Bringin’ Tu b’Av back — Maybe on the 405?

August 4, 2017
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

No days were as good for Israel as the 15th of Av and the Day of Atonement, on which the sons of Jerusalem would go out in borrowed white clothes … and the girls of Jerusalem would go out and dance in the vineyards.

— Ta’anit 10

Wait a minute! The 15th of Av, aka Tu b’Av, was once considered as good for Israel as Yom Kippur?


Then how is it possible that everyone I mentioned this holiday to in the past week, whether American or Israeli, was similarly dismissive?  The Israelis all said, “This is a minor holiday,” and the American Jews said, “What?”

Oh, Tu b’Av, where art thou?

Curious about why Tu b’Av has been demoted to minor league status, I started snooping around for clues. More than one source referred to Tu b’Av as the “forgotten holiday.” Bummer, I thought, of all the holidays to forget, why the one that celebrates romantic love? Why not Tzom Gedaliah? I don’t mean to belittle the death of Gedaliah, but maybe one fewer day of fasting and one more day of dancing would be good for the Jews.

I continued my search.

Ritualwell, a Reconstructionist website, gave me a big clue: “Tu b’Av, the fifteenth of the month of Av, is an ancient Jewish holiday when women would go out to the fields in borrowed white clothing and dance. They would choose spouses from among the men who came to dance with them.”

Clearly, I was born in the wrong era, because dancing in the fields in search of a man has Dani written all over it. I can’t think of a better way to find a spouse. For the record, if I had the chance to do it over, I’d still dance off the field with my husband, Tod. Then we’d go home and he’d probably read to me from the Talmud. In fact, Tod is the person who first told me about Tu b’Av. For him, there are no minor Jewish holidays. The first year we were married, he built a sukkah. From real wood planks. With a hammer and nails. Very romantic. In truth, I was a little afraid.

But back to Tu b’Av and it’s relegation to a holiday where people eat excessive amounts of chocolate and hold synthetic teddy bears. If it all started as a mating dance, one answer as to why no one cares about it anymore may be the proliferation of dating apps. With apps like JSwipe, a woman no longer needs to dance in the fields to meet the perfect Jewish mate. She just needs Wi-Fi. Then, after you’re married, you don’t don white and dance around in a forest to get some action. It’s more like: Are the kids asleep? Am I awake? Have I showered recently? Good, let’s go.

Here’s some not fresh insight: We Jews are opinionated people. But Tu b’Av, a holiday that celebrates finding love, even if you’ve already found it, is something we can all agree on.

So, how about we make Tu b’Av great again? How about we don’t let it be forgotten? Millennials, I’m mostly talking to you because the rest of us are very tired.

Young women, get your faces out of your apps, put on a see-through white blouse with a black bra, or some combination thereof, shoot a selfie with the hashtag #TubAv4evah, and head out to the dance floor where you can celebrate your freedom and then find someone to tie you down (I mean marry) and make little Jews with ASAP.

As for the more mature among us, let the non-Jews celebrate love with boxes of chocolate and overpriced prix fixe meals that come with a wilting red rose. I say we honor our ancient tradition of dancing in public beginning the evening of Aug. 6. Let’s do a whole “Fiddler on the Roof”-meets-“La La Land” scene. Only, instead of dancing on the 105-110 interchange, let’s stage it on the 405 — it’s wider and closer to the Westside, which, let’s face it, is more convenient to where a lot of L.A. Jews live. Unfortunately, Aug. 6 falls on a Sunday, so this gesture of joy and love will not reach as many of the angry L.A. masses as we would want it to, but it’s still a great way to do our part to bring Tu b’Av back.

To be clear, I’m not saying we shouldn’t also eat a lot of chocolate. (In my case, Tod, if you are reading this, I like 85 percent cocoa, single source. But you know that, since I keep bars of it right by the vitamins where they belong. So, yes, honey, I would love my supply replenished as an expression of your love for me.)

In terms of expressing my love for you and all of Jewishkind, don’t be surprised to find me dancing in a white bikini on the 405 from sunrise to sunset, a little sunburned but happy.

Chag Tu b’Av sameach, my friends.

Dani Klein Modisett is a comic and writer, most recently of the book “Take My Spouse, Please.”

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