Sukkos to Simchas Torah 5758 - '97

Outline # 55

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Chodshei Hashanah Part Thirty Nine: The Simchah of Sukkos

In tractate Taanis, the Talmud says: "`There were no holidays like Tu B'av (15th Av) and Yom Kippur.' Yom Kippur we understand -- it is the day of the forgiving of transgression. But Tu B'av (15th Av) -- what is so important about it? It is the day in which the tribes were permitted to marry one another." (Taanis 30b)

The commentary of Tosfos adds: "'the day in which the tribes were permitted to marry one another.' -- this constitutes a Yom Tov (holiday)."

This seems very strange. Tu B'av is not one of our major holidays, certainly not of the likes of Yom Kippur!

Reb Yaakov Yitzchak of Preshischa, called the Yehudi Hakodesh -- the Holy Jew -- explained:

Tosafos was troubled. What is the comparison between Tu B'av and Yom Kippur? Yom Kippur is a holiday because of the forgiving of transgression; Tu B'av is for another reason -- the day in which the tribes were permitted to marry one another. Rather, it must be that the meaning behind the two days is the same, and this is the intention of Tosafos in its statement -- "this constitutes a Yom Tov (holiday)." Tu B'av is also a Yom Tov just like Yom Kippur, because "one who marries is forgiven all his transgressions." Therefore, the day in which the tribes were permitted to marry one another was considered comparable to Yom Kippur. (Nifla'os Hayehudi, p. 85)

Marriage and Atonement

Let's try to understand this to some degree. One who marries needs to bend himself or herself to the other party, in order to form a lasting relationship. The commitment to change is regarded as a sincere regret over the past and dedication to change in the future, and the bride and groom are forgiven.

Tu B'av began from an external initiative. The tribes were permitted to marry one another. This produced great joy; it would now be so much easier to marry. Upon introspection, the tribes realized that they would all have to learn to bend; the tribes were very much different from one another, and forming lasting relationships between different tribes would require great flexibility. They committed themselves to change, and thus Tu B'av became a day in which transgressions were forgiven. Although Tu B'av began with an external initiative, it concluded with something internal: serious commitment.

Yom Kippur is the opposite. It begins -- internally -- with serious commitment, which, in turn, causes that the Jews be forgiven. In the Talmud, Yom Kippur is called "the day of the wedding" because, when the Jews were forgiven [for the Golden Calf], the second tablets were presented then, completing the marriage relationship between Hashem and Israel. (See Mishnah, Taanis 4:8 and commentaries there.) Yom Kippur thus begins with the internal, and concludes with the acceptance from Above. The seven days of Sukkos, following Yom Kippur, are akin to the seven days of the wedding feast!


After Yom Kippur, the greatest celebration of the year occurs -- an entire week of the joyous Sukkos festival, concluding with Shmini Atzeres and Simchas Torah. The commentaries explain that true simchah (joy) can only occur after being forgiven, because guilt and joy aren't compatible. Therefore the celebration of Torah and Judaism is delayed until after the judgment and atonement period of the Yomim Nora'im (Days of Awe -- Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur).

Other commentaries add that the return of the Ananei Hakavod (Clouds of Glory) only occurred at Sukkos, and that the building of the Tabernacle commenced at that time. (It is known that the dedication of the Beis Hamikdash occurred at Yom Kippur, which was followed by the great festivities of Sukkos.)

Tu B'av is the Transformation

In an extensive discussion, published in Am Hatorah 3:2 (`89), Rav Moshe Wolfson investigated the significance of Tu B'av. Among his findings:

There are nine days of the entire Sukkos festival (including Shmini Atzeres and Simchas Torah of the Diaspora); they correspond to the nine days culminating in the 9th of Av (the Jewish mourning period). We see that they are exactly the opposite: the first are days of joy, the second, days of woe! However, it is clear that the 9th of Av is destined to be a holiday in the future era of redemption.

Tu B'av is the seventh day from the 9th of Av, corresponding to the completion of the Shivah days of mourning. It marks the transformation from the days of mourning to the days of joy. In the future, when the 9th of Av will become a holiday, Tu B'av will be the culmination of festivities -- the complete rejoicing of the bride and groom. It is not appreciated as such a great holiday as yet, because its real impact will be in the future.

Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) was born on the 9th of Av; he was the gilgul (returning soul) of King Shlomo. His life was full of sadness for the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash; he said "Cursed is the day of my birth."

On each of the days of Sukkos, one special "guest" is announced: Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Yoseif and Dovid. Although not announced, King Shlomo is the special guest for Shmini Atzeres (the eighth day). King Shlomo realized the greatest rejoicing of anyone. Shmini Atzeres is thus the perfect contrast to the 9th of Av. Shmini Atzeres is the culmination of happiness for the happy son, while the 9th of Av is the day of ruin for the prophet of doom. But the Rabbis tell us that Meshiach will be born on the 9th of Av. On the 9th of Av, Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) himself will shine and say: "I am King Shlomo! I am Shmini Atzeres! Blessed is the day I was born! Blessed is the 9th of Av which has turned into gladness and rejoicing!"

Our job is to have faith that the days of destruction will give way to days of building and rejoicing, to increase our faith and determination from Tu B'av until Simchas Torah. Although Torah Study is forbidden on the 9th of Av, we are told to increase Torah learning from Tu B'av and on...

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
1 Babbin Court
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: 914-425-3565
Fax: 914-425-4296
E-mail: [email protected]

Good Yom Tov!

Text Copyright © '97 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.



Copyright © '97 Project Genesis, Inc.

      [email protected]

6810 Park Heights Ave
Baltimore, MD 21215