Nine years ago on Tu (15th) B’Av (month of Av) 5773 (2013), the Pelta family left the USA on aliyah. Every year on this day, we commemorate the day of our aliyah. This year, we also celebrate and thank G-d for a complete recovery for our son Moshe Leib, who was hit by a car a year ago on Rosh Chodesh Av. We also have the honor of our son Yehuda about to complete is IDF Combat Medic training course in Kfir. This day is our coming home anniversary, when we demonstrate our loyalty and appreciation to Hashem for giving us the privilege to live in the Holy Land of Israel, ארץ הקודש.
What is the significance of the 15th day of Av?
The Mishnah in Ta`anis, tells us that: “No days were as festive for the Jewish people as the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur.”
משנה תענית ד,ז
אמר רבן שמעון בן גמליאל, לא היו ימים טובים לישראל כחמישה עשר באב וכיום הכיפורים…
Just as Yom Kippur symbolizes the atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf, Tu B’Av signifies the atonement for the sin of the Spies מרגלים , where ten of the greatest Rabbis convinced the entire Jewish nation that it is better to remain in Chutz La’Aretz, and not to make aliyah. As a result of that grave sin, it was decreed by G-d, that the Bnei Yisrael would remain in the midbar for a total of 40 years, and that no man aged 20 or older would be allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael.
On each Tisha B’Av during those 40 years in the desert, those who had reached the age of 60 that year were destined to die. Fifteen thousand men died on each Tisha B’Av! After 585,000 men died, this plague finally ended on Tu B’Av (15th of Av).
Every Tisha B’Av (9th of Av) we mourn the destruction of the two Batei Hamikdash (Temples) and we pray for the opportunity to be able to make aliyah and return to Eretz Yisrael; when it is physically possible. In this manner, we can then rebuild the country and yes, rebuilt our Beis Hamikdash on the Har Habayis (Temple Mount in Yerushalayim). This is what every Jew prays for in our established liturgy.
Several Positive Events That Occurred On Tu B’Av
The plague of death that had accompanied the Jews in the desert for forty years ended. That last year, the last 15,000 men got ready to die. G-d, in His mercy, decided not to have that last group die. Now, when the ninth of Av approached, all the members of the group, dug their own graves and got ready to die; but nothing happened. They then decided that they might have been wrong about the date, so they waited another day. Until finally on the 15th of Av, when the full moon appeared, they realized definitely that the ninth of Av had come and gone, and that they were still alive! Then it was clear to them that G-d’s decree of death was over. However, until this present day we are still not forgiven for the sin of the Spies מרגלים, until we make aliyah.
This is what was meant by our Sages when they said: “No days were as festive for Israel as the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur,” for there is no greater joy than having one’s greatest sins forgiven – on Yom Kippur for the sin of the Golden Calf and on Tu B’Av for the sin of the Meraglim; if we choose to live in Israel, as the Jews did in the time of Yehoshua bin Nun.
The daughters of Zelofchad, like their great grandfather Yosef, had a tremendous love of Eretz Yisrael and wanted a part of mitzvah of Yishuv (settling) Eretz Yisrael. According to law at that time, the daughters who inherited land from their father, when there were no sons, were forbidden to marry someone from a different tribe. This was to prevent the land of Israel that was allotted to a specific tribe, to pass to another tribe שבט.
במדבר לו: ב,ו, יב פרשת מסעי
וַיֹּֽאמְר֗וּ אֶת אֲדֹנִ-י֙ צִוָּ֣ה ה’ לָתֵ֨ת אֶת הָאָ֧רֶץ בְּנַֽחֲלָ֛ה בְּגוֹרָ֖ל לִבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַֽאדֹנִ-י֙ צֻוָּ֣ה בַֽה’ לָתֵ֗ת אֶת נַֽחֲלַ֛ת צְלָפְחָ֥ד אָחִ֖ינוּ לִבְנֹתָֽיו… זֶ֣ה הַדָּבָ֞ר אֲשֶׁר צִוָּ֣ה ה’ לִבְנ֤וֹת צְלָפְחָד֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר לַטּ֥וֹב בְּעֵֽינֵיהֶ֖ם תִּֽהְיֶ֣ינָה לְנָשִׁ֑ים אַ֗ךְ לְמִשְׁפַּ֛חַת מַטֵּ֥ה אֲבִיהֶ֖ם תִּֽהְיֶ֥ינָה לְנָשִֽׁים… מִמִּשְׁפְּחֹ֛ת בְּנֵֽי מְנַשֶּׁ֥ה בֶן יוֹסֵ֖ף הָי֣וּ לְנָשִׁ֑ים וַתְּהִי֙ נַֽחֲלָתָ֔ן עַל מַטֵּ֖ה מִשְׁפַּ֥חַת אֲבִיהֶֽן:
They said, “Hashem commanded my master to give the Land as an inheritance through lot to the children of Israel, and our master was commanded by Hashem to give the inheritance of Zelofchad our brother to his daughters… This is the word that Hashem has commanded regarding Zelofchad’s daughters. Let them marry whomever they please, but they shall marry only to the family of their father’s tribe… They married into the families of the sons of Manasheh the son of Yosef, and their inheritance remained with the tribe of their father’s family ( Bamidbar 36: 2,6,12).
