Tu b’Av 5772 Part Three
Transcribed by: Transcription for Everyone: The third reason is that the Jews, in the 38 years that they were wandering the desert waiting to die out, serve out the term of the sentence of 40 years to die in the desert — so every year on Tisha b’Av, the men who reached the age of 60 would dig a grave. They would like down in the grave and then they’d die. On the fortieth year they dug a grave, no one died. It’s Moshe. He made a mistake with his calculation of time. When else did they say that, by the way; a mistake in calculation of time? The golden calf.
Audience: (Inaudible Answers) — down the mountain.
Rav Simcha Weinberg: Probably a coincidence. So they said, you know, Moshe is 120 years old, what do you expect — well he’s 119, almost 120 — what do you expect? He’s an alter yid, he made a mistake in his calculation.
So the next night they decided must be Tisha B’Av and they went back to sleep in their graves and they woke up the next day. They were fine. No one died. Wow, Moshe really screwed up this calculation. So they went on the 13th of Av and the 14th of Av, and the 15th of Av. Finally on the 15th of Av they figured out they weren’t going to die. So because it was the day they figured out they weren’t going to die this year — that the sentence of everyone dying out in the desert is over, they turned it into a holiday, and it’s a holiday equal to Yom Kippur.
Okay, I mean, really I wouldn’t celebrate that it took them five days or six days to figure it out. They weren’t that bright, okay — or that it was that long that they were calculating that Moshe made that much of a mistake and you turn that into a holiday, okay. But the day that they figured out they didn’t die — do it on the day they stopped dying, which would have been the previous Tisha B’Av, a year earlier. That was the last day they died. So to say the 15th of Av, because it’s the day they finally accepted they weren’t going to die and therefore it’s equal to Yom Kippur — a little difficult, at least for me.
Next is this was the day that the final king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Hoshea ben Elah, the king who is the one defeated by the Assyrians and then the 10 Tribes are sent into exile — this was the day that he removed the two golden calves that Yeravam ben Nevat had set up. When the kingdom split between the southern kingdom and the northern kingdom, southern kingdom being Judah and Benjamin — Benjamin again, probably a coincidence — and the northern kingdom, which is the 10 Tribes — not really, but we’ll pretend.
So Yeravam ben Nevat made it impossible for people — what he did on the major roads from the north of Israel to Jerusalem, he put these guards who would prevent anyone from the 10 Tribes from visiting Jerusalem. He didn’t want them to go to the Beis Ha’mikdash. And the day when Hoshea ben Elah, the last king of Israel, removed them — so that was the 15th of Av, and therefore it’s the day when the highways were no longer officially blocked, and therefore we make it a day equal to Yom Kippur.
So the Gemara says, why? I’ve got to tell you, if he’s such a big tzaddik, Hoshea ben Elah, that he’s doing this great thing of removing the blockades — you know, the Berlin Wall that separated the north kingdom and the southern kingdom — then how come G-d allowed him to be so defeated by the Assyrians and sent into exile? Well, it’s not that he encouraged people to go to Jerusalem; it’s that he didn’t stop them from going to Jerusalem. Okay. But if all he did was he didn’t stop them from going to Jerusalem, to say that that’s equal to Yom Kippur is a little hard to believe, especially since it didn’t last very long because they were exiled right afterward and defeated by the Assyrians. So, also that one is a little difficult to believe.
Okay, so we have another opinion. But it’s so interesting, is it not? Here you have a holiday that’s supposed to be the equal of Yom Kippur, and no one can agree about why it’s a holiday, let alone why it should be equal to Yom Kippur? I would imagine that if it is a holiday of such importance that it’s equal to Yom Kippur, that everyone would know exactly why it’s a holiday, and yet most people, when you say Tu B’Av, have no idea about what Tu B’Av is. No idea.
You know that kabbalists say that it’s 40 days before the 25th of Elul. The 25th of Elul was the first day of creation. Rosh Hashana is the day of creation of the human beings, with higher souls. And the Gemara and the Midrash often speak of 40 days before conception, so that the creation of the world was on the 25th of Elul — so, 40 days before is the 15th of Av. You know the kabbalists speak about that. It’s the day on which you’re granted your potential, but it’s not the reason the Gemara gives ultimately, for sure. But don’t you think it’s strange? A day equal to Yom Kippur and no one can agree on the reason, and a day equal to Yom Kippur, and I would venture to say hopefully, without prejudging anyone or sounding condescending or anything, I suspect there may have been one or two people here who had never really heard about Tu B’Av and why it was a holiday. It’s possible. Okay. No? Okay, then please forgive me for suspecting.
Audience Member: I never heard about it.
Rav Simcha Weinberg: Okay, but don’t worry. We have more reasons about why it’s a holiday, and not only why it’s a holiday, but a holiday equal to —
Audience: Yom Kippur.
Rav Simcha Weinberg: — Yom Kippur. Okay, you ready for the next one? And are they in historical order? No. Okay, so they weren’t thinking clearly, I guess.
So Rav Masna gives another reason. If you recall one of the five tragedies of Tisha B’Av was that this was the day Beitar, which was the final stronghold of Bar Kochba was defeated, and hundreds of thousands of Jews were massacred — all sorts of horrible stories, all part of Tisha B’Av kinos. And so the Romans did not allow the Jews to bury the dead. But a miracle happened, and the Romans took the bodies and they used them to make fences around their properties. So you had bodies of dead Jews making fences around their property, but once this Caesar died and there was a new Caesar, so all his decrees were rescinded, the Jews were given permission to bury the bodies, and not only were they granted permission to bury the bodies, but none of the bodies had rotted or decomposed.
So that was on the 15th of Av, and therefore it’s a holiday equal to Yom Kippur, and that’s also the day we added the final blessing of bentsching, hatov v’hameitiv, because these were people who, you know, even though everything had been destroyed, they — what’s the word I’m looking for? They experienced a tremendous miracle, and so they turned it into a day equal to Yom Kippur.