Tu B'Av: Healing from Disaster

On the Full Moon of Av, the 15th day of the mid-summer moonth (exactly six moonths from Tu/ Y'H B'Shvat, the midwinter rebirthday of the Trees), in Second Temple days the people celebrated with an earthy, erotoc burst of joy. Perhaps this day of embodied joy became a healing from the collective body-trauma of the First Destruction of the Temple. This is how the Mishna and Gemara (Mishna Taanit 4:8) describe the day:

"Israel had no holidays as joyous as Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur, when the young women of Jerusalem would go out and dance in the vineyards.

"The King's daughters would borrow from those of the High Priest. Daughters of the High Priest would borrow from the Assistant High Priest's daughters; daughters of the Assistant would borrow from the daughters of the Priest designated to lead the People in times of War, the Kohen Anointed for War's daughters would borrow from the daughters of the Ordinary Priest. And the daughters of the rest of the Jewish People would borrow from each other, so as not to embarrass those who didn't have.

"And the daughters of Jerusalem would go out and dance in the vineyards located on the outskirts of the city. And everyone who didn't have a wife would go there.

"And what would they say?"

"Young man, lift up your eyes and choose wisely. Don't look only at physical beauty - look rather at the family.

"'For charm is false, and beauty is vanity. A God-fearing woman is the one to be praised...' (Quoting from "Mishlei"/Proverbs 31:30)"

When the Rabbis had to deal with the Second Destruction of the Temple, they reinforced Lament observance of Tisha B'Av -- and they also looked beyond it. They taught that Mashiach had been/ would be born on the very day of the Disaster. And they prescribed a series of consoling, comforting haftarot -- Prophetic readings -- to be read on the seven Shabbatot that led from Tisha B'Av to Rosh Hashanah. Perhaps they hoped that for a word-oriented rather than body-oriented version of Judaism, these readings would do the healing.

For us in the wake of the trauma of the Holocaust, what would be sufficient acts of healing?





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