In the Book of Judges, Tu B’Av is referred to as a holiday.
שופטים כא: יט – כג
וַיֹּאמְר֡וּ הִנֵּה֩ חַג ה’ בְּשִׁל֜וֹ מִיָּמִ֣ים יָמִ֗ימָה אֲשֶׁ֞ר מִצְּפ֚וֹנָה לְבֵֽית אֵל֙ מִזְרְחָ֣ה הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ לִמְסִלָּ֔ה הָעֹלָ֥ה מִבֵּֽית אֵ֖ל שְׁכֶ֑מָה וּמִנֶּ֖גֶב לִלְבוֹנָֽה: וַיְצַוֻּ֕ו אֶת בְּנֵ֥י בִנְיָמִ֖ן לֵאמֹ֑ר לְכ֖וּ וַאֲרַבְתֶּ֥ם בַּכְּרָמִֽים: וּרְאִיתֶ֗ם וְ֠הִנֵּה אִם יֵ֨צְא֥וּ בְנוֹת שִׁילוֹ֘ לָח֣וּל בַּמְּחֹלוֹת֒ וִֽיצָאתֶם֙ מִן הַכְּרָמִ֔ים וַחֲטַפְתֶּ֥ם לָכֶ֛ם אִ֥ישׁ אִשְׁתּ֖וֹ מִבְּנ֣וֹת שִׁיל֑וֹ וַהֲלַכְתֶּ֖ם אֶ֥רֶץ בִּנְיָמִֽן: וְהָיָ֡ה כִּֽי יָבֹ֣אוּ אֲבוֹתָם֩ א֨וֹ אֲחֵיהֶ֜ם לָרִ֣יב אֵלֵ֗ינוּ וְאָמַ֚רְנוּ אֲלֵיהֶם֙ חָנּ֣וּנוּ אוֹתָ֔ם כִּ֣י לֹ֥א לָקַ֛חְנוּ אִ֥ישׁ אִשְׁתּ֖וֹ בַּמִּלְחָמָ֑ה כִּ֣י לֹ֥א אַתֶּ֛ם נְתַתֶּ֥ם לָהֶ֖ם כָּעֵ֥ת תֶּאְשָֽׁמוּ: וַיַּֽעֲשׂוּ כֵן֙ בְּנֵ֣י בִנְיָמִ֔ן וַיִּשְׂא֚וּ נָשִׁים֙ לְמִסְפָּרָ֔ם מִן הַמְּחֹלְל֖וֹת אֲשֶׁ֣ר גָּזָ֑לוּ וַיֵּלְכ֗וּ וַיָּשׁ֙וּבוּ֙ אֶל נַ֣חֲלָתָ֔ם וַיִּבְנוּ֙ אֶת הֶ֣עָרִ֔ים וַיֵּשְׁב֖וּ בָּהֶֽם:
And they said, “Behold, there is a Holiday of Hashem in Shiloh from time to time, which is to the north of Beit-El, on the east side of the highway that goes up from Beit-El to Shechem, and to the south of Lilvonah.” And they instructed the children of Benyamin, saying, “Go and lie in wait in the vineyards. And you will see, and behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then you shall come out of the vineyards and you shall grab for yourselves each man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. And it shall be, when their fathers or their brothers come to quarrel with us, then we will say to them, ‘We took pity on them, because we did not take for each man his wife in the war, (neither should you be concerned) for you did not give them presently that you should be guilty.’ ” And the children of Benyamin did so, and married wives according to their numbers, of those that danced whom they had seized; and they went and returned to their inheritance, and built the cities and dwelt in them (Shoftim 21:19-23).
Generations after the ruling for the daughters of Zelofchad, the tragedy of the “Concubine of Giv’ah” occurred. A civil war ensured and most of the tribe of Binyamin was wiped out! Only 600 men of Binyamin were left; no women. The Children of Israel swore not to allow their daughters to marry anyone from the tribe of Benyamin. This posed a threat of annihilation to the tribe of Benyamin.
