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Tu B'Av: the greater the descent, the greater the ascent

Dancing in the Moonlight

Dancing in the Moonlight

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Dancing in the Moonlight
Tu B'Av: the greater the descent, the greater the ascent

In the Talmud, we find the verse, "There was never as good a day (Yom Tov) for the Jewish nation as Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur". The words "Yom Tov" are used in relation to Tu B'Av, comparing it with all holy days (Yomim Tovim), especially Yom Kippur. It is easy to understand why Yom Kippur would be considered as the greatest day for the Jewish nation, since it is the day that the second tablets were given and the Jewish people were forgiven, as we are forgiven every year on Yom Kippur. On Tu B'Av, the tribes were permitted to marry members of other tribes, which, of course, was beneficial, but can it be compared to the importance of Yom Kippur? The verse also implies that Tu B'Av, in some way, is greater than other holidays. The full moon of Tu B'Av depends on the darkness which precedes it…

Chasidut explains that the benefit of Tu B'Av comes as a result of blessing the moon, which is done close to the middle of the month, the time when the moon is completely full. There are other holidays (i.e. Pesach, Sukkot), which occur in the middle of the month, when the moon is full, but the full moon of Tu B'Av depends on the darkness which precedes it. The Beit Hamikdash was destroyed in the month of Av, a month associated with an extreme descent. The fullness of the moon on Tu B'Av is great in relation to the descent that precedes it; the greater the descent, the greater the ascent. The other holidays that also occur when the moon is full are not preceded by an extreme descent. When the Jewish nation was taken out of Egypt, we were on the level of tzadikim. On Sukkot, we enjoy the benefits from the favorable outcome of Yom Kippur. Neither of these holidays is preceded by a steep decline; Tu B'Av is, therefore, on a high level because one arrives there from a lower place.

What difference does it make, on a spiritual level, whether the moon is full or barely visible? We can understand this difference by looking at two verses which discuss the spiritual significance of a field versus that of ordinary land. One verse reads, "The advantage of the land is everything (in Hebrew, 'kol')", and the other, "The King is in the field".

The land represents the physical world and the field, Gan Eden. The land is associated with the formation of the world through G‑d's speech coming from the level of malchut. Gan Eden, or the field, is on the level of chochma, bina and daat which are internal and intellectual, rather than physical. The influence of these intellectual levels in Gan Eden reaches the world from the 50 gates of bina through the aspect of yesod.

Why 50 gates? Because the letters of the Hebrew word for "everything" ("kol") in the above verse "the advantage of the land is everything" is the same numerical value as the letter nun, which is 50. What draws this down? The advantage of the land is "kol", the mitzvot performed in the world and the understanding of Torah, which brings the intellectual aspect of G‑dliness into the world. To make room for Creation, G‑d had to move the light to one side…

Above the level of Gan Eden is supernal keter, which is unlimited. When keter is illuminated within malchut, the moon is full. The service of angels in Gan Eden and the Torah and mitzvot performed in the world can bring this illumination of keter through malchut. This, however, is a revelation only of the physical aspect; the intellectual aspect is revealed directly only on the level of Gan Eden. Then it is as if the moon is not full, like when one looks at the concept that the highest intellectual aspects can not be completely revealed in the world of action.

Also, the ten utterances which continually create the world are associated with the moon when it is not full. To make room for Creation, G‑d had to move the light to one side, which, like the incomplete moon, is on the level of malchut, which does not receive light from the highest worlds as completely as other levels.

What makes the moon full? The moon is full when the King (associated with keter) is in the field (Gan Eden), and is brought down through the service of mitzvot and the study of Torah. This service repairs the missing aspect that causes the moon not to be full. The truly full moon can exist only when the completeness is total and from a level beyond creation. Even the light from Gan Eden can be somewhat blemished because it is associated with creation. The Torah and mitzvot we perform in the world repair the blemish and bring the fullest light. Infinite light shines even in the time of exile…

In parashat Toldot, Isaac smells the clothing of Jacob and compares the fragrance to that of a field blessed by G‑d. Rashi compares this field to Gan Eden, and Yonaton Ben Uziel compares it to the Beit Hamikdash. Both interpretations can be reconciled in the sense that the holiness of both places is due to their essence and to the service associated with them: in Gan Eden the service is performed by angels and souls, and in the Beit Hamikdash the service comes through bringing sacrifices. If the sacrifices were brought correctly and with holy intentions, then the light descended from infinite levels. Similarly, if our own everyday service is correct and well-focused, light from the aspect of the full moon can also be drawn from infinite levels.

There is a further similarity between the moon and the Beit Hamikdash. The revelation in the Beit Hamikdash only could occur while it was standing. The difference between the eras of the Beit Hamikdash and the eras of Exile is like the difference between the time when the moon is full and when it is not full. The light in the Beit Hamikdash was limited in the sense that it depended on the existence of the Beit Hamikdash. The infinite light shines even in the time of exile, but because of the relatively low level that exists in exile, we are not able to see it clearly. Similarly, a full moon depends upon the right time and circumstances for its illumination, but the light continues even when the moon is not full, even when we cannot perceive the light.

The Sages have noted that Av, symbolized by the constellation of the lion is the time when Ariel (the house of G‑d) was destroyed. In addition, it is predicted that Ariel will be rebuilt in the constellation of the lion. Clearly, the full moon of Tu B'Av is unlike other full moons; Tu B'Av is a time when we can appreciate the greatness of redemption, starting from the lowest depths and reaching the supreme heights.

[Copyright 2003 by KabbalaOnline.org, a project of Ascent of Safed (//ascentofsafed.com). All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.]

Yehoshua Metzinger of Nahariya, a former counselor at Ascent, has since married and now lives in Jerusalem.
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory
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matitahu birnberg August 1, 2013


thanks for your (anonymous?) comment about zichrono l'vracha and zichron tsadik l'vracha. Reply

Anonymous mesa, USA via kabbalaonline.org July 23, 2013

Dancing In The Moonlight Yesterday the moon was full. I was looking at it and remembering an article I read about the Jewish women dancing when the moon was full. But I do not know the prayer, nor what to do in such an occasion. I wish I knew. I live alone, and have no synagogue near me. All I learn is from the Internet through Chabad.org. Maybe next time G-d willing. Reply

Anonymous Tsfat, Israel via kabbalaonline.org August 5, 2011

Re: Mr Birnberg Perhaps the translation is not of "zichrono l'vracha" but of "zichron tzadik l'vracha." Reply

Webmaster Tsfat, Israel via kabbalaonline.org August 5, 2011

To Mayra All we know is that the dancing was in a circle and that each wore a borrowed white dress. Reply

Mr. Mattityahu Birnberg July 30, 2011


In this selection, the Lubavitcher Rebbe is referred to as "of righteous memory." Yet, "Of blessed memory " seems to be a more accurate translation at least to this reader of modern Hebrew. Is this a controversial question or is there a definitive answer? Reply

Mayra via kabbalaonline.org November 25, 2010

Dancing I would like to know about the dancing: how do you do it and what dresses do you wear? Reply

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