Alan Goldman is a Senior Israel Educator at Jerusalem U. He oversees the Jerusalem U Oz Fellowship, an elite training program for Israel activists. Alan also teaches approximately 400 students as part of the Jerusalem U Gap Year Program, an Israel education and leadership development program for post-high school students studying at some 15 gap-year institutions in Israel. Prior to joining Jerusalem U, Alan worked in formal and informal Jewish education in Israel programs for 25 years, serving on the senior faculty for a number of organisations, including Young Judaea Year Course, Ramah Israel Programs, JRoots, and Heritage Seminars. Alan moved to Israel from Philadelphia, PA in 1989 after completing a BA from Clark University in Sociology and Jewish Studies. He later went on complete a Master’s Degree in Jewish History and to receive Rabbinic Ordination in Jerusalem.
Would you like to go to a "Love and Wine Festival"? Or maybe a "Night of Love by the Sea of Galilee Festival" or perhaps "Between the Vineyards Festival"? My personal favorite, "Night of Love in the Desert Ashram Festival". All of these festivals, plus hundreds of others, will be happening in Israel on the same day, Thursday night August 18th to Friday the 19th. What is so special about this date that one could literally crisscross our tiny country for 24 hours visiting festivals? It is actually the significance of the Hebrew date, Tu b'Av, the 15th day of the month of Av when the moon is full.
This modern Israeli cultural festival of love is a deep expression of the rejuvenation of the Jewish people in its historic homeland. The same general motifs run through all the Tu b"Av festivals: nature, music and love. The Hebrew date and motifs are actually based on an ancient Jewish tradition. As it is recorded in the Babylonian Talmud, tractate Ta'anit 30b-31a:
There were no holidays so joyous for Israel as the Fifteenth of Av (Tu b'Av)…
And the daughters of Jerusalem would go out and dance in the vineyards located on the outskirts of the city. And everyone who didn't have a wife would go there.
And what would they say?
Young man, lift up your eyes and choose wisely. Don't look only at physical beauty - look rather at the family - 'For charm is false, and beauty is vanity. A G-d - fearing woman is the one to be praised...'(Proverbs 31:30)
To understand the secrets of this day of love, is to understand the capacity the Jewish people have for rejuvenation and how this is expressed through the Jewish yearly cycle. Smack in the middle of summer vacation is a 3 week mourning period for historical events that took place over 2,000 years ago, the destruction of the 1st and 2nd Temples. During the 3 week mourning period traditional Jews refrain from certain pleasures, particularly music, dancing and weddings. The culmination of this period is the fast of Tisha b'Av (the 9th of Av) the day which marks the destruction of both Temples.
Six days later, on the first full moon after the mourning period ends, is Tu b"Av, the festival of love. The Rabbis of blessed memory compare the Jewish people to the moon. And just as the moon is a constant cycle of rejuvenation so too is the Jewish people. Of course, there are dark times but following the dark times are times of light and growth. In ancient history the darkest times are symbolized by the destruction of the Temple. Tu b'Av reminds us that no matter how dark things may seem, the full moon will shine. Therefore, go to the fields sing, dance, get married and celebrate the most powerful energy in the world, love.
Seventy years ago, arguably, marks the end of the darkest 6 years in Jewish history, the Holocaust. Three short years later the Jewish people declared a sovereign state in our ancient homeland. As we returned home we revitalized ancient customs in a modern light. So please, come and join the Jewish people as we celebrate the miracle of the sovereign Jewish people in our ancient homeland.