Rabbi Mitch's Weekly Teachings

July 31, 2015

 

Today is the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av. It’s an especially wonderful day in the Jewish calendar because it is the holiday of Tu B’Av, the holiday of love.

Mishnah Ta’anit teaches that: “Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel said that there were no festive days for Israel like the 15th of Av or like Yom Kippur. On these two days the daughters of Jerusalem would go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. They would exclaim: ‘Young man, please direct your eyes this way and decide what to choose for yourself.’”

All of us are familiar with Yom Kippur, but few of us are intimately aware of the 15th of Av; Tu B’Av. However, there is a meaningful connection between Yom Kippur and Tu B’Av.

Rabbinic midrash teaches that Yom Kippur is the anniversary of the day on which God finally forgave the Israelites for making the golden calf, thus becoming our specific day for collective atonement.

Another midrash teaches that on the 15th day of Av, God commanded that no one else would die in the wilderness until the Israelites finally entered their promised land.

Both Yom Kippur and Tu B’Av are sacred celebrations of God’s love and forgiveness.

In Biblical times, towards the end of Yom Kippur, single women and men became matched with each other for shidduchin, intended marriage.

Rabban Gamliel reports for us that this practice was also in place for Tu B’Av.

Over time, Yom Kippur has taken on a more solemn tone for the entire 24 hour observance, although the traditional break-fast can still be a wonderful time for “social intercourse” between eligible singles. Tu B’Av has become, especially in Israel, a Jewish “Valentine’s Day”.

On Yom Kippur we self-reflect on our mistakes, determine to make productive changes, and then move forward as effectively with our new resolutions as best as we are able.

Tu B’av is an opportunity to do the same, especially with the ones for which we share a “loving” relationship.

Rabban Gamliel also gave guidance to the young men who would observe the women who danced in the vineyards: “look upon these women, not for their physical beauty, but for their Godly character.”

Love in rabbinic tradition is the most important Divine attribute. Also, possessing Godliness in our own lives becomes the most important personal attribute by which we should love another.

So, as we enter Shabbat, share with your loved ones what you most appreciate about them and the Godly characteristics they so beautifully model. Some ideas to say out loud for that which you are grateful:
• You give and receive love freely and joyfully.
• You bring the best out of me.
• You make me feel important.
• You provide me Shalom; a sense of peace within my life.
• You let me be me.
• You are the catalyst for a mutual love that grows and strengthens each day.

As we approach Shabbat, we are mindful that the rabbis teach that the Sabbath is a foretaste of the “world to come”; Shabbat being one of God’s greatest gifts of Love. But, really, each and every day when we give and receive love in a Godly manner, we have created another sliver of the Garden of Eden present in this world.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Tu B’Av!!
Rabbi Mitch

 

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