Today, Jews across the world will be celebrating Tu B’Av, the Jewish Valentine’s Day. Jewish men will bring their wives and girlfriends beautiful flowers and gifts. Jewish couples will go out with each other to theaters, cafes, bars, pubs, and restaurants.
Tu B’Av, is one of the most important holidays in the Jewish religion. In ancient times, Tu B’Av was considered the greatest festival of the year, with Yom Kippur coming in a close second. The Talmud related that the daughters of Jerusalem used to go dressed in white and dance in the vineyards: “Whoever did not have a wife would go there.” Yet the question remains, why was Tu B’Av considered such a great festival?
According to the Jewish scholars, it was on Tu B’Av that the Jewish people were finally able to enter Israel after wandering in the desert for 40 years. In ancient Israel, originally Jewish women who inherited money were not allowed to marry outside their tribe. The Torah stated in Number 36:8-9 that “any unmarried woman who inherits property shall marry one from the family of the tribe of her father so that an inheritance will not pass from one tribe to another.” This restriction prevented other tribes from being able to inherit lands from other tribes upon her death.
However, on Tu B’Av, the Jewish sages ruled that this restriction only applied to the generation that entered the land of Israel with Joshua. This permitted women who inherited from her family to marry whoever she wanted to and this was a cause of great celebration among the Jewish people. Additionally, when the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, the annual cutting of firewood for the holy alter concluded on Tu B’Av and was followed by feasting and rejoicing.
Furthermore, in 574 BCE, when Israel was divided into two kingdoms and the northern kingdom barred Jews from going to Jerusalem three times per year for a pilgrimage to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, Hoshea Ben Elah, the last ruler of the northern kingdom, finally removed the roadblocks leading to Jerusalem on Tu B’Av, allowing his citizens to journey to Jerusalem once again. Additionally, following the Bar Kochba Revolt and the massacre of thousands of Jews in Betar, the last Jewish rebel stronghold, the Romans finally permitted the Jews to bury their dead on Tu B’Av, after not allowing them to do so for several years.