From Tu B’Av to Elul: Resilience and Renewal

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by Leonard Grunstein

The fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Av (Tu B’Av) and Yom Kippur are referred to in the Mishna,[1]Mishna Ta’anit 4:8. Talmud[2]JT Ta’anit 4:7, at page 26a (pages 23a-b of the Zhitomer ed.) and BT Ta’anit 30b. and Midrash[3]Eicha Rabbah Petchta 33. as one of the most joyous days of the year. As we understand why this is so, we can gain further insight into Elul and the upcoming season.

As to Yom Kippur, the Babylonian Talmud[4]BT Ta’anit 30b-31a. explains this was because[5]Besides memorializing other joyous events, like the receipt of the second set of Luchot, which also marked their reprieve from the sin of the golden calf. it was a day of pardon and forgiveness. The Talmud goes on to ask what then is so special about Tu B’Av?

The answer given is that it memorializes a number of special events, which the Babylonian Talmud[6]BT Ta’anit 31a and Bava Batra 121b. proceeds to list. Among them[7]The reasons given are that it was the date upon which (1) intermarriage among the tribes was permitted undoing the rule applied since the matter of the daughters of Zelofchad (Numbers 36:1-12); (2) … Continue reading is that this was the day upon which the war dead of Beitar began to be interred, which is also noted in the Midrash.[8]Eicha Rabbah Petchta 33. But, neither the Jerusalem Talmud nor Mishna similarly record it as a basis for the celebrations on Tu B’Av.

By way of background, the Talmud describes how the bodies of those killed at Beitar were not buried for a number of years, until after the death of Hadrian.[9]Eicha Rabbah 2:4. Eicha Rabbah[10]Ibid. reports that Hadrian had an enormous vineyard in Israel where he ghoulishly gathered the corpses of those killed at Beitar and, in depraved fashion reminiscent of the Nazis in the Holocaust, used them to form a fence around his property. In this regard, it should be noted that the number of Jews killed during Hadrian’s reign was unparalleled until the Holocaust. Indeed, the Hadrianic period was one of the most destructive times in Jewish history. It was during this period that the Bar Kochba Rebellion occurred and was viciously put down in a campaign of extermination[11]See also BT Bava Kamma 83a, Gittin 58a and Sotah 49b; JT Ta’anit 24a-b; Bereishit Rabbah 65:21; and Otzar Midrashim, Midrash of the Ten Kings 1:14. that took the lives of men, women and children. During the Hadrianic reign,[12]Otzar Hamidrashim, The Ten Martyrs, Introduction 1. Sages, like Rabbi Akiba,[13]BT Sanhedrin 61b. See also BT Avoda Zara 18a and Sifrie Devarim 307:14, as to Rabbi Chanina ben Tradyon, as well as, Tractate Smachot 8:9, which provides a time frame reference. were barbarously executed[14]See also Midrash Eleh Eskera. and others like Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son, Rabbi Elazar, were forced to go into hiding.[15]BT Shabbos 33b. The Talmud[16] BT Gittin 57b. also reports that the killing of Jews was not limited to Israel proper, but also occurred in other parts of the Roman Empire, like Alexandria in Egypt. It was also a period of severe oppression of Jews, including prohibitions against circumcision and Torah study,[17]BT Brachot 61b and Meilah 17a-b, as well as, Midrash Bereishit Rabbati, Parshat Lech Lecha 17:1. See also Historia Augusta, Hadrianus 14.2, The Legislation of Hadrian and Antonius Pious against … Continue reading ordination[18]BT Sanhedrin 14a. and outlawing the observance of the Sabbath,[19]BT Meilah 17a-b. as well as, the prevalence of the notorious and unsavory practice of jus primae noctis.[20]Literally, the right of first night, often referred to as droit du seigneur (right of the feudal lord) in the middle ages, which required a bride to submit to the overlord first on her wedding night.

