Daniel Raphael Silverstein
Rabbi, educator, meditation teacher and MC/poet.

The Heart Work of Tu B’Av

Photo by Amos Gil (cc)

Tu B’Av, the 15th day of our current month of Av, which arrives on Tuesday night, is described by our ancient rabbis as one of the most joyful days in our entire year.

The Mishnah, describes how when the full moon of Av arrived, the maidens of Jerusalem would go out into the vineyards, dancing in white dresses and inviting young men to court them.

There are many beautiful interpretations of this special day, and I would like to share one, from the great Chasidic master, Reb Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov (1783 – 1841), also known by the name of his book, the Bnei Yissaschar.

He points out that Rosh Hashanah marks the creation of humankind. According to the Torah, that occurred on the “sixth day” of creation. This would mean that the “first day” of creation is five days before Rosh Hashanah; the 25th day of Elul.

The Bnei Yissachar writes beautifully about how this day, the anniversary of the start of creation, is a kind of wedding anniversary between ourselves and the Divine Beloved.

Forty days before Elul 25th is our full moon festival of Tu B’Av, the 15th of Av. Reb Tzvi Elimelech combines all of the above with a talmudic teaching which says: “Forty days before an embryo is formed, a Divine Voice issues forth and says: The daughter of so-and-so is destined to marry so-and-so” (Sotah 2a). 

The rebbe is drawing a comparison between the birth of an individual and the creation of the entire world. He infers that just as the birth of an individual is preceded, forty days earlier, by a heavenly proclamation, so too is the world’s creation.

If Elul 25th, as the anniversary of creation, offers us a powerful opportunity for intimate union with the Divine, then Tu B’Av is a day when that union is “proclaimed in the heavens,” as it falls forty days prior.

What does this mean in practical terms for you and me? I imagine it’s different for each of us, each year. Perhaps we can say that in general, this full moon of Av is asking us to pay attention to our hearts, and our desires, and to direct them toward our highest possible potential.

We all sometimes find ourselves disconnected from our hearts. Our fears of the pain we may find there prevent us from feeling what is alive within. This Tu B’Av, let us feel what is present within us. Let us have courage that under, or perhaps even within, any pain, lies the truth: That we are all infinitely precious sparks of an endless love.

As the Bnei Yissaschar suggests, let us imagine the heavenly proclamation of our impending union with the Divine Beloved.

Let us allow ourselves to remember, to truly feel, how astonishingly great every single one of us actually is.

About the Author
Daniel Raphael Silverstein is a rabbi, educator, meditation teacher and MC/poet. He lives in Israel with his family, where he directs Applied Jewish Spirituality, an online portal which makes the transformative spiritual wisdom of our tradition accessible to all who seek it.
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