The Dance of Tu B’Av: Face Change
Poor Pip! He has allergies, which are exacerbated by his long hair. All that hair also made the heat much worse for him. Our home looked as it does during the fall; all covered with leaves that he gathers in his hair each time he goes outside, and that’s a small issue compared to all the insects who like to roost in his hair. His breeder urged us to cut his hair, so we did.
We now have a different dog! It wasn’t just a haircut; it was a personality transplant. He looks as he did when a puppy, and we’re relating differently to him. This old dog believes that he is a puppy again and is more playful, needs more hugs, and is terrified of the rain. A haircut changed his life. The strange thing is that he does not see himself. He used to hate when his mommy would put his hair up to uncover his eyes, and now he has no hair. A friend suggested that we put a coat on him so he can feel some weight, but Pip strongly disagreed. The fact is that he doesn’t see the difference; he instinctively senses it. Pip has a new face and a new personality.
I’ve observed such personality transplants in people. More than thirty years ago, a friend married a woman with a perfect figure, who was aware of her fantastic looks. About a month after their wedding, she began to put on a lot of weight, and her personality changed as well. It turned out that she was always grossly overweight and dieted so she could find a husband. She stopped dieting as soon as she was married. My friend wasn’t bothered by the weight as much as he was bothered by the change in personality. She changed her appearance and her personality was transformed.
I know people who are consistently called, “Rabbi,” despite not having ordination or even basic knowledge, simply because they have long white beards. It’s fascinating to observe even after they have insisted that they are not rabbis that people still treat them as such, and the men change the way they speak; there’s more authority and seriousness. Their personalities change according to the perception.
We are all familiar with how someone can present a different personality by changing their appearance, so the Sages, insistent that the women dancers of Tu B’Av change their appearance by wearing borrowed clothes, wanted to make sure that they didn’t present different personalities:
Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel said:
THERE NEVER WERE IN ISRAEL GREATER DAYS OF JOY THAN THE FIFTEENTH OF AV AND THE DAY OF ATONEMENT. ON THESE DAYS THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM USED TO WALK OUT IN WHITE GARMENTS WHICH THEY BORROWED IN ORDER NOT TO PUT TO SHAME ANY ONE WHO HAD NONE.
THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM CAME OUT AND DANCED IN THE VINEYARDS EXCLAIMING AT THE SAME TIME,
“YOUNG MAN, LIFT UP YOUR EYES AND SEE WHAT YOU CHOOSE FOR YOURSELF.
DO NOT SET YOUR EYES ON BEAUTY BUT SET YOUR EYES ON [GOOD] FAMILY.”
Our Rabbis have taught: The daughter of the king borrows garments from the daughter of the High Priest,
the daughter of the High Priest from the daughter of the deputy High Priest,
and the daughter of the deputy High Priest from the daughter of the Anointed for Battle,
and the daughter of the Anointed for Battle from the daughter of an ordinary priest,
and all Israel borrow from one another, so as not to put to shame anyone who may not possess white garments (Ta’anit 30b).
All the women, even the king’s daughter, were wearing borrowed clothing. How could they prevent personality transplants?
The Talmud continues: Our Rabbis have taught: The beautiful amongst them called out,
“The quality most to be prized in woman is beauty”;
Those of them who came of noble families called out, “Look for a good family for woman has been created to bring up a family.”
The ugly ones amongst them called out, “Carry off your purchase in the name of Heaven, only on one condition that you adorn us with jewels of gold.”
The women had to learn to focus on their qualities even while wearing borrowed clothing. They were urged to focus on their strengths and weaknesses and to not get lost in their borrowed outfits.
What a perfect response to Tisha B’Av! We were no longer the royalty of Jerusalem. We were lowly slaves. We were exiles. How were we to retain our sense of dignity without any of the externals?
The Sages responded with the dance of Tu B’Av.
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