Tu B’Av is on Tuesday sunset to Wednesday sunset.
ח אָמַר רַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן גַּמְלִיאֵל, לֹא הָיוּ יָמִים טוֹבִים לְיִשְׂרָאֵל כַּחֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר בְּאָב וּכְיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים, שֶׁבָּהֶן בְּנוֹת יְרוּשָׁלַיִם יוֹצְאוֹת בִּכְלֵי לָבָן שְׁאוּלִין, שֶׁלֹּא לְבַיֵּשׁ אֶת מִי שֶׁאֵין לוֹ. כָּל הַכֵּלִים טְעוּנִין טְבִילָה. וּבְנוֹת יְרוּשָׁלַיִם יוֹצְאוֹת וְחוֹלוֹת בַּכְּרָמִים. וּמֶה הָיוּ אוֹמְרוֹת, בָּחוּר, שָׂא נָא עֵינֶיךָ וּרְאֵה, מָה אַתָּה בוֹרֵר לָךְ. אַל תִּתֵּן עֵינֶיךָ בַּנּוֹי, תֵּן עֵינֶיךָ בַּמִּשְׁפָּחָה. (משלי לא) שֶׁקֶר הַחֵן וְהֶבֶל הַיֹּפִי, אִשָּׁה יִרְאַת יְיָ הִיא תִתְהַלָּל. וְאוֹמֵר, תְּנוּ לָהּ מִפְּרִי יָדֶיהָ, וִיהַלְלוּהָ בַּשְּׁעָרִים מַעֲשֶׂיהָ. וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר, (שיר השירים ג) צְאֶינָה וּרְאֶינָה בְּנוֹת צִיּוֹן בַּמֶּלֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹה בַּעֲטָרָה שֶׁעִטְּרָה לּוֹ אִמּוֹ בְּיוֹם חֲתֻנָּתוֹ וּבְיוֹם שִׂמְחַת לִבּוֹ. בְּיוֹם חֲתֻנָּתוֹ, זוֹ מַתַּן תּוֹרָה. וּבְיוֹם שִׂמְחַת לִבּוֹ, זֶה בִּנְיַן בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ, שֶׁיִּבָּנֶה בִּמְהֵרָה בְיָמֵינוּ. אָמֵן:
The Rashbag, Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel said that there were no greater days (or Yom Tovs) for Israel than the 15th of Av or Yom Kippur. Ok, what? Yom Kippur, many incorrectly assume, and I believe with valid reason, is the most somber day of the year. I think people misconstrue the original purpose of the day. Judaism does not contain the kind of Confession that, say, a Catholic would be able to perform, go to a Priest, confess your sins and perform some sort of penance by saying certain words or giving charity. As you will see from my Divrei Torah soon as we approach the Season of Repentance, the God of Israel demands of His people that they approach a person they have wronged in order to make amends and secure their forgiveness ("בין אדם לחברו") . Only this can do it, Yom Kippur will not forgive such sins, but the season definitely gives the hint that you should be seeking to reconcile with your fellow. Yom Kippur was created by God, whose reasons I am unable to fathom, but will attempt to anyway, in order that we have a way to know when we have been forgiven by God for sins we have committed against Him ("בין אדם למקום"). Because we do not have a literal direct line to God, that we know what he’s thinking, he set up this day, Yom Kippur, to forgive our sins we have sinned against Him if and only if we are sincere in our desire to discontinue sinning. Obviously we will sin again, we are human, but God understands that limitation and as long as our intentions are pure, this day gives those who were written in the Book of the In Between (those who were not immediately on Rosh Hashannah inscribed in the Book of Life (for those who are wholly righteous) or the Book of Death (for those who are wholly wicked). These three books need to be contracted to two, and anyone in the middle book, which is the vast majority of us, will be moved and sealed in one of the two extreme books by the end of Neilah of Yom Kippur, having had 10 Days of Repentance to try to get our friends to forgive us to tip the scales in our favor.
Speaking of scales, The Jewish Calendar seems very compatible with the zodiac. Libra, being scales, is the Mazal (astrological sign) for Tishrei, the month of weighing judgment. Elul is Virgo the virgin, a month of purifying ourselves. You can really find anything with any month and I used to have a great book that discussed each month and astrology; I need to find it.
The middle of the lunar month, when the moon is maleh (full) seems to be the most popularly positive time of the month in Judaism. There are many Jewish holidays that occur in the middle of the month: Sukkot (begins 15 Tishrei), Tu Bishvat (15 Shevat), Purim (14 Adar, 15 Adar in Shushan/Jerusalem/some other places), Passover (begins 15 Nisan). The only week of the month that is not affected by the negativeness of the Three Weeks is the time leading to the full moon from a waxing gibbous.
