Tu Be’av: Vineyard or keyboard?

For the Facebook generation, social media sites may be the new way for singles to reach out to like-minded others.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It’s the same thing every year. When I see couples walking hand in hand though the mall holding heart-shaped balloons, stuffed animals and boxes of chocolate, I know that Tu Be’av, commonly known as “the holiday of love,” is here again. It seems to me to be a holiday of extremes. When Tu Be’av rolls around this Monday, those in a relationship will celebrate it, while those not currently in a relationship, myself included, count the hours till it’s over.
But it wasn’t always that way. The Talmud states that there were no holy days as happy for the Jews as Tu Be’av (the 15th of Av) and Yom Kippur, for on these days, “unmarried girls would dress in simple white clothing (so that rich could not be distinguished from poor), and go out to sing and dance in the vineyards surrounding Jerusalem.”
Hence, Tu Be’av became an auspicious day for matchmaking and weddings.
But where are the vineyards of today? Where are Jewish singles in the 21st century supposed to meet each other? In the not-too-distant past, Jewish singles used to meet in high school or university, in youth groups, in the army, at synagogue, at social events, at parties or even in bars, but in our busy society, it seems that most Jewish singles today spend more time chatting virtually, via social networks like Facebook, than meeting face to face.
I have a single friend who eschews Facebook for just that reason. He claims that online social networks are a colossal waste of time, and are no substitute for meeting in person – and he is probably right. It brings to mind American writer Rita Mae Brown’s famous quote, “Computer dating is fine, if you’re a computer!” But the original purpose of the Tu Be’av celebrations was to provide a place, or a platform, for Jewish singles to meet. The dancing in the vineyards twice a year – a gathering so big that had birthright existed back then, it would have been dubbed a “mega event” – was a giant social meeting for Jewish singles.
But while organizing social events for Jewish singles is laudable, let’s not forget the many Jewish singles who are not attending such events. Where is the vineyard for them?
While the vineyard cannot extend across the globe, fortunately the World Wide Web can. Rather than putting down the Internet, insisting it is hindering dating, maybe we should be embracing it. Online Jewish dating and matchmaking sites (JDate, Frumster, JWed, Saw You at Sinai and many others) couldn’t survive if there weren’t actual Jewish singles out there looking to meet their matches. Rather than attempting to pull singles away from their keyboards, maybe we should be encouraging them to sign up for dating or matchmaking sites, to create profiles, post their own photos, write something creative about themselves – in short, to put themselves out there.
There are lots of quality singles online. True, one needs to be very careful with Internet dating, but the Web can help in that regard, too. Check out who is friends with whom on Facebook, and by all means, get an opinion from a mutual Facebook friend you trust before meeting any online contact in person. Also, most Jewish dating sites are very careful about protecting the individual from unwanted contacts.
If used correctly, the Internet can be a wonderful tool to match up Jewish singles worldwide who would not or could not meet otherwise.
Tu Be’av doesn’t need to be a depressing day for singles. We may not have a vineyard to grab on to anymore, but we do have a Web.
The writer has an MA in creative writing from Bar-Ilan University.