Archive for the '8.5.3 Tu B’Av' Category

Tu B’Av and End of Summer: 22 for 2 Club

It is safe to say that I am into Jewish summer camp. Between my 7 summers as a camper, 8 summers on staff member in that camp, 2 years as a Shaliach in Minsk running camps there, and 12 years at the Foundation for Jewish Camp, I have spent close to 30 summers at camp. I think it is safe to say that I am in the “10 for 2” club. I work all year for the summer. With that in mind, this summer with all of the Covid camp closings was particularly hard for me.

I was thinking about this today as we celebrate Tu B’Av, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av. This is supposed to be one of the happiest days of the year. But what are we celebrating? The Gemara shares six historical happy events that happened on this day.  One of those is particularly interesting to me now. There we read:

Rabba and Rav Yosef both say: The fifteenth of Av is the day when they stop cutting wood for the arrangement of wood on the altar. It is taught in a baraita that Rabbi Eliezer the Great says: Once the fifteenth of Av came, the force of the sun would weaken, and from this date they would not cut additional wood for the arrangement, because wood cut from then on would not dry properly and would be unfit for use in the Temple. Rav Menashe said: And the people called the fifteenth of Av: The day of the breaking of the sickle, as they did not need the lumbering tools until the following year. (Bava Basra 121a-b)

Egyptian Inventons | Sutori

In this sense Tu B’Av is celebrating the begining of the end of the summer. Most years of my life this has been a sad time of the year, but this year I am actually very happy for this horrible summer to be over.

As we put the summer away, what does the fall have in store for us? What will  school and the High Holidays look like with Covid-19? I am not alone in wanting a vacine so we can rebound quickly from Covid. As much as we are instructed to break the sickle and put the heat of the summer behind us, I know that I am not the only one yearning for the start of summer 2021. I am looking forward to putting that sickle back together to go back into the forest and get back to work. This living “22 for 2” is hard, but for many the first day of camp next year will actually be the happiest day of the year.

-another piece on Tu B’Av- Bystander Effect: Tu B’Av and Kitty Genovese

Bystander Effect: Tu B’Av and Kitty Genovese

Today we celebrate Tu B’Av, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av, which is one of the happiest days of the year. But what are we celebrating? The Gemara shares six historical events that happened on this day.  The second one shared is particularly interesting to me. There we read:

Rabba Bar Bar Chana said in the name of Rav Yochanan: The Tribe of Benjamin was allowed to remarry into K’hal Yisroel after the incident of Pilegesh B’Givah. This occurred on the 15th and signified once again the unity of Israel. (Bava Basra 121a-b and Taanit 30b-31a)

But what is the incident of Pilegesh B’Givah? 

In Judges 19, a Levite’s pilegesh, concubine, leaves him to return home to Bethlehem. After four months, her husband visits her father’s home and attempts to persuade her to return with him. On the fifth day, the concubine leaves with this Levite man. They travel together to Givah, looking for a place to spend the night. An old man sees her and the Levite hanging out in the square. He invites them to spend the night at his home. While there, the perverse men of the city pound on the door requesting the old man to bring out the Levite in order to have sex with him. When the old man offers his virgin daughter and the concubine instead, they refuse. The Levite then forces his concubine into the hands of the mob. She is beaten and raped throughout the night. In the morning, the concubine is found by the Levite on the doorstep of the old man’s house. He tells her to get up and when there is no reply, he places her on the back of his donkey and travels home. Upon arrival, he takes a knife and cuts the concubine’s body into twelve pieces, sending the parts out through the land of Israel. The outraged tribes of Israel sought justice and asked for the miscreants to be delivered for judgment. The Benjamites refused, so the tribes then sought vengeance, and in the subsequent war.

It is noteworthy that when the Levite finds the pilegesh in the morning, it is unclear whether she is dead, as there is no reply. Even though the story is centered around a woman, she never speaks and is nameless. Her life and death are defined by the voices of men around her. It is evident that the victimized woman has no voice. In this context, there is an eerie echo of this case and the case of Kitty Genovese.

In the early hours of March 13, 1964, 28-year-old Kitty Genovese was stabbed outside the apartment building across the street from where she lived in an apartment in Queens. Two weeks after the murder, The New York Times published an article claiming that 38 witnesses saw or heard the attack, but none of them called the police or came to her aid. The incident prompted inquiries into what became known as the bystander effect or “Genovese syndrome”, and the murder became a staple of American psychology textbooks.

The bystander effect is a social psychological claim that individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when other people are present. The greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that one of them will help. Several factors contribute to the bystander effect, including ambiguitygroup cohesiveness, and diffusion of responsibility that reinforces mutual denial of a situation’s severity. In the cases of Kitty Genovese and Pilegesh B’Givah we see this bystander effect. Sending her parts around the country served as a wakeup call to the entire nation. In the words of Rabbi A.J. Heschel when he said, “In a free society, some are guilty; all are responsible.” Tu B’Av needs to be a day in which we commit to hearing everyone’s voice, no one should be silenced. It is also a day of reconciliation with the tribe of Benjamin. To this ends, we experience true joy because we all take responsibility.

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