“They said, behold, there is a yearly holiday to Hashem in Shiloh…” (Judges 21:19)
The Tu B’Av (15th day of the Jewish month of Av) event in Shiloh that the Book of Judges speaks of was perhaps the first singles gathering in recorded history.
As the Talmud states: “Israel had no greater holidays than the 15th of Av.. On these days the daughters of Jerusalem would go out dressed in white to dance in the vineyards. What were they saying: Young man, consider whom you choose (to be your wife)?” (Ta’anit, Chapter 4).And "whoever did not have a wife would go there" to find himself a bride...
All were allowed to marry outside their tribe on that day and the young dancers wore white to that no one would know who was rich and who was poor. The Talmud continues:
What would the beautiful ones among them say? "Look for beauty, for a woman is for beauty."
What would those of prestigious lineage say? "Look for family, for a woman is for children."
What would the unattractive ones say? "Marry for the sake of heaven."
Some 3,500 years later, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, despite all the obstacles, the tradition has been renewed, as thirty-five singles, ages 25-38, gathered at Ancient Shiloh this past Wednesday, on the 15th of Av, for an inspiring evening.
And a few couples were paired. Maybe there will be more!.
National Religious women traditionally hold a dance festival at Shiloh that night in memory of the custom described in the Talmud, and the rest of the country celebrates it as the Israeli form of Valentine's Day, but we decided to go back to our roots.
How did this come about? After twenty years of working in the tourism industry, the Corona crisis hit the world, and the world of Israeli tourism was shut down. I found myself unemployed after twelve years working at Tlalim / Authentic Israel promoting family tours, individual tours, and Bar /Bat Mitzvah events in Israel. While I’ve enjoyed coordinating meaningful, educational, and enjoyable itineraries all over Israel, I have always had this quiet passion for Ancient Shiloh where Hannah prayed for the birth of her son Shmuel, who grew to be the prophet and leader who crowned Saul and David and where the Tu B’Av singles events took place every year.
Thousands have been left without work, and many are finding it very difficult to tread above water. Knowing that my job wasn’t coming back anytime soon, I decided instead to volunteer in a niche that is ignored by many, singles.
During the complete shutdown when we were not able to leave our homes, I started to prepare shabbat meals for single olim in Yerushalayim. With no family in Israel and with no possibility of being invited for Shabbat meals at the homes of families, it became clear to me that they had fallen between the cracks. They were so appreciative that someone thought of them, especially during such a lonely period for them.
I have kept in touch with many of them, which led me to start thinking about getting involved in matchmaking, knowing that the long-term solution for all of them is to find their soulmate. Dating had come to a halt for a few months and now is cautiously coming back, but thousands are still alone. While we are in the digital age and there are alternative ways to meet, online meeting is not for everyone and there is nothing like meeting in person.
The gathering in Ancient Shiloh was in conjunction with Gila Uval, a mentor and coach who specializes in the field of singles. Two shadchaniot (professional matchmakers) were present as well to mingle and to get to know the singles. We provided clear masks for all the participants. Staying at home may feel safe, but with all due respect to the internet, the best way to meet is still to get out and meet - safely – davka now!
I hope to be able to coordinate more events like the one at Ancient Shiloh to help facilitate solutions for singles.
Lisa Rubin has been coordinating tours and Bar/Bat Mitzvah events in Israel for some eighteen years. Two years ago,she began coordinating activities for singles and, more recently, helped redesign a website called Kulanu Shadchanim. For more information and to get on the list for future events contact Lisa at email@example.com