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Ta'anis 31


QUESTION: Rabah and Rav Yosef say that the reason why the Fifteenth of Av was made into a festive day is because the cutting of the wood for use as fuel upon the Mizbe'ach ended on the day, since the sun was no longer strong enough to keep the wood dry.

What is so special about the day that they stopped cutting wood? Why does that event warrant celebration?

ANSWER: RABEINU GERSHOM (Bava Basra 121b) says that because they no longer needed to cut wood, they had much more time to learn Torah. That was why they celebrated -- they had more time to learn!

According to Rabeinu Gershom, this reason is connected to the following statement in the Gemara that says that from this time on the days begin to get shorter and the nights longer, and that this extra time must be used to learn Torah. This is the reason why the Fifteenth of Av is a day of celebration.

QUESTION: The Gemara discusses the joyous days of Yom Kipur and the Fifteenth of Av. Why does the Mishnah and Gemara discuss this at the end of Maseches Ta'anis? How is it related to the topics of the rest of the Maseches?


(a) The simple answer is that the Maseches discusses topics of inauspicious times, such as the fast days for troubles that befall us and the fast days that we observe in mourning for the Beis ha'Mikdash, we want to conclude the Maseches with something good. Therefore, we conclude by discussing days of Simchah such as Yom Kipur and the Fifteenth of Av. But there is more to it than that.

(b) The end of the Maseches discussed the fast days of the Seventeenth of Tamuz and the Ninth of Av. On the Seventeenth of Tamuz, Moshe Rabeinu descended the mountain and found that the people had built the Egel ha'Zahav, and he threw down and broke the Luchos which he was carrying. On the Ninth of Av, it was decreed that the Jewish people who were guilty of the sin of the Meraglim would not enter Eretz Yisrael. We end the Maseches with a good thing specifically related to those tragic events. We discuss how Hashem returned to us what we had lost on those occasions. On Yom Kipur, the Jewish people were atoned for the sin of the Egel ha'Zahav, and Hashem gave them the second set of Luchos. On the Fifteenth of Av, the people in the Midbar stopped dying -- the decree was annulled and the Jewish people were permitted to enter Eretz Yisrael!

QUESTION: We can ask, similarly, about the content of the end of the last Mishnah. The end of the Mishnah (26b) says that "there were no Yamim Tovim for the Jewish people like the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kipur... and so it says (Shir ha'Shirim 3:11), 'Daughters of Jerusalem, go out and see Shlomo in the crown that his mother crowned him with on his wedding day' -- this refers to the day of the giving of the Torah -- 'And on the day of the joy of his heart' - this refers to the building of the Beis ha'Mikdash that will be rebuilt speedily in our days!"

What is the connection between the verse in Shir ha'Shirim and the statement that there were no Yamim Tovim like the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kipur? It is especially difficult because the Mishnah introduces the verse with the words "and so it says," which clearly imply that this verse *proves* that the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kipur were days of joy!

ANSWER: RASHI (26b, DH Zeh Matan Torah) explains that the "day of the giving of the Torah" mentioned in the Mishnah refers to Yom Kipur, when the second set of Luchos were given to Moshe after Hashem forgave the people for the sin of the Egel ha'Zahav which occurred on the Seventeenth of Tamuz.

What about the "building of the Beis ha'Mikdash?" What does that have to do with either Yom Kipur or the Fifteenth of Av? (See Bartenura.)

Perhaps we may suggest that the reference of the verse is not to the building of the *first* Beis ha'Midkash, but rather, as the Mishnah says, to "the Beis ha'Midkash that will be rebuilt speedily in our days" -- the *third* Beis ha'Midkash, which will be rebuilt when Mashi'ach comes. At that time, the sin which brought about the destruction of the Beis ha'Midkash on the Tisha b'Av in the first place will have been rectified, and the Jewish people will be completely restored to Hashem's good favor. Thus the happiness of "the day of the building of the Beis ha'Midkash" is the rejoicing in the complete forgiveness of the sins of Tisha b'Av, which precipitated the destruction of the Beis ha'Midkash.

We were offered a "taste" of that complete forgiveness, albeit on a limited scale, on the Fifteenth of Av over three millennia ago, in the desert as we traveled to Eretz Yisrael. At that time, on that day, Hashem allowed the sinners who were still living to enter Eretz Yisrael (see Insights to 30:1). It is therefore on that same date that we can look forward with joyous anticipation to the "day of the joy of his heart," the blissful day of the restoration of the Beis ha'Midkash! In this light, the Mishnah is indeed bringing a source for the celebrations of the Fifteenth of Av as well as for the rejoicing of Yom Kipur.

These days were made into days of Simchah in the hope that the fast days of the Seventeenth of Tamuz and the Ninth of Av themselves will also become days of joy and gladness, as the prophet said: "The fast of the fourth [month] (17 Tamuz), the fast of the fifth (9 Av), the fast of the seventh (3 Tishrei) and the fast of the tenth (10 Teves) will be for the house of Yehudah for joy and happiness, and for days of festivity" (Zecharyah 8:19). May this prophecy be fulfilled speedily in our days! (M. Kornfeld)

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