I am unmarried. Loved by my family, yet to be loved by a husband. It all changes tomorrow, the month of Av on the 15th day in the land of Jerusalem.
I come from the tribe of Dan. You may know the story of my people. We are descendants of Abraham. Just one of twelve tribes who left Egypt to follow Moses as he led us to our new home.
We were a disobedient lot, testing God, losing faith, and doubting. So many doubts about the promises and the Promised Land waiting for us at the end of our journey.
And so, instead of taking God’s Word, Moses relents to our people’s demands. He sends twelve men, one from each tribe to scout out the land and report back. Ten of these spies bring back tales of woe. Two come bearing sweet treats from our future homeland and assurances, with God’s help, we will succeed and prosper.
You may know the rest of the story. God was not pleased with us. He made us wander in the desert for forty years until nearly an entire generation dies out. God allows only two men from the original group of twelve to enter the new land; Joshua and Caleb, the two spies bearing good news and faith in God.
Even our holiest most venerable leader, the humble Moses, was laid to rest in the desert, never stepping foot in the land of milk and honey.
By the grace of God, that’s where I live today. We have fields of plenty, bearing fruits of all species. Though we work hard, we are a happy lot.
There is no greater joy than having one’s sins forgiven. That’s exactly what happened to us after our epic failure of faith.
Every summer there is a festival. We honor God’s grace and forgiveness shown to us after the episode of the spies, and other historical events in which our people lost faith and were forgiven.
I am beyond myself with excitement, waiting for the dawn of the new day. Tomorrow I will join my sisters from all over Samaria to celebrate and participate in Tu b’Av, Festival of Love, where my husband waits for me.
Daybreak in the vineyards. The grapes are heavy with dew and the sun is a thin orange line low in the horizon.
We all wear white. We exchange dresses one young girl to the next until there is delightful confusion as to which one is the daughter of a poor man and who has a father fat and wealthy.
Once pale cheeks are flushed with anticipation. Lips are moist and ruby red. Eyes sparkle. Every bride-to-be is a beauty.
The sun is rising and the earth pounds with energy. We are dancing. Endless circles intertwined, as we weave and bob to the music.
Then pause. I catch my breath. I hold tight to the hands of my sisters on either side of me and they to their right and left. We are an endless line of womanhood.
The young men are coming. They are an enormous crush of humanity. Shoulder to shoulder, clapping and chanting a melody I will never forget as long as I live. It’s a love cry, like animals howling in musical climax.
After taking in the spectacle, each sex to the other, the mingling begins.
At first mere chemistry.
Then the coupling happens. Hesitantly. Curious. Hopeful. Introductions are unnecessary. There is no planned small talk. All conversation comes from the heart. Spontaneous.
On to another suitor or maybe not. There’s no disappointment. What’s meant to be will be. God sees to it – no one will be left lonely.
By noon young couples are plucking the grapes and feeding each other a first meal together. Sucking on the fruit’s juices their palette is satisfied, spirits are soaring, and desire is high.
More dancing. This time men and women together yet never touching. It’s a dance of destiny, pure and holy.
The sun is making way for evening.
The vineyard fills with the extended families to bear witness.
It’s time for vows. I veil my face. My bridegroom unveils me. He takes my hand for the first time. I am filled with the physicality of his touch. His flesh is soft and right. Safe and familiar.
He whispers, voice husky and choked with emotion.
“Behold, you are consecrated to me…”
He reaches into the folds of his garment.
“…with this ring according to the laws of Moses and Israel.”
I am married. I am loved by my husband and I love my husband. We can expect no surprises. A union such as ours is blessed by God.
I think back to yesterday and remember what I believed, there is no greater joy than having one’s sins forgiven.
I add to that, there is no greater joy than having one’s sins forgiven and being rewarded the gift of love.
Thus said the Lord: Yet again there shall be heard in this place, about which you say, ‘It is destroyed, without man and without beast, even in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, that are desolate, without man and without inhabitant and without beast, the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that say: ‘Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for His mercy endures forever’.
After reading the story, let your imagine return to the present day, where there is a tradition for a bridegroom to be escorted by men, standing shoulder to shoulder to shoulder clapping and chanting a joyous melody, as he prepares to see his bride for the first time on their wedding day. See Video
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