Interestingly, neither the Jerusalem Talmud nor the Mishna link the burial of the Beitar war dead to the celebration of Tu B’Av. The Jerusalem Talmud[21] JT Brachot 1:5, as well as, 4:5. does, however, ascribe the institution of the blessing of Hatov U’Meitiv, in the Grace after Meals, to the fact that they were finally able to be interred. This is also similarly recorded in the Babylonian Talmud.[22]BT Ta’anit 31a, Bava Batra 121b and Brachot 48b.

There are also other differences between the accounts in the Babylonian Talmud and Eicha Rabbah, on the one hand, as compared to the Mishna and Jerusalem Talmud, on the other hand. The basic ceremonial context is similar. Young marriageable women would gather on Tu B’Av in the vineyard and dance together. They would each borrow dresses from each other for the occasion, so that everyone involved had borrowed clothing and not their own. Young eligible men would gather there as well for the purpose of finding a spouse. However, there are marked differences in the details.

The Mishna and Jerusalem Talmud refer to unmarried young women being from Jerusalem; whereas the Babylonian Talmud refers to those of Israel. Reference to this distinction may seem overly pedantic; after all is there any practical difference between referring to the daughters of Jerusalem, in a generic sense, as opposed to the daughters of Israel, generally? It is suggested, however, that it takes on a more ominous meaning when, taken together with other aspects of these conflicting accounts, they are viewed against the backdrop of history. Thus, in the time period prior to Hadrian, the reference may have actually been to the daughters of Jerusalem participating in the ritual. However, thereafter, Hadrian turned Jerusalem into a pagan city where Jews were no longer allowed to live. The change in reference to the daughters of Israel may hint at this fact and suggest different time frames for the two different accounts.

There is also another seemingly extraneous detail set forth in the Babylonian Talmud version. It notes that not only were all the borrowed clothes purified by ritual immersion, as stated in the Mishna and Jerusalem Talmud, but in addition, it reports Rabbi Elazar said this was so even if they were folded and placed in a chest. Thus, even if the clothes were not used or touched for a long time and were, therefore, presumed to be ritually pure, they were still ritually immersed for this occasion. However, isn’t this obvious from the context? Of course this would have been the case, given the intent of the practice was for everyone only to use borrowed clothes and ritually immerse all of the garments so as not to embarrass anyone. What then was the purpose of adding this otherwise gratuitous detail in the Babylonian Talmud? Could this have been an elliptical way of referring to the liberation from the lockdown of overt Jewish life under Hadrian’s oppressive regime that ended upon his demise, with the assumption of leadership by Antoninus? It is suggested that this might have been an allusion to traditional marriage rituals coming out of closet and being able once again publically and fully to celebrate nuptials, unhindered by the nefarious Roman practice noted above. In that sense, the account in the Babylonian Talmud might be interpreted as a celebration that marked the miraculous renewal of Jewish life and practice in the post Hadrian era.

The Mishna and Jerusalem Talmud both report young women would declare to the gathered young men, don’t choose a spouse based on beauty; rather instead select a mate based on family. The Babylonian Talmud in contradistinction sets out an entirely different presentation by the gathered young woman. Instead of cautioning against selecting a spouse based on beauty, the quality is embraced. Thus, those who were beautiful said choose them for marriage on that basis. Those who were not as aesthetically well endowed but had distinguished family lineage said marry them for that reason.[23]Rav Mencahem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavacher Rebbie, notes in his Sicha on Tu B’Av of 1983 (in Torat Mencahem, at page 1865, as reproduced on the Otzar HaChochma), there is yet a third version of … Continue reading Those who possessed neither quality said marry them for the sake of heaven and, in effect, beautify them by adorning them with jewelry.

