1. It has been our custom from time to time, that at the farbrengen on the 15th of Av, we complete a tractate of Talmud (siyum) — preferentially, the tractate Taanis which deals with the holiday of the fifteenth of Av at its conclusion:

There never were in Israel greater days of joy than the fifteenth of Av and the day of atonement. (Taanis 26b)

This practice represents a good example of the proverb:

A word in due season, how good it is. (Mishlei 15:23)

In addition to the good of Torah, as it says: “and the true good is only Torah” (Avos 6:3), and the special quality of a siyum, of which the Shulchan Aruch states: “When one concludes a tractate it is a mitzvah to rejoice and make a festive meal” (Yoreh Deah, 246); when we study the conclusion of Taanis on the 15th of Av it is pointedly “a word in due season,” for it is a timely discussion of the theme of the 15th of Av. Then we truly see “how good it is.”

The theme of the fifteenth of Av is also similar to the closing pages of Taanis, because it concludes the period of sadness which began on the 17th of Tammuz and continued through the ninth of Av, it thus concludes a time of taanis — fasting!

Although it would seem that the mourning period of the “three weeks” ended at the close of Tishah BeAv, the truth is that since the root cause of Tishah BeAv traces itself back to the decree against the Jews in the desert (after the return of the spies) and it was not until the 15th of Av (in the 40th year) that the Jews knew for certain that the decree had been lifted — it therefore follows that on the 15th of Av we commemorate the actual end to the mourning and fasting.

In each of these “ends” we should be able to find the quality of “double” (wisdom, consolation, etc.). The 15th of Av serves as the close to the period of sadness of the “three weeks”; this is embodied in the double consolation: “Comfort My people, comfort them says your G‑d” (Yeshayahu 40:1). When G‑d expresses His “personal” solace it is also in a double form: “I, even I, am He Who comforts you” (Yeshayahu 51:12).

In speaking of the end of a fast we also encounter the “double” concept. Normally a fast day is considered a time of discomfort and pain — yet the fast day is called “an acceptable day” and “a day of grace.” How can the pain of the fast day become “acceptable”? The answer is that on the fast day there is the “double” power of making the suffering acceptable, and then, also desirable. This dual power expresses itself at the close of the fast.

In the laws of fast days we find that the Rambam tells us the ultimate goal of the fast day, in the future, is to convert the fast days to holidays.

In the concluding pages of the tractate Taanis we also find the “end of taanis” (fasts), in that we are told about the holiday of the 15th of Av — which concludes and transforms the period of mourning into a festive holiday. It is greater than all the other holidays of the year; it is the ultimate goal of the fast day.

Now to the siyum of Taanis.

The final mishnah of Taanis concludes with the following discussion:

R. Shimon b. Gamliel said: “There never were in Israel greater days of joy than the fifteenth of Av and the Day of Atonement. On these days...the daughters of Yerushalayim came out and danced in the vineyards exclaiming at the same time, ‘Young man, lift up your eyes and see what you choose for yourself. Do not set your eyes on beauty but set your eyes on good family. Grace is deceitful and beauty is vain; but a woman that fears the L‑rd, she shall be praised, and it further says, Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her works praise her in the gates.’”

Likewise it says, “Go forth, O you daughters of Tziyon, and gaze upon King Shlomo, even upon the crown wherewith his mother has crowned him in the day of his espousals and in the day of the gladness of his heart.” On the day of his espousals. This refers to the day of the giving of the Torah. And In the day of the gladness of his heart, this refers to the building of the Temple; may it be rebuilt speedily in our days. (Taanis 26b)

At the close of the Gemara, a few pages further, the Talmud tells us of the different groups of girls and what they said:

The beautiful amongst them called out, “Set your eyes on beauty, for the quality most to be prized in a woman is beauty”: those of them who came of noble families called out, “Look for a good family, for woman has been created to bring up a family”; the wealthy amongst them called out, “Look for women of wealth”; the ugly amongst them called out, “Carry off your purchase in the name of Heaven, only on one condition that you adorn us with jewels of gold.” (Ibid. 31a)

In reviewing this version of the Beraisa we come across several discrepancies in comparison with the version of this Beraisa (and Mishnah) in the Talmud Yerushalmi and other sources.