שופטים כ: מז-מח, כא: א
וַיִּפְנ֞וּ וַיָּנֻ֚סוּ הַמִּדְבָּ֙רָה֙ אֶל סֶ֣לַע הָֽרִמּ֔וֹן שֵׁ֥שׁ מֵא֖וֹת אִ֑ישׁ וַיֵּֽשְׁבוּ֙ בְּסֶ֣לַע רִמּ֔וֹן אַרְבָּעָ֖ה חֳדָשִֽׁים: אִ֨ישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל שָׁ֣בוּ אֶל בְּנֵ֚י בִנְיָמִן֙ וַיַּכּ֣וּם לְפִי חֶ֔רֶב מֵעִ֚יר מְתֹם֙ עַד בְּהֵמָ֔ה עַ֖ד כָּל הַנִּמְצָ֑א גַּ֛ם כָּל הֶעָרִ֥ים הַנִּמְצָא֖וֹת שִׁלְּח֥וּ בָאֵֽשׁ:
וְאִ֣ישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל נִשְׁבַּ֥ע בַּמִּצְפָּ֖ה לֵאמֹ֑ר אִ֣ישׁ מִמֶּ֔נּוּ לֹא יִתֵּ֥ן בִּתּ֛וֹ לְבִנְיָמִ֖ן לְאִשָּֽׁה:
And they turned and fled to the wilderness, to the rock [Machtesh?] of Rimon, six hundred men; and they abode in the rock [Machtesh?] of Rimmon four months. And the men of Israel turned upon the children of Benyamin and smote them with the edge of the sword, (destroying) from the city even the cattle, even all that was found. Also, all the cities which they found they set on fire… Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpah, saying, “No man from us shall give his daughter to Benyamin for a wife.”
The Shevatim (Tribes) Could Now Marry Each Other
Each one of these prohibitions was lifted on Tu B’Av. The people realized that if they kept to their prohibition, one of the twelve tribes of Israel might totally disappear. As to the oath that had been sworn, they pointed out that it only affected the generation that had taken the oath, and not subsequent generations. The same was applied to the prohibition of heiresses marrying outside their own tribe: this rule was applied only to the generation that had conquered and divided up the land under Yehoshua, but not future generations. This was the first expression of the merging of all the tribes, and was a cause for rejoicing. In the Book of Shoftim it is referred to as “a Holiday of Hashem.”
Over the generations, this day was described in Tractate Ta’anis as a day devoted to marriages, so that new Jewish families would emerge and settle the Land of Israel.
The Jews Were Allowed To Make Aliyah to Yerushalayim
After Yerovoam (from the tribe of Ephraim) split off the kingdom of Israel with its ten tribes from the kingdom of Yehuda, he proclaimed himself the king of the Shomron with Shechem as his capital. He posted guards along all the roads leading to Yerushalayim, to prevent his people from making aliyah to the Holy City for the Shalosh Regalim (Pesach, Succos, Shavuos) festivals. He feared that such pilgrimages might undermine his authority. As a “substitute,” he set up places of worship which were purely idolatrous in Dan and Beit-El. Thus the division between the two kingdoms became a fait accompli and lasted for generations.
The last king of the kingdom of Israel, Hoshea ben Elah, wished to heal the breach, and removed all the guards from the roads leading to Yerushalayim, thus allowing his people to make the aliyah l’regel pilgrimage again. This act, of allowing aliyah (to Yerushalayim), took place on Tu B’Av.
The Last Day to Bring Wood to The Beis Hamikdash
At the beginning of the Second Beis Hamikdash period, the Land of Israel lay almost totally in waste, and the wood needed to burn the sacrifices קרבנות and for the eternal flame that had to burn on the altar was almost impossible to obtain. Each year a number of brave people volunteered to bring the wood needed from afar – a trip which was dangerous.
Not just any wood could be brought to the Beis Hamikdash. Wood which was wormy was not permitted. And dampness and cold are ideal conditions for the breeding of worms in wood. As a result, all the wood that would be needed until the following summer had to be collected before the cold set in. The last day that wood was brought in for storage over the winter months was Tu B’Av and it was a festive occasion each year when the quota needed was filled by that day.
Burial Of the Bodies From Beitar
Long after the event, the Romans finally permitted the bodies of those who had been killed in the defense of Beitar (in the Bar Kochba revolt) to be buried. This was a double miracle, in that, the Romans finally gave permission for the burial, and in spite of the long period of time that had elapsed, the bodies had not decomposed. The permission was granted on Tu B’Av. Ironically, this exact location of Beitar is located in the current Arab town of Bitar. Unfortunately, according to the current Israeli law, Bitar is off limit to Jews!
Pelta Family Aliyah!
