Dvar Torah - By Michael Zerubavel
(This Dvar Torah is dedicated to Chana Shoshana Bat Rivka to have healthy children. If you would like to dedicate a Dvar Torah please email me)
We are entering one of the finest days in the Jewish calendar, the fabulous day of the 15th of AV, a glorious and romantic day throughout Jewish history.
While in the days of the Temple there were once many religious traditions for this holiday, today there are no specific religious customs, apart from the omission of Tachanun (a penitential prayer) after the shacharit (morning) and Mincha (afternoon) prayer services.
The Gemara states that there were no holy days as happy for the Jewish people as Tu B'Av (15th AV) and Yom Kippur. Various reasons for celebrating on Tu B'Av are mentioned by the Gemora and Torah commentators:
The fifteenth day of Av was a popular holiday during the Second Temple. This day celebrated the wood-offering brought in the temple. We learn in the Tanach in the book of Nehemiah about this. It was on this day that cutting of the wood for the main altar in the Temple was completed for the respective calendar year. Then they stopped gathering wood for a few months after this day.
According to the Gemara, Tu B'Av was a joyous holiday in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem: It was a time when unmarried girls would dress up in simple white clothing (so that the wealthy could not be distinguished from the less financially well off) and go out to sing and dance in the vineyards around Jerusalem and the young males who had not yet married would go to view and select among these girls a partner they found to be suitable. It is a romantic day in the Jewish calendar, a day when it is proper to treat ones wife to a gift. It is also a very popular day for Jewish couples to get married.
In the book of Judges (Shoftim) in Chapters 19 to 21 we learn that the tribe of Benjamin was allowed to intermarry with the other tribes after the incident of the Concubine of Gibeah, which left the tribe of Benjamin with only 600 single men as the rest of the people died, now they were allowed to marry and repopulate.
Another great occurrence on this day was that while the Jews spent forty years in the wilderness, female orphans without brothers could only marry within their tribe, this was to prevent their father's inherited plot of land in Israel from switching on to other tribes. We learn about the specific family of Tzelophchad and his daughters in Parshah Pinchas and Masei, the daughters married at a time when the ban was lifted. On the fifteenth of Av of the fortieth year and final year in the wilderness, this ban was lifted.
It was also on this day in the same year, that in the fortieth year in the wilderness, any who had been decreed to die due to the ‘sin of the spies’ died and the last of the deaths took place on the 15th Av and no more Jews died in the wilderness on this day.
It was on this day that the Roman occupiers allowed the burial of the victims of the massacre at Beitar, where hundreds of thousands of Jews lives were cruelly lost. Miraculously, the bodies had not decomposed despite the bodies were left dead already over a year. We acknowledge thanks to Hashem for this miracle in one of the paragraphs of the grace after meals we recite after eating a meal. The bodies were allowed to be buried on this day!
The night of Tu B’Av is a great night to learn Torah, and many say that one who especially learns Torah on the night of Tu B’Av (15th AV) will get special merit from Hashem.