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July 31, 1987 - Image 78

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-07-31

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Looking For Love

Israeli singles have a holiday all their own,

Tu B 'Ay

1■ 111•11111•111 ■ 1111=1


Special To The Jewish News


11 u B'Av (the 15th of Av)
which this year falls on
the tenth of August is an
occasion for wine, women,
and men and song. It is
the most sensuous Jewish Festival,
with the possible exception of Purim,
closely associated with wine,
drunkenness, courtship and sex. It is
also among the most forgotten Jewish
festivals, becoming virtually extinct
during centuries of exile.
Tu B'Av is a minor festival mark-
ing the grape harvest. Presumably in
the Diaspora until modern times Jews
rarely owned land on which to farm
vineyards. Moreover, according to the
Mishnah, the practice during the Se-
cond Temple Period was that the
young maidens paraded themselves
before the young men.
The Mishnah says in Ta'an 4.8:
"The daughters of Jerusalem dressed
in white raiments (which they bor-
rowed that none should be abashed
they they had not) and went forth in-
to the vineyards chanting songs."
Maybe because of its explicit
association with drunkenness and
more especially flirtatious courtship,
the festival is in effect boycotted by
the Orthodox today. A number of Or-
thodox rabbis had not heard of cur-
rent Tu B'Av celebrations either in
Israel or the Diaspora.


FRIDAY, JULY 31, 1987

In fact, only Rabbi Steven Riskin,
an Orthodox rabbi from Efrat and
originally New York expressed any
enthusiasm for reviving the festival.
Indeed other rabbis seemed eager to
find reasons for not celebrating Tu
B'Av and one suggested that it
belonged to a group of religious prac-
tices that could not be restored until
the Temple was rebuilt.
No doubt many in Orthodox
circles attach a stigma to the festival
which is associated with sinful prac-
tices and is thought to encourage and
provoke immodesty. Some rabbis con-
sider the festival to have pagan
origins related to the summer solstice.
Tu B'Av was instituted by the
Pharisees who celebrated their vic-
tory over the Sadducees on this day,
while the festival was also associated
with intermarriage between the
tribes of Israel.
In modern Israel, the festival is
widely celebrated on the kibbutzim,
especially the settlements that tend
their own vineyards. Extensive
research could find no Tu B'Av
celebrations outside of the kibbutzim,
which are certainly the only move-
ment within Jewish life around the
world to regularly mark this festival.
For the kibbutzim, Tu B'Av is a
day devoted to young singles.
Anybody who has ever attended a kib-

butz wedding will appreciate the ef-
fort and endeavor that are put into
the celebration of special occasions in-
cluding theatrical performances, com-
edy sketches, singing and dancing.
A survey of how the kibbutzim
have marked Tu B'Av in recent years
reveals great wit, ingenuity and sen-
suous improvisation. Tu B'Av on the
kibbutzim is a day first and foremost
for young singles (especially aged
14-18) but also those in their early
20s, and courting couples.
According to Ora, who organizes
the cultural events at Kibbutz Sa'ar
near Nahariya in the north, there was
something of a feminist revolution at
the Tu B'Av celebrations last year. As
part of the festival's celebrations it is
a tradition to hold a beauty contest
and choose a wine queen. But when
the time came, Sa'ar's maidens refus-
ed to participate in what they term-
ed a cattle exhibition. Among
themselves they nominated a preg-
nant woman (married but who hap-
pened to be observing the fun) and
crowned her as wine queen.
"The evening's entertainment,"
recalls Ora, "also included a session
of jokes and anecdotes about wine and
drunkenness, a lecture on winemak-
ing and a disco and dance with plen-
ty of food and wine. We stimulate an
amorous atmosphere but we don't en-

courage sexual irresponsibility. One
thing can easily lead to another so we
keep a close watch for couples disap-
pearing into the fields."
Therefore, while Tu B'Av celebra-
tions on the kibbutzim concentrate on
the themes of sex, relationships, wine,
drunkenness and merrymaking — a
potentially erotic mixture — the focus
is traditional, with kibbutz organizers
laying emphasis on love rather than
lust while sex and courtship are pro-
moted for procreation rather than

Thus, Kibbutz Netzer Sereni near
Tel Aviv last year celebrated Tu B'Av
with a fashion show of bridal
costumes from Jewish communities
around the world. Tirait Zevi in the
Jordan Valley re-enacted some of its
wedding entertainment programs
from 30 years ago, while at Hulda
near Rehovot, old timers recounted
romantic episodes of how they courted
their spouses.
Celebrations are often well coor-
dinated around a particular theme,
usually with sensuous connotations.
For example, at Kfar Masaryk near
Haifa last year the theme was
fashion. There was a lecture on the
history of fashion (which it was
generally agreed was too long, dry
and academic), a fashion show put on

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