Tu B’Av

Ten Facts about Tu B’Av You Probably Didn’t Know

1. Tu B’Av is a day of happiness, appeasement and love in Israel. The Mishna describes Tu B’Av in Israel of yore as a day that the eligible young women would wear white clothes they borrowed and dance in the vineyards hoping to find a suitable husband. The sages of the Mishna point out: “There was no holiday as good as Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur for Israel.”

2. The Talmud in Bava Batra mentions 6 happy things in Jewish history that happened on Tu B’Av:

     1. The people stopped dying in the desert:   After G-d decreed the generation of the desert would not enter the holy land which happened on Tisha B’Av, each year 15,000 of the men would die. On Tisha B’Av night the men would dig graves and sleep in them. Those who died were buried right there and the rest grateful to be given another year. The last year the remaining 15,000 lay in their graves knowing it would be their last night on earth. They cried with repentance and were grateful to be saved for last. But G-d forgave them and they all got up from what they thought was their grave.

But they didn’t think they were out of the woods as of yet. There were no printed calendars and they would sanctify the lunar months by witnesses of the new moon. So they thought perhaps they made a mistake and laid down in their graves again and again until Tu B’av when the full moon made it obvious that they hadn’t miscalculated the days and G-d indeed forgave them. They made this day a holiday in gratitude to G-d for sparing them and nulling His decree.

     2. The tribes were allowed to marry into each other and men from the tribe of Benjamin that was ostracized were allowed to take brides on their own: From the time of Moses a daughter that inherited her father’s land was forbidden to marry into another tribe so their tribal land wouldn’t go to the other tribe. The sages learned the verses and concluded that this was true only in the time of Moses and subsequent generations could marry into another tribe. This happened on Tu B’Av.

   3. The second decree was that in the story of “The Concubine of Givah” where the Jewish nation appalled by the conduct of the tribe of Benjamin swore they wouldn’t give their daughters to the tribe. After the tribe was almost decimated having only 600 males left, the Jews realized that this was a tragedy they had to prevent. They couldn’t annul their oath not to give their daughters to the tribe, but they encouraged their young women to make themselves available to marry a young man from Benjamin if she would be taken by one of them. They dressed up in white and were taken in marriage by the young men of Benjamin and the tribe survived. This happened on Tu B’Av.

    4. King Hoshea Ben Aleh nullified the guards and roadblocks established by King Jeroboam ben Nevat:  When jeroboam Ben Nevat split the Kingdom of Israel off the Kingdom of Judea he feared people would want to visit Jerusalem and see the king of Judea from the seed of David sitting in the temple. He was the only person permitted this privilege which Jeroboam couldn’t match so he made golden calves in Dan and Beer Sheba where the Jews of his kingdom were commanded to worship instead of coming to Jerusalem. To insure they didn’t go to Jerusalem he set up guards and roadblocks to prevent the people of his kingdom from going to Jerusalem.

These roadblocks lasted until the end of the Israelite Kingdom when Hoshea ben Aleh took down the roadblocks and the guards and announced: “Anyone who wants can go visit Jerusalem.”   He nullified the roadblocks and guards on Tu B’Av giving us another historical reason to celebrate.

    5. The day they stopped cutting wood for the pyres on the Altar in the temple: Until Tu B’Av the ground was considered hot enough that wood for the altar was safe from being wormy. After Tu B’Av it started to cool down so they stopped bringing wood to the altar on Tu B’Av and they called it ‘the day we break our axes’ when they successfully completed the mitzvah for that year and they celebrated doing the mitzvah.

This gift was considered very important in the second temple as there was a shortage of wood and enemies of the Jews would wait in ambush for the wood fetchers who would go at the risk of their lives to fulfill this mitzvah.

    6. The corpses of Beitar were buried:  Emperor Hadrian destroyed Beitar and abused the corpses using them to fence in his vineyard and their blood to fertilize his vineyard for 7 years.  On Tu B’Av he permitted their burial. Our sages instituted the blessing of ‘Hatov Vhametiv’ – The Good One (G-d) that does great goodnesses” for they were grateful that they finally received permission to bury those massacred. Secondly, when they went to bury them they found that after years of being outside the bodies didn’t decay. Some people have a custom to drink wine to remember the miracle that happened with the vineyards.
3. One opinion is that these 6 episodes express the love Jews had for one another that is a repentance for the baseless hatred which brought about our temple’s destruction on Tisha B’Av.

4. Another opinion is that these episodes were repair of the previous situation that was wrong or difficult. Jews are compared to the moon and Tu B’Av is the moon at its fullest so we celebrate our existence after the waning we experienced with the loss of our Temple.

5. A 3rd opinion is that the common denominator is our relationship with G-d.  G-d kindly forgives the 15,000 and helped Honor those killed in Beitar by not letting their bodies decay. We try to bring wood to the altar with risk to our lives for G-d the guards and roadblocks are removed so Jews can come closer to G-d. The tribes find a solution to marry into each other bringing peace instead of animosity.

6. Tu B’Av is a day of increased pure love between G-d and us and us with each other.

7. People who learn the kabbalah point out that Tu b’Av is a day of increased happiness and Torah. A person should try to learn a bit more Torah on this day as is written in the Zohar and the Chida.

8. The nights get longer from after Tu B’Av and learning Torah at night is most auspicious and considered like serving in the Temple in the day. Both of these bring down G-d’s bounty from the heavens.

9. The world was created on the 25th of Elul so Tu B’Av is 40 days before this. That is why it is a good time to start reckoning and repenting as we approach Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Some people start wishing a good year to their friends from Tu b’Av and onwards till after Yom Kippur.

10. In earlier times Tu B’Av was truly a holiday that was well celebrated. Now that we don’t have the Temple, our happiness is channeled into learning Torah. Today it’s considered a ‘minor holiday’ where we don’t say tachanun (a sad prayer not said on festive days). Brides and grooms who normally are required to fast on the day of their wedding do not fast on Tu B’Av.

May G-d make Tu B’Av a holiday again as in days of yore with our rebuilt Temple!


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