Happy Tu B’Av!
When I used to work in camps, I was fascinated and annoyed at how Tisha B’Av was the only Jewish holiday that was made into a big deal. Why should we as Jewish people and Jewish educators ONLY focus on the day of destruction and mourning? Only 6 days later is Tu B’Av, a day of love, connection, and rebuilding. What if this day is just as ‘big’ or important?
We know how to mourn, but do we know how to love? In some ways, Tu B’Av is a more difficult day. In CPE we would talk about the difficulty of talking and feeling ‘positive’ emotions. Somehow there is less trust in them.
Somehow we are more worried about how others are going to react to our happiness, especially when we know that there is sadness in the room.
This knowledge would lead to many questions in Tu B’Av programming: How is this celebrated? What can it look like? What does it mean to have a day of love? What does love even mean? Who is going to be left out when we spend a day talking about love?
A teacher of mine once told me that Tu B’Av is not a day of love, it’s a day of marriage. I humbly disagree with this teacher. I think that it is a day of love, and not only romantic love. Yes, it was the day that many matches were made. And should still be that day, a day of finding romantic love; a day of celebrating romantic love; a day of helping others find romantic love.
But I would argue that it is also about celebrating and reflecting on the many different types of love, and begs for the question to be asked, ‘what happens in our society if we are leading with love’?
There are many people who write about leading with love, how in many situations it allows for greater accomplishments. It helps people be more patient and more compassionate.
I can see this clearly in the Mishna in Ta’anit. The part that strikes me is where the women share their dresses with one another. Being able to notice that social constructs are in place, which can and will affect the outcomes of another person’s life. Their way to change this is by swapping dresses. Something relatively simple, but very meaningful.
It was in the love each woman had for one another, that drove this change.
It is also said that on this day, the Tribes of Israel were allowed to marry one another without land repercussions and it was the day that the ban on marrying people from the Tribe of Benjamin was lifted. It was a day of reconciliation. A day of rebuilding connections. A day where it is taught that we are better when we are able to connect and interact with one another freely.
It is also a day of hope and new beginnings. According to the Midrash, Tu B’Av, marked the end of the 40 years of wandering in the desert. I can imagine recognizing that the period of waiting was a time of release, where breathing became a bit easier. Where although a big new thing was about to happen, the question was not long when, but how. Living in a time of uncertainty, leads many people to act out in fear and mistrust.
But with this new knowledge, it can be a time for mourning and comfort; a time for reconnection; a time to work together.
Tu B’Av is a time of love. A time to lead with love. A time to think before we speak, not only making sure we feel we are saying something loving but that the person on the other end will also feel the love. A time to rebuild broken or lost connections. A time to bring people together. A time to look out for each other.
May today be a day of looking out for one another, joy and happiness, building and rebuilding, connecting and reconnecting, loving and being loved.
And may all those who are looking for partnership find their person soon.
Rabbi Eryn London is the JOFA UK scholar in residence.
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