Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Tu B’Av, the 15th day of Av, is both an ancient and modern holiday. Originally a post-biblical day of joy, it served as a matchmaking day for unmarried women in the Second Temple. There is no way to know exactly how early Tu B’Av began. The first mention of this date is in the Mishnah (compiled and edited in the second century), where Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel is quoted saying:

“There were no better (i.e. happier) days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Israel/Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. What were they saying? ‘Young man, consider whom you choose (to be your wife)’ ” (Ta’anit, Chapter 4).

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Beginning with Tu B’Av, we also start preparing ourselves spiritually for the month of Elul, the prologue to the coming Days of Awe. The days begin to get shorter, the nights get longer. The weather, too, helps us to take spiritual stock. Even on a physical level, the heat of the summer makes it hard to sit down and think things out, and now that the days and nights are cooler, it is easier to examine one’s actions.

In earlier times, it was the custom already from Tu B’Av to use as one’s greeting “Ketiva vachatima tova,” the same blessing that we use today during the month of Elul and on Rosh Hashana. Those who work out the gematria values of different expressions found that that phrase (Ketiva vachatima tova) adds up to 928 – and so do the words for “15th of Av.”

When talking about love one tends to think about a loving couple or the love they have for family and friends. However, there is another side to love. This loving and wonderful day can be approached from a different angle. When one thinks about love do they think about how much they love themselves, or just about how much they want to be loved? How often do we really ever think about how much we love ourselves? How much do we appreciate who we are: our good qualities, our sense of humor, our looks, etc.? Do we start every day with a good word to ourselves? Or are we only waiting to hear it from an outside source? When we wait to hear all these wonderful things about ourselves from an outside source (no matter who it might be), we are putting our self-worth in the hands of someone else.

No one, as nice as they might be, can measure who we really are and what we are worth. Only our neshama, the inner most part of our being, knows. Since we were all created in the image of Hashem, our value is immeasurable. If we realize that we are beautiful and wonderful people and we love ourselves very much, that’s called positive energy and those good vibes will follow us wherever we go as long as we don’t stop loving ourselves. And that true love of loving one’s self can only bring on good things to this world. Those who will want to be close to you will do so because they love who you are and not who they want you to be. And you won’t be dependent on others’ love to make you happy.

True love and appreciation that you have for your self isn’t dependent on other people’s state of mind, mood or personality. Whoever will love you will just add love to your existing self-love.

Truly loving yourself is the basis for loving any one. Rabbi Akiva said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And Rabbi Akiva continues, “This is a great rule in the Torah.” This goes to show that only if you really love yourself can you love others even if they are completely different from you. You are loving and respecting others because you do the same to yourself. If we are just judging others then we probably judge ourselves as well. If we look unfavorably at others, if we can’t say a nice word to another person, or we disparage others, then we are probably doing the same to ourselves.

On this Tu B’Av may we merit to love and look favorably upon ourselves with a positive and good eye, and G-d will make sure to surround us with others who appreciate and value themselves, in a positive way. And He will keep us away from people who can only be great if they put others down, and see only themselves. These type of people don’t love themselves or anyone around them, they are only trying to be recognized and get a stamp of approval from the entire world. Obviously that’s not love at all – that’s vanity. Yet someone who loves who they are has room to love other’s just for being themselves.

So look in the mirror, give yourself a smile and go spread true love into the universe, and that love will surely bring all mankind together with love peace and compassion.

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