Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors

A Jewish Valentine’s Day

Perhaps the notion of a Jewish Valentine’s Day sounds odd. After all, Valentine’s Day combines the cultures of pagan Rome and early Christianity, so where does Judaism fit in? I know, it’s “really” a secular commercial day and even thinking about the day’s religious roots is “silly”. But those roots, be they Pagan, Christian or Jewish, tell a wonderful story about romance, how to find it and how to keep it alive.
Although the story is not entirely clear, in all likelihood, our Valentine’s Day probably combines the Roman dating/mating/fertility festival of Lupercalia and a memorial for an early Christian priest named Valentine, who was martyred in 269. That’s where the story gets interesting.
The central ritual of Lupercalia involved a kind of dating lottery in which people hooked up based on names which they drew out of barrels at public gatherings. While we can’t know how lasting such relationships were, we know that the celebration was based on a notion that romance was a matter of chance or fate.
However weird or scary the notion of martyrdom may be, especially in our world which is soaked in religious violence, martyrs decide what they live and die for. Valentine’s death and the decision to link it to romance, teaches us that our romantic life is not just a matter of fate or chance but something we can do something about.
Frankly, I am more interested in what we live for than celebrating what we die for, but the shift from love as a matter of chance to love as a matter of choice is a definite upgrade. And that is where the Jewish take on Valentine’s Day comes in.


Traditional Jewish life has a kind of Valentine’s Day every week – it’s called Shabbat night. Beginning with the preparations which start on Friday, Jewish couples engage in rituals of romance which are associated with Valentine’s Day.
Like many Jewish men, I bring home flowers for my wife each Friday afternoon – usually roses, but that depends on what is nicest at the florist. We dress nicely for dinner, light candles, open a bottle of wine, eat a lovely meal and even indulge in dessert. No, it’s not always chocolates, but you get the point.
Our cell phones are off, and so is the TV. All external distractions are limited. I even sing to wife before we begin eating. Frankly, I don’t know if that proves how much I love her or, based on her willingness to put up with it, how much she loves me. Either way, it is the stuff of romance which Valentine’s Day reserves for once a year and we do it every week. And then there’s the sex.
Without going into details about my own life, I find it both fascinating and beautiful that Jewish tradition celebrates sexuality on the Sabbath. Most religious traditions have taught that sex undermines the sanctity of the Sabbath. And while there have even been Jewish sects which taught the same thing, that has never been the Jewish norm.
Loving sexuality in the context of a committed relationship is not only commensurate with the sacred; it is one of its highest expressions. According to Rabbi Yaakov Emden, when a husband and wife make love on Friday night, the divine presence, called the Shekhinah, is in bed with them! Is that why people shout “Oh my God”?
So even though I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day once a year, I try to celebrate it once a week. And however any of us chooses to celebrate romance, the idea that it really is up to us and not to fate is a beautiful and powerful teaching.
Whether its next week or every week, take time to follow the practices of Friday night and see what happens. You won’t be disappointed….though I don’t make any promises about the Divine presence!!

  • cathy waters

    what a lovely story about your weekly ” Day Of Valentines”. Thank you for writing about your marriage and your love. Your wife must be a happy woman.

  • Marilyn Appell

    Valentines day hasbecome a holiday for all to profess their love.

  • Drora Siamon

    I’m Jewish and an Israeli. What you wrote is beautiful – but how does it “sit” with matchmaking?

  • Your Name

    So you still at it rabbi, mixing paganism into Judaism. Why, don’t you just leave Judaism all together and become a Pagan Priest. You promotes more, and more nonsense with your post. Are you paid large funds to destroy Judaism? A real Jew (like me)ignores your knucklehead posts. Only knuckleheads belief this nonsense to make Valentine’s Day okay for Jews to keep. I expect nothing intelligent from one who also supports Halloween celebrations by Jews. Just leave your synagogue to promote your pagan practices. Note: mostlikely you would combine Passover with worshiping the Godess Eostra, next?

  • Eytan

    Your Name or whatever your real name is, don’t be so harsh on Rabbi Brad. Everyone is entitled to his opinion and you always have the luxury no to read his posts…
    Yet it’s true that Rabbi Brad always try to find a Jewish perspective to celebrations that have nothing to do with Judaism. Shabbat is a beautiful celebration and does not need to be compared to Valentine or President Day or MLK Day or any other celebrations that are not part of the Jewish Calendar.
    Rabbi Brad why don’t you let the Nations celebrate their festivals and the Jews theirs without always trying to find something in common?
    check-out for your daily spiritual click!

