Tu b’Av 5772 Part Four
Transcribed by: Transcription for Everyone: But now we have the best reason of all. You ready? The most exciting, the most compelling, the most powerful reason of all why the 15th of Av should be a festival and a festival equal to Yom Kippur — you want to hear it?
You don’t sound too interested (laughter). We can skip it if you want. Okay so we’ll try. So the Gemara says that every summer they would collect all the wood that was necessary to burn on the mizbe’ach over the year. So because the summer is very dry and you don’t have to worry about insects, you don’t have to worry about moisture, so they would collect all the wood for the mizb0’each that would be used over the coming 12 months. But the last day on which they could collect the wood for the mizbe’ach was the 15th of Av. Because now it was no longer so hot, so there was more of a chance of the wood being wet, there was more of a chance of insects, and so on and so forth. The 15th of Av was the last day you could collect wood for the mizbe’ach. So that’s why it’s a festival. Isn’t that exciting? And not just a festival, but equal to Yom Kippur. Wow, this is like, incredible. No? Okay.
Audience Member: Can you say a little more?
Rav Simcha Weinberg: I’m going to say a little more about all of them. So actually, the way I understand this Gemara is that not only were chazal addressing a specific day on the calendar year, a very important day — because remember, after the 9th of Av we go into the period of the seven weeks of nechama, of comfort, and the seven weeks of nechama end, and then we go directly into Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. So this is a day of tremendous transition. How do you go from Tisha B’Av into Elul and then into Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? How do you prepare for all — how do you make that transition?
And I believe that each one of these different opinions of why Tu B’Av, the 15th of Av, is a festival — and not just a festival, but a festival equal to Yom Kippur — is that each one is telling us how to make the transition from Tisha B’Av to Rosh Hashana. And the reason this is so important is because if you look at people on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, do you find them dancing around?
Audience Member: No.
Rav Simcha Weinberg: So here you have a mishna describing Yom Kippur as a day of tremendous joy, and not only tremendous joy, but girls going out dancing, and no one had any problem with it — it’s not tzniusdik, it’s not this — because they were at such an incredible level, it was not considered dangerous.
So how do you go from a Tisha B’Av into a Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, which are chagim — they’re days of joy, they’re days of holidays — and yet is it not from our own empirical evidence, our own experiences — how many of us have really been through or experienced a Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur in which everyone is just dancing for joy? Or are they more like Tisha B’Av when you’re listening to people crying and you’re listening to people do their teshuva? And you listen to the speeches that are given during Elul as we approach Elul, and you need to do teshuva — I need to choose the one thing I’m going to work on, I need to prepare myself for the Day of Judgment, I need to prepare myself for this and everyone’s walking around worried.
There was a time in Ner Yisroel when one of the Rebbeim insisted that no ketchup be served during Elul because it was too much physical pleasure (laughter). I think what he meant was it was the only way that the food in Ner Yisroel could be edible, because everyone used to pour it on like this with ketchup, except for cholent which we all stole on Friday night — until one week we found a cat inside the cholent and we didn’t do it anymore. But that’s a different story (laughter). That certainly was Tisha B’Av (laughter).
But isn’t it incredible how many of us, instead of approaching Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur as a day of celebration and a day of possibility and a day of expectations and a day equal to a chuppa and a day of wow, I’m going to have a whole new life and everything — honestly, is it more a day of dancing and joy? I’m saying empirically, not the way it’s supposed to be, but empirically, do we associate tshuva more with dancing around or more with a Tisha B’Av-type experience of oy oy oy, oy oy oy, oy oy?
So therefore, Tu b’Av, the reason they made it as important as Yom Ha’kippurim is because, unless you learn how to make the transition from the heaviness of a Tisha b’Av into the joy and the possibility of Yom Kippur, you’re dead. And you’re going to carry your Tisha b’Av into your Rosh Hashana, G-d forbid, and you’re going to go into your Rosh Hashana worried, oh no, I’m such a bad person, what’s G-d going to do, I’m going to have a hard judgment, how can I face G-d — you know, He’s so scary and He’s this and He’s that — instead of understanding and appreciating what a Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is. How many of us can even imagine, and you know, I’m sure some of the single guys maybe — not just single guys can imagine, wow, I would like a Yom Kippur, you know, where the women go out dancing — how many of us can even imagine that there’s such a possibility? And chazal understood, the sages of the Talmud understood that unless you have a powerful statement as soon as possible after Tisha b’Av — and it’s the last day of shiva of Tisha b’Av — unless you have a transition and say the mourning, the sadness, the negative effect of Tisha b’Av is over, there isn’t any way that you can live a Rosh Hashana and a Yom Kippur to their fullest extent, certainly culminating in a Sukkos which is zman simchaseinu, the time of our happiness, and it ends up with Jews who associate Judaism with just negativity and heaviness and a burden and being worried and being scared — oh, did I do this right, did I do that right, am I allowed to turn on this tap on Shabbos, am I not allowed to — and just fearful and heaviness, instead of going into davening and dancing your way into a shemonah esrei, just walking and carrying this heavy burden on our shoulders, that’s because people have not learned and applied the lessons of Tu b’Av.
