After, Happily Ever After What is Tu B'Av?

We've all heard the saying:

and they lived happily ever after.

Here is a short video clip, which illustrates how people often think about this concept.

But here's an important question:

what comes after, happily ever after?

Can we learn anything from Seinfeld about the concept of happily ever after?

What happens after, happily ever after, is the theme of a relatively obscure Jewish holiday called Tu B'Av.

Tu B'Av,

(literally, the 15th of the Jewish month of Av)

is celebrated this year on August 5, 2020.

You may have heard of Tu B'Av before…

it is often referred to as the Jewish day of love or the Jewish Valentine's Day.

At least that's what we learn from a quick Google search ...

But Tu B'Av is much more than a Hallmark holiday.

An early Talmudic source (the central text of Rabbinic Judaism) says the following about Tu B'Av:

Rabbi Shimon the son of Gamaliel said: There were no days more joyous in Israel than the fifteenth of Av (Tu B’Av) and Yom Kippur (The Day of At-One-Ment) for the daughters of Jerusalem would come out, dance in the vineyards and say to the young lads: Young man, lift up your eyes and see what you choose for yourself (Tractate Ta'anit, 4:8.)

Interesting, right? Historically, Tu B'Av was a joyous holiday celebrated in Israel by setting up potential couples (a favorite day for every match maker).

Think back to the first time you met your spouse, partner, or someone with whom you have a significant relationship.

What do you remember from that first meeting? Share your reflections and memories from that first encounter with one another.

If you are thinking that there must be more to Tu B'Av than being an analog J-Swipe, you are right!

Tu B'Av honors the bond created between two people — the bond formed from a shared life or shared experience(s), the, happily ever after.

But, does happily ever after mean that we are always happy? Coldplay’s song, the Scientist, has a little insight:

"nobody said it was easy, nobody said it would be this hard."

Tu B'Av celebrates a life made together.

It is a day to reflect on a happily ever after that is the result of the journeying with your love and journeying through hardships.

Our ancestors felt that this experience was a defining aspect of many peoples' closest relationships.

Because of this, there was the custom in Israel to match potential couples on this day.

Let’s examine 3 primary sources from the Talmud to understand more about the holiday of Tu B'Av. The Talmud, often called the oral Torah, includes stories and legal discussion by our sages about almost every conceivable facet of Jewish life.

Each source will describe an event that took place on Tu B'Av (the 15th day of the month of Av) collectively giving rise to this modern holiday. Read each of the following 3 sources and think about the common theme that runs through them.

Source #1

The Context: After leaving Egypt the Jewish people are wandering in the desert. Moses sends spies ahead to scout the Land of Israel. The spies return and "slander" the Land of Israel by saying that it will “consume them.” The spies do not want to go and the Jewish people lose the will to enter the land. They must then wander the desert for an additional 40 years, eventually only the next generation of Jews could enter the Land of Israel.

Rabba the son of bar Ḥana said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: The fifteenth of Av was the day on which the deaths of the Jews in the wilderness ceased and they were forgiven for rebelling against the Land, Moses and God.

Underlying theme: Despite the hardships endured, there is a reconciliation and a renewed bond between the Jewish people, God and the land of Israel.

Source #2

Context: The 12 Tribes (the Jewish people) are living in the land of Israel. A tragic and egregious act is committed by the tribe of Benjamin. The other tribes ostracize the tribe of Benjamin and take an oath to prohibit themselves from marrying any member of the tribe of Benjamin. While all 12 tribes make up one larger unit, they couldn't seem more divided.

Rav Yosef said that Rav Naḥman said: The fifteenth of Av was the day on which the tribe of Benjamin was permitted to enter (i.e. marry into) the congregation of the Jewish people.

Underlying theme: After being on the verge of a civil war, the tribes reunite through marriage (through love) after their period of estrangement.

Source #3

Context: In 70 C.E. the Romans destroyed the Jewish temple and all of Jerusalem. In 135 C.E., the Jews rebel against the Romans under the leadership of Bar Kochva. The Romans eventually crushed the rebellion and the Jewish rebels were brutally butchered in a final battle at Beitar. After the battle, the Romans not only desecrated the bodies of the Jewish people, but they did not permit the dead to be buried. Devastatingly, this defeat represented the end of any hope of rebuilding the Temple (and attaining autonomy) in the Land of Israel. Years later the Jewish people eventually succeeded in remedying the desecration and burying the dead.

Rav Mattana said: [Tu B’Av] was the day that the slain of Beitar were brought to burial, several years after the battle at Beitar.

