What is Tu B’Av?

Tu B’Av is an ancient Jewish holiday which was celebrated thousands of years ago but fell into oblivion until it was revived in Israel as the Jewish alternative to Valentine’s Day. This explains why, if you don’t live in Israel, you’ve probably never celebrated Tu B’Av.

Well we, at Simantov, happen to think that the revival of Tu B’Av is excellent news for all the Jews around the world who want to celebrate love but are reluctant to do it on “Saint” Valentine’s Day.

But before we jump headfirst into the celebration, let’s take a few minutes to learn a little more about the holiday:

Tu B’Av is an ancient holiday: It was instituted at the time of the Second Temple (starting around 500 BCE) to mark the beginning of the grape harvest. The holiday was forgotten after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE and the consequent ban of the Jews from Jerusalem. It continued being ignored by most until the creation of the State of Israel when, little by little, it became known as the “Day of Love”.

Tu B’Av is the holiday of love: At the time of the Second Temple, the unmarried women of Jerusalem would, on that day, dress in borrowed white clothes and go out to dance in the vineyards in the hope of finding a husband. Single men would come to watch them and have their pick. The borrowed dresses meant that they couldn’t base their choice on the supposed fortune of the girl – as would have been indicated by her clothing. Furthermore, men were instructed to not let themselves be fooled by beauty but instead to look “at the family”. Tu B’Av was the biggest matchmaking event of the year. It is today a popular day for weddings in Israel.

Tu B’Av is a happy holiday: In the Mishna, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel is quoted saying: “There are no happier days for the people of Israel than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur”. Besides matchmaking, a number of good things happened on that date, including the end of the exodus.

Tu B’Av is the holiday of unity and marriage: On this day, Jews of different tribes were allowed to intermarry. This can be interpreted today in the idea that it is acceptable for Jews of all denominations and origins to marry each other.

Today Tu B’Av is celebrated many different ways around Israel: some women still like to go out and dance around Jerusalem dressed in white, but most people celebrate by gifting flowers or chocolates to their beloved or, if they are single, participating in speed-dating events and going to the dance parties which are organised in every city.

This year, why not check out if Tu B’Av is celebrated in your community?

And if it is not, why not start a new tradition? See our ideas in the next blog…