In the Jewish calendar, Av is the month of “Terrible Things Happening.”
Given the fallible and fragile nature of human beings, those terrible things are often the product of human behavior. And faced with terrible things, we human beings are prone to blame. We point our fingers at one another, like Adam and Eve in the garden, who tried to blame each other, the serpent, and even the Divine for their misbehavior. Adam’s protest, “That woman YOU gave me did it!” is both funny and tragic.
We approach the end of the month of Av 5774, and this year, all I can say is “Thank Goodness.” Tuesday evening we shall begin a new month, the month of Elul.
Elul is the month that we begin our fall journey of teshuvah, a process of sorrow, responsibility, and change. We notice that we cannot control the behavior of others. We can only control ourselves, and that only imperfectly. We still have our emotions, and we still have our memories of hurts past. But in Elul we are called to ask, “What is my share of this?” and then, “What can change?”
The challenge of Elul is to stop pointing fingers. What have I done, what have we done, and what can be different going forward?
Av (ahv) is the eleventh month of the Hebrew year.
It’s often mentioned as the “unluckiest” or “saddest” month of the year, based on a mention in the Talmud in Taanit 19a: “When we enter Av, our joy is diminished.”
Av has a number of sad anniversaries in it. Foremost of those is the 9th of Av, Tisha B’Av, on which we remember the destruction of both the first and second Temples, as well as the Expulsion from Spain in 1492. These were the greatest disasters in Jewish history before the 20th century.
Av is also a hot, dry time in the Land of Israel, when water is even more precious than usual and when the sun beats down even in the relatively cooler places like Jerusalem and Sefat.
Rosh Chodesh Av (the 1st of Av) began July 27 at sundown in 2014.
Tu B’Avis a minor but fun Jewish holiday. After the mourning of Tisha B’Av, this is a lovely little day to be happy and to celebrate love.
Tu B’Av = Fifteenth of the Month of Av. In Hebrew, the letters that form the number 15 can also be pronounced “Tu.”
Today in Israel, it’s called Chag HaAhavah, the Holiday of Love, and it’s a favored day for weddings. Think of it as Jewish Valentine’s Day.
In Temple times, in Jerusalem, the grape harvest began on the fifteenth of Av and ended on the tenth of Tishrei, Yom Kippur. On both those days, single girls dressed in white and went to dance in the vineyards in the afternoon. It was a traditional time for courtship.
There are no big religious observances for the day. However, it’s a good day to get married, a good day to fall in love, and a great day to tell your loved ones “I love you.”