In some other cultures, such as paganism and Wiccan cultures, the full moon is considered to be a bad time and allows the proliferation of werewolves and other bad things (I’m very articulate right now…). However, like the number 13, things that may be considered a bad thing in other religions are especially auspicious in Judaism, the number 13 is not twelve witches plus the devil, but is instead the Attributes of God. The middle of the month, where there is the most moon-light,
Argh!!! So stop blabbing on about werewolves and tell me about these freakin’ holidays already!!!
Whoa, patience, buddy… Tu B’Av, besides being a minor holiday which celebrated the end of the deaths of the Jews during the 40 year Exodus (This is long so I am going to remove unnecessary words:
40 years in desert, sinners dig graves on 9 Av for punishment of listening to 10 spies, when wake up many not wake up b/c dead. In 40th year, noone die. They think wrong date. Dig again next night. No dead. Next night etc… on 15th of month, full moon. Know punishement over. People relieved. Og hungry.)
It is also the day that the olives being growing, they begin filling with oil, as the ancients assumed.
As you may be able to glean from the Mishnah, the final one of Taanit which I present above, this day, along with Yom Kippur, the unmarried maidens would go out into the fields in borrowed white clothing (so all would be on the same playing field and the wealthy would not have an advantage) and they would dance together for the men who would then choose their wives (I like this system, it makes dating so much easier). The men are quoted something from Solomon’s book of Proverbs: look not for beauty but for family. They are told to raise their eyes and pick a bride (did you ever see that scene from the Ten Commandments where Moses is asked to select one of Jethro’s 6 younger daughters, and Sefora is not there but tending sheep? I think it is like that.) Think of it as a combination Valentines Day and Sadie Hawkins Day. It relates this to the book of Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) where Solomon is seeking out his beloved in the sacred orchard. This is probably the least known of the biblical holidays (okay, Yom Nicanor…) and its only significance today is that we do not say any penitential prayers on it, such as Tachanun (take a look at the first entry on this list...) and are supposed to conduct ourselves in a more festive airs to borrow the type of language you might see in the Ezras Torah Luach. There is really only one real reminder of these two ancient practices. You would think that Yom Kippur, on which is forbidden sexual relations, would not have such associations. My own opinion, studying the Mishnayot of Yoma, that the Yom Kippur of the Second Temple times was very different than most of the practices we perform today. We derive the mitzvah to fast and abstain from other things from the verse in Leviticus that says “on this day you shall afflict your souls”. I feel that the high priest, who was responsible for securing atonement for himself and his family, the rest of the Kohanim, and all of Israel, in that order, was the only one who not only abstained from food, but also from sleep on Yom Kippur. If memory serves me correctly, the Mishnah does not discuss the practices of the rest of the Jews, only specifies that he must fast, and that for the belief that eating leads to a more likely ‘spilling of the seed’. So after all the things described in Yoma, which we recite in some form today as the Avodah service part of Musaf in the morning of Yom Kippur were probably completed by early afternoon, and people went home and it says in both Yoma and the Avodah that with his work complete and the red fillet turning white, he made a party for his friends at his house. I think this means that the day is over and allows the young people the rest of the day off from work (because even in the bible work is forbidden on the day, matching men and women, however, is even permitted on Shabbat which is even more holy and restrictive (well, just in the penalty for breaking it, capital punishment over heavenly excision) and as a certain group of Sophomores in the Joint Program know “u’l’shadech habanot!’ is permitted on the Holy Sabbath, a fortiori, on Yom Kippur.). The remnant of this is in the strange Torah portion we read at Mincha of Yom Kippur. It comes from the same portion as the morning’s reading, Acharei Mot, but whereas the morning came with instructions to the High Priest as to the procedure on how to perform the unique sacrifices and stage directions of the Day of Atonement, the afternoon’s reading is about arayot, forbidden sexual relationships. As in modernity with the prohibition of sex on Yom Kippur, It is my opinion that this is a wink to ancient times when there were no happier days than Yom Kippur and Tu B’Av
As the penultimate verse of the book of Lamentation exclaims:
“Hashiveinu Hashem Alecha V’Nashuva, Chadeish Yameinu KKedem” Return us, Lord, and we will return, renew our days to the days of old. And the end of the Mishna we’ve been studying: “the day of gladness in the heart, that is the rebuilt Temple, may it be rebuilt speedily in our days, amen!”