Valentine’s Day is one of those uniquely American celebrations like Thanksgiving and Halloween. Even though it may be named in honor of a saint, Valentine’s Day does not belong to Christianity any other faith for that matter. In fact if claims to the holiday could be made by anyone, it would be the card companies, the chocolate factories and the florists of the world.
While Valentine’s Day may not be a religious holiday, its primary focus is religious to its core. The expression of love, romantic or otherwise, is central to every religion. Love is the seat of goodness, kindness, compassion and understanding. Love is the emotion that drives empathy and caring, and it is an emotion that each of us tries to nurture throughout our lives.
Love keeps us grounded. Love keeps God at the forefront of our actions. Love opens the heart to the possibilities of healing, growing and learning. Indeed, “love” is a value deeply rooted in each of all religious traditions, for it is hardwired into the human soul. Every faith seeks to nurture this divinely given attribute, and yet, despite our boundless efforts to cultivate love, our world continues to be plagued by hatred, mistrust, anger and violence.
As contrived as Valentine’s Day may be, there is value in celebrating love in a world that is so fractured. There is a value in taking one day a year to honor an emotion that transcends the tumult of society and which is shared by all humanity. The value of such a day is something that we, as Jews, should embrace. It may not be a Jewish holiday in the traditional sense, but as American Jews, we have one of those unique opportunities to celebrate with our fellow Americans a day dedicated to the universal value of love.
So for all the Jewish romantics among us. . . Have a Happy Valentine’s Day.