I’ve heard that, after Moshiach comes, Tisha b’Av will become a day of joy and that the only holidays we will celebrate will be Purim and Chanukah. Is that true? Can you tell me more about that?
That’s a great question. In fact, that’s two great questions! Believe it or not, a colleague asked me about the latter question recently and I told him that this was not a topic I ever had occasion to write about so I’ve never looked into it but that if it ever came up, I’d let him know. Well, it’s come up!
So let’s discuss the first question: that after Moshiach comes, Tisha b’Av will become a day of joy.
At this point, I’m inserting an edit to this article because, somehow, a significant source eluded me in researching this topic, namely an explicit verse from the Book of Zechariah (8:19), where the prophet says, “Thus says the Lord of Hosts: The fast of the fourth month (i.e., 17 Tammuz), the fast of the fifth month (9 Av), the fast of the seventh month (Tzom Gedaliah) and the fast of the tenth month (10 Teves) will be joy, celebration and holidys for the house of Judah, and they will love truth and peace.”
I’m embarrassed to have overlooked this source because I’ve actually written about it before! This verse is also cited by the Rambam in his Mishneh Torah. In Hilchos Taaniyos (laws of fasts) 5:19, he writes that all the rabbinically-instituted fasts will be abolished in messianic times and will be transformed into days of rejoicing and festivity as per the verse in Zechariah.
What’s odd is that I found neither the verse nor the Rambam when researching this topic but I did find a number of sources that cited the Levush (Rabbi Mordecai Yoffe), a 16th-century kabbalist from Prague. I’m including his reference to the concept because he says something very interesting that ties into your second question.
The subject where this arises is the prevalent practice not to read Eicha, the Biblical Book of Lamentations, from a handwritten parchment scroll on Tisha b’Av as we do when it comes to reading Megillas Esther on Purim. The Levush writes that the reason we don’t read Eicha from a scroll is that the sofrim (scribes) simply didn’t transcribe this Book very often. Writing a scroll is expensive, time-consuming and labor-intensive. The scribes’ hesitancy to bother with this particular work is an expression of faith that such scrolls simply don’t warrant the effort, as we anticipate Moshiach’s imminent arrival and the transformation of Tisha b’Av from a day of mourning into one of rejoicing. (You will notice that we do bother transcribing Megillas Esther because, after Moshiach comes, we’ll keep using those scrolls.)
Another source for Tisha b’Av turning into a day of joy in the messianic era is Pesikta Rabbasi, a ninth-century collection of aggadic midrashim. (There are two types of midrashim, halachic and aggadic, dealing with the legal and non-legal portions of the text, respectively.) According to the Pesikta Rabbasi, joy will only come on Tisha b’Av, again reflecting the idea that the nature of the day will be reversed from mourning to rejoicing. This may be based on the idea stated in the Talmud Yerushalmi (Brachos 2:4) that Moshiach will be born on Tisha b’Av.
It should be noted that Tisha b’Av is called a “moed” (holiday) in Eicha itself (1:15). This isn’t just wordplay or homiletics – it has actual halachic ramifications! The Shulchan Aruch (OC 559:4) cites this verse as the reason we do not recite the Tachanun prayer on Tisha b’Av, just as we do not recite it on festive occasions.
So there’s plenty of precedent for the idea that Tisha b’Av is already a partially-joyous occasion, a situation that will only intensify in the future.
Now, as far as Purim and Chanukah… honestly, I’m surprised that you included Chanukah! You’re not wrong but the famous and oft-cited quote is only about Purim.
That Purim will be observed forever is explicit in the text of Megillas Esther: “these days of Purim will never cease among the Jews…” (9:28). It’s the Yalkut Shimoni (another collection of midrashim) that teaches us that, in the messianic era, this will be to the exclusion of other holidays (Remez 944). It should be noted that Rabbi Elazar there expresses the opinion that Yom Kippur will also endure since the Torah calls it “an eternal statute” (Leviticus 16:34). This should not surprise us since “Yom Kippurim” – “day of atonements” – also means “a day like Purim!”
That the “except for Purim” includes Chanukah is an idea stated by Rav Moshe Feinstein ztz”l, among others. Rav Moshe’s grandson once expressed hope that he would never have occasion to use his new silver menorah on the basis that all holidays would be abolished when Moshiach comes. Rav Moshe clarified that “except for Purim” also includes Chanukah, as the two of them are the same kind of holiday (Mesoras Moshe). As noted, other authorities express the same idea but it’s nowhere near as widely known for Chanukah as it is for Purim.
It must also be pointed out that numerous authorities, such as the Bnei Yissaschar, refuse to take literally the idea that the Torah’s holidays will ever be abolished. After all, how can the Moshiach’s arrival cause us to suspend the observance of mitzvos? Rather, the intention is merely that the observance of the holidays that commemorate the Exodus and the giving of the Torah will pale in comparison to the everyday wonders of life in messianic times.
A similar conversation is held regarding Biblical books. The Rambam says that in the messianic era, all the books of Nach (the Prophets and the Writings) will be discarded except for the Book of Esther (Hilchos Megillah v’Chanukah 2:18). Again, most authorities have trouble taking this at face value. As the Lechem Mishneh and other commentators explain, all the books of Nach have many deep lessons that we learn from them and it would be detrimental to jettison all those teachings. Rather, they understand it to mean that all the Biblical books will still be canon in messianic times but we won’t have occasion to read them publicly as we do now. Megillas Esther, however, will always be read publicly.
Just as the consensus regarding eliminating Biblical books is not to take the Rambam’s statement at its surface reading, perhaps it would be prudent not to take too literally the Midrash about abolishing holidays. The one obvious exception is Tisha b’Av itself. The idea that Tisha b’Av will ultimately be a day of joy seems to be long-reaching, well-founded, and intended to be taken literally. Of course, as with all things messianic, we’ll find out for sure when we get there.
Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
JITC Educational Correspondent