August 7, 2018

Tu B’Av

This week we celebrate Tu B’Av (literally, the 15th day of the hebrew month of Av). According to the Mishna (Ta’anit 4:8), both Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur were days of great celebration because on both these days, the young men and women of Jerusalem would go out to the vineyards and matches were made between them. However, what I find particularly interesting is the biblical origins of this festival.
When it was decided that the five daughters of Tzelofchad were to inherit their fathers share in the land of Israel, a new rule was established that limited the marriage choices of women to men from within their fathers tribe (see Bemidbar 36:6-9). This rule was made to avoid the inevitable outcome that the land inherited by these daughters be transferred to another tribe upon their death.
Of course, this rule severely limited the marriage choices available to women and it must have caused deep frustration, though fortunately, this rule only lasted a short period of time. According to the Talmud, the overturning of this rule and the realisation that it no longer had any relevance once Bnei Yisrael entered the land took place on Tu B’Av (see Talmud Bavli, Ta’anit 30b), which led to the above-mentioned custom of matchmaking on this day.
What I learn from this is that Tu B’Av is not just a day for shidduchim. Instead, it is a day that celebrates halakhic insights that bring about Jewish unity within the Jewish people. May Tu B’Av inspire us to help young men and women find their life partners, and may it kindle a spark within all of us to approach Judaism with an emphasis towards Jewish unity.

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