|Tomorrow, Monday, marks Tu Be’av, the Fifteenth of Av. The Mishnah in Masechet Ta’anit (26b) states: “Rabban Shimon ben Gamilel said: There were no better days for the Jewish nation than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, for on the Fifteenth of Av the young women of Jerusalem would go out wearing borrowed white garments (they would all borrow from one another, even the wealthy girls, so as not to embarrass those who did not have) and dance in circles in the vineyards.”The Gemara (ibid. 31b) cites several other reasons why Tu Be’av was a joyous day for the Jewish nation. It was therefore established that Tachanun and Viduy(supplication prayers) are not recited on this day.
The Gemara continues to recount: “What would the pretty women say? Pay attention to my beauty. What would the ugly women say? Take your purchase for the sake of Heaven as long as you adorn us with golden jewelry.” Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l explains this idea based on the Gemara (Nedarim 21a) that once, a man vowed not to marry his niece for she appeared ugly to him. This woman was taken to the home of Rabbi Yishmael and beautified. Rabbi Yishmael asked this man, “My son, did you intend to make a vow regarding such a woman?” Rabbi Yishmael then proceeded to annul the man’s vow and allowed him to marry this woman. At that point, Rabbi Yishmael cried and exclaimed, “The daughters of Israel are beautiful but poverty makes them unappealing.” When Rabbi Yishmael passed away, the Jewish women exclaimed, “Daughters of Israel, cry for Rabbi Yishmael!” Similarly, when the ugly women stipulated that the man must adorn them with golden jewelry, they meant that after they would be adorned with jewelry and the like, it would become apparent that they were indeed as beautiful and worthy as any other young woman.
Maran zt”l quotes the Orchot Chaim who writes that one should not wonder how the Sages found this custom to be proper as it would appear that, G-d-forbid, Jewish women are cheap and lowly, for clearly whoever had the means to marry off his daughter to a worthy individual did so and did not send his daughter to such places. This custom was instituted only for those who were financially unable to marry off their daughters and if they would not do this, the women would stay unmarried for the rest of their lives.
The verse in Mishlei states, “A matter in its proper time is quite good.” Thus, in the spirit of the day, it is an especially auspicious day for finding a worthy partner for marriage. It is therefore especially prudent that one pray more than usual on this day that Hashem prepare him a good and worthy match. One should likewise pray for his children to find their proper matches on the day of Tu Be’av. May we all hear and be informed of good tidings of salvation and consolation, Amen.