Tu B’Av Sameach!
Appropriately, I’m also going to take this opportunity to wish my dear friends, C&A, a HUGE Mazel Tov on their engagement! It’s not official until it’s on the web, folks!
We certainly have a lot to celebrate! Last night was the start of one of the happiest days of the year, Tu B’Av (the 15th of Av), which commemorates six miracles. One of these was the end of a plague that accompanied the Israelites in the desert as a result of their building the Golden Calf, which condemned all of the Jews in the desert to death (gloomy, right?). So anyway, that year, the last 15,000 people mentally, physically, and spiritually prepared themselves to die, and the day of doom (Tisha B’Av or the 9th of Av) came and went without anyone biting the dust. So, they had a typical Jewish reaction — they argued about the date. They thought maybe they were wrong, and that tomorrow was actually the 9th of Av, and then the next day, and then the next…conveniently, the Jewish calendar is based on Lunar cycles, and once the full moon came (on the 15th of Av) they knew that meant the decree had been lifted, and their sins had been forgiven! YAY!
With a little extra dose of divine intervention, G-d also gave Moses the opportunity to speak to Him once again (the highest form of prophecy), making the 15th of Av forever a day to celebrate relationships.
Some years later, when one tribe of the Jewish people realized they were about to die off (once again), some brave women took the future of humanity into their own hands and married men of what once was a forbidden tribe to marry into on the holy day of Tu B’Av, thus confirming what the wise Jewish people already knew – the 15th of Av was a day to celebrate relationships of all kind.
Some people count Tu B’Av as the Jewish Valentine’s Day – which is interesting, because while on the surface they are both days to celebrate love, they are two totally opposite types of love.
Valentine’s Day is a day that celebrates a lusty, love-at-first sight kind of love that literally hits you like an arrow and then wears off as soon as Cupid sees fit. That kind of love doesn’t exist in Judaism, a religion that believes that there is no such thing as love at first sight or romance, instead subbing in the term passion for both of these things. Judaism believes that for one thing to be true, it has to be true in every single situation, so there can be no such thing as love at first sight because the world would literally be in chaos as people fell in love with their parents, siblings (ew, gross!), restaurants, foods, ect. The passion that Judaism recognizes in love is the same kind of passion that is present in every situation, meaning that whenever something is new and good it is like the initial joy at breaching the hill of a roller coaster — it’s a unique, exhilirating feeling when it happens, but it is also fleeting. This is true for everything — when I first started my job, I thought I would be here forever – I loved it! Trying a new food? I went a little leek crazy last week after realizing I was just cleaning them improperly (I know – sand is not good for digestion) and wanted to include them in every meal. Turns out there’s only so much leek soup one person can handle.
We can say the same for relationships. At the start of a new friendship, two people can’t learn enough about each other; can’t get enough of each other either and as soon as the novelty wears off, you start to notice those little quirks that may drive you up the wall; depending on how much you’ve invested into that relationship, you may choose to continue it or not. And we all know about “puppy love,” the love in the earliest stages of a love-relationship that’s a mixture of passion, infatuation, curiosity, and desire.
Obviously, this exhilaration is necessary for the survival of any relationship or people wouldn’t feel the urge to build new ones; if it didn’t have a purpose people would have developed a medical remedy to the feel-good warm and fuzzies that blind our judgement so severely with those gosh-darn rose-colored glasses.
That being said, Tu B’Av does have something to do with that initial passion, but that is precisely what makes the holiday so interesting. Love, in Judaism, isn’t viewed as a perpetual romantic comedy. It’s recognized that it’s not all pretty, and it’s recognized that there’s a lot of whirlwind (good and bad) associated with it.
In fact, under the chuppah, the couple is given a blessing that they should experience six different types of love, “mirth, song, delight (rejoicing), love (harmony), peace, and companionship.” These types of love are illustrated as a roller coaster, the initial flight up (mirth), the moment of extacy when the car goes over the hill (song), the descent down (delight), the moment at the bottom of the hill (harmony), and then the ascent can begin again with peace and companionship. Love has to be representative of the whole picture, and can’t be viewed only as that moment of extacy or initial infatuation.
So many people, when relationships start to get comfortable, say that the romance is gone — that they don’t feel the “spark” that made them so sure once the relationship began. The spark is important, for sure, but it’s not the whole love experience. Love is an undercurrent of every aspect of life, from the mundane Sunday morning to the passionate fire of Friday night — without the mundane, the passion cannot exist.
Most religious couples don’t meet the way that Jonathan and I did, nor do they meet at such a young age. I’d like to say that we are lucky enough to have experienced a lot of that initial passion and excitement, more so than other people, but that wouldn’t be completely true. In those moments, we felt (and still feel) a little out of control of our feelings. We’re run totally by hormones, and (trust me!) that is not always the healthiest way to conduct a relationship. Fire is a dangerous tool to have on the bridge of a ship; it can burn down the entire ocean.
I don’t know when we realized that this was going to be the forever kind of love, but I think that we both realized early on that fiery passion isn’t the kind of love that’s easily sustained. Instead, it’s the safe kind of sweatpants on a Sunday love, the trips to the supermarket love, the kind of love that makes you feel you have two feet planted firmly on the ground but you could fall back and have someone catch you kind of love that we wanted to water and nurture to watch it grow.
This brings me back to the idea of Tu B’Av. Like I said earlier, Tu B’Av is a holiday that celebrates all types of relationships. All stages of relationships. And it, like many other Jewish holidays/concepts, helps us to realize so much about the world that we live in.
I love roller coasters. Jonathan and I were supposed to go to Six Flags yesterday, but we got rained out. I love roller coasters because I love the feeling of being out of control, but safely buckled in. I love the feeling of going up a hill right after being whirled around a corner, that slow and steady uphill that promises the fast, stomach churning descent is right over the bend.
But you know what I love more? I love feeling safe, with both feet on the ground, once the ride is over. And that’s the real kind of love – the kind of love that promises to take you on trips and adventures and to make you feel like you’re out of control…but at the end of the day, stands next to you, both feet on the ground.
C&A, B&D, J, and every other person in a relationship or looking for a relationship on the blogosphere: you should fully experience the full picture of love every day for the rest of your lives.