Jewish tradition speaks about the deep love that can come from the greatest loss. This loss can be anything from the death of a family member to the end of a relationship, and while it is important that we observe and feel that pain, it is also important that we do the work of understanding ourselves and why that loss so deeply hurt us. Now, as we transition from Tisha B’av to Tu B’av, from loss to love, it is crucial that we reflect on the loss we feel inside to really understand what love we are missing in our lives.
“Every love is carved from loss. Mine was. Yours is. Your great-great-great-children’s will be. But we learn to live with that love.” — Jonathan Safran Foer
History of Tu B’Av
In ancient times, the 15th of the Hebrew month of Av began the grape harvest, and Yom Kippur (10th of Tishrei) marked the end. For bookending the harvest, the days became linked. On Tu B’ Av and on Yom Kippur, women would go out wearing borrowed white dresses (to take socio-economic status out of the courtship equation) and rules about people not being allowed to intermarry between tribes were suspended. This was a big deal, and led to many betrothals and thriving, diverse tribes.
The day is also associated with miracles. Jewish lore describes that every year for the 40 years that the Israelites wandered in the desert, on Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av), the Israelites dug graves and laid down in them at night to sleep. Thousands of them didn’t wake up in the morning, and the rest waited, day by day, until finally on the full Moon of Tu B’Av the survivors finally got up and celebrated life renewed.
What Tu B’Av Means
Tu B’Av is a date on the Hebrew calendar. Literally, the 15th (טו) of Av. As with any holiday on the 15th, the moon is full and vibes are flowing with love, fertility and romance!
Ancient Texts Referencing Tu B’Av
This holiday is a rabbinic (post-biblical) addition to the holiday calendar. We first see this holiday mentioned in the Mishnah, oral law that was written down at the end of the 2nd century. Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel is quoted saying, “There are no happier days than Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Jerusalem go out in white and dance in the vineyards.”
In the Hebrew calendar, Tu B’av (15th of Av) marks carefree love and joy, bringing us back into balance 6 days after Tisha B’Av (9th of Av), a day marking sadness, destruction and mourning. In a matter of a few days, the Hebrew calendar brings us through the emotional gamet, asking us to hold heavy darkness and come out the other side rejoicing in love and light. That sounds a little intense, but our lives all mirror this flow in one way or another. Think about it. Deep pain and joyous love are usually woven together, intermingled in one day, one experience or one lifetime.
On Tu B’av, we’re reminded to choose the joy and to cultivate the love. Our ancestors used this moment to pause debilitating rules and social norms in pursuit of the love that made them happy.
The love you need this year may come from within. This is the moment to declare that you love yourself, believe in yourself, and will invest time in yourself… and one great way to do that is by connecting to others.
The love you may feel might be an overwhelming sense of gratitude — for the life you live, the relationships you have, the adventures that once were or that lie ahead.
The love bubbling up for you could be for any relationship that brightens your life.
Remember, this day is held in balance and in contrast. No one expects us to forget our pain– rather, on Tu B’Av we choose to surface love and simply make space for it to shine.
For modern times, Tu B’Av has been rejuvenated as a cultural day of love, hope and possibility. Here are some ideas for ways to celebrate:
- Show Yourself a Little Love!
- Do something special for yourself you might not normally do! Take yourself to a movie, a nice meal, get a massage or get your nails done.
- In the spirit of our tradition, suspend an arbitrary norm you feel inhibited by and do something to choose joy! Dare to wear something bright, speak a truth you’ve been holding in, indulge a little.
- Feel carefree! Go dancing, go on a hike, free write about your gratitude.
- Do something for someone else, it will make you feel great inside.
- Show Others Some Love!
- Send someone you’re grateful for a card. You could let you know you’re thinking about them, or thank them for something they did recently or way back when for you.
- Share a meal with a person you love, and tell them what you love about them
- Gather with your closest friends and spend the night reminiscing and laughing
- Host a Shabbat Dinner
- Young adults (ages 22-39ish) can use the OneTable platform.
- Greeting others on Tu B’Av
- In earlier times, it was the custom from Tu B’Av to use the greeting “May your inscription and seal be for good” (ketiva v’hatima tova), the same blessing that we today use on Rosh Hashanah. If you work out the gematria values (the spiritual Hebrew numerical value) of different expressions found that phrase adds up to 928 – and so does the words for “15th of Av.” Pretty spiffy, right??
- Alternatively, see a friend and say “Chag Sameach” (meaning happy festival/holiday), and tell them why you appreciate/love them!
- Scroll through other Rituals on Ritualwell.org
- Share this campaign with your members and community.
- Host a Tu B’Av program for members to attend.
- Passout notecards for members to mail to others. Include the Tu B’Av card insert.
Maggie’s Place: a center at Mishkan Chicago dedicated to building community through a holistic approach to wellness through Jewish learning, leadership opportunities, social community, and access to social services and resources.
Mishkan Chicago: a spiritual community in Chicago reclaiming Judaism’s inspiration and transformative essence.
No Shame On U: an organization founded to increase mental health awareness and eliminate the stigma in the Jewish community and beyond.
The Blue Dove Foundation: an organization transforming the way the Jewish Community responds to mental health and substance abuse.