The difference, philosophically, between the two accounts is striking. The former suggests that the visceral appeal of outward physical beauty be eschewed in favor of the more sublime quality of family and the promise of raising fine children. The latter dispenses with any pretense and offers young prospective suitors to marry for any of these reasons; just do it.[24]The Maharsha (in his commentary on BT Ta’anit 31a) explains the three faceted exposition in the Babylonian Talmud, as compared to the simpler two faceted one in the Mishna and Jerusalem Talmud, in … Continue reading

It is respectfully submitted the two accounts are so radically different because they speak to different times and circumstances. The Mishna and Jerusalem Talmud are describing the more relaxed and sanguine atmosphere that prevailed prior to the Hadrianic persecutions and the devastation of the failed Bar Kochba rebellion.[25]Tosefta Yevamot 14:8 provides a unique insight into the war of total extermination waged by Rome against those in Beitar. It notes the story of sixty men who went to the city of Beitar and none … Continue reading

Another clue to the different timeframes and circumstances is the reference to the burial of the war dead of Beitar as a reason for the celebration of Tu B’Av in the Babylonian Talmud, which as noted above, is not similarly provided in the Jerusalem Talmud or Mishna. According to Eicha Rabbah,[26]Eicha Rabbah 2:4. this occurred after the death of Hadrian. It reports in somewhat cryptic language that it was only after the death of Hadrian, when another king arose, that they were buried.

Eicha Rabbah[27]Ibid. employees a very precise legal formulation to describe what occurred. It states: “V’Lo Gozar Aleihem ShYikbaru. Ad ShOmad Melech Acher V’Gozar Aleihem U’Kevarum”. The clauses may be translated as: they did not decree on them that shall bury. Until another king arose and decreed on them and buried. Among other things the object ‘otam’ (them) is missing in both clauses. Now, while the object might be deemed implicitly to refer to them, why the lack of a parallel structuring of the two clauses? If it meant to say the decree prohibited their being buried, why didn’t the second clause use the same term “ShYikbaru” (that they shall bury)? Why did it instead substitute another word, “U’Kevarum”, which just means factually and they were buried, without direct connection to the decree.[28]Cf. JT Ta’anit (Venice edition) 4:5, at page 69a, which does repeat the use of the word “ShYikbaru”.

Moreover, if this were the intent of the clauses, then they could have more simply and artfully been phrased as: decreeing that they not be buried. Why the strange syntax of not decreeing on them that they be buried? Indeed, in general under Roman law,[29]It should be noted that, in general, Roman Law did not proscribe the burial of those executed for capital offenses. Thus, the Justinian Digesta, Book 48, Chapter 24, De Cadveribus Punitorum (on the … Continue reading no decree was needed to be able to bury those executed for a capital offense; the bodies were required to be released, in the ordinary course, to relatives for burial. Even in the exceptional circumstances of those convicted of High Treason,[30]BT Ta’anit 31a, Bava Batra 121b and Brachot 48b. it was still just a matter of obtaining permission to bury; it not require a legal decree. Why then does the Babylonian Talmud use the formal legal term ‘Gozar’?

The Babylonian Talmud[31]BT Ta’anit 31a, Bava Batra 121b and Brachot 48b. does not invoke this legal formulation.[32]Although, as referenced above, the Jerusalem Talmud does use a similar legal formulation to that of Eicha Rabbah, with the change in the text noted above. Instead, it merely records that Rav Mattna said it was the day that the slain of Beitar were brought to burial. He then adds that this was also the day that the blessing of HaTov U’Meitiv was enacted in Yavne. It would suggest that the arcane, somewhat cryptic, formal and legal phrasing of Eicha Rabbah may have greater meaning. It is submitted it was intended also to allude to relief from another law then plaguing the Jews that Hadrian had enacted against genital mutilation, which encompassed circumcision within the broad prohibition. It required formal redress to cure the problem by amending the offensive provision to exclude circumcision, as discussed below. It might also have hinted to relief from the other oppressive measures Hadrian had instituted, designed to eliminate Judaism.

