A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths
Tu B’Av (Fifteenth of Av, ט״ו באב, Wood bearing). Although proclaimed one of the two greatest festivals of the year, no special observances or celebrations were ordained and this is classed as a minor Jewish holiday. According to the Mishna oldest authoritative postbiblical collection and codification of Jewish oral laws, Tu B’Av was a joyous holiday in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, marking the beginning of the grape harvest, whilst the 16 September Yom Kippur marked the end of that harvest. On both dates, the unmarried girls of Jerusalem dressed in white garments and danced in the vineyards. The Talmud states that there were no holy days as happy for the Jews as Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur. Various reasons for celebrating on Tu B’Av were cited: whilst the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years, female orphans without brothers could only marry within their tribe to prevent their father’s inherited territory in the Land of Israel from passing on to other tribes but after the conquest and division of Canaan (كَنْعَانُ, כְּנַעַן, Χανααν) under Joshua, this ban was lifted on the Fifteenth of Av and inter-tribal marriage was allowed; that same year, the last of the generation of the slanderous spies who caused the forty-year delay found that they were not destined to die, after each year making their graves, in which they slept on Tisha B’Av, and each year some of them dying, but in the fortieth year, the fifteen thousand who remained from that first generation went to sleep in the graves and to their surprise all woke up the next day and, thinking they had made a mistake with the date, they continued the custom until they reached Tu B’Av and saw a full moon, only then knowing they were finally to enter the Land of Israel with the new generation; on Tu B’Av, the cutting of the wood for the main altar in the Temple was completed for the year and King Hoshea of the northern kingdom removed the sentries on the road leading to Jerusalem, allowing the ten tribes to once again have access to the Temple; at Tu B’Av, the nights, traditionally the ideal time for Torah study, are lengthening again after the summer solstice, permitting more study; and the Roman occupiers finally permitted the burial of the victims of the massacre at Bethar during the 130s Bar Kokhba rebellion, the bodies miraculously having not decomposed despite exposure to the elements for over a year. In modern-day Israel, Tu B’Av marks an informal high to counter the low of The Three Weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av. Tu B’Av does not have many established religious rituals associated with its celebration but Tachanun (תחנון, Supplication) and similar prayers are omitted from mincha afternoon prayers the day before or on the day itself, and a bride and groom traditionally do not fast if their wedding falls on Tu B’Av. Nowadays, Tu B’Av has become a romantic Jewish holiday and has been said to be a great day for weddings, commitment ceremonies, the renewal of vows or proposing. It is thus a day for romance, celebrated as a holiday of love (חג האהבה Ḥag HaAhava) with singing, dancing, giving flowers and studying. No work is permitted. Image: jewishjournal.com.
Pioneer Day. An official holiday celebrated by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (LDS Church, Mormons) in the American state of Utah, with the public holiday being on Friday 23 July this year. Some celebrations also take place in parts of surrounding states originally settled by the Mormon pioneers. The 1847 entry of Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley is celebrated, the Latter-day Saints having come to settle in what was then Mexico and would come to be in the state of Utah after being forced by persecution from Nauvoo, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri and other settlements in the eastern United States. In addition to being an official holiday in Utah, Pioneer Day is considered a special occasion by many LDS members and some walk parts of the Mormon Trail or re-enact entering the Salt Lake Valley with handcarts. Latter-day Saints throughout the USA and around the world may celebrate July 24 in remembrance of the LDS pioneer era, with songs, dances, potluck communal meals and pioneer-related activities. Parades, fireworks, rodeos and other festivities help commemorate the event, which is similar to 4 July, with many local and all state-run government offices and many businesses closed. Although the holiday has strong LDS links, it is officially a celebration for everyone, regardless of faith and nationality, who emigrated to the Salt Lake Valley during the pioneer era, which is generally considered to have ended with the 1869 completion of the transcontinental railroad by the presidents of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific meeting in Promontory, Utah to drive a ceremonial last spike to connect their railroads. Notable non-LDS American pioneers from that period include Episcopal Bishop Daniel S. Tuttle, who was responsible for Utah’s first non-Mormon schools and first public hospital. The Intertribal Powwow at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City honours the cultural heritage and contributions of the area’s Native Americans, helping Utahns to gain a deeper understanding of the region’s history. Last year, Mormons restricted by Covid-19 carried out a self-examination of largely white Euro-American celebrations in a Black Lives Matter context. The LDS Church teaches that Peter was the first leader of the early Christian church and accepts apostolic succession from Peter but rejects papal successors as illegitimate. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, recorded 1829 revelations in which the resurrected Peter appeared to him to bestow the apostleship and keys of the kingdom as part of a restoration of the priesthood’s authority. The Book of Mormon quotes Isaiah more than any other Prophet from the Old Testament and has Jesus Christ stating that great are the words of Isaiah, and that all things prophesied by Isaiah have been and will be fulfilled. Mormons consider: the founding of their Church to be a fulfilment of Isaiah 11’s The Branch From Jesse; the translation of the Book of Mormon to be a fulfilment of Isaiah 29’s Woe to David’s City; and the building of Latter Day Saint temples to be a fulfilment of Isaiah 2:2’s The Mountain of the Lord. Image: legendsofamerica.com.
