God did not speak with Moses, as it is stated: “So it came to pass, when all the men of war were consumed and dead from among the people” (Deuteronomy 2:16), and juxtaposed to that verse it is written: “That the Lord spoke to me, saying” (Deuteronomy 2:17). Moses indicates: Only after the last of that generation had died, was the speech of God directed to me. When the Jewish people realized that the decree had been lifted, the day was established as a permanent day of rejoicing.
The Gemara continues to cite explanations for the significance of the fifteenth of Av. Ulla says: The fifteenth of Av was the day when King Hoshea, son of Ela, removed the guards [pardesaot] that Jeroboam, son of Nevat, placed on the roads so that Israel would not ascend to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage Festival. By doing so, King Hoshea renewed the access to Jerusalem for pilgrims.
Rav Mattana says: The fifteenth of Av was the day when the slain victims of Beitar were afforded burial, several years after they were killed and the Roman emperor Hadrian decreed that they were not to be buried (see Gittin 57a). As Rav Mattana says: On the day that the slain of Beitar were afforded burial, the Sages in Yavne instituted the blessing: Blessed is He Who is good and Who does good. The term: Who is good, is to give thanks that the corpses did not decompose despite the long delay; and the term: And Who does good, is to give thanks that the slain ones were ultimately afforded burial.
Rabba and Rav Yosef both say: The fifteenth of Av is the day when they stop cutting wood for the arrangement of wood on the altar. It is taught in a baraita that Rabbi Eliezer the Great says: Once the fifteenth of Av came, the force of the sun would weaken, and from this date they would not cut additional wood for the arrangement, because wood cut from then on would not dry properly and would be unfit for use in the Temple. Rav Menashe said: And the people called the fifteenth of Av: The day of the breaking of the sickle [maggal ], as they did not need the lumbering tools until the following year.
The Gemara adds: From this point forward, when the nights lengthen, one who adds [demosif ] to his nightly Torah study will add [yosif ] to his life, and he who does not add, that person is yesif. The Gemara asks: What is the meaning of the term yesif ? Rav Yosef teaches: It means that his mother will bury him, as he will die during his mother’s lifetime.
§ After discussing the generation of those who died in the wilderness, the Gemara mentions a tradition that relates to that generation. The Sages taught: Seven people spanned in their lifetimes the whole world in its entirety, i.e., their lives have spanned all of human history. Methuselah saw Adam in his lifetime; Shem saw Methuselah; Jacob saw Shem; Amram saw Jacob; Ahijah the Shilonite saw Amram; Elijah saw Ahijah the Shilonite; and Elijah is still alive.
The Gemara asks: And is it true that Ahijah the Shilonite saw Amram? But it is written: “And no man among them remained, save Caleb, son of Jephunneh, and Joshua, son of Nun” (Numbers 26:65). Since Amram died well before the Jewish people left Egypt, in order to have lived at the time of Amram, Ahijah would have had to be an adult at the time of the Exodus. How, then, could he have lived through the generation of those who died in the wilderness?
Rav Hamnuna says: The decree of death pronounced for the generation of the spies was not decreed upon the tribe of Levi, as it is written: “Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness, and all those who were counted among you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward” (Numbers 14:29). The verse is interpreted: The decree applies to one whose count in the census is from the age of twenty and up, excluding the tribe of Levi, whose count is from the age of thirty and up. Ahijah was a Levite, and he was not subject to the decree.
The Gemara asks: And is it true that no one from the other tribes entered Eretz Yisrael? But isn’t it taught in a baraita: Yair, son of Manasseh, and Machir, son of Manasseh, were born in the days of Jacob, and they did not die until the Jewish people entered Eretz Yisrael, as it is stated: “And the men of Ai killed of them about thirty-six men” (Joshua 7:5). And concerning this verse, it is taught: Literally thirty-six people were killed, this is the statement of Rabbi Yehuda.
Rabbi Neḥemya said to him: But is it stated that thirty-six were killed? Isn’t it stated nothing other than: “About thirty-six” were killed? Rather, this unusual term is referring to Yair, son of Manasseh, who was equivalent to the majority of the Sanhedrin, whose maximum number of judges is seventy-one, of which thirty-six is a slight majority. Evidently, then, Yair, son of Manasseh also survived the time in the wilderness.
Rather, Rav Aḥa bar Ya’akov said: The decree of death was not decreed either upon those less than twenty years old or upon those more than sixty years old at the time of the sin of the spies. The Gemara explains: Not upon those less than twenty years old, as it is written: “From twenty years old and upward” (Numbers 14:29). And not upon those more than sixty years old, because he learns that there is a verbal analogy between “and upward” in the verse cited, and “and upward” from the halakhot of valuations, in the phrase: “From sixty years old and upward” (Leviticus 27:7). Just as there, concerning valuations, more than sixty years old is comparable to less than twenty years old, as there is a distinct category of those between the ages of twenty and sixty, so too here, more than sixty years old is comparable to less than twenty years old insofar as those older were not subject to the sentence. Yair, son of Manasseh, who was already older, did not die in the wilderness.
§ A dilemma was raised before the Sages: Was Eretz Yisrael divided according to the tribes, meaning that each of the twelve tribes received an equal portion, and the members of each tribe divided these tribal portions according to their numbers; or perhaps Eretz Yisrael was divided according to men’s skulls, meaning that a certain area of land was given to each individual, and the size of the tribal allotments was a function of the tribe’s population?