A Message from Assistant Principal and Head of Jewish Life, Dan Sztrajt – 26 July 2018

Maybe What’s Missing Is A Little More Love

My son and I were baking Hebrew letter cookies last week as part of an activity sent home by his prep Hebrew teacher. Although we were provided with a complete recipe and the letter cookie cutters, somehow we still managed to mess it all up. The mixture looked frighteningly similar to a bowl of scrambled eggs and as I stood there silently staring in frustration at the bowl, my son suggested, “Maybe what’s missing is a little more love”.

While still young, we seem to fill our children’s heads with odd ideas to make the abstract more tangible. The idea that love is visible, physical and on the shelf just next to the flour, is a way we can make sense of difficult concepts. While our cookies turned out awful, my son’s line stayed with me.

This Thursday night and Friday marks the Jewish festival of Tu B’Av (15 Av – not to be confused with Tisha B’Av). Somehow, this most brilliant celebration is often forgotten by many of us. We are happy to spend our time eating cardboard on Pesach or setting fire to our living rooms on Chanukah, but Tu B’Av gets no love. This is incredibly surprising when we consider how important this festival was for much of Jewish history. So much so, that Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel tells us in the Mishnah that the two most important (and possibly happiest) days of the year are Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur.

Perhaps what makes Tu B’Av easy for us to forget is its lack of ridged obligations. We neither fast nor build huts with palm leaves. The festival was associated with celebrating love, when unmarried women would dance in the fields wearing white in the moon light. Some marriages between different tribes, prohibited throughout the year, were permitted on this special evening. In more recent times, couples are reminded of their attraction and commit to acts demonstrating their love for one another.

Too often we allow our observance of Judaism to focus on the negative rather than the beautiful or fun. We think of Shabbat as a list of things we are not permitted to do rather than the opportunity for uninterrupted family time. We complain incessantly that we cannot eat bread on Pesach, yet forget the awesomeness of left over charroset and matzah ball soup. By skipping over Tu B’Av we are forgetting the fun bits of our heritage. We incorrectly assume that solemnity or commemoration is more important than love.

I would like to urge each of us to correct this oversite and celebrate our festival of love.  Use it as an excuse to buy flowers for a loved one or to go out for a romantic dinner. Think how much more we love these things when they are unexpected. But why stop there? Go out dancing all night, wearing white and throw caution to the wind. Make this chag about doing things for others rather than doing things for yourself and perhaps Tu B’Av can once again become the equal most important day in the Jewish calendar.

To steal the words of my son, I would even go so far as to say that, regarding our Judaism, “Maybe what’s missing is a little more love”.

Dans Kid Making Cookies.JPG

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