TU B’AV: THE JEWISH VALENTINE’S DAY!
By Sherrie B. Miller
The Gemara in Massechet Taanit recounts the words of Raban Shimon Ben Gamliel: “There
were no happier days for the People of Israel than the 15th day of Av and Yom Kippur,
since on these days the daughters of Israel go out dressed in white and dance in
the vineyards. What were they saying? O Youth! Lift up your eyes and see what you
choose. Do not set your eyes on beauty. Set your eyes on our family. ‘False is charm
and vain is beauty; a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised’.”
On Tu (15th) of Av, a joyous and co-ed matchmaking day, unmarried women went out
to the vineyards, all dressed in white, with the intention of finding their bashert.
Even then, prior to the destruction of the second Temple, men must have been enamored
by good looks and the outer presentation of women. The women however, always being
the more practical and connected to “The Jewish Mission”, got together and decided
to all dress in white, the symbol of purity, as plainly and as simply as possible.
They advised the men who followed them to the vineyards, also intending to find
a wife, to look at their ancestry and family background, focusing on their ability
to build worthy Jewish homes rather than on transitory external features.
Not much has changed in this regard. Unfortunately, with the advent of TV, Hollywood
and the plethora of beauty pageants, the some men are being influenced by super
models and their valueless characters that go with the look. (to be fair, it sometimes
works both ways, with women also losing sight of the goals and focusing on the outer
trappings like looks, profession etc.)
The white garments connect us to Yom Kippur as well, the day of At-one-ment. It
is a day of complete forgiveness and uniting with Hashem. Similarly, a bride and
groom (the result of a successful Tu B’Av) on their wedding day, receive total absolution
from all previous sins as they embark on the journey of marriage and achieve their
unity as a couple; “v’hayu l’basar echad.”
This aspiration toward achdus (unity) on both Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur can only be
achieved by great introspection, effort and work. The white garment worn on both
of these days is a reminder that the necessary introspection for both holidays is
a lifetime project. The dictionary is the only place where “success” comes before
As one who has been happily married for 32 years, B”H, it is amazing to remember
thinking how “in love” I was on my wedding day. Yet after all these years of caring
for one another and supporting each other and helping each other through thick and
thin, our love has grown so much deeper, that it makes the initial feelings seem
so shallow. This is the true experience of love.
This is in stark contrast to the secular version of Valentine’s Day which is associated
with cupid who is presumed to “shoot his arrow” to your heart and make you “fall
blindly in love.” In other words, it is beyond your control. This type of love is
shown to dissipate and disappear as mysteriously as it appeared. The Jewish notion
of love is “growing in love”, ever deeper and ever stronger with time!
The Mishna above is somewhat puzzling in light of the many modern day stringencies
of co-ed seating at weddings and events meant to encourage mingling amongst singles
for the purpose of facilitating meeting and mating. It also raises the question
of impropriety in dating more than one person at a time, after all, being surrounded
by so many at once, must have led to comparisons without creating much confusion.
(as is posited nowadays.)
Some who cite this Mishna as an endorsement of such events are chastised and assured
that the young adults of that period were on a much higher spiritual level and could
therefore allow this type of co-ed dance. Yet if this were the case why would the
women go to such lengths to dress alike in a most understated fashion and in addition
“give mussar” to the men about choosing a mate based on long lasting inner and hidden
qualities versus outer and short-lived beauty?
By the same token, many Rabbis claim that we are definitely living in the “ikvita
d’moshiach”, the time of Moshiach’s impending arrival. It is known that the souls
living at this time are great and holy ones.
The lesson of the above Mishna is clear: we must work in creating pure intentions
and an unambiguous purpose in dating. Dating should be purely to fulfill the Will
of Hashem and get us closer to meeting our bashert.
Marriage is the most direct road to self perfection. May we all be blessed with
the wisdom and insight to hone in on the proper priorities and intentions leading
to the most suitable mate.
Sherrie B. Miller is a Jewish matchmaker on SawYouAtSinai
and a dating coach in Jerusalem. She received her counseling degree from the Michlala
in Jerusalem and an M.A. in Jewish Education from Touro College. Sherrie is certified
by Midreshet Emunah and is accredited by the Rabbanut of Israel, to be a pre-marital
couple’s counselor and Kallah teacher.