What Is Tu B’Av & (How) Is It Observed?

Less than a week after one of the saddest days of the Jewish year, Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av, this year on July 30th), comes one of the happiest: Tu B’Av (the 15th of Av, this year on August 4th). We move from a day of recurring destruction, blood, and broken hearts, to a day of innocence, dancing, possibilities, and hearts completed through love and companionship.

This special day is first mentioned in the Mishnah (~225 CE) in Tractate Taanit, where Tu B’Av is described as one of the happiest days for the Jewish people, alongside Yom Kippur. On this day, the uncoupled women of Jerusalem would dress in white and dance in the vineyards as they sought their match-to-be. A full moon shines bright during the evening of Tu B’Av, mirroring the dancing of those below, seeking a sense of fullness in deep connection with another.

 In Israel, Tu B’Av is the well-known cultural equivalent of America’s Valentine’s Day. But, in fact, there aren’t any set or legislated rituals for the holiday. This makes it a perfect holiday on which to sprinkle some Moishe Magic, making it the holiday we want it to be. 

Why is this year different from all other years?

Our very own Alyssa Gorenberg has offered us a few awesome program ideas in the past, and like all things Jewish, with a new year comes new ways to celebrate!

This year may be one of the most important years to mark Tu B’Av. When have we felt as physically and spiritually distanced from one another as many of us do now? When was the last time you had a hug or a kiss? When was the last time you were within 6 feet of a lover, close friend, or family? As much as Tu B’Av is the holiday of romantic love, it is a holiday marking the deeper need and elevating potential for humanity to be in connection with others. As the book of Genesis says, “It is not good for humanity to be alone.” 

From those organizing programs on the “Front Porches” of Moishe House: Here is an excellent program guide by Gabi Newman of Moishe House Barcelona. It includes discussion questions about dating and marriage, practical tips to help you develop a program, and resources to help you lead a discussion of your choosing, including the “JSwipe Love Study” and a TED Talk by Esther Perel on “The Secret to Desire in a Long Term Relationship.”

In addition to some of the awesome work residents and community builders are doing, here are six programs you can lead with your communities or take part in on your own, from the simple to the more elaborate.

  • On August 6th at 9pm Eastern, Moishe House and The Bible Players are teaming up to present “Jewcy,”  an adult comedy show. Full of dating tips (and horror stories), LIVE speed dating, and some much-needed advice from Bubbe! Register here. Residents can invite their community, create an invite, tune in together and count Jewcy as one of their virtual programs for the month! YAY!
  • Tell Them You Love Them: Bring out those old-fashioned envelopes and stamps and write a snail-mail letter of love and appreciation to five friends or family members. What do you love and appreciate about them? What are some shared memories you cherish? What are you missing about them right now? And while you’re at it, don’t forget to write a love letter to yourself.

  • Jewish Text Learning: What Jewish values can we bring to our dating lives? What does the Torah say about ghosting and zombie-ing? Should Rabbi Akiva voters swipe left? Gather a few friends together and pick some of the texts in these collections on dating Jewish by former Moishe House NYC –  Upper West Side resident, Shira Sacks, here, and by Regional Jewish Educator, Loren Berman, here. Less interested in what we can learn about love from rabbis? Esther Perel and Eric Fromm, both Jewish psychologists who either survived or descended from survivors of the Holocaust, have written plenty on the subject. Select some excerpts of their works on love and discuss with your group.
  • Mindful Loving Meditations: Love is a powerful force between two people, but cultivating a sense of self-love is equally important. Rabbi Callie Schulman has designed a spiritual chevruta-based exercise to help bring mindfulness and love to the small rituals in our lives and make progress towards ridding ourselves of senseless hatred of ourselves and others.
  • Tu B’Av Seder: There’s a Passover Seder, a Rosh HaShanah Seder, a Tu B’Shvat Seder, so why not a Tu B’Av Seder? The Tu B’Av Seder celebrates love. For about $10, you can grab a copy of a “The Haggadah of Love: A Ritual to Celebrate Love.” Bring together a few friends, because at a time like this, we could use some stories and rituals to remind us of the gift of love. If you are hoping for a different vibe, then this special ritual is meant to facilitate the sharing of our joys and pains of our lives.
  • Pre-Shabbat Zoom Dance Party: Let’s embody the maidens of Jerusalem and dance together (even better if all dressed in white). If an all-out dance party isn’t your or your community’s thing, it can be a great way to spend 30 minutes getting into the “Shabbat spirit” before the Sabbath Queen/Bride arrives.