Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Tu B'Av and Jewish Girls

The Mishna in Taanis (26) states the following:
(R. Shimon b. Gamliel): There were never days as festive as the fifteenth of Av and Yom Kipur:
1. The girls would dress in white garments that were borrowed, so as not to embarrass those who lacked any.
2. All the garments required Tevilah first.
3. They would dance in the vineyards, and say that the men should look at their families rather than their beauty.
The Gemara later states:
The Mishnah said that they would dance in the vineyards; those who lacked wives would go there.
1. The beautiful ones would tell them to pay attention to beauty, as a wife is for her beauty.
2. Those with Yichus would tell them to pay attention to that, as a wife is for her children.
3. The ugly ones would tell them to marry for the sake of Heaven, and to adorn their wives with golden jewelry.
The Mishna and Gemara states black on white that on Tu B'Av the girls would dress up and go out and dance IN FRONT of the available boys to catch their eye to get married.

Of course this story greatly offends the sensibilities of modern day Charedim who can't imagine such a scenario. There are 2 common answers given in the Charedi world to explain this:

  1. This Gemara is not meant to be taken literally. The Satmar Rebbe is quoted as saying the following: "The Jewish people has always been a holy people and therefore it is impossible to take this Gemara literally and if you don't understand this on your own, I can't explain it to you". 
  2. The people who lived in earlier times were on a much higher level then us and therefore we can't understand their actions or imitate their actions. This is actually part of a larger discussion about how we should learn Tanach, there was a big discussion in the more modern world whether we should learn תנ"ך בגובה העינים or not. 
IMHO, these 2 answers are very unsatisfactory. Regarding the first answer, as someone answered the Satmar Rebbe, how do we know that we should take the gemara of the 3 shavuos literally. This is a very slippery slope, the left wing, will take this to places that the Charedi world will not like. The second answer is just as bad, it means that we basically can't learn anything from Tanach. 



  1. It was a fertility cult ritual/festival. I intended to write about similar pagan rituals/festivals`.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3.  David Berg said...

    main issue with this and similar pilegesh, is that girls dont go to mikva.
    also mishna has three differences between their dancing and todays - 
    1. their dancing led to marriage, not just sex.
    2. their clothing (certainly themselves) was not tamei nida.
    3. they danced in vineyards not open fields.
    4. they were considerate of each other, so everyone was dressed the same.
    5. only twice a year.

    i see much more kedusha than plain dancing.

    also see aben haezer 21.5 rama regarding shipcha washing ones feet, see all commentaries discussing dancing with kala during wedding if ones intentiones are not bad.