Tu b’Av: the Jewish Holiday of Love (August 19, 2016)


 Tu b’Av (translated, 15th [day of the month] of Av) is known as the holiday of love. It is not a Levitical feast, nor is it directly referenced in the Scriptures. There are, however, interesting biblical associations with this historical celebration.

Tu b’Av falls this year on August 19, 2016. The celebration is first mentioned in the Mishna, which is the rabbinic commentary and oral law adopted by mainstream Judaism. There we learn the holiday was launched during the Second Temple period to mark the start of the grape harvest. It was described as a most joyful day when young, unmarried women dressed in white and danced in the vineyards. Young men were encouraged to select a wife from among them. Perhaps the fruit of the vine and new wine were associated with the cup of gladness and marriage covenant. In any case, the tribes of Israel were permitted to freely mingle and intermarry on Tu b’Av. (Once married, the women were considered part of their husband’s tribe.) Other commemorations of the day recorded in the Talmud include:

Men from the tribe of Benjamin were allowed to marry and re-enter the community of Israel (Judges 21:16-24);
The death of the generation that left Egypt came to an end (Midrash Eichah Rabbah);
King Hosea removed restrictions against northern Israelites worshiping in Jerusalem.

Tu b’Av is a popular date for Jews to hold weddings. In Israel, it is a day of love. Though a regular workday, music and dance festivals are held around the country. Israelis give cards, flowers, and of course chocolates, to their loved ones. In recent years, young women have again dressed in white and danced in the vineyards of Samaria. Perhaps soon, young men will again start scouting in those vineyards on Tu b’Av.

A passage in the Talmud teaches that 40 days before a person is conceived in the womb, God determines who their marriage partner will be. The sages note that Tu b’Av occurs 40 days before Elul 25, when it is believed YHVH created the universe by saying, “Let there be light.” Therefore, Tu b’Av can be seen as a mark of divine partnership with creation. (Hebrew for Christians, In any case, those who know Messiah can rejoice on Tu b’Av that “God chose us in Him from before the foundations of the world.” (Ephesians 1:4)  His unending love for us – and all Israel – proves the consummate romance any day of the year. Tu b’Av blessings to all!