Why else would the burial of the dead suddenly be recognized as so joyous an occasion and of such magnitude that it rivaled Yom Kippur? Moreover, why would it be linked to the happiness and even glee generated by an event designed to facilitate the making of wedding matches? It seems improbable, especially given the existence of this festival tradition well before there was a Bar Kochba and fall of Beitar? At the same time, the astonishing change in the ritual is difficult to explain absent some intervening cataclysmic event that radically changed the import of the ceremonial invocations offered by the brides to be, to the potential suitors present. The combination of all these textual anomalies is indicative of a much fuller and richer story of resilience and miraculous renewal, after the horrible atrocities committed during Hadrian’s reign.

Consider, it was indeed the Roman Emperor, Antoninus Pius, who succeeded Hadrian upon his death, who decreed at least one change in Roman Law and provided relief from the other oppressive measures instituted by his predecessor Hadrian. The most famous, embodied in Roman Law,[33]See provision 11, Modestinus, Rules, Book VI, in the same section of Justinian’s Digest XLVIII, Tit. 8. Concerning the Cornelian law relating to assassins and poisoners, Section 4. Ulpianus, On the … Continue reading is the Imperial Rescript he issued, which carved out an exception permitting Jews to circumcise their sons.[34]Tosafot (Avodah Zara 10b s.v. Amar leh) presents a poignant story of circumcision that supports this dating. It reports that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi was born during the time when the law against … Continue reading As the Talmud notes, Antoninus had a cordial relationship with Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi[35]See, for example, BT Avodah Zara 10a-11a and Sanhedrin 91b, as well as Mechilta D’Rabbi Yishmael 15:1:6. See also JT Megillah 1:11 (page 15a). and the free and open study of Torah and observance of the commandments like the Sabbath resumed.[36]See BT Sanhedrin 14a, as to the prohibition of Torah study during the reign or Hadrian and Rosh Hashanah 31b, where notes the center of Torah moved from Yavne to Usha. See also Midrash Shir HaShirim … Continue reading

Why then not expressly mention all of these outstanding relief measures and instead just seemingly focus only on the burial of the war dead? It may be this was just a euphemistic[37]The impliacation that there is more to the institution of the Bracha of HaTov U’Meitiv and the celebration of holiday of Tu B’Av than just the burial of the Beitar war dead is also suggested by … Continue reading way of referencing the heinous rule of Hadrian. Perhaps, the Sages were concerned about overtly celebrating his demise? After all, there were still many who lived under Roman rule. Even in the more enlightened times of Antoninus, why stoke old hatreds, by explicitly referring to all the expunged oppressive measures, as the basis for celebrating the holiday of Tu B’Av or the institution of the new blessing in the Grace after Meals? They might also have been concerned about publicizing the relief from all the other oppressive measures taken by Hadrian, so as not to educate the ruling regime in Bavel, in how to oppress the Jews? Perhaps then, the language used in the Talmudic text, describing a gracious act by the new Roman Emperor, was intended as a euphemism. In this regard, it’s particularly noteworthy in this context, that there is no reference to relief from the odious practice of jus primae noctis. Yet, it is hardly likely that the favorably disposed and enlightened Antoninus Pius would have allowed this wicked practice, which was an anathema to Judaism and the sanctity of marriage, to continue, especially given the other relief he afforded the Jews. Moreover, if this abhorrent practice was still condoned, how then to explain the very public spectacle of the dance in the vineyard[38]I can’t help but note the reference to the dance being in the ‘vineyard’ as opposed to just any open space like the fields. While it may have been factually the case that the annual dance … Continue reading of available young brides on Tu B’Av, in the aftermath of Hadrian’s demise? It would have presented an otherwise inexcusable target of opportunity to predator Roman overlords. Instead, it would appear that no more did Jewish brides have to marry in secret; [39]See JT Ketubot 1:5. it was a most cogent expression of renewal, at its very essence.

