These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Tu b’Av: The Cure

Posted on July 19, 2013 by Charlie Carnow

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Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said, ‘There were no greater festive days in Israel than the fifteenth day of Av and Yom Kippurim, when the daughters of Jerusalem would go out in borrowed white dresses so as not to embarrass those who didn’t have their own” (Mishnah Ta’anit 4:7)

Ask in America (and maybe across the Pond) what is the holiest day of the year for Jews, and the answer will be almost always “Rosh Hashana” and Yom Kippur, in that ancient American rendition “the High Holy Days”. And how could we disagree? It has all the elements often popularly associated with religion (a fast), self-denial, you take off work, sermon/ drasha/ d’var torah, and you sit, and stand, and sit in synagogue for hours. For such an experience, tickets are sold!


But Tu B’Av! It doesn’t involve fasting, it doesn’t involve even involve particular kinds of food, no they tried to kill us, we won/survived, let’s eat. The only change in day to day life that Tachanun, the daily confession of sin is not recited. This is as special as Yom Kippur?

In the book of Judges, a story is told about a terrible impropriety in Israel by the tribe of Benjamin. So angered by this terrible, disgusting act are the people of the rest of the tribes that they swear an oath to not let any of the other tribes marry with Benjamin. The Gemara says Tu B’Av was the day that the Jewish people reconciled and the men of Benjamin began again to marry the women of other tribes. It also the day when the decree binding on all the tribes entering Israel not to intermarry with each other, also expired.

And this is the advantage and the lesson of Tu B’Av. Coming after the destruction of Tisha B’Av, that occurs because of disunity and hatred between members of the Jewish people, Tu B’Av shows us the cure, reconciliation, not the glossing over of faults but not letting them destroy forever the unity and solidarity of the people. The hatred without cause that caused the destruction of the Temple is replaced with “love without cause.”

Yom Kippur is the day that atones for sins between man and G-d, the day that historically the Jewish people received the second set of tablets after the 1st ones were destroyed.. But Tu B’Av is the day that reconciles Jews with each other, a lesson that must be applied primary in a “mundane day”, not a holiday or a fast, since this is a lesson that can be underscored on Tisha B’Av, but is binding each and every day.

To quote the famous statement of Moreinu v’Rabeinu John Lennon “all you need is love”. (Perhaps a Jewish textual emendation would change the you to “we”) And love in the Jewish context must signify not just feeling but commitment. This is neither in the heavens or beyond the sea, but “but exceedingly close to you, in your heart and your mouth to do it” (Devarim 30:14)

A Happy Tu B’Av!