by Avi Hein
Tu b’Av (named for the date in the Hebrew calendar, the 15th (Tet = 9, Vav = 6; 9+6=15) of the Hebrew month of Av) is one of the lesser known holidays in the Jewish calendar, but since the establishment of the Stae of Israel, it has begun to gain popularity.
Coming less than a week after the sorrowful mourning of Tisha b’Av (on the 9th of Av), Tu b’Av is a Jewish holiday of love. Like Chanukah, Purim, and Tisha b’Av, it is also a rabbinic (post-biblical) addition to the holiday calendar. Tu b’Av occurs on a full moon, as the Hebrew calendar is lunar. Linking the full moon with love, fertility, and romance is common in ancient cultures.
The first mention of Tu b’Av is in the Mishna (Taanit), where it says (attributed to Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel), “There were no better days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. What they were saying: Young man, consider who you choose (to be your wife).” (Taanit 4:8). According to the Gemara, on this day the “tribes of Israel were permitted to mingle with each other” (Taanit 30b).
Soon-to-be brides danced in Shilo, a community in Samaria, which was the first capital of Israel. In modern times, since Jews have been able to return to Samaria, Jews have returned to the vineyards of the Jewish community of Shilo and dance in the vineyards serenaded by song.
On Tu b’Av, as well as other holidays, and when a bride and groom are at minyan (public prayer), Jews do not say Tachanun in the prayer service. In addition, no eulogies are pronounced at funerals that take place on this day (in the Jewish tradition, it is required that the dead be buried immediately).
Tu b’Av is a popular date for Jews to hold weddings, coming only a few days after the end of the three-week period (from the Fast of Tammuz, commemorating the breach of the walls of Jerusalem, until Tisha b’Av, commemorating the destruction of the Temple) in which weddings are prohibited.
In Israel, Tu b’Av is a day of love. While it is a regular workday, music and dance festivals are typically held to celebrate the day. Israelis give cards and flowers to their loved ones on Tu b’Av and the date is popular for weddings. These customs are observed by all segments of Israeli society, whether they consider themselves religious or non-religious.
Sources: “Tu BeAv,” Jewish Agency for Israel; “Tu b’Av: Israel’s Holiday of Romance,” Flowers & Sympatya; “Overview: Tu b’Av, A Day of Love,” MyJewishLearning.com