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Av 5777

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Av 5777

This month we are inspired by the little-known minor festival in the month of Av known as “Tu B’Av”, or literally, the 15th day of Av. Tu B’Av is usually overshadowed by the much more familiar day Tisha B’Av (see more resources below), so this month we thought we’d concentrate on Tu B’Av, and the idea of Love.

sky heart
(Picture Credit: Pixabay)

The origins and meaning behind Tu B’Av are unclear, but the Mishnah tell us:

There were no more joyous festivals in Israel than the fifteenth of Av (Tu B’Av) and Yom Kippur, for on these days the unmarried women of Jerusalem used to go out dressed in white garments—borrowed ones, in order not to cause shame to those who had them not of their own, …, and thus they went out and danced in the vineyards, saying, Young men, look and observe well whom you are about to choose [as a spouse]; regard not beauty [alone], but rather look to a virtuous family…”

(Tractate Ta’anit 4:8)

So, even though it isn’t clear historically why exactly Tu B’Av became a holiday, it seems that it did have some special significance, at least for the unmarried folks in the Jewish community. Today, at least in Israel, Tu B’Av has evolved into a kind of Jewish Valentine’s Day, with all the customs that go with it.

Judaism is deeply rooted in love

If we think about the concept of love more broadly, though, there is much potential meaning to explore, and Tu B’Av is a great time to think about it. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says that Judaism is deeply rooted in love – three different types of love in fact; the love of God, the love of one’s neighbour and the love of the stranger. Each of these is a pillar in our religion and culture and is at the centre of our moral life. There are also other kinds of love, of course; for example the love between parents and children, and between romantic partners.

There are many places in the Torah where we are commanded to love, either God, or the strangers around us, just for example. Yet, a question to consider is whether love can be commanded at all – how can it be commanded or required? Isn’t love a spontaneous and personal emotion? Can you be required to feel it?

Love as a tool for learning

These are powerful philosophical question that have been debated in our tradition for generations. On an educational level these questions are very concrete and important in our daily work, when we develop strategies for our learners, our communities and our colleagues to be more connected to (if not actually love) Judaism, our traditions and Israel.

How do we cultivate the ability to love and how do we inspire that emotion in the people we work with? Sometimes we use our own love for something as a model for others, as a role model for them. Sometimes we create meaningful experiences that result in powerful and long-lasting memories and that cultivate inspiration and excitement. Sometimes we tell stories and stimulate emotion through narrative. Sometimes we learn and explore a topic deeply, as a way to really get to know it and appreciate it. All these ways (and many more) are tools that we can use to cultivate love. Which are your favorite methods?

holding hands circel
(Picture Credit: Pixabay)

We encourage you to take a few moments on or around Tu B’Av this year (August 7th) to think about some of these ideas related to love. With your students and community members, your colleagues or with your family and friends, use the resources and questions below to enrich your understanding and experience of the day.

Resources for Av

Tu B’Av

Basic information on Tu B’Av

The Global Day of Jewish Learning has lots of incredible resources on Love, for all ages and in English, Russian and Spanish. Check out the videos, study guides and more

Note that you can download and customize two of the fantastic source sheets from Sefaria

Loving and Waiting: A Talmudic Perspective on Relationships

Loving God and Loving Ourselves

Download a guide for fun and relevant Tu B’Av activities for children


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Deepening the Meaning of Tu B’av


Consider some of the more conceptual ideas about love:

  • Use the resources from the Global Day of Jewish Learning
  • Look at and discuss one of the short essays in Sh’ma on Love 

With your colleagues

Dedicate a short time at a staff meeting to learn about Tu B’Av and the concept of love.

Consider some (not all) of the following educational questions:

  • What kind of love are we trying to cultivate in our organization/institution? Unpack the notion of love that you are interested in (love of the Jewish People, love of Israel, love of community etc.).
  • Discuss how you think it works to cultivate love. Can it be done? What is the process? Use examples from your own life in which you learnt to love something – what does this teach you?
  • What tools do you use to cultivate love?
    • your own love for something as a model for others,
    • meaningful experiences that result in powerful and long-lasting memories and that cultivate inspiration and excitement
    • stories and stimulate emotion through narrative
    • Deep learning and exploration of a topic as a way to really get to know it and appreciate it
    • Others?

Tisha B’Av

Tisha B’Av (literally the 9th of Av) is the day on which we celebrate many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish People, most notably the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem. Traditionally it is marked as a 25-hour fast (just like Yom Kippur), and it ends the period of the Three Weeks, which collectively commemorate the destruction of the Jewish commonwealth.

General information on Tisha B’Av
The Pardes Institute has many great podcasts on Tisha B’Av-related topics.
And finally, a range of perspectives on Tisha B’av from Tablet

View Resource of the Month Archive for resources posted in previous months.