The scene depicted in the Babylonian Talmud is so real and vivid to me, as it might be to many children of Holocaust survivors. It could have taken place in any of the Displaced Persons (DP) camps after the Holocaust. Many heard the stories of the marriages hastily arranged in the DP camps, after the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps and Soviet slave labor camps in World War II. Matches were quickly made, some otherwise quite improbable. They were the few survivors from different parts of the world, colloquially known as the She’erit HaPleita, [40]Literally, surviving remnant. who were pushed together in the close quarters of the DP camps. Unmarried young men and women, as well as, older widowers and widows, who may have had families before the war that were murdered in the Holocaust, all met and most had one desire in mind to renew life and rebuild families. There was no time to waste; the desire to start life anew was overpowering and infectious. No one had elaborate wedding dresses or formal attire; clothing was borrowed, a rabbi was secured and makeshift Chuppah erected to enable the couples to be wed, with some semblance of dignity, befitting the occasion.

The feelings of the few survivors in the aftermath of the Bar Kochba Rebellion may not have been that dissimilar. They too had faced nearly impossible challenges and near death experiences and somehow miraculously survived. Then, suddenly, there was a reprieve, after Hadrian died and Antoninus came into power. The plaintive cries of the available brides to the eligible young men take on a most profound meaning in this context. Marry and start life anew, whatever the reason; just do it.

These lessons of resilience and renewal are intimately linked to the theme of Yom Kippur and the opportunity for a fresh start it offers each year. It’s a joyous occasion because we are offered the chance yet again to do it right, this time. Let’s not miss the opportunity. Chodesh Elul is already upon us and as we approach the High Holidays, it’s a most favorable time for seeking genuine renewal.

 

