Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Reminders, Love, and Tu B'av

Today is a rather less than well-known Jewish holiday, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av, known as Tu B'Av. Reb Chaim HaQoton has put together a comprehensive, well-researched, and painstakingly documented post on the history and sources for Tu B'Av. I urge you to read this entire excellent article, but I'll excerpt just a couple of quotes that set the stage for the point I want to make:
"The Talmud [Gittin 55b] tells that the Holy Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred. On Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur, the daughters of Israel, virgins of Zion, and maidens of Judea practiced baseless love. All the girls borrowed white clothes from other girls in lower social classes than themselves to show how they are all equal and the girls went dancing and singing in the grape vineyards to attract mates."
After explaining why he feels these customs are no longer practiced, nor appropriate, in our time, he continues:
"In the Modern Orthodox world and Secular Israeli culture, Tu B'Av is known as Chag HaAhava, the "Holiday of Love". Grand concerts are arranged so that boys and girls can intermingle in the name of Tu B'Av. However, this debauchery is unjustified and is against the entire spirit of the holiday; Tu B'Av is not a Jewish version of the pagan Saint Valentine's Day."
I have a somewhat different view on this issue. I take a back seat to nobody in my utter distaste for any Jewish celebration, or even acknowledgement, of the Christian holiday of Saint Valentine's Day (with the possible exception of buying candy for half-price the day after!). However, Tu B'Av is ours, and as is clear from the above gemara, was once, by sacred custom, considered a day for shidduchin, romance, and - let's not be afraid of the word - love. All due respect to considerations of propriety and tznuis, but let's not just throw away a commemoration that is, at its core, fundamentally and deeply positive.

The importance of doing whatever we can to promote Jewish matchmaking in today's world, need not be belabored. If Tu B'Av can be channeled in that direction, if celebrating it can help stem the tide of intermarriage and loneliness even a tiny bit, isn't that worthwhile? Rather than banning the Chag HaAhava events altogether, we should look for ways to uplift, purify, and enhance them.

Now, speaking from the married point of view - and the same would apply for those in committed, pre-marriage relationships. Can there be anything wrong with setting aside a day to emphasize just how significant that other in your life truly is? To treat that person with even more care and consideration than usual, perhaps even spoil them a little bit?

I see this as very analogous to Mother's Day, Father's Day, and Thanksgiving. Yes, we are supposed to respect our parents, and show gratitude to God and country, every day. But in practice, how good a job do we really do with these middos, day in and day out? Don't we all benefit from those special reminders, those annual occasions on which to recharge and rededicate our better selves to kibud av v'aym and hakaros hatov? Is love for one's life partner - current or even expected - a less lofty, less important value and goal?

Let the Christians have their Saint Valentine's Day. And let us have Tu B'Av. If you have that special someone in your life, please make them feel extra special today. In fact, I'll give you a head start, and share are the first two lines of a poem I once wrote to celebrate this occasion:
Today is the Jewish Day of Love
Not in February, but on the Fifteenth of Av!
The remaining lines are left for all you poets and lovers out there...

Happy Tu B'Av!


At 8/9/06, 6:13 PM, Blogger Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

My point was more than Tu B'Av is not a justification for this or this, and the hundreds of similar events in Israel. Remember, the gay parade in Jerusalem, which some say was the cause that HaShem brought on this current war in the Holy Land, was originally supposed to be on Tu B'Av this year. But I hope you enjoyed the essay. And thank you for linking to me and sending me more readers.
Gut Yuntiff (?)

At 8/9/06, 8:12 PM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

I thought it was very commonly known, that's all I hear the singles talking about lol.

At 8/9/06, 10:34 PM, Blogger Elie said...

Reb C.: You're welcome, and thanks again for an excellent article. However, once again I beg to disagree with your conclusion. I can't vouch for each and every one of the "hundreds of events" in Israel, but I have no issue at all with the two you linked to above. These aren't orgies, they are Jewish singles mixers!

Not everyone is suited for the yeshivish/frum shidduch dating scene, with its extremely rigid structure and rules. I know I would not have lasted a minute in it, and that was 20 years ago when I was fresh out of the smicha program at RIETS. For many, many very committed Jews - let alone non-Orthodox ones - shabbotonim and other Jewish singles mixers are indispensable. Halevai these events should bear fruit and help some lonely people find their "bashertim".

SWFM, perhaps Tu B'Av is better recognized these days in the singles crowd (due to events like those above!), but outside the Orthodox world it's pretty much unknown. I would guess a high percentage even of the regular shul-going men in any given community, think of it mainly as one of those obscure days when you "get" to skip tachnun.


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