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If an alien landed in my house, they would have so many questions right now: Why is there so much toilet paper in the basement? Why does the pantry have enough chocolate chips to last a year? Did you buy stock in hand-sanitizer? What’s that smelly thing in the mason jar in the back of your fridge?
(This is a judgment-free zone. And no, those weren’t enough chocolate chips. And a sourdough starter, thank you very much).
And perhaps they would ask, “Why is a religious Jew celebrating Valentine’s Day this year?”
These are all great questions. And like the Four Questions that we recite on Passover, they all have the same answer: Because we are living through a pandemic.
It’s rare that a rabbi would suggest celebrating a holiday that honors a Christian saint. And while many people consider Valentine’s Day to be more of a secular holiday than a religious one these days, in normal times, it feels (to me) like a slippery slope.
BUT. We are not in normal times!
This year is crazy, unprecedented, wild and in need of some extra love.
I’ve just started teaching a weekly Mussar class on Thursday nights. Mussar is the practice of cultivating certain inner traits to live better lives. This week, the trait that we’ve been focusing on is gratitude. We’ve been practicing noticing the good in our lives and expressing thanks for it.
When I looked at the calendar and realized that Feb. 14 was quickly approaching, I stocked up on candy-heart headbands, a heart-decorated mask and thought about spending too much money on matching T-shirts. Our family is finding any reason to celebrate right now—and someone else’s holiday of love is good enough reason for us to have a special day.
Cynically, I know this is a Hallmark holiday, and I typically skip it. But why not take the opportunity to express our love and thanks for one another, especially during a really hard year?
So, on Sunday morning, Feb. 14, instead of regular pancakes, I’ll serve bright red pancakes in the shape of a heart—probably with sprinkles, because, kids. We’ll be thankful and grateful and loving toward one another—at least until one kid ruins the MagnaTile creation that the other built.
Have no fear—our celebrations this month aren’t limited to Yom Ahavah (Day of Love), as Valentine’s Day is known in Hebrew. On Friday night, Feb. 12, we’re having a costume Shabbat dinner in honor of Rosh Hodesh Adar. And, of course, Feb. 25 brings Purim. And, in between, we’ll have a movie day and a family game afternoon. Who knows—we might even celebrate Presidents Day by eating a certain brand of brie cheese on Feb. 15.
We’re surrounded by so much sadness—and a cold, dark, snowy winter—right now. Let’s take all the reasons we can find to show our love and appreciation for those around us. So, if you need a pick-me-up, come find me on Feb. 14. I’ll be the one wearing a candy-heart headband and eating red pancakes with sprinkles.