Endnotes

1Mishna Ta’anit 4:8.
2JT Ta’anit 4:7, at page 26a (pages 23a-b of the Zhitomer ed.) and BT Ta’anit 30b.
3, 8Eicha Rabbah Petchta 33.
4BT Ta’anit 30b-31a.
5Besides memorializing other joyous events, like the receipt of the second set of Luchot, which also marked their reprieve from the sin of the golden calf.
6BT Ta’anit 31a and Bava Batra 121b.
7The reasons given are that it was the date upon which (1) intermarriage among the tribes was permitted undoing the rule applied since the matter of the daughters of Zelofchad (Numbers 36:1-12); (2) the Tribe of Benjamin was accepted back into the fold after being ostracized as a result of the notorious and tragic incident of the Pilegash B’Giveah (Judges 21:1); (3) in the 40th year in the wilderness, the dying of the generation of the Sin of the Spies ceased; (4) King Hoshea son of Eleh cancelled the guards Jeroboam ben Nevat had placed on the roads to Jerusalem, to prevent Jews from making pilgrimages to Jerusalem and the Beit Hamikdash for the Festivals so that whoever wished to could do so; (5) the dead of Beitar began to be interred; and (6) trees were no longer cut down each year to provide wood for the Altar in the Beit Hamikdash. The Talmud also notes that from the fifteenth of Av onward, when the daylight hours (of work) would begin to shorten again, it was customary to add to the nightly study of Torah (i.e.: because of the additional hours of leisure in the evening).
9, 26Eicha Rabbah 2:4.
10, 27Ibid.
11See also BT Bava Kamma 83a, Gittin 58a and Sotah 49b; JT Ta’anit 24a-b; Bereishit Rabbah 65:21; and Otzar Midrashim, Midrash of the Ten Kings 1:14.
12Otzar Hamidrashim, The Ten Martyrs, Introduction 1.
13BT Sanhedrin 61b. See also BT Avoda Zara 18a and Sifrie Devarim 307:14, as to Rabbi Chanina ben Tradyon, as well as, Tractate Smachot 8:9, which provides a time frame reference.
14See also Midrash Eleh Eskera.
15BT Shabbos 33b.
16 BT Gittin 57b.
17BT Brachot 61b and Meilah 17a-b, as well as, Midrash Bereishit Rabbati, Parshat Lech Lecha 17:1. See also Historia Augusta, Hadrianus 14.2, The Legislation of Hadrian and Antonius Pious against Circumcision, by E. Mary Smallwood and Justinian’s Digest XLVIII, Tit. 8. Concerning the Cornelian law relating to assassins and poisoners, Section 4. Ulpianus, On the Duties of Proconsul, Book VII. Reference should also be made to BT Yevamot 72a and Tosefta Shabbos 16:6, which note that many were circumcised during the time of Bar Kochba.
18BT Sanhedrin 14a.
19BT Meilah 17a-b.
20Literally, the right of first night, often referred to as droit du seigneur (right of the feudal lord) in the middle ages, which required a bride to submit to the overlord first on her wedding night.
21 JT Brachot 1:5, as well as, 4:5.
22, 30, 31BT Ta’anit 31a, Bava Batra 121b and Brachot 48b.
23Rav Mencahem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavacher Rebbie, notes in his Sicha on Tu B’Av of 1983 (in Torat Mencahem, at page 1865, as reproduced on the Otzar HaChochma), there is yet a third version of the event, reported in the Ein Yaakov. See Ein Yaakov (Glick Edition), Ta’anit 4:16. It adds a fourth category of attendees, who were the daughters of rich households. They offered select them because of their promise of material family wealth.
24The Maharsha (in his commentary on BT Ta’anit 31a) explains the three faceted exposition in the Babylonian Talmud, as compared to the simpler two faceted one in the Mishna and Jerusalem Talmud, in psychological terms. He notes it describes three types of motivations for people to do the right thing, as follows: (1) it is pleasant (M’Arev) or said another way, it feels good, as offered by the beautiful looking brides; (2) it is good (Tov), in essence, as asserted by the brides touting their lineage as being indicative of the prospect of having a wonderful family life with good children; and (3) it is beneficial (Moeil), even though it may not appear so or feel that way, as ascribed to the other prospective brides declaiming marry for the sake of heaven. After all, beauty is ephemeral and skin deep. Moreover, as they, in effect note by their request for golden adornments, don’t underestimate the remedial qualities of adornments like good makeup, the right clothing and fine jewelry.
25Tosefta Yevamot 14:8 provides a unique insight into the war of total extermination waged by Rome against those in Beitar. It notes the story of sixty men who went to the city of Beitar and none returned. The matter came before the Sages and they permitted their wives to remarry without identification of the remains.
28Cf. JT Ta’anit (Venice edition) 4:5, at page 69a, which does repeat the use of the word “ShYikbaru”.
