NEW YORK (VINnews) – In recent years the festival of Tu B’Av has gained a connotation in some circles of a “festival of love.” The reason for this is the Talmudic depiction of demure young women going out in white garments on Tu B’Av and beseeching their male counterparts to pay attention to their various merits and take them in love and marriage. A more profound investigation of this ancient festival’s roots will reveal an entirely different ambience – a festival of reconciliation and rapprochement, not necessarily the portents of love.
The gemara cites six reasons for the festivities on Tu B’Av, four of them of biblical origin, testifying to the day’s antiquity. The first major event was the permit given to different tribes to intermarry. The first generation after the exodus from Egypt married only within their tribes, but later generations were allowed to mingle with other tribes. Despite the possible disparity between the tribes and their differing customs, the fact that a new generation could overcome these differences and live in harmony constituted a reason to celebrate.
The second festivity stemmed from a far more somber event. After a bloody civil war between the tribe of Binyamin and the other tribes, the Binyaminites were almost eradicated. Only 600 men remained from the tribe, and they could not marry because the rest of the tribes had sworn not to give them wives. Only one city had not joined the solemn oath and its female inhabitants were too few for the 600 remaining men. However the members of the tribes employed Talmudic logic to infer that although they had sworn, their children had not. A festival was contrived in which the girls of Shilo would go to the vineyards and the men of Binyamin would abduct them without parental consent and take them back to Binyamin.
Once again, this was not a festival of love as there was little love between the warring tribes. However it did represent a reconciliation – an understanding that the tribe of Binyamin was an integral part of Am Yisrael and needed to continue to exist through the new generation.
The third festivity occurred even earlier- during the desert sojourn. The tribes had been told that they would all die in the desert and not merit to see the holy land. In the final year, however, the elders who had expected to die by Tisha B’av inexplicably continued to live. The terrible decree was over, the new generation had been forgiven by Hashem for their parents sins and would joyously enter the land of Israel.
The fourth festivity once again refers to a tragic fissure in Am Yisrael. Yeravam Ben Nevat had rebelled against the dynasty of David and established the kingdom of Israel. Fearing that people would serve in the temple and transfer allegiance to Judea, he closed off all routes to Judea, effectively preventing interaction between the two states. Only many generations later did another king, Hoshea Ben Elah, remove the border controls and enable Israel and Judah to mingle together. Once again, the reconciliation of a new generation for old quarrels merited a festival.
In all of these festivities the recurring motif is the ability to overcome differences, reconcile old disputes, create unity between disparate factions and find common matrimonial ground between diversified tribes and families.
In essence, Tu B’Av describes what a true marriage looks like- not the romanticized, florid version touted by authors and screenwriters but the real, raw fusing of two exceedingly different souls into one. Love can only exist in a world of reconciliation – one in which a woman reconciles herself to her husband’s idiosyncrasies, his inability to put his socks in the laundry or to perform two tasks at once, his lack of demonstrativeness and overt expressions of affection, and even his disinterest in physical chores. The man must reconcile to his wife’s lengthy preparations for any excursion in front of the mirror, her tendency to talk for hours on end and expect an eager listener, her penchants for clothes, jewelry and perfumes which mean little to him besides the sum on his bank statement.
In time, both will realize that what might have infuriated them are exactly the elements they were missing to achieve wholeness. The woman will accept the man’s single-minded drive and ignoring of minor details, as these enables him to conquer goals and achieve material success. She will see his laconic responses as what enable her to fully express her needs to him and achieve the validation she craves. The man will realize that the woman’s sartorial excesses stem from her real desire to find favor in his eyes, her constant changes of clothes will add color and brightness to his banal existence and her rambling chatter will be music to his ears. Her effusive devotion will give him the self-confidence he needs to lead the way, to attain his spiritual goals and to overcome all obstacles.
In the Sheva Brachos, Shalom is a key feature in the list of blessings. Why would a newlywed couple need peace? What war preceded this peace? The answer is that there is such a diversity, such a significant chasm between males and females that only reconciliation can unite them. This is also the reason why Shalom-peace has the same root as Shalem-whole. It is through a proper reconciling of the differences that the wholeness and oneness can emerge- and this is the ultimate message of Tu B’Av.
The author can be reached for comments and feedback at [email protected]