Adapted from the original Spanish article by Vale Levin –
On the fifteenth day of the Hebrew Month of Av, Tu B’Av, we celebrate a day dedicated to love. Tu B’Av is a minor celebration in priority when put on a scale with the rest of the Jewish calendar. It does not celebrate a change in the yearly cycle, it is not a day for asking for forgiveness, nor is it a day for mourning or reaching for new goals. Yet, what is love if not a mere manifestation of a feeling? As educators our mission is to develop as teachers, design content, and prepare lessons for our students. Although we may not be aware of it, we are also connecting a thread of love, for there can be no teaching-learning link if there is no for what is being done.
Once upon a time, during the Second Temple period, there was a beautiful and romantic tradition. On a certain date, women would go out in borrowed white dresses to dance in the vineyards. They would borrow the dresses so that none would be left without one. Men, like the women, would also come out to the festivities. The intention of this tradition was no more and no less than simply to find love. The entire purpose of this party with its beautiful clothing was to form a family, live through the continuation of traditions, and to find the means of Magen David. We no longer have the Second Temple, or this tradition, but if we think on where first love meets, clearly educational spaces are one of them. As children, we fell in love in parks, schools, youth movements, and clubs. It wasn’t necessarily romantic love with a physical entity. Love can take on as many forms as there are linked beings. I remember my love for Quino’s Mafalda comic books. I read each page finding answers to all my questions, only to generate even more questions. I was fascinated by the humor, the outrage, and heard wisdom in the voice of a little girl. We find love in the unexpected, whether on the pages of a book or in nature. We walk the streets feeling wonder toward the leaves. Yet, we should be careful not to romanticize this love, as sometimes, in our educational spaces, we feel frustration when a lesson does not turn out as we imagine. Meeting the unexpected, for better or for worse, is also love. To think that love has only one language is a mistake, as Judaism itself presents us with different languages for love.
It is important for us to keep in mind that Tu B’Av is the day of lovers, not boyfriends or husbands. If we are in with our profession, our tasks, our engine for education, then we also deserve to celebrate this day of love. In Judaism, a central concept is the covenant, a love relationship with God that dates back to ancient times. One of the most important laws of the Torah is to love our neighbor. In Pirkei Avot, the rabbis contrasted two types of love: conditional love, which cannot last, and unconditional love, which is eternal. In the story of Amnon and Tamar, children of King David, Amnon fell in love with Tamar, until he ended up abusing her. After this, his attitude changed completely and he hated her even more intensely than he had loved her earlier. Yehonatan, the son of King Saul and his heir, loved David, a rival to the throne who King Saul hated. It is an interesting contrast, the two types of love found in these stories. In the story of Amnon, his specific interest in her overshadowed what should have been a natural and selfless love between siblings. His sexual attraction turned the selfless bond into one of self-interest, and when he realized his desire he was no longer interested in her. He “loved” her because she served him, the love was merely a means of satisfying his sexual desires. He did not lover her as a person, but as a utilitarian object. On the other hand, in the case of David and Yehonatan, it was natural for Yehonatan to hate David as a threat to his throne. Nevertheless, he loved David for who he was, and not for what he would bring to him. This is the definition of true love, valuing the other beyond what they can do for you.
Love is a constant exercise, it is an activity that is carried out on a daily basis through words of affection, gestures to show we are present, and the expression of interest in the well-being of the other. Education itself is an act of love, but it may be the most challenging of mental exercises for teachers, as it’s not measurable with tangible qualitative or quantitative results. It is love because we are passionately giving a part of ourselves to support the well-being of the other. We do not expect anything more than the personal, professional, spiritual, and cultural growth of our students. When we educate, we are creating a family, one where we can create a better world through the next generation, a generation that will love its neighbors just as they were loved by their teachers.