Tonight marks the beginning of a lesser known Jewish holiday, Tu B’Av, or the 15th of the Jewish month of Av. It is both an ancient and modern holiday celebrating the joy and beauty of love. Some think of this holiday as Jewish Valentine’s Day. It is considered one of the happiest days of the Jewish year when we should celebrate the goodness of love. Tu B’Av always falls on a full moon linking the lunar cycle with romance and fertility.
Interestingly, this love filled day, falls soon after Tisha B’Av, the ninth of Av, which is considered the saddest day of the year, in the Jewish calendar, when several disasters befell the Jewish people, including the destruction of the first and second temple. Tu B’Av is a stark contrast to the grief and mourning experienced on Tisha B’Av.
These two holidays set the stage for the next month on the Jewish calendar, Elul, which is a time of deep introspection, as we begin to prepare for the high holy days. In feeling love, during this holiday, we prepare ourselves to confront the deep emotion of the holiday season. The range of emotions that we feel from sadness to love, enable us internally and externally to evaluate ourselves, our place and impact in this world.
I always find it interesting how the Jewish calendar can be so reflective of the times. This year is no different. We continue to emerge from a pandemic, while confronting deep chasms in our community and our world. As we are working hard on developing responses and education in light of the rising tide of antisemitism, many have expressed deep fear, to me, about how concerned they are for their children and grandchildren and the state of the world. These feelings are very real.
Sadly, we are living in a time when deep rifts and polarization are pulling us apart. The norm seems to be to lash out and push people back into their respective corners. This time is much more reflective of the feelings expressed at Tisha B’Av. But, what if we took the lessons of Tu B’Av and apply them instead? What if we were to let love be our guiding light? What would a world look like if we all spent more time engaged in acts of loving kindness, rather than honing in on difference? Could love allow us to change in all of the best ways?