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Dvar August 16 2019: Tu B’av: Famous Love Stories in Judaism

Tu B’av: Famous Love Stories in Judaism

What are some of the Jewish love stories you know?

Background of Tu B’av:

Legend says women, all dressed in borrowed clothing and in white would go out into the vineyards on Tu B’av. Their clothes borrowed so that their social/ economic status would not be known and white symbolizes purity. Men are to meet them in the vineyards to choose a spouse. The women encouraged looking at character not at looks.  

So why is this day important in the Jewish calendar, or even marked on the Jewish calendar? The Talmud argues that Tu B’av is a special day because on this day the tribes of Israel were permitted to mingle with each other. (Remember daughters of Tzelophad? That was temporary apparently! They deemed it was only in that generation) Tu B’av is also said to be the day when the death of the Jews in the wilderness ended. (punishment for the spies)

Tu B’av always begins on the night between the 14th and 15th days, since this is the time of the full moon while symbolizes romance, love, and fertility.

The 15th day of Av, comes exactly a week after Tisha B’av. It served as matchmaking day for unmarried women in the Second Temple period. Then with the destruction of the second temple it disappeared for quite a while until recently. Call it the Jewish Valentine’s Day. 

First mention of Tu B’av is in the Mishnah when Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says:

“There were no better (i.e. happier) days for the people of Israel than the fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Israel/ Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. What were they saying: Young man, consider whom you choose (to be your wife) Do not set your eyes on beauty but set your eyes on the family.” Ta’anit Chapter 4

What can we learn about love from Jewish tales/ texts?

Adam and Lilith: first creation story (G-d created man and woman out of his image) (temporary; sometimes knowing not right for one another)

Adam and Eve: second creation story (woman formed from man’s rib) (deep love: so much so that two are connected)

Isaac and Rebekah: servant finds rebekah who will do anything for hospitality (values and actions)

Jacob and Rachel: fell in love at first sight and he loved her so much he agreed to marry holder sister Leah and wait 7 years before marrying Rachel (instinct, bashert)

So what is the connection between Tisha B’Av and Tu B’av: destruction to love; love helps us prevent further destruction. Destruction needs love in order to start the renewal process.. And more importantly, Tu B’av acts as a counter to the destruction and mourning of Tisha B’av, it encourages us to (despite destruction) release as much love as possible into the world to prevent further destruction. Likutei Halakhot, a Hasidic work from the 19th century, connects the two:

…therefore the fifteenth of Av is in the nature of a sweetening and a repair of the ninth of Av…

Tu B’av is very applicable and necessary for today. Our world is severely broken today. People are divided, hate is widespread, our behaviors are destructive, etc. We need to bring more love into the world, we need more days of Tu B’Av, to remind us that love combats destruction.