1. Our version reads the “daughters of Yerushalayim” — other versions read the “daughters of Israel.”

2. In our mishnah the girls are quoted as reciting two verses: “Grace is deceitful” and “Give her of the fruit of her hands.” In Yerushalmi no verses are attributed to them.

[This is doubly surprising since normally the differences between Bavli and Yerushalmi are only in the texts of the Gemara, not the Mishnah.]

3. In our version the Gemara (Ein Yaakov) lists four groups of girls, while in Yerushalmi it lists only two groups (ugly and beautiful).

Finally, a few simple questions: How is it possible to have different versions of the facts! Were the girls from Yerushalayim or from all of Israel? Did they say two verses or not? Were there four categories or just two?

We may answer this problem as follows:

In describing the dances of the Jewish daughters on the 15th of Av we must understand that there were several levels of joyous dance, one loftier than the other. First there was the simple dance, then a more joyous form of dancing, while there was also a form of dance which propelled the dancers to the state of “ad d’lo yodah” — beyond conscious awareness.

Without question all the girls of Eretz Yisrael went out to the vineyards, not only from Yerushalayim, but all over Eretz Yisrael and probably wherever there were Jewish daughters in the diaspora, they too, went out to observe this custom.

The distinctions that came to light in the aforementioned different versions dealt only with the level of celebration. The version which speaks of the “daughters of Yerushalayim” is dealing with the loftiest level of dancing in the exclusive realm of the “daughters of Yerushalayim.” The version which speaks of “daughters of Israel,” deals with the plain dancing which, even the daughters of Israel participated in.

Similarly, in the different versions of the verses recited, or the different amount of groups of girls — there is no debate, rather all of the given facts were true, but each Tanna and Amora dealt with only one segment of the celebration or only one or two groups of girls and described only those aspects.

It should, however, be noted (although it is actually obvious) that the different distinctions are not interdependent. In each version the particular details chosen was by the choice of the Tanna and not dictated by the facts of that particular group. This means that whether we follow the version “daughters of Israel” or “daughters of Yerushalayim” — depending on other factors — they may have said the two verses quoted or they may not have said any; they could have been divided into two groups or four groups depending on various other factors and the different levels of dance of the particular group of girls.

The recitation of verses of Torah or prayer can often vary in devotion, intensity or content. Such may be the case for any individual who prays. One day the verses may be filled with deep meaning and devotion, penetrating the very essence of his being, while at other times he may suffice merely with the simple understanding of the words. Similar discrepancies may overshadow his concentration even during the course of a particular prayer. When the same verse may be repeated at the beginning, middle and end of the prayer, the kavanah and concentration may vary greatly from time to time.

Thus, the various versions of the story of the daughters of Israel and the different verses they recited will depend on several factors and there is really no conflict among the versions.

In esoteric terms the loftier phenomenon of the “daughters of Yerushalayim” represents the superior state of the attribute of kingship (malchus) as it stands in its supernal source, while the “daughters of Israel” represent the lower six Sefiros (attributes); “kindness” (Chessed) to “foundation” (Yesod).

We discussed earlier that the aspect of “double wisdom” and “double success” will be seen in everything connected to the siyum of Taanis on the 15th of Av. This may be seen in the concluding words of the mishnah:

“On the day of his espousals (wedding),” this refers to the day of the giving of the Torah.

Knowing the Midrashic interpretation that this world represents only the betrothal and the real wedding ceremony will take place in the world to come, we may deduce that there are two stages of the “marriage” of Torah: in this world, and in the world to come.

Likewise, we will discern two levels in the final words of the mishnah:

“And in the day of the gladness of his heart,” this refers to the building of the Temple, may it be rebuilt speedily in our days.

