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15th of Av: What happened on this day that makes it special?

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin 

Everyone knows that today is Tu B'Av (15th of Av), the Jewish holiday of love, but what happened in history that makes this day so special?

1. After the sin of the spies, God decreed that the Children of Israel should wander forty years in the desert, where a portion of the nation died each Tishav B'Av (9th of Av). But on the 15th of Av, in the year prior to entering the Land, the people realized the dying had stopped. This was a day of rejoicing since it marked the end of God's decree; the people could now prepare to enter the Land.

2. Long after entering the Land and settling it, on the 15th of Av, the sages permitted intermarriage between memebers of different tribes. And so ended a painful division that had caused tension and discord among the tribes of Israel.

3. After the Kingdom of Israel was split into the kingdoms of Israel and Yehudah, King Yerovam Ben Navat did not allow residents of his kingdom (Israel) to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem, located in the kingdom of Yehudah. This decree remained in force for generations until it was rescinded on the 15th of Av. From then on, all those who wanted to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem were permitted to do so and they could celebrate the festivals together, once again, in the Holy City.

4. When the Holy Temple stood, the 15th of Av was considered a festive occasion since on this day the obligation of cutting down trees to make kindling wood for the altar ceased. The nation would celebrate the fulfillment of this mitzvah on this day.

5. On this day, single girls in Jerusalem would go out to the vineyards to find a shidduch. “No days were as festive for Israel as the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur.” (Mishnah Ta’anit 4:8) Until today, the 15th of Av is a highly popular date for weddings.

6. In Kabbalistic writings, the 15th of Av is designated as the first of the days of teshuvah, as it comes one half month before the beginning of the month of Elul. Some have the custom, already today, of starting to wish others: “May you be inscribed and have a good final sealing (in the Book of Life).”

So what is the common denominator of the above? For thousands of years, this has been a day of connection, attachment, and reconciliation. Have a happy Tu B'Av.


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