29It should be noted that, in general, Roman Law did not proscribe the burial of those executed for capital offenses. Thus, the Justinian Digesta, Book 48, Chapter 24, De Cadveribus Punitorum (on the bodies of the punished) records, in Ulpian, Duties of Proconsul, Book 9, that the bodies of those who are condemned to death should not be refused their relatives. This law changed the practice that those convicted of capital offenses and executed were only buried when requested and with permission, which was reportedly not often denied, except in the case of those convicted of High Treason. Similarly, Paulus, Views, Book 1, which states the bodies of persons who have been punished should be given to whoever requests them for the purposes of burial. It is possible that the law permitting burial was also enacted during the reign of Antoninus Pius, overriding Hadrian’s determination not to bury the war dead of Beitar. However, there is no reference to not burying the dead of Alexandria or prior to that of Cyprus, in the war conducted by the Roman general Quitus against the Jews. Moreover, in the account of the executions of the Ten Martyrs (Midrash Eleh Ezkera), there is also no report that those executed were not buried, except in the case of Rav Yehuda ben Bava, where specific reference is made to the fact that he was torn limb from limb and thrown to the dogs and had neither burial nor eulogy. There is also the case of Rav Chutzpit, who berated the Emperor and was stoned and strung up. The Midrash reports that the Emperor’s officers and wise men then asked that Rav Chutzpit’s body be buried. It seems they pitied him because of his beauty and vigor despite his advanced age at the time of death. The Emperor allowed the burial and Rav Chutzpit’s students then came, buried him and greatly eulogized him, with exceedingly great honor. The Maharsha (in his commentary on BT Bava Batra 121b) does, however, note that the wicked kingdom (presumably a reference to Hadrian) did originally decree that the Beitar war dead not be buried and this continued until the establishment of another regime (i.e.: after Hadrian died, the new Emperor Antoninus), which intervened to release the bodies for burial.
32Although, as referenced above, the Jerusalem Talmud does use a similar legal formulation to that of Eicha Rabbah, with the change in the text noted above.
33See provision 11, Modestinus, Rules, Book VI, in the same section of Justinian’s Digest XLVIII, Tit. 8. Concerning the Cornelian law relating to assassins and poisoners, Section 4. Ulpianus, On the Duties of Proconsul, Book VII, which otherwise prohibited genital mutilation. This provision is credited as an addition made by Antoninus Pius. As Edward Gibbons reports in Chapter 16 of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, at page 206, Antoninus Pius, who reigned after Hadrian, once more granted the Jews permission to circumcise their children.
34Tosafot (Avodah Zara 10b s.v. Amar leh) presents a poignant story of circumcision that supports this dating. It reports that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi was born during the time when the law against circumcision was decreed in the Roman Empire. They were summoned to Caesar for violating the law. The mother of Antoninus intervened prior the audience before Caesar to substitute her uncircumcised infant son Anoninus for the infant Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi. Thus, the infant examined by Caesar had no circumcision and the result was the case was dismissed. Circumcision by Jews of their children was eventually permitted again, as a result of the Imperial Rescript of Antoninus Pius and, as noted above, he and Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi became friends. Tosafot also mentions the Jerusalem Talmud reports that Antoninus ultimately studied Torah and became circumcised himself (See JT Megillah 1:11 at page 15a).
35See, for example, BT Avodah Zara 10a-11a and Sanhedrin 91b, as well as Mechilta D’Rabbi Yishmael 15:1:6. See also JT Megillah 1:11 (page 15a).
36See BT Sanhedrin 14a, as to the prohibition of Torah study during the reign or Hadrian and Rosh Hashanah 31b, where notes the center of Torah moved from Yavne to Usha. See also Midrash Shir HaShirim Rabbah 2:16.
37The impliacation that there is more to the institution of the Bracha of HaTov U’Meitiv and the celebration of holiday of Tu B’Av than just the burial of the Beitar war dead is also suggested by the Divrei Yirmiyahu, in his commentary on Rambam Sefer Ahava, Hilchot Brachot 4:9. He notes the matter of the burial was as a remembrance of the graciousness of G-d in removing the shame Israel suffered and their enemies, including specifically the wicked one (i.e.: the tyrant Hadrian) and the end of his reign of terror that sought actually to destroy and eliminate the Jewish people, unlike other adversaries.
38I can’t help but note the reference to the dance being in the ‘vineyard’ as opposed to just any open space like the fields. While it may have been factually the case that the annual dance occurred in a vineyard each year, it may also have other significance. The venue of a vineyard may also be a tangible reminder of the notorious vineyard of Hadrian, where the corpses of the war dead of Beitar were stacked and so as never to forget the holocaust of that time. We are also reminded to be grateful to G-d for the survival of the Jewish people.
39See JT Ketubot 1:5.
40Literally, surviving remnant.

About Leonard Grunstein

Leonard Grunstein, a retired attorney and banker, founded and served as Chairman of Metropolitan National Bank and then Israel Discount Bank of NY. He also founded Project Ezrah and serves on the Board of Revel at Yeshiva University and the AIPAC National Council. He has published articles in the Banking Law Journal, Real Estate Finance Journal and other fine publications.

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