Honestly, I don't like Tu B'Av.

More commonly know as Chag Ha'Ahava (Holiday of Love) in Israel, the 15th of Av has become a cheap imitation of Valentine's Day with Israeli stores selling everything from heart-shaped chocolates to flower arrangements

The Talmud states that there were no holy days as happy for the Jews as Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur.

marketed at those in a relationship.

Perhaps I am just cynical because I don't have a spouse or significant other at the moment, but there must be more to Tu B'Av then buying cute heart-shaped pillows with sayings like: 'I dream about you'.

Where did it start? Tu B'Av is a minor holiday on the Hebrew calendar, but was a popular holiday during the Second Temple period.

As per Wikipedia: "The holiday celebrated the wood-offering brought in the temple (Nehemiah 10:35). Josephus refers to this holiday as the Feast of Xylophory ('Wood-bearing').
According to the Talmud, Tu B'Av was a joyous holiday in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem."

The Talmud states that there were no holy days as happy for the Jews as Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur, for on these days, as noted further in Wikipedia, "unmarried girls would dress in simple white clothing (so that rich could not be distinguished from poor), and go out to sing and dance in the vineyards surrounding Jerusalem." Hence, Tu B'Av became an auspicious day for matchmaking and weddings - and buying chocolate for your sweetheart too, but that came much later.

"Various reasons for celebrating on Tu B'Av are cited by the Talmud and by Talmudic commentators:

  • "While the Jews wandered in the desert for forty years, female orphans without brothers could only marry within their tribe, to prevent their father's inherited land in the Land of Israel from passing on to other tribes. On the fifteenth of Av of the fortieth year, this ban was lifted.

  • "That same year, the last of the generation of the sin of the spies, which had been forbidden to enter the Promised Land, died out.

  • "The Tribe of Benjamin was allowed to intermarry with the other tribes after the incident of the Concubine of Gibeah (Judges chapters 19-21).

  • "Cutting of the wood for the main altar in the Temple was completed for the year.

  • "The nights, traditionally the ideal time for Torah study, are lengthened again after the summer solstice, permitting more study.

  • "The Roman occupiers permitted burial of the victims of the massacre at Beitar. Miraculously, the bodies had not decomposed, despite exposure to the elements for over a year."

But to quote Tina Turner, "What's love got to do with it?" What do all these events have in common?

The love we are talking about is not the love of one for a spouse or a boyfriend/girlfriend. That is a personal type of love. Tu B'Av is more global than that.

The Tribe of Benjamin were outcasts after the incident with the Concubine of Gibeah; on Tu B'Av they were brought back into the fold. The same sort of feeling must have been felt by the generation of the desert when their ban was lifted. The girls who danced in the vineyards all wore the same clothing in order not to shame those who had less (tilboshet achida, standard uniform). The other events also brought estranged parties together again; creating a sense of belonging.

We all know that the Second Temple was destroyed due to sinat chinam ("baseless hatred"), and just six days

Why not show a little kindness to a stranger?

later on the calendar comes Tu B'Av, a holiday signifying ahavat chinam ("unlimited love").

But if Tu B'Av becomes a holiday simply to express one's love for your "significant other", then we are missing the point. Tu B'Av should be about making others significant. Instead of just showing how much you appreciate your best guy or gal, why not show a little kindness to a stranger? Say "good morning" to that neighbor in the elevator, smile at the cashier in the supermarket, strike up a conversation with that co-worker you rarely talk to.

So, instead of the horrible random acts of violence we have seen recently (violent protests in Jerusalem, senseless hate-killings in Tel Aviv), why not attempt some random acts of kindness on Tu B'Av?

What's love got to do with it? Everything!