“Israel had no greater holidays than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur. On these days the daughters of Jerusalem would go out dressed in white to dance in the vineyards. What were they saying: Young man, consider whom you choose (to be your wife)?”
(Ta’anit, Chapter 4).
Tu b’Av – the fifteenth of the Hebrew month of Av – is one of the lesser known holidays in the Jewish calendar, but since the establishment of the State of Israel it has begun to gain popularity.
Coming less than a week after the sorrowful mourning of Tisha B’Av – the ninth 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, where Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel says, “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).
The holiday was instituted in the Second Temple period to mark the beginning of the grape harvest, which ended on Yom Kippur. The Talmud lists several joyous events that have taken place on Tu B’Av:
– On either the 14th or 15th of Av, the Pharises (rabbinic Jews) were victorious over the Sadducees;
– The different tribes were allowed to intermarry on this date. This is also a source for the many weddings celebrated on Tu B’Av.
– Members of the excommunicated tribe of Benjamin were allowed to appear in the community.
– King Hosea, last monarch of the northern Israelite kingdom removed the barriers installed by King Jereboam the first of which prevented the northerners from making pilgrimages to Jerusalem
– The Romans permitted the Jews to bury Bar Kochba’s supporters who had fallen at Betar.
– The end of the death of the Exodus generation in the Sinai desert, which was their punishment for believing the fabricated report on the land of Canaan delivered by the 10 spies.
– Brides-to-be 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, Jews do not say Tachanun in the prayer service. In addition, no eulogies are pronounced at funerals that take place on this day.
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.