Tu B'Av's Dark Back Story
Can you smell love in the air?
(That might just be your neighbor’s bbq grill. Go ahead and ask them to toss a few extra dogs on for you.)
Today is… another little-known Jewish Holiday. Really.
It is the 15th day of the Lunar month of Av- also called Tu B’Av.
15 is a popular date for Jewish holidays.
The mystic writings say that 15 a number that represents intimacy, and whose corresponding letters comprise G-d’s name, which is nestled in the Hebrew words for Man and Woman. It’s the time of the month when the moon is full, maximal light reflected in the darkness. Deep stuff.
The historic origins of this holiday are somewhat vague, and not exactly Biblical, but they correlate to themes of love, marriage, unity and hope.
It came in the wake of what might be the most disturbing Biblical story: a horrific gang rape and murder described in the book of Judges, which sparked a bloody civil war, and the tribe of Benjamin was banned from marrying women from the other tribes.
The Prophets could have omitted this dreadful story, but it was considered necessary for us to know. Only instructional prophecies were canonized for generations. The evil and consequences of sexual violence are not glossed over; we are meant to read it, feel the anger, and do better. MUCH better.
Many years later, the lesson was deemed learned, the national trauma began to heal, and their descendants were re-allowed into the rest of Israel for marriage. In fact, broader inter-tribal marriage which had been previously restricted in cases involving property ownership, was also allowed.
There was an event, where women would lend each other white clothes (“something borrowed” goes way back- and the reason was to downplay the differences between the “have”s and “have not”s for that day. We don't marry for wardrobe.)
Then they would go out to dance and mingle for marriage.
There is a shift in energy on this day, from the mournful Lunar month of Av, to creating space for new energy of hope and love. As we segue into the next Lunar month of Elul, whose name reflects the verse from Song of Songs (also called: Holy of Holies): “I am for my beloved and my beloved is mine.”
This pivot signals a lifting of eyes in three directions:
inward, outward, and upward.
An intimate bond, a reintegration of three primary relationships: with the self, with “other” and with G-d.
I love this notion: that our identities and purpose are comprised of this triangle of connections.
Knowledge and development of ourselves, giving to and bonding with other human(s), and a sense of higher purpose and meaning. This is the sort of 3D stability that creates the foundation for a return to love. (And, fun fact: it happens to be the symbolism behind my logo:)
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