“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 Israel go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards of Shiloh. What were they saying: Young man, consider whom you choose (to be your wife)” (Mishna Ta’anit, Chapter 4).
Not many people know about the Jewish “Day of Love” which falls every year on the 15th of the Jewish month of Av. The young women would go out to the vineyards and dance, the young men would watch, and matches would be made. It’s like a Biblical-era singles event. The young women would don simple white dresses as a sort of “equalizer.” The young men could not tell which of the girls were from wealthy or poor families, and so we know that money should not be a factor when looking for a partner. The Book of Judges refers to this holiday as “a festival for the Lord.” On this holiay is where King Saul found his wife. But where did these traditions come from?
The Book of Numbers, Chapter 36, tells the story of the Daughters of Zelophehad. Their father passed away, leaving no sons to inherit his land. His daughters beseeched Moses to allow them to inherit their father’s land. He prayed to God for guidance, and a decision was made: women may inherit their father’s land in a case of no sons, but then those women must marry within their tribe. “This is the thing which the Lord doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad…only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry: So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe to tribe” (Numbers 36). This would keep the land division among the tribes unchanged.
Another decree came about in the Book of Judges (Chapters 19-21) after the terrible story of The Concubine of Giv’ah. The Children of Israel swore not to marry the Tribe of Benjamin. This decree along with the ban for heiresses to intermarry with. other tribes were lifted on the 15th of Av. This was essential for the survival of the Tribe of Benjamin. “And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin” (21:21).
With the revival of the State of Israel came the revival of the traditions of Tu B’Av. Every year, a festival is held on the 15th of Av in Shiloh, where the Biblical festivals took place. Even though some communities in the world condemn Israel for construction in its most ancient and holy cities like Shiloh, and other Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria, but we know that Shiloh has and always will be part of Israel.
In recent years, Shilo has been organizing an annual event called Mecholilot Bacramim, “Dancing in the Vineyards”. Thousands of women gather to celebrate. There are dance classes, workshops, and vendors selling their crafts including jewelry, art, books, and clothes. They have even put on bridal gown fashion shows. This year they will be filming a “kul olam” stay tuned for the video that we will send when it will come out.
The Jewish calendar operates on a lunar calendar. This means that the fifteenth of every month has a full moon. The full moon is often linked to romance, fertility, and love. It is therefore fitting that the Jewish “Day of Love” falls on the fifteenth, the full moon. The fifteenth of each month also marks the “high” point of that month. For example, the theme of the Jewish month of Nissan is redemption. The redemption process began on the first of Nissan, but the Exodus from Egypt took place on the fifteenth, which is the first day of the Passover holiday. Each and every Jewish month possessed a theme or quality, which reaches its height on the fifteenth of that month. In the month of Av, many terrible things befell the Jewish people, the first being the Sin of the Spies took place, which caused God to decree that the entire generation that came out of Egypt would perish in the desert and not merit to enter the Land of Israel. After 40 years of mass deaths in the desert every year on the 9th of Av, the Jewish people understood that this punishment was over on the 15th of Av when they saw the full moon and knew that the 9th had definitely passed. This hopefulness spreads throughout the rest of the month. It is exactly two months before Yom Kippur, and we begin to prepare emotionally and spiritually for the upcoming High Holidays.
The Jewish month of Av is dominated by a period of mourning. With the full moon of Av, a shift takes place. Our focus shifts from one of mourning to one of hope, joy, and redemption. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, more commonly known as The Lubavitcher Rebbe writes, “Firstly, it [15 Av] signifies that any sad interlude in ones life is only transitory, and is based on the principle of “descent for the purpose of ascent.” In other words, any and all sad events in our history which are commemorated on the few sad days on our calendar are backward steps which are necessary for a greater forward leap. Secondly, that the very transition from sadness to gladness intensifies the joy, and adds real quality to it, which could not be appreciated otherwise.” May this Tu B’Av bring us from a time of darkness to a time of life, from exile to redemption, and peace to Israel and the whole world. ,-Amen!