Underlying theme: Despite the sense of hopelessness created by their defeat, the Jewish people remained committed to their traditions and steadfast in their values.

In each primary source from the Talmud, we can find a similar pattern: a crisis, a rupture in trust/faith/love, and finally a reconciliation or repair.

In each source, order is re-established after chaos and harmony is found after discord.

And in each source there is a realization that: we got through this together!

The Jewish people remained bound to Land of Israel. The Tribes remained loyal to one another. The Jews achieved closure after the fall of Beitar.

Let's bring this back around to the idea of happily ever after.

Has your relationship gone through hard times, unexpected turbulence, or even a crisis or rupture? Reflect and share with your partner.

Think of how this has or can strengthen your bond in ways you would have never anticipated.

Tu B’Av honors what it means for a couple or family to remain united after getting through something difficult together.

Tu B’Av recognizes that relationships can face rupture but there can also be reconciliation and repair.

Tu B'Av reminds us that even when couples face disengagement, there can still be re-connection.

On Tu B'Av we remember that there can be closeness in relationships even after distance and, we can continue to find strength in relationships even after hardship.

As the poet Douglas Malloch expressed:

Good timber does not grow with ease, the stronger wind, the stronger trees.

The message of Tu B'Av is about learning to ride the waves of life together - with the one(s) we love.

Watch Will Reeve's story of finding strength in love, even after crisis.

So what comes after, happily ever after?

Discuss this question with your partner.

Our Tu B'Av sources suggest that after, happily ever after, we find: loyalty, perseverance, commitment, trust, hope, and love.

To dig a bit deeper, here is a short activity for you and a loved one to explore together.

from your friends at the Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning

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Created with images by Simon Berger - "One and one — is three." • Daniel Fontenele - "Hands & Ear Pods" • Cody Board - "Magic Kingdom" • Álvaro CvG - "Globos Boda" • Matt Walsh - "Question mark painted on a brick wall" • RENXIN PAN - "untitled image" • George Pagan III - "A Jerry Seinfeld sticker outlined in neon colors and covered in tattoos, how can you walk past this and not take a picture of it. I had to since the only other one that I have ever seen like this was covered up by another mural a few weeks ago. I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity again." • Clément Falize - "untitled image" • David Holifield - "The star of David with Blossoms on a fruit tree in spring. " • Denny Müller - "A Viburnum opulus, also known as guelder rose showing the Roseum" • eniko kis - "untitled image" • Paweł Czerwiński - "It’s one those moment when you look at something and get the impression that something’s wrong. Like you look at the sky and see your web browser on the screen of your computer ;)" • Siora Photography - "A beautiful image simply capturing the beauty of this ring. A stunning token of love and commitment to your soulmate. Get the ring here : https://uk.pandora.net/en/silver-collection/sparkling-wishbone-ring/196316CZ.html?cgid=Silver-Collection&src=categorySearch&ps_kw=&cid=sem:plas:e:en-gb::adwords:pand_uk_09_2018_local_shopping_-_brand_-_category_shopping_e-store:spri19:te:::epiphany&gclid=Cj0KCQjw3uboBRDCARIsAO2XcYBeYLmB69JPz6fILw1ZpgsXY9VE_ZtoWEKL2Gi1u0x5qgzGQWR3pSMaAuMlEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds " • Natalia Y - "untitled image" • Matthew Angus - "Devotion in prayer." • Siamak - "Lovely smile" • Jon Tyson - "untitled image" • Jon Tyson - "untitled image" • Jisu Han - "COLDPLAY IN SOUTH KOREA" • Dimitry B - "Coming back with the mangrove wood for cooking" • Svyatoslav Romanov - "untitled image" • Michael Dziedzic - "An old brass key dropped in the woods." • Parker Coffman - "untitled image" • Cole Keister - "untitled image" • Jessica Simmons - "Twilight among ancient graves at Old Burial Hill." • Issy Bailey - "Bonfire Night" • Jude Beck - "Family silhouette" • Jeremy Bishop - "Sun, sea and surf" • S O C I A L . C U T - "untitled image" • Jeremy Bishop - "View of the barrel wave" • Jordan Steranka - "untitled image" • Cederic Vandenberghe - "We went to Germany for one day to explore some famous instagram photo spots. The first stop was Burg Eltz during sunrise. With no tourists there yet and this amazing fog covering the castle it was like a fairytale." • Adi Goldstein - "Together Gratify" • Miguel Orós - "untitled image"