The Talmud tells us that the two happiest days in the Jewish calendar are Yom Kippur and the fifteenth of Av (Tu B’Av) because on those days the single woman of Jerusalem would go out into the vineyards wearing borrowed (so as not to embarrass the poorer girls) white dresses and call out to the young men, “lift up your eyes and see what you are choosing. Don’t look at outer beauty but rather look for a good upbringing and family.”
Tu B’Av, then, is the ultimate Jewish singles event!
At the end of the chapter relating to Tu B’Av the Talmud recounts a story. In the future Hashem will gather all of the righteous in a circle and will sit in the middle of them in the Garden of Eden. All the righteous will then point at Hashem and say, “this is the God that we have trusted in and who has saved us”. This is obviously a very deep message with hidden meanings, but why is it connected to Tu B’Av?
Tu B’Av is the fifteenth day in Av. In the Hebrew Tu B’Av can also be read as “the fifteenth letter in the Alef Bet” (Av is Alef Bet, the Hebrew alphabet). The fifteenth letter of the Alef Bet is Samech. The letter Samech is written as a circle. A circle represents completion. It also represents a continuum. The Jewish calendar can be viewed as a circle with points marking specific spiritual energies. For example, Pesach has the energy of freedom, Sukkot – trust in God, and Chanukah – miracles. As we go through the cycle of the year we experience these energies anew every time. To further bolster this idea of cycle the Jewish year begins with the energy of Teshuva, which means Returning. We start the year by returning to the beginning of the cycle.
The one important thing about this cycle is that we are obligated to use the energies of the year to learn and grow. When we begin the cycle anew we should be doing so having reached new heights of growth and awareness from the previous cycle. History is also a cycle. It repeats itself constantly. Those who learn from the past avoid its mistakes but those who view it as linear and never look back fall blindly into its traps.
Tu B’av is the last holiday in the yearly cycle. It is the last point in the circle and therefore is the point from which we can look back at the entire cycle passed. It also directly follows the most tragic period of Jewish history and is therefore the perfect vantage point for looking back at our history. As we look back at our year and our history we need to search for God in the events that have transpired. Often it is only through hindsight that we can recognize the hand of God. If we search for God in everything that happens in our lives and in the world we will merit to be those righteous that sit in the circle and can actually point to God and say, “oh yes, now I see God so clearly in every part of this circle of life.”
This Dvar Torah is an excerpt from Deep Waters: Insights into the Five Books of Moses and Jewish Holidays by Rabbi Arnie Singer