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Jewish Journal

The Hebrew Holiday of Love

by Shoshana Lewin-Fischer

July 18, 2002 | 8:00 pm

Imagine a Jewish holiday on which you don't have to fast or pray and whose history does not involve commemorating a war.

The little-publicized Tu B'Av -- not Tisha B'Av -- otherwise known as the Holiday of Love, literally means the 15th day of Av and falls this year on July 24. It has been a Jewish holiday since the days of the Second Temple.

Historically, Tu B'Av was the one day a year when the tribes of Israel were allowed to intermarry. This is where the "love" part comes in. Picture the biggest JDate party on the planet, and just put it in the middle of the desert. According to the Talmud, the women would wear white and dance in the vineyard, hoping to catch the eye of some cute guy from another tribe. It's the Jewish Sadie Hawkins Day.

While the holiday is celebrated in Israel with dancing, love song dedications and the sending of red roses, Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple, home of the singles-geared Friday Night Live, says the reason that the holiday isn't well known by the masses is that the holiday is seasonal.

"It's a summer holiday, and Jews aren't around in the summer," Wolpe explains. "People are less familiar with it, because it is a minor holiday with no specific observances."

Wolpe says that it's up to clergy to spread the word on this Jewish day of love. "Rabbis should get out to say that there is a holiday that celebrates love, and that love is a much more powerful component in the Jewish tradition than we believe," he says.

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