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Why Do We Celebrate the 15th of Av?

Why Do We Celebrate the 15th of Av?

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Said Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel: There were no greater festivals for Israel than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur. (Talmud, Taanit 26b)

The Talmud goes on to list several joyous events which occurred on the 15th day of the month of Av:

  1. The dying of the generation of the Exodus ceased. Several months after the people of Israel were freed from Egyptian slavery, the incident of the spies demonstrated their unpreparedness for the task of conquering the land of Canaan and developing it as the Holy Land. G‑d decreed that that entire generation would die out in the desert, and that their children would enter the land in their stead (as recounted in Numbers 13 and 14). After 40 years of wandering through the wilderness, the dying finally ended, and a new generation of Jews stood ready to enter the Holy Land. It was the 15th of Av of the year 2487 from creation (1274 BCE).

    As long as members of this doomed generation were still alive, G‑d didn’t communicate with Moses. As soon as the last of these men died, once again G‑d lovingly communicated with Moses.
  2. The tribes of Israel were permitted to intermarry. In order to ensure the orderly division of the Holy Land between the twelve tribes of Israel, restrictions had been placed on marriages between members of two different tribes. A woman who had inherited tribal lands from her father was forbidden to marry out of her tribe, lest her children—members of their father’s tribe—cause the transfer of land from one tribe to another by inheriting her estate (as recounted in Numbers 36). This ordinance was binding on the generation that conquered and settled the Holy Land; when the restriction was lifted, on the 15th of Av, the event was considered a cause for celebration and festivity.
  3. The tribe of Benjamin was permitted to re-enter the community. On this date the tribe of Benjamin, which had been excommunicated for its behavior in the incident of the “Concubine at Giv’ah,” was readmitted into the community of Israel (as related in Judges 19–21). This occurred during the judgeship of Othniel ben Kenaz, who led the people of Israel in the years 2533–2573 from creation (1228–1188 BCE).
  4. Hoshea ben Elah opened the roads to Jerusalem. Upon the division of the Holy Land into two kingdoms following the death of King Solomon in the year 2964 from creation (797 BCE), Jeroboam ben Nebat, ruler of the breakaway northern kingdom of Israel, set up roadblocks to prevent his citizens from making the thrice-yearly pilgrimage to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, capital of the southern kingdom of Judah. These were finally removed more than 200 years later by Hoshea ben Elah, the last king of the northern kingdom, on Av 15, 3187 (574 BCE).
  5. The dead of Betar were allowed to be buried. The fortress of Betar was the last holdout of the Bar Kochba rebellion. When Betar fell, on Av 9, 3893 (133 CE), Bar Kochba and many thousands of Jews were killed; the Romans massacred the survivors of the battle with great cruelty, and would not even allow the Jews to bury their dead. When the dead of Betar were finally brought to burial on Av 15, 3908 (148 CE), an additional blessing (“Hatov Vehameitiv”) was added to the Grace After Meals in commemoration.
  6. “The day of the breaking of the ax.” When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, the annual cutting of firewood for the altar was concluded on the 15th of Av. The event was celebrated with feasting and rejoicing (as is the custom upon the conclusion of a holy endeavor), and included a ceremonial breaking of the axes, which gave the day its name.
Yanki Tauber is content editor of Chabad.org.
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Discussion (6)
July 26, 2013
Yoma 39b
So, after seeing E. Cohen's comment I looked this up and read it. I had never know this about a scarlet thread and about the doors, and the left hand lot during those years. It also talked about Simeon who was a priest who died at the time...I think a high priest. My jaw kinda dropped. And my hair kinda rose on my arms...figure of speaking.
What does this mean, that this happened those years before the temple was destroyed. Was it a warning to people? What?
Anonymous
Prescott
July 26, 2013
comment No. 1
The Talmud in Taanit 30a , according to Artscroll footnotes, states that G-d continued to speak with Moshe but not with the same loving type of interaction or face to face intimacy, as previous. He resumed this intimacy on 15th Av of the fortieth year.
Sheldon Wieder
New York, NY./USA
chabadles.com
July 26, 2013
To E Cohen of Cape Town
So good to see someone from Cape Town commenting. I have a question. What do you think this means that the cord stayed scarlet? and why did the doors open by themselves?
Anonymous
Prescott
July 21, 2013
u forgot 1 ...
The most important one, regarding which the Mishnah says: Matchmaking Day
In ancient Israel, it was the custom that on the 15th of Av "the daughters of Jerusalem would go out in borrowed linen garments (so as not to embarrass those without beautiful clothes of their own)... and dance in the vineyards" and "whoever did not have a wife would go there" to find himself a bride (Talmud, Taanit 31a).
Levi Rapoport
Syracuse
April 7, 2011
40 years
Yoma 39b has to do with the Day of Atonement which is called Yom Kippur. In this tractate it is stated that the lot for the Lord's goat came up in the left hand of the High Priest during those 40 years. That was a bad sign because of what the left hand means in Judaism.

On Yom Kippur two goats were selected. One was to be sacrificed on the Lord's altar and one was to be the scapegoat. The lot for the Lord's goat always came up in the left hand during those 40 years!

Another phenomenon recorded in Yoma 39b has to do with the scarlet cord. On Yom Kippur they hung a scarlet cord. This cord, in the years before 30 AD, often used to miraculously turn white which was reminiscent of Isaiah 1:18 which says "though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." In the 40 years before 70 AD on Yom Kippur the cord always remained scarlet; it did not turn white.

Yoma 39b also records that the Temple doors opened by themselves during those 40 years. This also was a bad sign.
E Cohen
Cape Town
August 9, 2009
15th Av
Are you able to please share with me the source for the dates which suggest that the dead from the battle at Betar were permitted to be buried 15 years after the battle? (The Midrash refers to several years; but I am unable to find a source for a specific number.)
Anonymous
Melbourne, Australia
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