Chazal teach us various reasons why Tu B'av is a minor holiday. One of the most widely known and one of the least widely known are especially relevant for our times.
The widely known reason is that the generation of men aged 20 to 60 was doomed to die in the desert for accepting the report of the evil spies (despite their representing a “majority of experts and rabbis”). Every year on the 9th of Av the Jews would dig a grave and sleep in it. A portion of the doomed generation would die that night. This morbid tradition continued throughout the forty years in the desert; the Jews would not enter Israel until the decree against those who rejected the Land was completed.
The final Tisha B'av in the desert the Jews once again dug their own graves. Then something remarkable happened. The next morning all of them woke up. Confusion reigned throughout the nation. They must have gotten the date wrong. The following night they once again slept in their graves, and once again all of them survived the night. This pattern continued until the 15th of Av, when they realized with certainty that they had not miscalculated the date. The last surviving members of the previous generation had been granted a reprieve, and the decree was over. This was the first of many joyous events that happened on Tu B'Av, and the day became a holiday.
It is ironic that when it came to the golden calf, the Jews couldn't wait a single night to ensure that they had not miscalculated. No, when it came to idolatry they had to rush headlong into it, without so much as a night to sleep on it and reflect. But when it came to Tu B'Av, they had to give it five days to be totally sure that they had the date right.
This brings us to a simple question that I have never seen asked. Why did they not establish the 10th of Av as the day to commemorate the reprieve of those who should have died on the last Tisha B'av in the desert? After all, the morning of the 10th, when they unexpectedly woke up, is when their redemption officially occurred. So what if they spent the next few nights confirming the unmistakable truth over and over again?
It must be that we cannot commemorate a redemption, even if it has already occurred, until we know with certainty that we have been redeemed. As long as the Jews entertained even a remote doubt about the decree against them, they were still living a nightmare. The fact that the nightmare was only in their minds doesn't change that. We do not celebrate when the Jews on death row were granted a pardon; we celebrate when they believed it.
This concept can be applied in many ways, but I would like to suggest the following. We know that any health benefits of wearing a mask are highly dubious at best, and do not justify the massive harm they cause physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. I believe that most of the people who wear masks, regardless of whether or not the little Hamans in power require it of them, already know this. Nevertheless, they continue to live a nightmare of self-imposed fear and enslavement, harming themselves and empowering a regime of terror.
I believe they know that if they remove the mask they will not get sick and die because of it. I believe that they wish for this reign of terror to end, even if they still buy into the relentless propaganda by the little Hamans. They would prefer not to have these cruel edicts and restrictions imposed, even if personally they would be overly cautious for some time.
Indeed, many paranoid people continue to torture themselves beyond the requirements of the day. They are truly living a nightmare of the mind. Even if every “expert” in the world confirms that it's okay to take off the mask, even if the tyrants in power are brought to justice and we are blessed with worthy leaders, the nightmare they are living will not end until they realize that it is over.
A prisoner does not celebrate the day he is allowed to leave prison, but the day he actually leaves it.
Woe to those who refuse to leave prison because they are prisoners of the mind.
A lesser-known reason for celebrating Tu B'av is that it is the date on which millions of Jews in Israel who were persecuted by their own Jewish government were granted religious freedom. It is described well here as follows: “Upon the division of the Holy Land into two kingdoms following the death of King Solomon in the year 2964 from creation (797 BCE), Jeroboam ben Nebat, ruler of the breakaway northern kingdom of Israel, set up roadblocks to prevent his citizens from making the thrice-yearly pilgrimage to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, capital of the southern kingdom of Judah. These were finally removed more than 200 years later by Hoshea ben Elah, the last king of the northern kingdom, on Av 15, 3187 (574 BCE).”
Imagine! For roughly half the total number of years that the first Beis Hamikdash stood, the vast majority of the Jews in Israel were prevented from going by their own government. A succession of kings spanning several generations deployed the army to lock down the people over the holidays, and arrest anyone who tried to keep the mitzvos as they were meant to be kept.
The Jews were told they didn't need the Beis Hamikdash; there were two golden calves they could worship instead (because the first one worked out so well). No need to visit Jerusalem.
Of course, the evil kings prevented their people from going to Jerusalem only for their own political considerations, regardless of whatever propaganda they fed the people. Finally, after more than two centuries, the restrictions were removed on Tu B'av, and the Jews were free to worship Hashem in His house. What a celebration that must have been! We commemorate it to this very day.
Today the people of Israel are once again cursed with wicked rulers, who have restricted their freedom to keep the Torah as it was meant to be kept. The Israeli government has criminalized attending shul, subject to their exceptions. Once again they have excuses and propaganda to justify their wickedness, and they have tricked many people into believing it, but their edicts are a curse on the entire nation.
They follow the idolatrous path of Yerovam ben Nevat, who was the first Jewish king to impose restrictions against God-fearing Jews for his own political benefit. Once this was accepted, it became the norm for over two hundred years. The kings of today – spiritual dwarfs compared to Yerovam – are once again restricting Jews from holy places to increase their political power and please the foreign entities they truly serve. Our religious duties are nothing to them, just another pressure point to torture people into submission.
Let us not forget what happened thousands of years ago, and let us not fail to recognize when it is happening again. There is no mitzvah to love these wicked people; just the opposite. When the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt, I am certain that they will not be among those who merit to be there.
There was tremendous joy when Hoshea removed the soldiers from the highways to Jerusalem, and the Jews were free to visit the Beis Hamikdash. There will once again be tremendous joy when God removes the wicked rulers from our midst. May it be without any further delay.
(Also see A Tu B’Av Wish List.)