  • Bonnie

    Lighten up, writers, especially ‘Your Name’. There aren’t enough expressions of love as it is. Whether it’s a weekly ritual, or a once a year celebration, we need a reminder of how special we are to someone. Loving is an ongoing dynamic throughout the year, but every once in a while, a special reminder lets one realize how just how much. Many nachas for your article, Rabbi.

  • European

    It is preciseley these jewish mindsets like “your name” that contribute to so much seperation and hate among human beings, and dislike for the jews that caused the Holocaust in the first place. Can you imagine having lived with people around you day in and day out that viewed every other none-jew as pagan in their practices. You can sense the “demeaning tone”, agression and verbal assault in his comment. The Rabbi is smart by not inflaming and emphasize the differences derogatory, but by finding common grounds or likenesses instead. You still have the weekly instead of the yearly as a plus. Unless Jews thrive or get energized by creating hate. Live and let live to the real Jew.! Nice story by the way!

  • Camille

    Thank you Rabbi for what you shared with us, it completely inspired me and warmed my heart.

  • Kauko

    Wow, European, way to blame the victim!!! I’m glad to know that the Shoah was really all us Jews’ fault because we’re too uppity. The Holocaust was the culmination of centuries of European/ Christian anti-Semitism and it is nothing short of moral cowadice to imply that the Jews brought it on themselves because of some prejudice you have about Jews having an attitude. Do you know why Jews lived seperately in most of Europe? Because the Christians forced them to live in seperate ghettos and wear clothing that would make stand out. Jews had no trouble living side by side with Muslims and Christians in Muslim Spain. The irony is that you are perpetuating the same stereotypes of Jews that anti-semites have been perpetuating for centuries, stereotypes that helped fuel the Shoah.
    As fot those of you critisizing the Rabbi for “mixing paganism into Judaism. Why, don’t you just leave Judaism all together and become a Pagan Priest”, I mean, did you even read the post? Not once does he say that Jews should celebrate Valentine’s Day. On the contrary, he suggests that Jews don’t need to celebrate Valentine’s Day because there is already a weekly Jewish celebration that extolls the love between a husband and wife, namely the Sabbath. Now if you’re doubting his claim about the sacred nature of lovemaking between a married couple on Shabbos, well then you desperately need to learn more about Judaism. It is after all considered a ‘double mitzvah’ for a married couple to make love on Shabbos in the Shulchan Aruch (because it combines the commandments to procreate and to enjoy the sabbath).

  • European

    Oh Kauko, the Holocaust is past, I am talking about now, and what you, as jews, bring into life now. Your response is loaded and charged with aggressions and ready to attack as well,(you state it mildly as an attitude, that is a mindset isn’t it?) I said: live and let live to the real jew, that is where I stand, no agression here. I am sure, if any of you were honest, jews have contributed to the anti-semite atmosphere (over how many centuries?) as well. For hate to exist, there has to be cause. I don’t hate you, unless you give me cause and reason in my interaction with you. And I can tell by your response you have a mindset that sees an anti-semite behind everyone and anyone, who questions, observes, and stands in disagreement with you. I don’t blame the victims, I am living here and now, today, and can’t believe what I read. I choose my friends that don’t insult me. Sorry! I did not insult your jewishness, but I questioned the “Your Name”. The Rabbi leaves a better taste in print with his fellow man’s relationship, and “responsibility”, then some of you in the here and now. (argumentative) You can have the last word, I personaly don’t care one way or another about your quarrels with one another. I just know it arrives as toxin in any atmosphere, and tells me something about you “today” and who you are as a people. It is a fact that some people are fueled by hate. I for one am not. It is repugnant and I prefere a different tone.

  • YourPalSteve

    Well stated European. :)
    Sensible discourse without the usual aggressive undertones of separation and elitism from the aforementioned Your Name and Kaukcuckoo.
    Some people never learn to let go of past atrocities and love to live in permanent victim mode.
    I’m not saying deny anything in history, but this has happened, reflect on it from time to time, but live in the moment.
    Have a lovely Valentine’s Day, Rabbi.
    Your wife is a lucky person.

