The Dancing in the Vineyards
(Based on Toras Moshe of Chasom Sofer, Parshas Vayeilech) Chodshei Hashanah
The conclusion of Tractate Ta'anis relates: The most glorious days in
Israel were Tu B'av (the fifteenth of Av) and Yom Kippur. The girls would
dress in white and dance in the vineyards, and the young men would look
among them for suitable wives.
Besides the fact that this is an odd way to search for a wife, what is the
intrinsic connection to the days of Tu B'av and Yom Kippur?
The Minchah Torah Reading of Yom Kippur
On Yom Kippur, the section of Araiyos (forbidden marriages) is one of the
Torah Readings. The Tosafos commentary discussed possible reasons: All
year, many women dress elegantly. But who knows what the results may
be? Very attractive clothing may well arouse adulterous thoughts in those
men who gaze upon the women.
On Yom Kippur, the women dress in white -- in purity -- in honor of the
holy day. The men, who have also purified themselves, see the women and
have no improper thoughts on the holy day. Just in case one might forget,
the section of Araiyos is read aloud.
Chasom Sofer added: This is the way of Teshuva and Kapora (Repentance and
Atonement). The ideal Teshuva is when a person returns to the exact
circumstances in which the sin was committed, but refuses to repeat the
forbidden act, simply because he knows better. So, on Yom Kippur, the
women dress for the right reasons, and the men's thoughts are purified,
although the circumstances are the same.
Similarly, we can understand the dancing of the girls on Yom Kippur. The
young men would purify their intentions, and think of the purposes of the
institution of marriage.
The Fifteenth of Av
The dancing of Tu B'av can be seen in a similar light.
A lewd and violent act, described in Sefer Shoftim (Book of Judges, part of
the Early Prophets) ended in civil war. The result of the ensuing battle
was the near annihilation of the tribe of Binyomin.
On Tu B'av, Binyomin was forgiven, and allowed to marry with the rest of
the tribes. This is the ultimate Repentance and Atonement for the
tribe. Certain members of the tribe had defiled the sanctity of marriage,
and now the tribe would have the responsibility to respect that institution.
On the same date, the tribes were allowed, for the first time, to intermarry
with one another.
Marriage consolidates families, turning individuals into component parts.
It purifies the eyes, stabilizes thoughts, and elevates desires. Sins of
youth are pardoned at the wedding day. All of this reminds us that we are
all components of a larger bond, because Yom Kippur was another wedding --
the day the Torah was given, in its final form, to the Jewish People.