninth of Av themselves will also become days
of joy and gladness, as the prophet said: "The fast of the fourth [month] (17
Tamuz), the fast of the fifth (9 Av), the fast of the seventh (3 Tishrei) and
the fast of the tenth (10 Teves) will be for the house of Yehudah for joy and
happiness, and for days of festivity" (Zecharyah 8:19). May this prophecy be
fulfilled speedily in our days! (M. Kornfeld)