1. The greatness of the 15th of Av is described in the end of the tractate Taanis, which says, “The Jews had no holidays like the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur.” Since the holidays are re-experienced every year in the spiritual sense, tonight we have this same holy effect.

Furthermore, this effect grows from year to year, in accordance with the Torah’s instructions, “Holy matters always increase.”

This principle applies to every holy occasion, but has an especially close connection with the 15th of Av. The Gemara lists many different reasons for the holiday of the 15th of Av: the day that the Jewish people stopped dying in the desert; the day that intermarriage between the 12 tribes was once again permitted; and so on.

One might ask: since this day was already a holiday from the times of Moshe, when they were still in the desert, why do we need more reasons? Without these reasons, it is a holiday in any case!

The explanation is simple; although the day is already one of joy, nevertheless, the more joyous events occur on this day, the more festive the holiday becomes. Therefore, the 15th of Av is a clear example of how “Holy matters always increase,” since we see actual concrete causes for additional joy.

One might wonder, how is it possible to have a continuous increase in joy and holiness when the world becomes increasingly dark (in the spiritual sense) and holiness more and more concealed?

To explain this, we must first explain the greatness of the 15th of Av. Chassidus explains that the reason why this day is so holy is due to its falling on the 15th of the month, when the moon is full. Since the Jewish people are likened to the moon, the full moon symbolizes the full holiness and revelation of the Jewish people.

However, this seems questionable — every month has a 15th! Furthermore, the holidays of Pesach and Sukkos both fall on the 15th of Nissan and Tishrei, respectively. Why should the 15th of Av be higher than any other holiday simply because it falls on the 15th of the month?!

The answer to this lies in the unique nature of the month of Av, which contains the tragic date of Tisha BeAv, when the Temples (first and second) were destroyed. These, as well as other tragic events in this month, affect its entire character — therefore, when the month begins, we immediately “decrease in joy.”

Since later on, this month becomes a time of joy (because of the various joyous events of the 15th of Av), the joy is much greater than it would otherwise be. Since the month has been converted and transformed from a time of mourning to a time of joy, it has the advantage of “light which comes from darkness.” The previous darkness contributes to the light which comes later.

With this, we can now explain how we have the ability to continually add on in joy and holiness, in spite of the fact that the generations progressively decline. This is not a question, on the contrary, it is the cause: as the generations decline, the elevation of the 15th of Av becomes more and more pronounced, in conjunction with the general idea of the holiday, the conversion of darkness to light.

In practical terms, this should be translated into an increase in Torah study, as the Gemara rules, that after the 15th of Av, one should take advantage of the longer nights and learn more Torah. This will also bring additional physical blessings, as the Gemara concludes, “One who adds, gets added to,” i.e. additional Divine blessings.

2. We explained previously that the lower the generation, the greater is the resultant elevation. The same principle applies to various groups of Jews in the same generation: those in more difficult circumstances experience a greater elevation as a result.

We see this clearly in the case of the tribe of Levi when the Jewish people were in Egypt. Levi was the only tribe which was not subjected to oppression and toil. It was for this reason that they had a smaller population than the other tribes. Since G‑d blessed them that, “the more they were oppressed, the more they grew and spread,” Levi, who was not oppressed, did not benefit from this blessing.

The same applies throughout history, up to these days, where a large number of Jews suffer under oppressive conditions behind the “Iron Curtain.”

It is interesting to note that some sources say that the official census of Jews is actually much lower than the real count. This is because many fear to identify themselves as Jews, and also many don’t even know that they are Jewish, since their parents hide the fact that they are Jewish. According to these sources, the number of Jews in Russia equals that of all other Jews in the entire world!

In accordance with what we mentioned before (regarding Av), the elevation that they will experience later on will be in accordance with their present misfortune and pain. Therefore, they will rise far above all those who are free to live as Jews without fear.

One might ask, why do we mention this here, since all the people concerned are not present? This will be understood in view of the Talmudic statement, “All who mourn for Jerusalem will later merit to see its joy.”

