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    Matchmaking on Tu B’Av

    Q. I hear there is a minor festival called Tu B’Av. What is it all about?

    dance tu beav b'av by jack davisA. Tu B’Av (the 15th of the month of Av) has a double significance. Josephus called it the Feast of Wood-Bearing as it was customary for people to bring wood for the altar on that day. It is also a day of midsummer matchmaking.

    Rabban Shimon ben Gamli’el said, “Israel had no such happy days as 15 Av and Yom Kippur, when the daughters of Jerusalem went out in borrowed white garments so as not to shame anyone who did not possess them. The daughters of Jerusalem would go out and dance in the vineyards.

    “What did they say? ‘Young man, lift up your eyes: see what you choose. Set not your eyes upon appearance but upon family’” (Mishnah Ta’anit 4:8).

    The girls took the lead, not waiting for boys to propose or for a shadchan to arrange the deal. The boys looked for beauty, the girls thought of lineage. No-one mentioned matchmakers or chaperones: the couples found one another.

    The venue was the vineyards because it was the beginning of the grape harvest.

    The Siddur is aware of Tu B’Av, since it omits the Tachanun supplications that day, and no funeral eulogies are given. Some kibbutzim tried to develop chagigat hak’ramim, a vineyard festival, with music, dancing and poetry, but the event did not catch on.

    So the orthodox and the secular both remember 15 Av, each for their own reason; others are unaware that the date exists. I think we should rediscover Tu B’Av and use it to focus on marriage education.

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