A Teaching on Tu B'Av by Rabbi Bridget Wynne
15 Av 5783 • August 2, 2023
Young women would dress in white, and go out to dance in the vineyards beneath the full moon. Young men would go to the vineyards as well. It was a time for those not yet married to find their mates.
This is a tradition of the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Av, which falls this year on Wednesday, August 2.
It is a day that celebrates love. Surprisingly, the description of it in the Mishnah, a collection of teachings from about 200 CE, says that “Never were there more joyous festivals than Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur.”
Part of the joy of Tu B’Av, which comes exactly two months before Yom Kippur, was said in Hasidic tradition to be that it is a time of “sweetening and repair.”
We may not think of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, as joyous, but it also is about repair. Repairing our relationships with others, ourselves, and the Holy can bring satisfaction and even exuberance.
What can we learn from Tu B’Av? The women wore white because it was the least expensive type of clothing. Dyeing fabric increased its cost. They were also supposed to borrow dresses from one another, so no one could tell who came from a wealthy or poor background. This was meant to bring greater equity and to shift the focus from one’s appearance and possessions to one’s qualities as a person.
Tu B’Av was not observed for hundreds of years until it was revived by young women in Poland in the 1920s as we see in the photo. They were part of the Beis Yaakov movement which focused on enriching education and spiritual opportunities for Orthodox Jewish girls and included many outdoor rituals. They recreated Tu B’Av as a women’s holiday and would celebrate by going on nighttime hikes, lighting bonfires, singing, and dancing together for hours.
How might we celebrate today? Perhaps by enjoying the outdoors, even taking advantage of the full moon; perhaps by going out of our way to express love to others; perhaps by making time to focus on repairing relationships and thus increasing their sweetness.
On this Tu B’Av, may each of us be blessed to draw on our unique qualities to bring more love into our world.