And not only that, but imagine — let’s say you’re after Beitar, so the Beis Ha’mikdash has been destroyed — now it’s years later and you have the possibility of the messiah, and you’re winning wars, major wars, against the most powerful army in the world and then everyone starts being negative about Bar Kochba, and he’s not the real thing, and everyone starts getting down; well, he is Moshiach, he’s not Moshiach, he was Moshiach and now he — whatever the calculations were, you know how it sounds, and then not only do they end up not winning a victory, but they’re smashed, they’re destroyed — so every time we’re 40 years dying out in the desert, it’s just terrible, it’s a tragedy. And so the sages needed to say to the Jewish people that whenever you’re at a stage in which you feel that everything is over and everything is done and there is no hope and there is no possibility; either you find a way to build for the future, either you find a way to flip the switch from Tisha b’Av, from destruction into joy, or you have nothing.
If we live in a world in which people walk around complaining about how we are not frum enough, that’s walking around with Tisha b’Av, that’s not applying the lessons of Tu b’Av. Well, there’s no way we’re ever going to be as great as the previous generation, there’s no way we’re ever going to merit the redemption, there’s no way we’re ever going to merit the messiah, because we’re just not good enough. We’re not observant enough, we’re not careful enough, and all the problems that we have — we walk around feeling undeserving of a future. And remember, we associate future with redemption, with possibility, with infinite possibility, and therefore chazal, everyone of these opinions about Tu b’Av is a different approach, not only how to make the transition from a Tisha b’Av into a Yom Kippur, but how to make the transition from being the people who are walking around feeling undeserving of redemption, people feeling well, we’ll never be as holy as the Jews of Europe or we’ll never be as righteous as we can be and as wonderful and as exciting as we can be, into being a nation that believes in all of our possibilities. So that even when you have the establishment of the State of Israel, everyone is so convinced we’re undeserving that you can’t even have a unanimous sense of this being wow, a miracle from G-d, a statement from G-d, I’m going to take care of you — or the Six Day War. Unbelievable miracles and there was no sense of universal joy in the frum community, because it’s not possible that it was a miracle from G-d, because we’re not deserving. And if you think this isn’t true, know Time Magazine — go back, do a search on the web, find the Time Magazine from after the Six Day War, the headline on the article was, “The Messiah’s Coming.” And thousands of Jews were coming from all over Israel to Yerushalayim to see the Kotel. They were all coming; people were coming to do teshuva.
So people, righteous people, frum people, well-intentioned, well-meaning people put up huge signs in the main bus station saying it wasn’t a miracle, it wasn’t G-d. D’uh, you know, this is not a sign from G-d.
Audience Member: Huh?
Rav Simcha Weinberg: Yes, there were signs put up in the tachana merkazit telling people don’t believe this was a miracle, you can’t. If you don’t accept that the State of Israel is a miracle, how can you accept that the Six Day War was a miracle?
So it was a time of infinite possibility and we were incapable of appreciating it. That’s why chazal insisted that you learn how to end the Tisha b’Av approach and transition into a Yom Kippur approach, meaning a Yom Kippur approach of dancing girls. Not in an inappropriate sense, but in a sense of where it’s just okay and it’s safe and there’s beauty in it and purity in it and holiness in it, not something inappropriate.
How do you make that transition? And each one of them is making their own statement, and we don’t have sufficient time, but each one of these opinions was addressing the specific needs of his generation. So the first opinion was that this was the day that the Jews decided that G-d’s decree that the tribes could not intermarry was over. So now all the tribes could intermarry, wow, and so we said that makes it a day as great as Yom Kippur. So, I know David was very convinced, but there might be a little more to it than just unity. The scene is the daughters of Tzlofchad and they demand a direct answer from G-d, which is awesome, I love it. Okay, and G-d said, oh yeah, okay, fine. Then the members of the tribe go and they say, wow, ze lo fair, because what happens if they marry. So G-d says, okay, okay, we’ll make a law, they can’t intermarry, they can’t marry someone from another tribe.
In another generation, the Jews on their own, not Moshe, the Jews on their own took the words of G-d’s decree and they paskened without consulting G-d, that it was over. So here you have the scene, G-d, I’m not happy with this situation, okay, okay, yeah, I didn’t about that, okay, we’ll take care it. Other people say, one minute, you’re going to take care of them, those girls, you’re not going to take care of us, oh, yeah, yeah, okay, we’ll make another adjustment here. What’s going on?
Then you have a generation of people who say, well, if you look carefully at what G-d said, He said, there we can infer from one word that He used that He only meant it for the one generation and not any other, so therefore, His decree no longer applies. Do you know why this is so powerful? Because you have — first of all you have, you’re making a transition from Moshe, because Moshe’s about to die, to the next generation where you’re no longer going to have anyone who can ask direct questions from G-d the way Moshe did. There are no longer any direct transmission of laws from a navi, through a navi, through a prophet, from G-d, no longer. Only Moshe was that level of navi.
So all of a sudden you realize that it wasn’t just an historical transition that Moshe will die, but that G-d actually led them through this process of transitioning from direct communication from G-d, to making decisions on your own. And the way He did it was, the daughters of Tzlofchad go oh yeah, okay, we’ll take care of you, as if He hadn’t thought about it. Then other people say, but hey, G-d, what is that telling you? Hey, G-d, this doesn’t work for us. Okay, I’ll adjust to you. What that means then is that this is no longer G-d saying, this is the law, but this is G-d using the law, responding to the people.