In the morning, there is a ring at the door. A bouquet and a box are handed over to me.
“H’m,” not quite awake yet I begin to reflect. “My birthday has already passed, the New Year won’t be any time soon, and I don’t seem to have any secret admirers. It must be a mistake.”
Carefully, I take the card out of the bouquet: “From Marek and Esther Kelson”. Oh! My darlings! I love them. Marek is a professor at the Tel Aviv University, he teaches a course in Kabbalah. We met at a conference and then talked till late at night, I tried to argue all the time thinking I know everything about love – I was married, got divorced. At that time, I couldn’t admit it to myself, but each Marek’s word resonated deeply with me. It was then when I understood the meaning of the phrase: “There is only one true luxury, that of human relationships.”
I open the box — wine, chocolate, and grapes. A note: “Chag Tu B’Av sameach!!” Congratulations on the Day of Love.
“It’s strange,” I am surprised again. “Everyone celebrates the Day of Love in February. But Israelis do it, as usual, in February and then — one more time — on August 15th.”
I smile, and my ear catches snippets of news on the radio:
“….today,” the announcer patters trying to keep within the allotted 30 seconds, “a mysterious Jewish holiday comes. Tu B’Av. At present, the tradition of celebrating it is lost…”
And he is off to other news, but I still hold on to this one as if it has been announced only me: “H’m! This means it’s an ancient holiday! It becomes interesting now.…”
In the evening, or in the morning in their time zone, I will surely call Marek and inquire him about this holiday. And I already feel that in this conversation, a secret will be revealed, an answer to the question which constantly resounds in me will be found. What an irrational force is it —the love which is above all? Above life itself.
In our family, there is a story. My grandmother’s sister, Hannah, could live…live long. All our kin are long-livers. But she chose love.
In 1942 in Warsaw where the family lived, people were given the coupons for life. She was given one. And her husband, Jacob, was not. He had to go to Umschlagplatz — the family memorized this terrible word — to be put into wagons together with other people, and none of them ever came back…
“Love is above life…” I thought about Hannah. I start feeling this state of search inside me: it’s very important to understand the main idea of it. But it’s already clear that love has a special power.
In the old family album, a photo of Hannah is kept. On its back, there is a date — 1940. She’s so young. And also, a note which she left for us. It’s written in a light, beautiful handwriting, just like Hannah herself was — but it’s painful to read, I haven’t been able to read it till the end.
It’s eight p.m. Probably, time to call. After warm greetings and thanks for the gift, I ask:
“Marek, tell me, please, about the Day of Love.”
Marek thinks for a while and begins to speak unhurriedly:
“It’s difficult for us to feel this holiday, to understand it because…H’m, you’ll believe me, I’ll put it to you straight…Because this is the future state of us. Every Jewish holiday marks a milestone which we pass in our development. And we do understand Hanukkah, and Yom Kippur, and Purim, but not Tu B’Av. There’s something important,” Marek paused. “We need to learn to love. You will now start to question,
what is it?”
“Of course, I will!” I rejoiced and got ready to listen.
“It’s when the other person’s desire becomes more important than mine.”
How interesting! I’ve never thought about it! But I say:
“But love, it’s diverse!”
“There is only one love,” Marek laughs, “but the stages of love are really different. Parents, children, husband and wife, other people…Until we attain the highest level. Harmony with the system.”
I held my breath, and Marek kept silent for a while and then carried on absolutely seriously:
“We are in this system. Forces of nature govern us. And like a fruit which is caringly grown reaches ripeness in due time, we too achieve the state of harmony and perfection. Such is the law.”
“What law?” I ask as if awakening.
“The law of nature,” Marek paused, searching for the right words.
“And what about girls dancing in white clothes in vineyards?”
“Yes, and this also has deep meaning. The Torah tells us about the relationship between the twain. Man and Creator. And white clothes, it’s us but perfect, that is called a ripe fruit,” Marek smiled.
“But how to become perfect?”
“How do you think, why the ninth of Av, the day of catastrophes, destruction comes first, and only after that, the fifteenth of Av, perfect love, arrives?”
“We all have to go through very hard times? As they say, to eat a bushel of salt?
“Yes, indeed, and thanks to it, to build a very strong link. These two states always go together. To strengthen our love, we need to overcome hatred.”
There was silence. We were reflecting.
“Does love have a higher spiritual root?” I think aloud rather than ask.
“That’s right!” Marek takes up. “And if we build it above our personal desire…Oh! Then, nature itself helps us!”
“And is there perfect love?” I keep pestering him.
“Yes, this is when we are ‘a single whole’. In our books, there is such an expression — ‘as one people with one heart.’ Think about it….”
We say goodbye to each other. “A single whole”…Hanna wrote the same in her note. I open the album. I look at her as a young woman. And read: “…he’s a part of me. We’re a single whole….”
I took the grapes in my hands, recalled Marek’s words about the “corrected, perfect” us, and wrote in my notepad: “Constant addition in love. Over your desire — someone else’s desire. Each time, we build love. With every person — we add to ‘a single whole’. It’s an algorithm. The only true one for perfect love.”
Happy Day of Love…These words take on a new meaning for me. Happy Day of Love!
Chag Tu B’Av sameach!