American Jews seem to be quite attracted to the customs and celebrations of other cultures. The Christmas holiday season has given rise to a plethora of newfound Jewish involvement. There are Chanukah bushes to decorate and Chanukah stockings to hang. The Matzo Ball, an annual Christmas Eve gala in South Florida, is touted as the premier Jewish singles event.
This year Valentine’s Day came out on a Friday. Enterprising Jews were quick to step up to the plate to make the day their own. A synagogue in Plantation, Florida, created a Valentine’s Day ceremony for the congregation’s Friday night service. More than a dozen Jewish couples used the “romantic day” to renew their marriage vows.
Rabbi Andrew Jacobs of Ramat Shalom assured his flock that St. Valentine’s Day was not a Christian celebration. He referred to it as a “Hallmark holiday.” The rabbi and his wife, Rabbi Cheryl Jacobs, guided the couples in reciting The Song of Songs. Rabbi Andrew led the men. Rabbi Cheryl led the women.
In reality, Valentine’s Day commemorates a Catholic priest, Father Valentine, who is reported to have risked his life to perform Christian marriage ceremonies against the command of Emperor Claudius II. Valentine was beheaded for his efforts. His martyrdom led to his becoming a saint.
The details of the origin of the holiday are actually moot. The real question is why Jews are so drawn to practices of others. Children often beg to have dinner at their friends’ homes. The fare of other families seems more intriguing than whatever they are being served. The grass always seems greener and the food better on the other side of the fence.
Women celebrating Valentine’s Day receive a bouquet of roses or a box of chocolates one day a year. Eishet Chayil, the song of praise lauding the Jewish wife, is sung at the Shabbat table every Friday evening of the year.
Is forbidden fruit more appealing? Too bad we can’t ask Adam and Eve.
About the Author: Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.
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