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all you need is love

08/02/2023 09:31:56 PM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

There is a little known date in the Jewish calendar that most likely is overlooked by many in the Jewish world. The date is the 15th day of the month of Av, known in Hebrew as Tu B’Av, occurring this year on August 2. Why should it be of any concern? It is a day for love. It has been regrettably conflated with St. Valentine’s Day as the Jewish version, although thematically they are similar. Many of you might be wondering “How come I’ve never heard of it?” or “Why are there no formal celebrations?” or “Why isn’t it a holiday?” All excellent questions. Permit me to share a bit of history with you.

In the ancient land of Israel, thousands of years ago, the grape harvest began during this time. Agricultural schedules were marked by the phases of the moon, as that was the people’s calendar. The barley harvest began at the Spring full moon and the Fall harvest began at the Fall new moon. The grape harvest began at the full moon of summer as the days began to shorten.  The barley harvest was absorbed into Pesach, and the Fall harvest into Sukkot, both holidays coming long after this agricultural system was in place first. The grape harvest did not become a holiday, although there were celebrations. Eligible young women would don white dresses and gather in the vineyards in the early evening of the fifteenth of Av, hopefully to meet their bashert. The grape harvest would continue until the 10th of the seventh month, Tishrei, later becoming Yom Kippur. Five days later, the Fall harvest would begin. As was the case for the celebrations at the end of the Fall harvest that later became Shemini Atzeret, young women would gather at the conclusion of the grape harvest in a similar manner. Down the centuries to the 20th Century, some of you might recall the era of the Yom Kippur dinner dance, a vestige of this tradition.

What is particularly interesting is that Tu B’Av comes as shiva, the mourning period of the destruction of both Holy Temples on Tisha B’av, has concluded. In the modern State of Israel, while it is not a Jewish holiday per se, it is celebrated as a day of love. Weddings are frequently held on this date, which also celebrates the conclusion of the three weeks that began on the 17th day of Tammuz, when weddings were not permitted. Music and dance festivals are held, and Israelis give cards and flowers to their loved ones. It is certainly remarkable to see that what began as an agricultural observance millennia ago continues to be observed in the land of Israel, as well as throughout the globe.

While we should demonstrate our love to those that matter in our lives on a regular basis, it is also very powerful to connect across the millennia to our ancestors. It is indeed possible that ancestors of yours and mine might have met in a vineyard in the ancient land of Israel a very long time ago. The thought of that possibility is truly a “wow” moment. While the phrase might be trite, sometimes the simplicity of The Beatles works best. All you need is love.

Sat, September 23 2023 8 Tishrei 5784