Happy Tu B'Av!
The translation of the Talmudic excerpt was taken verbatim from Michael L. Rodkinson's 1918 translation, with which some have taken issue. It can be found here. The Hebrew (and Aramaic) is from Snunit.
I remember learning this for the first time when I was 18 or 19, and wondering why no one had ever told me about this before. It's true, they don't teach you most of the good stuff in high school.
26b, MISHNA: ...Rabbon Simeon ben Gamaliel said: Never were there any more joyous festivals in Israel than the 15th of Abh and the Day of Atonement, for on them the maidens of Jerusalem used to go out dressed in white garments-borrowed ones, however, in order not to cause shame to those who had none of their own. These clothes were also to be previously immersed, and thus the maidens went out and danced in the vineyards, saying: Young men, look and observe well whom you are about to choose (as a spouse); regard not beauty alone, but rather look to a virtuous family, for "false is grace, and vain is beauty: a woman only that feareth the Lord shall indeed be praised" [Proverbs, xxxi. 30]; and it is also said [ibid. 31]: "Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in her gates." Thus also is it written (alluding to that custom): "Go forth and look, O ye daughters of Zion, on King Solomon, with the crown wherewith his mother bath crowned him on the day of his espousals, and on the day of the joy of his heart" [Solomon's Song, iii. 11]. "The day of the espousals" refers to the day on which the Law was given, and "the day of the joy of his heart" was that when the building of the Temple was completed. May it soon be rebuilt in our days!
30b, GEMARA:It is right that the Day of Atonement should be a day of rejoicing, because that is a day of forgiveness, and on that day the second tables of the Law were given to Moses; but why should the 15th of Abh be a day of rejoicing? Said R. Jehudah in the name of Samuel: "On that day it was permitted to the members of the different tribes to intermarry." Whence is this deduced? Because it is written [Numb. xxxvi. 6]: "This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded concerning the daughters of Zelophehad," etc., they claim that "this is the thing" implies that only for that generation was it decreed, but for later generations the decree does not apply.
R. Joseph in the name of R. Na'hman said: On that day the members of the tribe of Benjamin were permitted to intermarry with the other tribes, as it is written [Judges, xxi. 1]: "Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpah, saying: Not any one of us shall give his daughter unto Benjamin for wife." Whence was it deduced that subsequently permission might be given to intermarry with the tribe of Benjamin? Because the quoted passage says "Any one of us," and Rabh said that their descendants were not included in the vow.
Rabba bar bar Hana said in the name of R. Johanan: On that day the last of those who were destined to die in the desert died, and the destiny was thus fulfilled; for the Master said that so long as the destiny was still unfulfilled, the Lord did not speak to Moses for his particular sake, as it is written [Deut. ii. 16 and 17]: "So it came to pass, when all the men of war were spent by dying from the midst of the people, that the Lord spoke unto me, saying"; and "unto me" signifies that the Lord spoke unto Moses in particular.
Ula said: "On that day the guards appointed by Jeroboam to prevent the Israelites from coming to Jerusalem were abolished by Hoshea the son of Elah, and he said: 31a, GEMARA, continued:
31a, GEMARA, continued:
R. Mathnah said: "On that day permission was given to bury the dead who were killed in battle at the city of Bethar." And R. Mathnah said again: "On that day, when it was permitted to bury those killed at Bethar, the assembly at Yamnia [ed.: what kind of transliteration of Yavneh is this?] ordained the benediction reading: 'Blessed art thou, God the good, that doth good.' What is meant thereby? By 'good' is meant that the bodies were not left to putrefy, and by 'doth good' that burial was permitted."
Rabba and R., Joseph both said: On that day they ceased to cut wood for the altar, as we have learned in a Boraitha: R. Eliezer the Great said: "From the fifteenth day of Abh the heat of the sun was lessened and the timber was no longer dry, so they ceased to cut wood for the altar." [Said R. Menasseh: "That day was called the day on which the saws were broken"], and from that day on, he who adds the night to his time for study may have years and days added to his life.
"In white garments--borrowed ones," etc. The rabbis taught: The king's daughter borrowed from the daughter of the high-priest; the daughter of the latter would borrow from the daughter of the Segan (assistant); the Segan's daughter would borrow from the daughter of the priest who was anointed for the war [see Deut. xx. 2]; and she in turn would borrow from the daughter of an ordinary priest. The daughters of the ordinary Israelites would borrow one from the other, in order not to put to shame those who had none of their own.
"These clothes were also to be immersed. '' Said R. Eliezer: "Even if the clothes were folded and laid in a chest, they must also be immersed."
"The maidens went out and danced," etc. We have learned in a Boraitha: Those that had no wives would go there to procure a spouse.
"Saying: 'Young men, look and observe,'" etc. The rabbis taught: The pretty ones among the maidens would say: "Regard but beauty alone, because a woman is made only for beauty." Those among them who were of good family would say: "Rather look to a good family," for women are but made to bear children (and those of good family produce good children). The ill-favored ones among them would say: "Make your selections only for the glory of Heaven, but provide liberally for us."
