All You Need is Love

Tu b’Av 5775 is Friday, July 31, 2015.

As sad as Tisha b’Av is, that’s how joyous Tu b’Av is. After three weeks of mourning in increasing intensity, we get over the hump on the ninth day of the month of Av, we turn the corner on the afternoon of the tenth, and by the 15th we’re in full-on celebration mode. If there’s anything sad about Tu b’Av, it’s that the day is not on many people’s radar.

The holiday of Tu b’Av has been called “The Kosher Alternative to Valentine’s Day.” (Okay, it’s been called that by me but it still counts.) The day celebrates shidduchim (matchmaking) because of two important things that occurred on that date. First, the ban on daughters with inheritance rights marrying outside their own Tribes was lifted on 15 Av following the division of the land in Joshua’s day. Additionally, a ban on other Jews marrying into the Tribe of Benjamin (the result of a civil war in the Book of Judges) was also lifted on 15 Av.

To celebrate the day, unmarried girls would wear white dresses, all borrowed so no one would know anyone else’s financial means. The girls would dance and the young men would be encouraged to focus not on the girls’ appearances but on their characters. (Proverbs 31:30: “Grace is false and beauty is meaningless; a woman who is dedicated to G-d is the one to praise.”)

All you could care to know about Tu b’Av is currently featured on OU Holidays. And, in something of a happy coincidence, the OU’s Nach Yomi starts Shir HaShirim on Tu b’Av.

Shir HaShirim (AKA The Song of Songs, Canticles and The Song of Solomon) is on the surface a beautiful love story, bordering at times on erotic poetry. And yet, the Mishna in Yadayim (3:5) says that the entire world was never more deserving than the day on which Shir HaShirim was given to Israel because “all the Writings are holy, but Shir HaShirim is the holiest of the holy.” The Book is taken to be a metaphor for the relationship between G-d and Israel, with G-d playing the role of the man and Israel playing the woman. (This is a common metaphor; throughout the Bible, the relationship between G-d and Israel is described as a marriage, with the revelation at Sinai being the wedding.) How appropriate that we start learning the Book that focuses on the love between G-d and Israel on the day dedicated to love and relationships!

The shiurim on Shir HaShirim are delivered by OU Executive Vice President, Emeritus, Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, one of the most popular lecturers in the Nach Yomi program. And, instead of one text synopsis, Shir HaShirim comes with two synopses! The first addresses the mashal – the surface story of the man and the woman. The second addresses the nimshal – the metaphorical meaning of the relationship between G-d and Israel.

Nach Yomi is available on the OU Torah web site but you can also sign up to receive it via a daily email.