Tonight/ tomorrow ( August 6th/7th) is Tu B’av, the Jewish version Valentines Day. Make sure to check out the IsraelB website later on for everything going on.
The Talmud at the end of Tractate Taanit (30/31) goes through the reasons why Tu B’av became a joyous and happy day, like Yom Kippur.
Two of the reasons are that the ban into marrying into the Tribe of Binyamin following the horrific ‘Pilegesh B’Givah’ episode was lifted and inter-tribal marriage was permitted, which had previously not been acceptable, due to misunderstandings in the ruling concerning who the daughters of Tzlofchad could marry. After the Sanhedrin clarified the issue, inter-tribal marriages became commonplace. Both these reasons led to a reuniting of the Jewish People, which was a source of joy.
Other reasons the Talmud gives, is that the Romans permitted the bodies of dead Jews to be buried which they had not allowed since the fall of Beitar -65 years after the destruction of the Second Temple..
Also on Tu B’av, Hoshea Ben Elah removed the roadblocks set up by Yeravam Ben Navat, that prevented the Jews from the Northern Kingdom from travelling to Jerusalem to visit the Temple Mount.
Another reason the Talmud gives, is that Tu B’av is the end of the season of wood gathering for the Altar. It was a day of special sacrifices in the Temple.
A final reason is that it was day when the decree of the death of the generation of the spies ended. G-d decreed that the entire adult male population of that generation should die out during the 40 years of wandering. In the final year of wandering, none of the remaining 15,000 died. Only when there was a full moon, did everyone realize that the decree had been rescinded.
The Talmud ends describing how all the young maidens of Jerusalem would wear borrowed white dresses, so as not to embarrass anyone who had no dress and they would dance together in the vineyards.
By all wearing white and dancing together, they were showing that they were all united in their quest and the differences between them became irrelevant. They looked similar.
What is the common denominator between all these reasons and why did the maidens all dress in the same borrowed white dresses?
The answer is – the idea of breaking down barriers and fences that we build, often to protect ourselves, which separates and divides us and instead trying to focus on our similarities and what we have in common. It was only when the moon was whole, that they realized that the decree of the death of the generation of the spies was over.
Tu Báv was a day when you were forced to leave your comfort zone. The superficial fences that create barriers between people and stop them meeting and developing friendships and relationships fall. Tu’Bav is a day when these superficial and simplistic barriers that divide us are broken down and dismantled and you are therefore given the opportunity to get to know the real person.
Similarly, it is only when the Jewish People are whole and unified, when we stop focusing on our differences and instead look at what we have in common, that we will stand a chance of seeing the rebuilding of the Temple and Jerusalem. The idea of focusing on what we have in common and not what divides and separates us, is the basis of successful friendships and relationships too.
No two people are the same or perfectly compatible, and it’s easy to find differences and problems. Anything worthwhile requires work and effort and the willingness to compromise and to give and not just take. Tu B’av is a day when we can celebrate our similarities and at least try to overlook our differences-on a national and personal level, which is why the Rabbis viewed it as a day of great happiness.