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Tu B’av

Home > Holidays > Tu B’av

Tu B’av

Tu B’av, the 15th of Av, is one of the lesser-known days on the Jewish calendar, which is surprising since its focus is that ever-popular subject: romance.

On Tu B’Av, according to the Talmud, young women would borrow white clothing—so no one would stand out by their wealth—and dance in the vineyards, where single males would watch with a hopeful eye. The Talmud states that the young men were advised to choose wisely and not focus only on a woman’s physical beauty, but on her overall virtues. States the Talmud, “Vanity is false, and physical beauty is empty, [but] a God-fearing woman is to be praised (Ta’anit 31a).”

One Tu B’Av link to women is that on this day the ban against marrying outside the tribe was lifted. In the desert, the daughters of Tzelafchad had come to Moses to ask that they receive their father’s inheritance, since they had no brothers. God told Moses to OK it, but that the daughters had to marry within their tribe of Binyamin, so that the land would remain in their tribe. After the Jews crossed into Israel, this restriction was lifted—on the 15th of Av. At a later point the tribe of Binyamin, which had committed a major sin, was permitted again on Tu B’Av to marry other tribes.

Other associations have also given Tu B’Av its joyous tag. The Jews of the desert were sentenced to die before they reached Israel. According to the midrash (additional Talmudic commentary), on Tisha B’av (the 9th of Av) every year they would dig and sleep in their own graves, and only a few would wake up. This plague ended in the 40th year, and was confirmed to be over six days later, on Tu B’av.

Additionally, the Bar Kochva revolt that took place in 135 A.D. ended at Beitar in a bloody massacre. The Roman general who executed it, Adaryanus, refused to let the Jewish bodies be buried. Only when another general took over were the bodies allowed to be buried, on the 15th of Av. Miraculously, they had not decomposed.

Observance today is limited to not reciting tachanun, a confession prayer omitted on Jewish holidays. Brides and grooms are also released from having to fast on their wedding day if the wedding is held on Tu B’Av.

So if you go dancing on Tu B’Av, put on your best white shirt. And remember your white dancing shoes.

The Jewish Agency for Israel: Tu Beav

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