Tu B’Av holiday reflects the changing meaning of love

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Tu B’Av is one of those holidays that you may have heard of but never really learned about. The holiday — which translates to the 15th of the month of Av, and begins at sundown on Aug. 15 this year — is one of joy and romance.

“Tu B’Av is a day that doesn’t get a lot of popularity,” said Rabbi Hyim Shafner, of Kesher Israel in Georgetown. “If you ask people what the happiest day is, they would say Purim. But the Mishnah [oral law] says it’s Tu B’Av.”

In ancient times, women dressed in borrowed white clothing and danced in the vineyards, while men watched, he explained. Then each man picked a woman to be his bride. While that tradition has died out, the idea of Tu B’Av as a holiday for singles to find their mate has remained — and even become more popular.

Many American synagogues and Jewish organizations hold singles mixers, speed-dating events or parties where young Jews can go and meet.

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Others choose to get married on the 15th of Av. Rachel Burnham, of Silver Spring, married her husband on Tu B’Av, after a decade of looking for her shidduch or match.

“I think with the rise of challenges that singles face in finding their soul mates, people started making a bigger deal of” Tu B’Av, said Burnham, who runs the dating website d8gr8.

Some people think the holiday’s meaning should change further, to reflect all the different kinds of love in people’s lives today. Romantic love is important, Rabbi Ilana Zeitman, of GatherDC, said, but so is filial love and self-love.

“People tend to think Judaism doesn’t have enough to say about love, but that’s wrong,” she said. “That’s what we need — to mark a day for appreciating our close relationships. We in the Jewish world have been so focused on family that we would want to open the idea of Tu B’Av in the most expansive way possible.”

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Twitter: @SamScoopCooper

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