Last but not least significance of this date, is that my family (the Pelta’s) finally left the USA for aliyah on this day. Our exile began, probably after the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash and we ended up in Spain. The Christians persecuted, tortured and forced us to flee to Portugal. Then our flight from the cruel Inquisition arm of the Catholic Church sent us to Amsterdam and Kinsk (Koinske) Poland. The Germans and the Poles murdered the rest of the Pelta’s, however my grandparents survived and made it after the war back to Kinsk Poland. Upon return, Jews who were Holocaust survivors, were greeted by our Catholic Christian Polish neighbors with pogroms and death.
In 1945, my Grandpa Leon Pelta (Yehuda Leib ) and grandmother Shifra, with my father Yaakov escaped to Sweden. Eventually we rebuilt our family in the USA and had a home with seven children in Atlanta Georgia. Finally, on Tu B’Av 5773, the Pelta’s returned home to Eretz Yisrael!
The Month of Menachem – Av
Gemarah Tanis 29a teaches us to enter the month of Av with decreased joy. The month is called “Menachem Av”, the month of consolement. The first nine days are days of sadness and mourning until the Ninth Av. From the tenth of Av onward it’s considered a new month of “Menachem”. However, as of the 15th of Av a new joy emerges.
From the fifteenth of the month of Av we start to get ready for month of Elul. From Elul time leading up to Rosh Hashanah we greet each other with the blessing:
כתיבה וחתימה טובה = 928
“May your inscription and seal be for the good”
The gematria (Kabalistic numeric Hebrew value) of this expression adds up to 928; which is the same gematria of the words for 15th of Av –”חמשה עשר באב”
חמשה (353) עשר(570) באב(5) = 928
Moshe Taught Us To Pray – To Make Aliyah, Starting on Tu B’Av
In Parshas Devarim we learn that Moshe Rabeinu begged G-d to allow him to enter Eretz Yisrael. Something, many Jews today take for granted or just refuse to do.
- דברים ג, כג פרשת ואתחנן
וָאֶתְחַנַּן אֶל ה’ בָּעֵת הַהִוא לֵאמֹר:
- And I entreated Hashem at that time, saying (Devarim 3:23).
The Midrash Rabbah (Devarim 11) states that Moshe prayed to HaShem 515 times to annul the vow restricting him from entering Eretz Yisrael. His prayers were to no avail. The Midrash explains that the word “vo’es’chanan” alludes to this, as its numeric value is 515.
ואתחנן = 515
Why did Moshe Specifically Pray 515 Times?
The Pnei Yehoshua on Berachos 32a, gives us a calculation that explains why there were exactly 515 prayers. Rashi, on the words “at that time – בעת ההוא ” in our verse says that Moshe felt that after conquering Sichon and Og the vow made by Hashem to prohibit him from entering Eretz Yisrael might be null and void. This took place on the 15th of Av; the day that the death of the final group of 15,000 people who died annually, because of the sin of the spies, had conclusively ended. This is understood from the pasuk in Devarim (2:16), “when all the men of war finished dying” (Talmud Baba Basra 121a+b Rashbam, Tosfos).
ויהי כאשר תמו כל אנשי המלחמה למות מקרב העם:
So it was, when all the men of war finished dying from among the people (Devarim 2:16)
Moshe prayed for an annulment of the decree from the 15th of Av, until his death on the 7th of Adar of the following year. This is a total of 200 days if we alternate 30 and 29 days per month.
This gives us 4 months of 30 days each and 3 months of 29 days each. The month of Av has only 16 days of prayer starting from the 15th day of the month.
Adar (16) + Elul (29) + Tishrei (30) + Cheshvan (29) + Kislev (30) + Teves (29) + Shevat (30) + (7) days of Adar = 200.
On Shabbos one does not pray for the personal needs of an individual. This takes away 28 Shabbosos (that Moshe did not pray for his person desire to enter Israel), that occur in the 200 days. We are left with:
172 days x 3 prayers a day = 516 prayers.
We subtract one prayer, as Hashem only communicated with Moshe by day (There is disagreement by some on this point, as they posit that Moshe received prophecy by night and by day). Thus, on the first day of these prayers he only prayed twice (not three times) to enter the land. This leaves us with exactly 515 prayers (as Moshe died at the time of Minchah on the 7th of Adar).
Once it was final that Moshe Rabeinu was not making aliyah, there was no reason to live even one more day, therefore he died. Let us learn from Moshe our Rabbi and start our aliyah plans on one of the happiest day of the year – Tu B’Av.
אמר רבן שמעון בן גמליאל:
לא היו ימים טובים לישראל כחמשה עשר באב וכיום הכפורים.