The Gemara on today’s daf brings the last Mishna in Massekhet Ta’anit, which closes with a discussion of two of the happiest days on the Jewish calendar – Yom Kippur and T”u b’Av, the 15th of Av, when the daughters of Jerusalem would go out to the dance in the vineyards in borrowed white clothing (so that girls who were poor would not be embarrassed), calling out to the young men suggesting that they choose wives from among them.
The Gemara is clear on the reasons for rejoicing on Yom Kippur. It is, after all, a day of divine forgiveness, the day on which the second Tablets of the Law were given. What is the reason for the celebrations on the 15th of Av?
Several reasons are suggested by the Gemara.
- Rav Yehuda quotes Shmuel as saying that it was the day that women who had inherited land were released from the restrictions limiting them to marry only members of their tribe.
- Rabba bar bar Ḥana suggests that it was the day that the tribe of Binyamin was permitted to marry. According to the story at the end of Sefer Shofetim (see Chapter 21) wives needed to be found for the remnants of the tribe of Binyamin, which had almost been wiped out.
- Rav Dimi bar Yosef quotes Rav Naḥman as teaching that it was the day that the Israelites stopped dying in the desert. The Rashbam explains this based on the Midrash Eikha, which teaches that following the sin of the spies and the punishment decreed for all adults to perish in the desert, every year about 15,000 (1/40 of 600,000) people would die on Tisha b’Av – the anniversary of the spies’ sin. In the 40th year, the people were surprised to find that no one had died, and were convinced that they had made a mistake regarding the calendar. After a few more nights passed with no one dying they looked at the full moon (i.e. the 15th of the month) and realized that punishment was over.