  • Kauko

    Your false assumption here, however, is that since hate toward a group has a cause that Jews must bear some responsiblity in their actions for that hate. That is an unfounded assumption. Europeans found no lack of reasons to rationalize their hatred of the Jews and I think you’d be hard pressed to find any historical authority who would attribute that hatred to the attitudes of Jews.
    “Oh Kauko, the Holocaust is past, I am talking about now, and what you, as jews, bring into life now.”
    You certainly did not seem to be talking about the present when you brought up the Holocaust in the first place and made a direct correlation between it and the attitudes held by Jews.
    ” I don’t hate you, unless you give me cause and reason in my interaction with you.”
    That may be true of your personal hate of another person, but you are attributing to much rationality to why whole groups of people may hate other groups. And again, I will say that it is moral cowardice to say or imply that historically oppressed and hated people’s have done anything to earn that hatred and oppression. The sociological reasons as to why European Christians hated the Jews are certainly very complex and you don’t do any justice to the issue by simplistically claiming that Jews must have done something to make European Christians hate them.
    “And I can tell by your response you have a mindset that sees an anti-semite behind everyone and anyone, who questions, observes, and stands in disagreement with you.”
    Completely untrue, I am the first person to be critical of people who throw terms like anti-semite or racist around lightly. I also never in my comment called you an anti-semite. I did, however, accuse you of perpetuating anti-semitic stereotypes when you claimed that hatred of Jews is derived from the way that they promote ‘seperation and hatred among human beings’. Those were your own words, words which you linked directly to ‘Jewish mindsets’. These are historically exactly the rationalizations of anti-semites, and are the defense of people who, instead of looking within themselves to find the issues that brought about their own irrational hatred of another people, can only continue to cast blame and responsibility on those whom they hate to justify it.
    “I just know it arrives as toxin in any atmosphere, and tells me something about you “today” and who you are as a people.”
    And there you manage to 100% prove my point. You would presume to judge an entire people based on anonymous comments on an internet blog. What more do I really need to say? You either came to this blog post and its accompanying comments already holding these negative views of Jewish people or you are so shallow as to have come here with no opinion and decided that you can know anything about the entire Jewish people based on a few comments. Either way, you come out looking pretty bad, I’d say.

  • Kauko

    “Sensible discourse without the usual aggressive undertones of separation and elitism from the aforementioned Your Name and Kaukcuckoo”
    I’m sorry, but I missed have missed that place where anyone (much less myself) used undertones of seperation and elitism? It seems to me that you’re guilty of reading those things into the discussion either because you are inclined to do so or you have misunderstood what people have said.

  • Your Name

    Anytime is Valentine when we share love to one another.

  • Your Name

    To European –
    Who said the Holocaust is past??!! There are holocausts all over and we, as Jews, should be aware of it.
    Shabat is beautiful and shouldn’t be compared to Valentine’s – but in today’s world – any expression of love, no matter what date and how – is more than acutely needed…

  • Emily with the Kippah

    I am sure, if any of you were honest, jews have contributed to the anti-semite atmosphere (over how many centuries?) as well. For hate to exist, there has to be cause.
    Yes, and the phony “cause” Christians and Europeans have used is that we “Killed Christ.” Which, of course, was invented because early pagan Christians were bitter we didn’t buy into the “God can be a man and die as a blood sacrifice, and the Torah prescribes this” knucklehead BS.
    Then when THAT canard got tired, it was “Jews control all the money.” But in fact, Jewish people were forced into money-lending by Christians, and we were forbidden to own land under their laws.
    NOW it is, “all Jews hate Arab Israelies and Palestinian Arabs.” Right. Because every single act the Israeli gov takes is completely righteous. (That’s sarcasm, FYI.)
    Now, it dismays me, but doesn’t surprise me, that European takes this attitude. Afterall, in Europe, Fascist parties still hold power (however minuscule at the current time), and swastikas and other far-right racist symbols are spraypainted on buildings in cities everywhere.

  • pagansister

    Thanks Rabbi for giving us an insight to your weekly Valentine’s day. Lovely! Also thank you for bringing in the pagan aspect to the now Valentine’s day. Very interesting.

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    Your blog brings me a lot of fun. Very glad to have the opportunity to meet you. Take ralax and give yourself a surprise, and we will live more happy.

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