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All about Tu B’Av: The Hebrew Valentine’s Day Posted by on Aug 5, 2019 in Celebrations and Holidays

Every year on the 15th day of Av (the eleventh month in the Hebrew calendar) Jewish people celebrate the holiday of Tu B’Av (this year on August 15, 2019).

Image via Pixabay

Tu B’Av (ט”ו באב) is the most mysterious Jewish festival (חַג). We don’t know exactly how early it began. The first mention of this date (תַּאֲרִיךְ) is in the Mishnah (a written collection of the Jewish oral traditions compiled in the second century), where Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel is quoted saying: ‟There were no better days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur”.

The tachanun, a confession of sins, is part of Judaism’s morning and afternoon services. On Shabbat, holidays and several other occasions (e.g., in the presence of a groom in the week after his marriage), the tachanun is omitted. The same is true during Tu B’Av. Another custom (מִנְהָג) of Tu B’Av is that one should increase one’s study of the Torah.

The third custom associated with the holiday (חַג) is the one that determined its modern character. It is said in the Mishnah, that on this day the unmarried girls of Jerusalem, dressed in white (לָבָן) garments, went out to dance in the vineyards (כְּרָמׅים). ‟ What were they saying: Young man, consider whom you choose (to be your wife)” (Babylonian Talmud, tractate Ta’anit 30b–31a).

In that previous quote there is no explanation for the celebration (חֲגִיגָה), and so Jewish scholars over the years have provided various suggestions. Six reasons for celebrating (לַחְגֹּוג) on Tu B’Av are cited by Jewish ancient texts. These include removing of the sentries on the road leading to Jerusalem and allowing all the twelve tribes to once again have access to the Temple, for example. Jewish scholars of recent centuries attribute Tu B’Av as an agricultural festival. They assumed the ancient (קָדוּם) holiday was celebrated in the vineyards because it was originated in the agricultural lifestyle of the Israelites.

In its modern incarnation, however, Tu B’Av became a Hebrew-Jewish Day of Love (אַהֲבָה). It is called חַג הָאַהֲבָה (literally meaning holiday of love), and although it’s a regular workday, it became סִיבָּה לׅמְסִיבָּה (a reason to party). It’s celebrated during the summer (usually falls on July or August), always on a full moon night. Tu B’Av celebrations resemble Valentine’s Day. Couples use the occasion to show affection (חִיבָּה) to each other, sending flowers and chocolate, going out to romantic (רוֹמַנְטִי) dates. But not only couples: singles and families enjoy a variety of live concerts, dancing festivals, night tours and gourmet dinners on Tu B’Av.

For advanced reading in Hebrew check out this article about Tu B’Av.

Happy Tu B’Av, everyone!


Text vocabulary

Tu B’Av = ט”ו באב

Festival = חַג, מוֹעֵד

Holiday = חַג, חֻפְשָׁה

Date = תַּאֲרִיךְ

Custom = מִנְהָג

White = לָבָן

Vineyard = כֶּרֶם

Celebration = חֲגִיגָה

To celebrate = לַחְגֹּוג

Ancient = עַתִּיק, קָדוּם

Love = אַהֲבָה

Affection = חִיבָּה

Romantic = רוֹמַנְטִי


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