Once upon a time, in ancient Biblical times, Tu b’Av was the time romance filled the air. Although match-making has developed into a more sophisticated process, or should I say a more complicated process, such as seeking out a shadchan for a shiduch, or even searching on the internet for that life-long soul-mate. The more daring might try the Hollywood version of searching for your Romeo or Juliet; a girl’s so-called Don Juan; or the opportunity to kiss a frog that hopefully turns into Prince Charming. Whereas, a guy might be smitten with Cupid’s arrow when finding his Cinderella’s glass slipper, or even better, kissing his Snow White and awakening her love for him – I mean, the opportunities are endless nowadays.
But in Biblical times, romance was much simpler. You didn’t even have to buy a dress or rent a hall for the simcha. The daughters of Israel borrowed a dress – of course, it had to be white, and it had to be simple. The rich girl and the poor girl were to look alike since not all could afford the luxury of others. The young women dressed in simple attire so as to break down the barriers of class distinction. In turn, the young men were to focus on the girls’ virtues, instead of outer beauty and prestige of family.
I can hear some of you skeptics: What an imagination! While the suspicious are questioning: Where do you get your facts? And the inquisitive are asking: When! and where! is this happening in Israel? And the hopeful exclaim: I want to participate!
I’m glad you asked! The ancient story is found in Shoftim 21:15-24. The Tribe of Benjamin had been disavowed from the nation of Israel due to their treacherous behavior. When it later became a reality among the other tribes that this particular tribe might become extinct, they came to the conclusion to drop the prohibition to intermarry among the tribes in hopes that Benjamin would be restored. The Jewish people were reunited when the tribe of Benjamin was permitted to reenter the community on the 15th of Av. Then, at a certain time on that date, the young women were all let loose and ran through the vineyards at Shiloh as the young men chased after them in hot pursuit to select their wives.
This date has remained on the Jewish calendar as a minor holiday and has become a popular date for weddings in Israel and in western countries among Jewish Communities. The acknowledgement of this day provides an opportunity to encourage Jews to date and marry within the Jewish communities.
Tu b’Av follows exactly one week after Tisha b’Av and is considered one of the two most joyful of days of the Jewish year even though it seems strange that this gleeful day should follow the day of mourning, which annually highlights the lowest suffering in Jewish history.
The theme of joy and optimistic hopefulness has carried through to today.