Today is truly a day of love – it’s Tu b’Av!
Tu b’Av, the 15th Day of Av, is a day of happiness, appeasement and love in Israel. The Mishna (edited record of the oral Torah and part of the Talmud edited at the end of the second century) describes Tu b’Av in ancient Israel as a day when eligible young women would wear white clothes they borrowed and dance in the vineyards hoping to find a suitable husband.
Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel is quoted saying:
There never were in Israel greater days of joy than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur. On these days the daughters of Jerusalem used to walk out in white garments that they borrowed in order not to put to shame anyone who had none. The daughters of Jerusalem danced in the vineyards exclaiming, “Young man, lift up your eyes and see whom you choose for yourself (to be your wife). Do not set your eyes on beauty but set them on good family. Grace is deceitful and beauty is vain. But a woman that fears God, she will be praised.”
Rabbi Simeon’s linking of Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur is at first disturbing. Why does the Jewish year end with a celebration of love? The answer says a lot about Judaism’s unique perspective on relationships.
Tu B’Av, like Yom Kippur, is about introspection and new beginnings concerning our relationships and personal values. How courting (I sound like my grandfather) was done is indicative of this view. The young girls borrowed white dresses so that the young men could not choose among them according to materialistic concerns. The Talmud teaches that women set the rules; the women admonish their suitors to pick not according to beauty, but by the good name of the women’s families and by their fear of God. Let’s strive to change a world that continues to be status and fashion conscious, and a world of beauty and beauty ideals set by television, movies, and magazines.
Rabbi Susan Silverman writes, “Tu B’Av tells us to look beneath the surface when looking for (or at) a life partner, just as Yom Kippur forces us to look deep into ourselves before God grants us life anew. Like Yom Kippur, Tu B’Av is a time for reflection and introspection. But instead of being an individual process, it is a mutual, shared experience between two people.”
MyJewishLearning.com says, Tu b’Av served as a matchmaking day for unmarried women in the Second Temple period (before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE). Tu b’Av was almost unnoticed in the Jewish calendar for many centuries but it has been rejuvenated in recent decades, especially in today’s Israel. In its modern incarnation it is gradually becoming a Hebrew-Jewish “day of love”, slightly resembling Valentine’s Day (here is an interesting article about whether Jews should celebrate Valentine’s Day).
The Gemara (the later, interpretive part of the Talmud) attempts to find the origin of this date as a special joyous day, and offers several explanations. One of them is that on this day the Biblical “tribes of Israel were permitted to mingle with each other,” namely to marry women from other tribes. This explanation is somewhat surprising, since nowhere in the Bible is there a prohibition on “intermarriage” among the 12 tribes of Israel. However, it may come from a story in the Book of Judges where after a civil war between the tribe of Benjamin and other Israelite tribes, the tribes vowed not to intermarry with men of the tribe of Benjamin.
One more note, whereas Tisha B’Av is the day when tradition says God declared that the Jews would wander 40 years in the desert (until the generation that knew slavery died out), Tu B’Av is the day when, 40 years later, the remaining 15,000 Israelites of the desert generation were told they would be able to enter the Promised Land. God was able to forgive the Jewish people on this day, even for the sin of having built and worshiped a golden calf.
Here is a list of seven joyous events that happened on the 15th of Av.
Tu b’Av always falls on a full moon. Linking the night of a full moon with romance, love, and fertility is not uncommon in ancient cultures. This year’s full moon is special since later today the moon will turn “blood red” for the longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through the Earth’s innermost shadow. When this happens, the moon turns rusty orange or deep red in color and is how it earned the nickname of a blood moon eclipse.
The total phase of the eclipse will last for 1 hour and 43 minutes, while the entire eclipse, including the partial phases, will last for over 6 hours. The next time there is a total lunar eclipse this long will not be until June 9, 2123.
Finally, we are delighted by the initial response and registration for our Centennial Trip to Israel in March 2020. The early-bird pricing special ends in mid-November. And, now more than ever our voices and presence in Israel means so much.
Why wait? Sign-up today for what will be an incredible community experience. This will truly be the trip of the century!