When I look back on my childhood, I recall so many precious memories that centered around Judaism. The lighting of the Shabbat candles every Friday, the reenactment of the 10 plagues on Passover, and eating delicious latkes during Chanukah. With each celebration came the dream of carrying out these traditions with my own family one day.
I met my husband, Aaron, on the first day of college at Indiana University. We married five years later and welcomed our beautiful daughter into the world last fall. As our family expands, I hope to ignite a passion for Judaism in our children by teaching them to connect with Hashem through food, Mother Nature, people, animals and earth in meaningful and productive ways.
Aaron is an active horticulturist and conservationist with a master’s degree in environmental science. I earned a degree in early childhood education. Our backyard flourishes with fruits from the Holy Land that we have planted, including figs, pomegranates and grapes.
Tu B’Av, the 15th of Av, has come to be known as the Jewish Day of Love in modern-day Israel. It correlates with the grape harvest in which single women would dress in white and dance in the vineyards under the full moon to signify their readiness for marriage. Today, Tu B’Av encourages couples to dance and celebrate love together with friends and family.
So how will Aaron and I celebrate Tu B’Av this year? We’ll dress in white to commemorate the special occasion. The significance of wearing white on Tu B’Av centers around equality. The single women wore white, borrowed dresses so that everyone appeared the same. The single men were unable to tell who was rich and who was poor. Further, women who did not own dresses at all would not feel shame or embarrassment. To us, wearing white shows that we, too, are equal in our marriage.
Aaron and I will honor the occasion in our backyard orchard. Currently, we’re growing two varieties of grapes. The first is a Black Spanish grape known for its deep, blue color and tart taste. The second, Champagne Blanc du Bois is similar to the traditional green grape with a slightly more sour bite. Our two Mountain Curs run the length of the fence where the vines’ tendrils reach out in search of support. The vines do this dance each year, like we do on Tu B’Av, extending a hand to our loved ones, joining them in dance and song. By doing so, we demonstrate our love for each other and gratitude for the fruitful abundance. Our dance will consist of scavenging through the twisted vines to pick our grapes.
Others may choose to visit a vineyard or attend a local farmers market, but it’s more likely that with the current COVID-19 situation that the grapes will be coming from the nearest grocery store. This is perfectly fine.
Tu B’Av also correlates with the wood-offering. Because the wood needed to be completely dry for the Temple’s sacrifices, the 15th of Av was the last day in which wood was considered sufficiently dried by the sun. In the United States, it has become a party custom to serve finger foods like cheese, crackers and fruit on special wooden boards. Aaron and I will bring the celebration of love, the grape harvest, and the wood-offerings full circle by garnishing our own board with grape bunches, roasted nuts, herbed cheese and multigrain crackers.
The grapes from our orchard, like many local vineyard grapes, still contain the small, hard, bitter seeds on the inside. If the seed goes unbitten, the grape remains sweet. As we eat the sun-soaked grapes, we are forced to slowly turn the fruit over with our tongues, picking away the parts that will nourish us and discarding those that will not.
Some may choose to uncork an aged bottle of wine. This year, Aaron and I will sip grape juice with our daughter in the orchard. And as the full moon rises over the trees on the 15th of Av, hearts full of gratitude and love, we will dance to the music of the crickets and the tree frogs, hand in hand with one another.
Sage Segal has a degree in early childhood education from Indiana University. She and her husband are raising their daughter to connect with Judaism through the environment, food, and a new way to honor traditions.