Tu Be'av is the 15th of the month of Av, where the "tet" and "vav" represent 9 plus 6, ie 15.

The date is a minor Jewish festival for several reasons and is one of a number of festivals to fall around the middle of the lunar month: others with agricultural aspects include Pesach, Succot and Tu B'Shvat, while the last also falls into a class of minor festivals falling mid-month like Purim, and even Lag Ba'Omer.

It has a number of significances, of which several have a modern interpretation. The holiday was instituted in Second Temple times to mark the beginning of the grape harvest. Since Yom Kippur also marked the end of the grape harvest, the Mishnah records that on both dates unmarried girls of Jerusalem would dress in borrowed white garments and go out to dance in the vineyards [Ta'anit 4:8]. It is not far from this to associations with match-making and weddings, although this custom itself probably stems from a far more ancient one [see below]. The closeness to the date of Tisha Be'av which precedes it by 6 days is a likely factor in the pre-eminence of joyous associations with Tu Be'Av.

During this period, this was also the last day in the series of nine wood offerings by prestigious families to the Temple, open to the Levite families and others. This is most probably the origin of the bonfire customs associated with the festival, also attributed to its associations to the pagan mid-summer solstice celebrations.

Other reasons the date was preserved are rather a mixed bag [Ta'anit 30b-31a; baba Batra 121a, b; Jer. Talmud, Ta'anit 4:11, 69c] and in post-Temple Jewish tradition it was more ignored than remembered, although there are strict festival observances: the Tahanun prayer is not said on Tu Be'av and no eulogies are pronounced at funerals.

  • The victory of the Pharisees over the Sadduccees was on either 14 or 15 Av.
  • The different tribes were allowed to intermarry on this date [Num 36.8]. This is also a source for the many weddings celebrated on Tu Be'Av.
  • Members of the excommunicated tribe of Benjamin were allowed to appear in the community.
  • The end of the death of the Exodus generation in the Sinai desert, which was their punishment for believing the 10 spies' fabricated report on the land of Canaan.
  • King Hosea, last monarch of the northern Israelite kingdom removed the barriers installed by King Jereboam the 1st which prevented the northerners making piligrimages to Jerusalem [I Kings 12:29, II Kings 18:4].
  • The date when the Romans permitted the Jews to bury Bar Kochba's supporters who had fallen at Betar.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica

Educational Focus

From the above, we find: Several associations with the Temple, pilgrimage and Jerusalem which also counterbalance the preceding fast day of Tisha Be'av. There are associations with the 12 tribes coming together in pilgrimage, marriage and community. There are military associations. There is an agricultural association.

Marking the Day

The most widely spread modern Jewish custom is to hold a wedding on Tu Be'Av.

In modern Israel, the kibbutzim revived the grape harvest festival as Hag Hakeramim [Festival of the Vineyards], but this did not take off on a large scale.

I. Social Activities

  • 1. Web activities for singles

    There are several Jewish singles groups, some of which might be organising online activities and pages for Tu Be'Av. Start from http://www.jewishnet.net

    Post-a-poem page...

  • 2. Outdoor activities for singles

    One of the major threats to Jewish continuity is Jewish singlehood. Even during the summer/winter vacation, the larger community frameworks can offer a venue and encourage informal get-togethers.

    Music, poetry reading, arts & crafts fairs, even the proverbial barbecue.

II. Educational Activities

  • 1. Exhibition and Wine-tasting

    Many of Israel's wineries are online on the Foreign Ministry server via url http://www.foodweek.export.gov.il/frm-exhibitors.htm and will send brochures and information from which you can start building a hands-on viticultural exhibition. The Neot Kedumim reserve is also online http://www.neot-kedumim.org.il/ If adults are also invited, wine-tasting can be added.

    Other ideas for exhibition panels: maps of Israel http://www.israel-mfa.gov.il/facts/land/fland2.html and various areas; images enlarged from labels on the best vintages; photographic materials; charts for climate, soil composition, soil mixtures, grape varieties, production volume by brand and type; grape pressing on a small scale, etc.

  • 2. Summer Camp evening programs

    Obstacle race to Jerusalem - with hurdles, handicaps, etc.

    Evening of poetry, folk dance and a kumsitz.

    Performance Ideas:
    Ceremonial tattoo or procession of the 12 Tribes with tribal banners to music.
    Jewish wedding music dances.

    Drama or mime: Stories about the wood offerings in the Roman era; episodes from stories of the 12 Tribes from Joseph to Kings.





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08 Jun 2005 / 1 Sivan 5765 0