I hope this message finds you well and in good health.
As I sat down and looked at the calendar for August, and began working on the shul davening schedule for the month, there was only one, glaring, significant Jewish date that stared back at me from the pages of the calendar: Tisha B'Av, the fast of the ninth of Av. Indeed, this day stands alone in the annals of our nation's history as a date that is unique for the tragic events that occurred on it, in particular the destruction of both the first and second Beit Hamikdash. It is the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, and its attendant fast is second in importance only to Yom Kippur. But there is another significant date on our August calendar, and that is the holiday that falls a mere six days later, the holiday of Tu B'Av, the fifteenth day of the month of Av. What is the historical significance of this joyous day? The Talmud tells us that throughout early Jewish history, six separate joyous occasions occurred on the calendar date of the fifteenth of Av:
1) The various tribes of Israel were permitted once again to marry into each other. Following the request of the daughters of Zelopchod, that in certain situations daughters should inherit, a decree was promulgated that only sons and daughters of the same tribe should marry each other. This was enacted as a means of keeping ancestral lands within the respective tribe. These events are described in Sefer Bamidbar. Sometime later, on the fifteenth of Av, this decree was lifted. The permissive nature of this occurrence was a cause for joy. The tribes of Israel could now once again marry into each other.
2) Similarly, as a result of the tragic events related to the incident of the Pilegesh of Giveah, the Jewish people placed a ban on the tribe of Benjamin from marrying in to the other tribes, as is described in Sefer Shoftim. Eventually this ban was lifted on the fifteenth of Av.
3) This was the day on which the death sentence against the generation of the sin of the spies in the desert on the way into Israel concluded.
4) Following the death of Shlomoh Hamelech, a split occurred within the Jewish monarchy. Yerovoam ben Navat set himself up as king over the northern ten tribes of Israel. In order to prevent his subjects from traveling to Jerusalem and Judea and being influenced by the southern kings of Juda, he set up checkpoints on the highways leading from his kingdom south to Jerusalem to intercept any potential travelers. On the fifteenth day of Av these checkpoints were removed.
5) In the aftermath of the failed Jewish revolt against the Roman occupation of Judea, the slewn inhabitants of the town of Beitar were finally allowed to be buried on this date.
6) In Temple times, this date symbolized the beginning of the end of the dry, hot, summer season. As a result of this change in climate, the Kohanim in the Beit Mikdash completed cutting and preparing wood for the mizbeach altar on this date. This act of completion was celebrated as a joyous occasion.
While at face value these six disparate events may seem disjointed, in truth there is a common theme that runs throughout them: a celebration of the love of the Almighty for His people, and a celebration of the love that one Jew is meant to feel for his fellow Jew. Let us harness the power of this holiday to increase love, peace, and friendship amongst the Jewish people, less than one week after Tisha B'Av, a day on which our tradition teaches us that the Temple was destroyed as a result of the baseless hatred that existed amongst the Jews at that time. Tu B'Av will be observed this year on Friday, August 16th. Tachanun will be omitted at our 6:45 Shacharit service on that morning.
May we merit to witness the ultimate comforting of the mourners of Zion on this month of Menachem Av,
Rabbi Peretz Robinson