Tu b’Av (čŘĺĚ áŔĚŕČá)
Question: What is Tu b'Av? Do we celebrate it today? What is the significance of the day?
The summer holiday of Tu B’Av (the 15th of Av) is a rabbinical holiday, one that the Mishnah describes in colorful detail:
Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel said, “There were no happier days for the Israelites than the fifteenth of Ab and the Day of Atonement.”
- During those days, the daughters of Jerusalem went out in borrowed white dresses— so as not to shame those who owned none . . . And the maidens would go out and dance in the vineyards.
What did they say?
- “Young man! Look around and see—choose what you want! Don’t look for beauty, look for family: Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised (Prov. 31:30).” And it says, Give her of the fruit of her hands and let her works praise her in the gates (Prov. 31:31).
During this dancing festival, men and women celebrated the grape harvest. It is remarkable such a day comes so soon after the 9th of Ab, the saddest day of the Jewish year. The 15th of Ab strongly suggests that the cure for exile lies in the power of love. The connection between the 9th of Ab and the 15th of Ab is as follows: think of the 9th of Ab like a pending divorce between God and Israel, whereas the 15th of Ab represents their spiritual reconciliation. Indeed the destruction of the Temple is analogous in many ways to the destruction of the nuclear home that occurs whenever two people divorce one another.
The 15th of Ab represents the willingness to start life anew, hence its imagery in rabbinical literature intimates forgiveness and renewal.
When looking at the Jewish folk traditions surrounding the 15th of Ab, it is always interesting to find parallels in other cultures—past and present.
For example: In Greek mythology, the father of Atalanta wanted his daughter to get married.
It so happened that Atalanta happened to be one of the greatest huntresses of her day; she was quick, and her mastery of the bow made her famous for she had won prizes in hunting and wrestling.
Atalanta really had no interest because she had served the virgin goddess Artemis. However, reluctantly, she agreed to honor her father's request—but on one condition: she would agree to marry only if one of her suitors could outrun her. She even gave them a head start, only to kill them when she passed them. Her father, King Schoeneus agreed. Unfortunately many of the possible suitors, they were killed until one young man, Hippomenes came along and asked the goddess Aphrodite for assistance. She gave him three apples and instructed him to leave an apple behind for Atalanta, and that is how Hippomenes won her hand in marriage.
From a modern perspective, the 15th of Ab bears a striking resemblance to Sadie Hawkins Day. In the Li'l Abner cartoon series, Sadie Hawkins was the daughter of one of Dogpatch's a fictional place) earliest settlers, Hekzebiah Hawkins, said to be the “homeliest gal in all them hills”, she grew frantic waiting for suitors to come a-courting her. After she became 35, her father became increasingly anxious. In desperation, he called together all the unmarried men of Dogpatch and declared it "Sadie Hawkins Day" (which happened to occur on Feb. 29th, during a leap year). In a special foot race, Sadie caught up to one of the town's eligible bachelors—and her days as a spinster were over.
The Talmud records other traditions and legends associated with this day. Historically, the tribes were allowed to intermarry with one another after the tribal boundaries been fixed and established (BT Bava Bathra 121a-b). Some say on this auspicious day, the Tribes of Israel finally allowed the Benjaminites to marry other tribes after nearly being exterminated by their brethren over the incident of Giveah. For many years, no tribe was allowed to marry anyone from the tribe of Benjamin (see Judges 21:18).
One rabbinical tradition records that on the 15th of Ab, the Romans allowed the Jews to marry the remains of the Jewish soldiers in the Betar fortress. Legend has it that the bodies of these fallen warriors did not decay.
In response to your original question, this much may be said: In general, many Jewish singles groups throughout the Jewish communities scattered around the world often have get-togethers on this day.
 Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 9. 2 for Atalanta and 1.8.3 for the Boar Hunt.
Answered by: Rabbi Dr. Michael Leo Samuel