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.
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.
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.
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.
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.