QUESTION: The Gemara cites the Mishnah in Ta'anis (26b) which states that "there were never such good days for Yisrael as the fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, for on those days the daughters of Yerushalayim would go out with borrowed white clothing in order not to embarrass those who did not have their own." The Gemara discusses why the fifteenth of Av is such a special day. One of the reasons that the Gemara gives is that on that day, it became permitted for members of different Shevatim to marry each other. The RASHBAM (DH la'Vo) explains that marrying out of one's Shevet was prohibited for the generation that entered Eretz Yisrael. That prohibition was intended to prevent land that was given to one Shevet from being transferred through inheritance to a different Shevet; if a woman, with no brothers, would marry a man from a different Shevet, then the land that she inherited from her father would pass to her husband upon her death.

According to this reason, what was so special about the fifteenth of Av? Why was the annulment of this prohibition cause for such festivity?

ANSWER: The MAHARSHA (Chidushei Agados) answers that, as the Gemara implies, the fifteenth of Av was a joyous day primarily for the women of Yisrael. Until that time, a man was permitted to marry a woman from a different Shevet, because his family inheritance would not leave his Shevet as a result of his marriage to a woman from another Shevet. A woman, on the other hand, who had a family inheritance was not permitted to marry a man from another Shevet, because doing so would cause her family inheritance to leave her Shevet. The fifteenth of Av, therefore, was a joyous day for women in general because they were now permitted to marry without this restriction.

The PNEI SHLOMO adds to the Maharsha's explanation. He writes that the Maharsha's words may be used to explain the words of TOSFOS in Ta'anis (30b, DH Yom) who states that the day on which the Shevatim were permitted to marry into one another was a "Y'T" (sic). It is not clear what Tosfos means by adding this comment, as the Mishnah itself says that this day was a Yom Tov. The Pnei Shlomo suggests that "Y'T" is not the abbreviation for "Yom Tov," but rather for "Yom Tovasan" -- their Yom Tov, referring to the day that was good for the daughters of Yisrael, since they were now permitted to marry men from any tribe.

The Maharsha continues and says that according to the Gemara's second reason for the festive nature of the fifteenth of Av -- that on that day, in the period of the Shoftim, the other Shevatim were permitted again to marry into Shevet Binyamin -- it was also a cause for celebration specifically for the women, because the ban prohibited only women from other Shevatim marrying men from Binyamin. The men from other Shevatim were always permitted to marry women from Binyamin. (Y. MARCUS)



QUESTION: Rabah and Rav Yosef state that the reason why the fifteenth of Av is a Yom Tov is that on this day each year the cutting of the wood for the Mizbe'ach in the Beis ha'Mikdash was completed. RABEINU GERSHOM explains that this was a joyous occasion because during the season of cutting the wood, the people had less time to learn Torah. From the fifteenth of Av, when the season of cutting the wood ended, they had more time for learning Torah. Therefore, this day was celebrated as a festive day.

The Gemara continues and says that from the fifteenth of Av onward, when the summer nights are long, someone who is "Mosif" -- who adds to the time that he learns Torah at night -- will be rewarded by "Yosif" -- Hash-m will add more time to his life. Someone who is not "Mosif," who does not add to the time that he learns Torah at night, will be punished by "Yasif," by being destroyed. Rav Yosef explains that this means that his mother will bury him (he will die prematurely). The RASHBAM (DH Mai Yasif) explains that as a punishment for not learning Torah, he will reach only half of his full lifespan.

What is the significance of Rav Yosef's statement that specifically this person's mother will bury him? Why does he not state simply that the person will die young?


(a) The MAHARSHA explains that a mother has a special role in ensuring that her son learns Torah. He cites the Gemara in Sanhedrin (70b) which explains the verse in Mishlei (31:1), "... the words with which his mother rebuked him." Shlomo ha'Melech's mother exhorted him not to be like other kings who drink wine and become intoxicated. The Gemara there explains that when Shlomo ha'Melech married the daughter of Pharaoh, she draped over the window a sheet with images of stars on it in order to make him think that it was night, even though it was already morning. As a result, Shlomo ha'Melech slept four hours into the day (which is the daily practice of other kings). Since he did not make up for those four hours by learning Torah during the four extra hours of the winter night, his mother reprimanded him.

It is evident from there that a person's mother is responsible to oversee that he learns Torah. If a person does not learn more Torah each night after the fifteenth of Av passes, his mother is considered responsible for his neglectfulness. As a punishment to her, her son will die before she dies and she will have to bury him.

(b) The VILNA GA'ON (to YD 245:20) gives a different reason for why Rav Yosef mentions the person's mother. He cites the Gemara here as the source for the ruling of the RAMBAM (Hilchos Talmud Torah 2:2) and the SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 245:11) who rule that one is obligated to teach Torah to children not only during the day, but also during part of the night, in order to educate the children about the importance of learning Torah at night.

The Rambam understands from the Gemara here that even young children must increase their nighttime Torah study after the fifteenth of Av. He infers this from the fact that Rav Yosef says that "his mother will bury him." The Vilna Ga'on asserts that the Gemara's mention of the mother proves that the Gemara refers even to young children, presumably because the mother has a special responsibility to care for young children. (Y. MARCUS)