Tu B’Av (Hebrew: ט״ו באב, the fifteenth of the month Av) is a minor Jewish holiday. In modern-day Israel, it is celebrated as the Hebrew-Jewish day of ahavah love (Hebrew: חג האהבה, Hag HaAhava), similar to Valentine’s Day and has been said to be a “great day for weddings”.
According to the Mishna, Tu B’Av was a joyous holiday in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, marking the beginning of the grape harvest, while Yom Kippur marked the end of the grape harvest. On both dates the unmarried girls of Jerusalem dressed in white garments, and went out to dance in the vineyards. That same section in the Talmud states that there were no holy days as happy for the Jews as Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur.
Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel is quoted saying:
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)? (Ta’anit, Chapter 4)
Origins of the Date
The Gemara (the later, interpretive layer 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 (Talmud, Ta’anit30b). This explanation is somewhat surprising, since nowhere in the Bible is there a prohibition on “intermarriage” among the 12 tribes of Israel. This Talmudic source probably is alluding to a story in the book of Judges (chapter 21): 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.
It should be noted that Tu B’Av, like several Jewish holidays (Passover, Sukkot, Tu Bishvat) begins on the night between the 14th and 15th day of the Hebrew month, since this is the night of a full moon in our lunar calendar. Linking the night of a full moon with romance, love, and fertility is not uncommon in ancient cultures.
For almost 19 centuries — between the destruction of Jerusalem and the re-establishment of Jewish independence in the State of Israel in 1948 — the only commemoration of Tu B’Av was that the morning prayer service did not include the penitence prayer (Tahanun).
In recent decades Israeli civil culture promotes festivals of singing and dancing on the night of Tu B’Av. If you identity as a part of the people of Israel consider making this time a special time to show Hashem’s ahavah in a special way to your spouce. If you are an unmarried man, consider reading Proverbs 31 and think about what you desire in a Godly wife and eish chayil (woman of valor) and what it means to be a Godly man!
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Study blogs by Rabbi Isaac. © 2021 Assembly of Called-Out Believers. Use by Permission.