St Charbel Makhlouf (Sharbel Maklouf OFM, Youssef Antoun Makhlouf, Miracle Monk of Lebanon) (1828-98). Roman Calendar Feast Day for Christian Lebanese Maronite (ماروني, ܡܖ̈ܘܢܝܐ) priest, religious and monk born in a high mountain village, his mule driver father dying when returning from forced labour (corvée) with the Turkish Army when Youssef was 3. Raised in a pious home, Makhlouf was drawn to the lives of the saints and hermits and as a young boy caring for the family’s small flock he prayed before an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1851, he entered the Lebanese Maronite Order at the Monastery of Our Lady in Mayfouq to begin his training as a monk, later transferring to the Monastery of St Maron in Annaya, 50 km from Beirut. In 1853, he received the religious habit of a monk and took the name Charbel, after a Second-Century Christian martyr of the Antioch church. Makhlouf studied at the Monastery of Saints Cyprian and Justina to prepare himself for receiving Holy Orders and was ordained in 1859, being sent back to the St Maron Monastery to live a life of severe asceticism. He gained a reputation for holiness and for an ability to unite Christians and Muslims. In 1875, he was granted by the Abbot the privilege of living as a hermit at the Hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul, a chapel under the care of the monastery, and spent the next 23 years there, dying from a stroke. He was interred at the St Maron Monastery on Christmas Day, when heavy snow seemed likely to hinder the pallbearers but as they carried him the clouds disappeared and the weather cleared. A few months after his death, a bright light was seen surrounding his tomb and the superiors opened it to find his body still intact. His grave was opened four more times, the last in 1955, and each time his body was still as if alive, preserved intact with no alteration. However, in 1976 the body was completely decomposed, only the skeleton remaining. A great number of miracles have been attributed to Makhlouf since his death and a woman who was healed in 1993 was asked by him to visit the hermitage on the 22nd of every month for the rest of her life, people now gathering that day to pray and celebrate Mass in the hermitage of Saint Charbel in Annaya. Followers say they are miraculously healed in answer to prayers to him, especially those said at his tomb. Venerated in Catholic Church. Major shrine Monastery of Saint Maron. In 2017, the Chapel of Saint Sharbel was dedicated in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue in New York. Maronite Calendar Feast third Sunday in July. Patron of Lebanon. Image: catholicnewsagency.com.
Prayer St Sharbel was the second St Anthony of the Desert, the Perfume of Lebanon, the first Confessor of the East to be raised to the Altars in the Catholic Church, the honour of the Aramaic Antiochian Church and the model of spiritual values and renewal. Sharbel is like a Cedar of Lebanon standing in eternal prayer atop a mountain. The Aramaic Maronite Antiochian Church is indeed a living branch of the Catholic Church and is intimately connected with the trunk, who is Christ, our Saviour, the beginning and the end of all things. Amen