Monday, February 12, 2007

Have a Heart

Jews don't believe in Valentine's Day. Not even if the "Saint" title is obscured. Not even if the entire culture is rife with red hearts, silver foil, expensive bouquets and urges not to forget the beloved lest that love be lost. Jews don't believe in Valentine's Day not because we're a curmudgeonly lot, determined to fly in the face of the surrounding culture, though indeed we often are just that. In fact, expression of love is well-rooted in Jewish culture...and in fact prescribed by Jewish culture. There are actual Jewish laws that command husbands about their intimate duties to their wives--how often their services are to be offered at a minimum, determined by the profession of the husband. More well known might be the habit to bring the wife flowers on the eve of the Sabbath. Equally important are traditions to treat one's husband like a king, and one's wife like a queen.
So why, then, are religious Jews so obtuse about Valentine's Day? Well, largely because of that well-camouflaged "Saint" origin. Jews don't care much for Easter, either. Ramadan isn't observed as well.
Jews have plenty of holidays as-is. Some might even secretly think, "too many holidays." Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, okay, everyone knows those. And Chanuka, yes, the Jewish answer to....NO, exactly the opposite, the Jewish answer to Jews assimilating. But what about those lovely four days for Sukkot and Shimini Atseret? "The time of our rejoicing." Four days for Passover. Shavuot, the giving of the Torah. Seven weeks of counting the Omer. Three weeks of mourning Jewish tragedies in the summertime. The birthday of the Trees. SIX, count 'em, SIX fast days. And they call the one month without holidays "MAR Cheshvan," bitter because it has no celebrations.
Well, I'll confess to those few who read this: I like Valentine's Day. I enjoy those hearts, I enjoy the idea of professing love. I enjoy the cheerfulness of the rows of flowers at the supermarket, and the sweetness of the sappy cards. I (big confession for a Jew...) make Valentines for my children. With construction paper, doilies, stickers, silver markers, and lately, even heart-cropped photos of me with each of them. I send a Valentine to my aunt, who's 100 years old. Another to our adoptive brother/uncle/household helper. The ones to my children say "I love you to the MAX," the ones to others say, "Happy Valentine's Day," but really say, "I appreciate you. I remember you. I care about you."
There's plenty to say against Valentine's Day, now that it's become so commercialized. But then again, nobody buys a bouquet of roses against his will. Nobody gets a mylar balloon or a Vermont Teddy Bear or even a box of chocolates ("you never know what you're gonna get") without caring about the recipient. And all the merchants and florists and balloon inflaters and Teddy Bear-stuffers are happy and the economy prospers and the free market system scores another victory. But this time, it's doing so because of love. Because our culture has embraced the idea of expressing affection and caring. I just find it tough to argue with that.

1 comment:

  1. All you need is love, love ... love is all you need ... and to one whose heart is always so full of love for her family and friends, may you always reap seven-fold the love and joy and peace of heart you bring to those in your life!