In the building of the Beis HaMikdash there are to be two levels; first, the buildings built by human hands, the First and Second Temples which were only Tabernacles as compared to the Eternal House. The second form is built by the hand of G‑d: “The Sanctuary which Your hands O’ L‑rd have established” (Shmos 15:17). That will be the eternal house of G‑d, just as the future redemption will be eternal.

So may it be that we merit to see the ultimate house built by G‑d and see the true marriage of G‑d and the Jewish people. May the Holy Temple be built, speedily in our days; may it come with joy beyond measure as well as dancing without stop. For the redemption will be beyond measure in time and place; may it come instantly and may we merit the promise that “G‑d will make a chorus for the righteous...and each one will point to G‑d and say: ‘Lo this is our G‑d...let us rejoice...in His salvation.’”

Speedily and truly in our days.

2. The custom of the “daughters of Yerushalayim (or Israel)” going out to dance in the vineyards is fundamentally associated with the principle of Ahavas Yisrael (love of fellow Jews) and Jewish unity. Despite the differences which we have ascribed to the various girls going out to dance, they, nevertheless, all united together on one day, for the same function — to dance in the vineyards.

Esoterically speaking, the four divisions mentioned in the Beraisa symbolize the four letters of the Tetragrammaton (Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay). They may further be divided into two groups — the first two letters of G‑d’s Name and the final two letters.

There is, however, an aspect of the Tetragrammaton which supersedes division, that is the point of the Yud, which transcends the division of the letters and encompasses them all. In the Jewish soul this is paralleled by the level of Yechidah (the unique one).

The Yechidah of the soul is of course above and beyond any divisibility, and is the “one and unique one” — the essential essence — which approximates the G‑dly spark of the Creator in every soul.

Now, when speaking of the Jewish people as a whole, despite the divisions among them, there is also an inner, unifying force which is the communal Yechidah that unites Jews and unifies them with the Holy One, Blessed be He. When this aspect is revealed through action that brings unity, they then attain true unity with G‑d and perfect unity among themselves.

So the theme of the 15th of Av, when the girls went out to dance in the vineyards, was that all types of Jews should unite in perfect unity as a result of unifying with the “Unique One” of the world, through the revelation of the communal Yechidah soul of the Jewish people.

Since Jews are compared to the moon it introduces the aspect of Jewish dependence on the sun. For, just as the moon does not radiate its own light, so, too, the Jewish people receive all their blessings from the Holy One, Blessed be He, “For a sun...is the L‑rd G‑d” (Tehillim 84:12).

When we say that on the 15th of the month the moon is full, we mean that the sun’s radiance is completely reflected by the moon. In the analogy it means that G‑d’s radiance and benevolence, from the loftiest of sources, infinite and eternal, is radiating fully to the Jewish people. This is the level beyond any name of G‑d — reaching the Unique Essence — the true unity.

Now, do you see the juxtaposition of the 15th of Av to Yom Kippur! Yom Kippur is the unique day of the year when all Jews are compared to angels — thus it is so lofty and aloof. Can the 15th of Av match this height? The answer is that on the 15th of Av we experience the revelation of the Yechidah of the Jewish people and on Yom Kippur we have the revelation of Yechidah of the year.

This is the lesson we must garner and carry with us for the rest of the year.

Increase Ahavas Yisrael to a state of intense unity by revealing the Yechidah of the Jewish people. This will bring the true and complete redemption; the cause of the exile will be nullified when Jews are united and at peace. When the cause is eliminated, the effect — the galus — must dissipate, and we merit the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach, who is the communal Yechidah soul of the Jewish people.

Similarly, we must increase Torah and mitzvos for they are also connected to Yechidah and the “Unique One” of the world.

Torah is wider then the sea, yet it is called “One Torah,” Yechidah above division. Mitzvos, too, stem from Torah and are united with the same unity. Thus, any good action or deed which a Jew does has the power to turn the whole world to the side of good and bring salvation to the world.

May we merit the true and complete redemption speedily and truly in our time.