Updated: Sep 8
As we pass by the sadness of Tisha B’Av and before we enter the holy month of Elul (for which we will have an article), we are met with a most mysterious festival. This is the festival of Tu B’Av that will start in the night of the 4th of August which, sadly, most of the people ignore.
The truth is that Tu B’Av is a wonderful holiday, which deserves our due attention. But what is Tu B’Av all about anyway?
Tu B’Av (literally the 15th of Av) is called a minor holiday but it is many aspects just as important as Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashana an Pesach. It is popularly called the Holiday of Love (a modern Israeli version of Valentine’s), but it’s much more than that.
Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel in Taanit 26b teach us that “there hasn’t been days as high for the Jewish People as the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur”. What is this comparison all about? We can easily understand why Yom Kippur is highbecause it effects atonement for our sins, but why Tu B’Av?
Seven great and joyous events happened on this auspicious date, many of them related to marriage, as follows:
1. Dancing girls in the field: This was a custom of the Jerusalem maidens to go out to dance in the fields and also search for a spouse.When the men came, the maidens would say “Young man, lift your eyes and see what you pick for yourself”.
2. Marriage between tribes was permitted: In the desert, tribes were forbidden from intermarrying. This was in order that the inheritance of the Holy Land (which follows the father) would be transferred to another tribe in case a woman marries outside her tribe.
3. The “axe breaking day”: When the 15th of Av came, there was no more need for cutting wood for the Holy Temple service, so the axes were broken in a happy ceremony. As one of the tools used for “destruction”, the worn out axes were happily disposed of after having completed their year’s work.
4. The roads to Jerusalem were opened: During the reign of the wicked Jeroboam ben Nevat, the roads of Jerusalem were blocked and idols were placed on its way. Hoshea ben Elah, the last king of the Northern Kingdom opened the way for Jews to make their annual pilgrimage.
5. The Tribe of Benjamin was allowed back into Israel: The tribe of Benjamin wasexcommunicated from the community due to the bloody episode of the concubine of Giv’ah. On Tu B’Av, in the generation of Othniel ben Kenaz, this tribe was admitted back to Israel.
6. The dying of the generation of the desert ceased: As punishment for having complained and cried about being brought to the Holy Land, the generation of the desert was decreed to die. On the last year, Hashem revealed that he had forgiven them by sparing the remnant of that generation.
7. The dead of Beitar were permitted to be buried: The last stronghold of the Bar Kochba rebellion in Beitar fell on Tisha B’Av. The cruel Romans didn’t even allow the Jews to bury their dead but their bodies remained whole for 15 years when they were interred on Tu B’Av.
The events described contain powerful mystical lessons on the cycle of life. One of the most important symbols of marriage is the ring and the dancing, both of which are circular in their nature. The circle alludes to the teaching of our sages (Massechet Taanit 31a) that “in the future, Hashem will be in the middle and we will dance around him”.
As we all feel separated from Hashem, we are reminded to the ultimate union will occur speedily in our days through Tu B’Av. The Zohar (91a) already taught us that man and woman are part of the same soul which got separated in order to come down to refine this world. The power of marriage is such that much like Yom Kippur, it cleanses the couple of their previous sins completely. According to our sages, it’s like they are a brand new creation, and this we will experience in the ultimate reality of the World to Come.
Clearly, there’s a very special energy available in Tu B’Av which can effect great salvation, particularly in regards to marriageand victory over enemies. We should make the most out of this very high festival by having a special meal and praying as much as we can
This article was written and published in the zechut of all Emuna Builder Partners. May they have complete emuna and continue spreading emuna!