3 Weeks and 9 Av: The Shiva Asar B’Tamuz > Tisha B’Av > Tu B’Av > Yom Kippur Progression

Nov 17, 2014
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R. Eliezer Kwass

The Shiva Asar B’Tamuz > Tisha B’Av Connection
The Mishna in Taanit ties the Seventeenth of Tamuz, at the beginning of the Three Weeks, and the Ninth of Av, at its end, together: “Five events happened to our forefathers on Shiva Asar B’Tamuz and five on Tisha B’Av. On Shiva Asar B’Tamuz the tablets were broken, the daily sacrifice was stopped, the city wall was breached, Apustumus burned the Torah and placed an idol in the Temple. On Tisha B’Av it was decreed that our forefathers could not enter the land, the first and second Temples were destroyed, Beitar was captured, and the city was plowed.”

Lining up the items in the two lists suggests that they correspond to each other, with each one of the Shiva Asar B’Tamuz list directly related to one in the Tisha B’Av list.

 

Shiva Asar B’Tamuz Tisha B’Av
Tablets broken Decree not to enter the Land
Daily sacrifice stopped First Temple Destroyed
City wall breached Second Temple Destroyed
Torah burnt Beitar captured
Idol set up in the Temple City plowed

The Shiva Asar B’Tamuz event is the beginning of a downhill process and the Tisha B’Av one its culmination:

  1. The breaking of the tablets was Israel’s first major lapse in the desert and the sin of the spies (in the Tisha B’Av list) sealed the decree for the people not to enter the Land of Israel.
  2. According to the Rambam (Taaniot 5:2) the stopping of the daily sacrifice took place during the First Temple period, followed by the Temple being destroyed on Tisha B’Av.
  3. The fall of Jerusalem in the Second Temple period began with the breach in the walls of the city on Shiva Asar B’Tamuz and ended with the destruction of the Temple on Tisha B’Av.
  4. The burning of the Torah was symbolic of the Roman’s attempt at destroying Torah and the capture of Beitar was its height.
  5. Setting up an idol in the Temple replaces Jewish presence with a pagan one, while plowing the city erases Jewish presence entirely.

The first of the pair is the beginning of the end and the second one the end itself.

Tu B’Av: the Next Step
Two mishnas later we are told of Tu B’Av, the fifteenth of Av. The Mishna mentions how joyous it was but does not list any historical events that happened on that day. A baraita quoted in the Gemara, though, says that on Tu B’Av the Jews knew that the decree of dying in the desert for forty years was over. For thirty-nine years a group would die each Tisha B’Av. In the fortieth year, when none died on Tisha B’Av they thought they had miscalculated. When they reached the fifteenth of the month they realized the decree had ended. We are also told that on Tu B’Av the victims of the Beitar massacre, lying outside unburied, were finally able to have a respectable burial. Tu B’Av adds a new stage to the chart:

 

Shiva Asar B’Tamuz Tisha B’Av Tu B’Av
Tablets broken Decree not to enter the Land Decree ends in fortieth year
Daily sacrifice stopped First Temple Destroyed
City wall breached Second Temple Destroyed
Torah burnt Beitar captured Beitar victims allowed to be buried
Idol set up in the Temple City plowed

If Shiva Asar B’Tamuz is the beginning of the end, and Tisha B’Av is the end, Tu B’Av is the end of the end. The harshness of Tisha B’Av is over and a new season begins.

  1. During the civil war between the tribe of Binyamin and the rest of Israel, the rest of the tribes prohibited intermarriage with the tribe of Binyamin. This prohibition was eventually rescinded on Tu B’Av.
  2. During the First Temple period, Yeravam be Nevat had set up guards to prevent the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel from visiting the Temple in Jerusalem. These guards were removed years later by Hoshea on Tu B’Av.
  3. Tu B’Av is also a halakhic cut-off date for cutting wood for the fire on the altar in the Temple. The reason for choosing Tu B’Av is because after that day the harshness of the summer sun’s heat wanes, so wood cut later might be wormy.

Tu B’Av is a day when difficulties and decrees end, when harshness is blunted. It is begins the upward curve following the depths of Tisha B’Av.

Yom Kippur: A New Beginning
The last step in the process is Yom Kippur. The Mishna lists Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur as the most joyous days of the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur is the day when the second tablets were given to Moshe. Yom Kippur, the day of forgiveness and atonement, is also the day when the difficulties we created for ourselves are mended. If Shiva Asar B’Tamuz is the beginning of the end, and Tisha B’Av the end, and Tu B’Av is the end of the end, Yom Kippur is a new beginning.

 

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