1. The Mishnah states: “The Jews never had festivals as great as the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur.” The importance of the 15th of Av is that it is a day when there is a full moon. This is significant for the Jews whose calendar is dependent on the moon.

The above applies to the 15th of every month, but is more significant in regard to the 15th of Av. This concept can be explained as follows: Often, in order to reach a new and higher level, it is necessary to undergo a descent beforehand; for the state of perfection which is reached after experiencing a void is higher than the perfection that could have otherwise been achieved. The greater descent, the greater the ascent that will follow. Since the descent associated with Tishah BeAv — the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash — is awesome, the ascent associated with the fifteenth of that month also surpasses all comparison, becoming the greatest festival for the Jewish people.

Thus, the 15th of Av surpasses even the holidays of Pesach and Sukkos which also fall on the fifteenth of the month. Even though those holidays also follow a descent: the holiday of Pesach following the descent into the Egyptian exile; and the holiday of Sukkos being associated with the service of teshuvah of the months of Elul and Tishrei (which is itself associated with a cycle of descent and ascent) — greater heights are reached on the 15th of Av.

To elaborate on the difference between these days and the 15th of Av: The exodus from Egypt represented a break from the Jews’ previous situation. It is considered as the birth of the Jewish people, i.e., they achieved a new identity that did not follow as a direct continuation to their previous state.1 Similarly, Sukkos itself is not the day of the ascent after the descent. The ascent comes on Yom Kippur although it is not openly revealed until Sukkos.

Furthermore, from the fact that — in the expression quoted above — our Sages mention the 15th of Av before Yom Kippur, we can infer that the 15th of Av possesses a quality which surpasses Yom Kippur itself. Even though Yom Kippur was established as a day of atonement and forgiveness before any of the events associated with the 15th of Av transpired, our Sages’ expression points to a higher quality associated with the latter day.2

The concept of the higher level that can be reached after a descent is emphasized by the Torah portion associated with the present day, the fourth aliyah of Parshas Eikev. This reading describes G‑d’s command to Moshe to hew out the second tablets.3 The level of the second tablets is described as “double” that of the first; i.e., because they followed a pattern of descent through sin and ascent through teshuvah, they were on a higher level.

The second tablets also included the level of the first tablets as implied by the command: “Hew out two tablets... like the first.” This is also emphasized by the fact that the broken tablets (the first tablets) were placed in the Ark together with the second tablets.4

The service of teshuvah which characterizes this sequence of ascent following a descent is connected with the month of Av. Indeed, the very name of the month, Menachem Av alludes to this process. “Menachem” means to change, to turn about, in this context, to transform the undesirable aspects of this month. To refer to the expressions used by the Alter Rebbe in Tanya, it transforms the father (Av) who beats his son because of his love for him to a father who shows open kindness.

This is particularly true this year which is a unique year, תשמ"ט, which alludes to the release of all our obligations and which serves as a preparation for תש"נ, a year of miracles.

The above will be enhanced by the decision to increase our Torah study at night as required by the Rama from the 15th of Av onward.5

This alludes to our efforts to transform the night of exile into day through the service of Torah and mitzvos. May “the night shine as day” both in material matters and spiritual matters. This will be hastened by using the 15th of Av to arrange Chassidic farbrengens in every place. At the very least, compensation should be made by holding a farbrengen on the following Shabbos.

May these activities (including also the distribution of money to be given to tzedakah6 ) allow us to proceed from strength to strength until we reach an unlimited level with the coming of Mashiach.