Said Ula Biraah in the name of R. Elazar: "In the future the Holy One, blessed be He, will make a ring of the righteous, and He will sit among them in the garden of Eden, and they everyone will point to Him with their fingers, as it is written [Isaiah, xxv. 9]: 'And men will say on that day, Lo, this is our God, for whom we have waited that He would help us: this is the Lord, for whom we have waited; we will be glad and we will rejoice in His salvation.'"
דף ל,ב גמרא א"ר שמעון ב"ג לא היו ימים טובים לישראל כחמשה עשר באב וכיוה"כ: בשלמא יום הכפורים משום דאית ביה סליחה ומחילה יום שניתנו בו לוחות האחרונות אלא ט"ו באב מאי היא אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל יום שהותרו שבטים לבוא זה בזה מאי דרוש (במדבר לו) זה הדבר אשר צוה ה' לבנות צלפחד וגו' דבר זה לא יהא נוהג אלא בדור זה אמר רב יוסף אמר רב נחמן יום שהותר שבט בנימין לבוא בקהל שנאמר (שופטים כא) ואיש ישראל נשבע במצפה לאמר איש ממנו לא יתן בתו לבנימן לאשה מאי דרוש אמר רב ממנו ולא מבנינו <אמר> רבה בר בר חנה א"ר יוחנן יום שכלו בו מתי מדבר דאמר מר עד שלא כלו מתי מדבר לא היה דבור עם משה שנאמר (דברים ב) ויהי כאשר תמו כל אנשי המלחמה למות וידבר ה' אלי אלי היה הדבור עולא אמר יום שביטל הושע בן אלה פרוסדיות שהושיב ירבעם בן נבט על הדרכים שלא יעלו ישראל לרגל ואמרדף לא,א גמרא לאיזה שירצו יעלו רב מתנה אמר יום שנתנו הרוגי ביתר לקבורה ואמר רב מתנה אותו יום שנתנו הרוגי ביתר לקבורה תקנו ביבנה הטוב והמטיב הטוב שלא הסריחו והמטיב שנתנו לקבורה רבה ורב יוסף דאמרי תרוייהו יום שפסקו מלכרות עצים למערכה <תניא> [דתניא] רבי אליעזר הגדול אומר מחמשה עשר באב ואילך תשש כחה של חמה ולא היו כורתין עצים למערכה לפי שאינן יבשין אמר רב מנשיא וקרו ליה יום תבר מגל מכאן ואילך דמוסיף יוסיף ודלא מוסיף <יאסף> [יסיף] <תני רב יוסף> מאי יאסף אמר רב יוסף תקבריה אימיה: שבהן בנות ירושלים כו': ת"ר בת מלך שואלת מבת כהן גדול בת כהן גדול מבת סגן ובת סגן מבת משוח מלחמה ובת משוח מלחמה מבת כהן הדיוט וכל ישראל שואלין זה מזה כדי שלא יתבייש את מי שאין לו: כל הכלים טעונין טבילה: אמר רבי אלעזר אפילו מקופלין ומונחין בקופסא: בנות ישראל יוצאות וחולות בכרמים: תנא מי שאין לו אשה נפנה לשם: מיוחסות שבהן היו אומרות בחור וכו': תנו רבנן יפיפיות שבהן מה היו אומרות תנו עיניכם ליופי שאין האשה אלא ליופי מיוחסות שבהן מה היו אומרות תנו עיניכם למשפחה לפי שאין האשה אלא לבנים מכוערות שבהם מה היו אומרות קחו מקחכם לשום שמים ובלבד שתעטרונו בזהובים אמר עולא ביראה אמר רבי אלעזר עתיד הקדוש ברוך הוא לעשות מחול לצדיקים והוא יושב ביניהם בגן עדן וכל אחד ואחד מראה באצבעו שנאמ' (ישעיהו כה) ואמר ביום ההוא הנה אלהינו זה קוינו לו ויושיענו זה ה' קוינו לו נגילה ונשמחה בישועתו
Re: Tu B'Av, what's the deal with no one ever celebrating it before a few years ago?
Is it a resurrected holiday, or what?
I just remembered where I first heard of Tu B'Av--from a hippy-ish friend when I was 16. At the time, I was sure that he was making it up.
MyJewishLearning.com has a page that explains a bit more of the history of Tu B'Av. I think it's been "revived" for longer in Israel than in the US, where it really has only made a come-back in the past few years. In Israel, it's treated like Valentine's Day is in the US.
So, yes, it does seem to be a bit of a resurrected holiday, at least among Diaspora Ashkenazim, who were probably, on the whole, not fans of single women dancing in the fields wearing white dresses, beckoning men to look at them. I'm just saying "Diaspora Ashkenazim" because I feel like the lapse in observance of Tu B'Av might be somehow related to the Christian influence on Jewish practice in Europe.
Alternatively, it might just be one of those religiously-minor, agriculture-based Land of Israel observances that was never so ritually important and so just kind of stopped being observed after the exile.
Anyone else know anything?