Usually during August, we observe the Jewish memorial day of Tisha B’Av. It constitutes a national day of mourning for us by marking the various tragic events that occurred to our people. These events include the destruction of the First Temple in 587 B.C.E. and the Second Temple in 70 C.E., the expulsion from Spain in 1492 as well as others calamitous events. To mark Tisha B’Av we read from Book of Lamentations and in traditional circles engage in a full day fast while dressed in sackcloth and ashes.
However there is also another holiday observed during Av. It is a lesser-known holiday that you probably would not even find on a Jewish calendar. It is the holiday of Tu B’Av. According to the Mishnah, the fifteenth of Av was the time when the daughters of Jerusalem would go out all dressed in white and dance in Jerusalem’s vineyards and fields. Then all the young unmarried men would go out to the fields and vineyards as well, seeking a companion.
One could even call it the Valentine’s Day of Israel. It was a day that celebrated women and celebrated marriage with merriment and enjoyment serving as a wonderful foil to the sackcloth, ashes and mourning of Tisha B’Av.
By allowing the celebration of Tu B’Av, it was as if the rabbis knew that one should not be burdened with too much sorrow, nor should one engage in too much rejoicing. We are, if anything, a people of moderation. In today’s troubled times, this is indeed a good thing to be because the voice of moderation is all too often shouted down by extremists. Therefore it is incumbent upon us to keep reasserting our voices. We should do this to remind others that the moderate path, the path of reason, and a willingness to listen, is what the world needs more of.
If you fast on Tisha B’Av, I hope it is an easy fast. And if you are looking for another reason to celebrate life, love and happiness, may you enjoy all that Tu B’Av has to offer. And may both holidays continue to serve as a reminder to all of us that a life lived in between extremes is really the best life one can live.