So too in this case; through sharing in their pain, we will later join them in their elevation. This is especially true in view of the Previous Rebbe’s statement about Mordechai. When informing Esther of the decree against the Jews, the Megillah uses the phrase, asher korcha, which happened to him. Although Mordechai himself was in no personal danger from the decree, he personally felt the danger to which his fellow Jews were being exposed. He experienced it as if it was directed against himself.

So too here — our feeling for our brethren behind the “Iron Curtain” must be as if their misfortune is being experienced by us.

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3. Since the greatness of the 15th of Av is described in the end of tractate Taanis, it is appropriate to make a Siyum on that tractate. Although we have made a Siyum on this tractate once before, we didn’t discuss the actual end, and did not compare the end of the Talmud Bavli with the end of the Talmud Yerushalmi.

[The Rebbe discussed many details in this Siyum, of which only a few are translated.]

In Taanis it is related that on the 15th of Av, unwed girls would go out dancing in the fields and say, “Young man, lift up your eyes and see....” The Talmud Yerushalmi then lists the statements of the various categories of girls; the “beautiful” ones saying one thing and the “ugly” ones another.

The Bavli, however, lists three groups: in addition to the above is added the statement of “those with lineage.” The Ein Yaakov version has a fourth group, the “wealthy.”

(Incidentally, in general we find that the Bavli version has less variations in girsaos (versions) than the Yerushalmi, and the Ein Yaakov version of Bavli less than other versions. The reason is that the more people learn a particular text, the more careful they are to correct errors. More people learned Ein Yaakov than the rest of Bavli, and more learn Bavli than Yerushalmi.)

Why should we find such differences?

In addition, the statement of the “ugly” is surprising. Why should they openly state (as the Gemara relates) to the young men that they are ugly? True, all matches are made in heaven, but that doesn’t mean that she should say something that would make it more difficult to find a match! All things must be done according to the rules of nature, as we find with Eliezer, who came with many gifts in order to better his chances of finding a match for Yitzchok.

As far as the difference between the Bavli and the Yerushalmi, it is well known that the Bavli was completed much later, by approximately 100 years. During this time, they continued studying the same subjects, but with greater depth and detail. Therefore, concepts which were previously expressed in a general way were later written down in greater detail.

Therefore, both Bavli and Yerushalmi agree on the nature of the girls who were present. However, the Yerushalmi describes them in two general groups, the beautiful and the ugly. The Bavli, however, specifies that the “beautiful” group included several types of beauty; physical beauty, monetary beauty, and beautiful lineage.

The statement of the “ugly” girls can be understood in view of the Jewish concept of humility. Humility does not mean to deny one’s positive characteristics, but rather to recognize that one deserves no personal credit for them; that they are gifts from G‑d.

They told the young men to “lift up” their eyes in the spiritual sense, and see the fine spiritual characteristics they possessed. At the same time, they expressed their feeling that their G‑d-fearing nature was not a personal accomplishment, but rather a gift from G‑d; a natural result of the fine circumstances they had been born into.

They therefore described themselves as “ugly” as far as their own personal accomplishments — their deep humility caused them to attribute everything they had to G‑d.

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4. We previously discussed the greatness of the 15th of Av, due to the fact that it is the transformation of all the undesirable events which transpired in that month. This same concept presents a practical lesson for every Jew.

G‑d has created the world, including man, in a way that he is subject to changes. Things are not stable, but constantly in transition. So too, in one’s personal life, there are times when one serves G‑d more completely, and others when he is somewhat lacking.

The latter times represent a sort of churban — since the person is likened to the Bais HaMikdash, a lack in his service is like its destruction, G‑d forbid. Faced with this reality, one might lose hope and become depressed.

The 15th of Av teaches that the lack can later be transformed into an advantage. Just as the 15th of Av is such a great holiday because of the destruction, so too, his lack in serving G‑d can also be turned into an advantage.

This is actually the whole intention behind the descent; as our Sages mention regarding Av, the destruction was “in order” that there be a later ascent. So too, G‑d created us with a yetzer hora, knowing that it would give us tremendous trouble, the intention being that we overcome it and eventually transform it.