“There were no greater festivals in Israel than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur,” the Mishna tells us. The 15th of Av corresponds this year to Friday, August 16. What is so special about the 15th of Av that it is singled out together with Yom Kippur from all the other festivals?
A number of special events throughout Jewish history took place on the 15th of Av. They were: 1) The tribe of Benjamin was permitted once again to marry the remainder of the Jewish people; 2) The Generation of the Desert ceased to die; they had previously been condemned to perish in the desert because of the sin of the spies; 3) Hoshea Ben Elah removed the blockades that the rebel Jerobeam had set up to prevent the Jews from going to Jerusalem for the festivals; 4) The cutting of the wood for the Holy Altar was completed; 5) Permission was granted by the Romans to bury the slain of Betar.
These five events in themselves do not seem adequate enough reason to make the 15th of Av a festival greater than any other. There is another, all-encompassing reason.
The five festive events on the fifteenth of Av, are the counterpart to the five tragic events of Tisha B’Av – the day when the two Holy Temples were destroyed, signaling the start of the long exile we are still enduring – tragedies which were the result of the Jews’ sins. Tisha B’Av is the nadir of Jewish physical and spiritual life. The 15th of Av transforms the negativity of Tisha B’Av to the greatest good – “there were no greater festivals in Israel than the fifteenth of Av.” The ultimate goal of the tragedies of the month of Av is that they should be transformed into a greater good – the supreme festival of the 15th of Av.
But these tragedies are not without purpose. It is specifically after the awesome decline of Tisha B’Av that we can reach the loftiest heights, heights that would otherwise be inaccessible.
The common theme behind all the reasons for the 15th of Av is Ahavat Yisrael, the practice of which eradicates the cause of the exile, and therefore automatically the exile itself. Moshiach NOW!!!