Valentines Day Not a Jewish Day

Happy Valentine’s Day to all.  Well it is not really a Jewish holiday. And its origins are murky. 

It is after all St. Valentine’s Day.  One version of the origins of the day tells it like this. St. Valentine was a Bishop in Rome who was martyred because he secretly officiated at marriages of young people when the Roman Emperor, Claudius had decreed that young men who would be drafted into the Roman army could not be married.  The Bishop gained a reputation for this defiant act and was thrown in jail and eventually beheaded.  He fell in love with the jailer’s daughter.  On the night before his execution he sent her a message with the closing “from your Valentine”   and thus the sending of “valentines” began!  

Well that is one myth of the day.  Others say it is a Christian co-opting of an even older stream- the marriage of Hera and Zeus.  But this is even a more problematic for Jews.  Zeus and Hera were brother and sister.  Hera was the goddess of marriage and childbirth.  She was Zeus’ second wife having eaten the first wife. Zeus didn’t just court his sister and fall in love with her but raped her and she finally submitted to him.  Some scholars point out that she probably pre-dated Greek religion and that she may have represented a more matriarchal tradition that was subsumed by the Greek patriarchy.  She was sometimes worshipped as the virgin goddess and sometimes associated with the cow.  Hera has much in common with Hathor the Egyptian cow goddess who is the goddess of motherhood and love and child birth-the same traits and they are both sky goddess connected to the heavenly throne.  (Is this a remnant of the why the sin of the golden calf is so strong?) The earth Gaia gave Zeus and Hera golden apples upon their marriage.  (No wonder the creation story as depicted in so much art has Adam and Eve sinning with apples!)

The Jewish day of love is Tu B’av  the 15th day of Av. When the Second Temple stood in Jerusalem-unmarried young women would dress in white, go out to the fields and dance.  The young unmarried men would go out to watch and choose a wife.  Thus this day became a day of love and celebration.

So no matter how you slice it Valentine’s Day is a problem for us Jews. 

Of course if you don’t bring home a card or some flowers that might be a problem too.

So tread carefully today in any case.

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3 thoughts on “Valentines Day Not a Jewish Day

  1. hmmm.. while all that might be true – it is a commercial holiday encouraged by Hallmark – and it is nice to be remembered by friends and family but the commercialixm has once again overtaken the meaning of love behind the holiday – being single is not always fun or easy (on days like today) and especially on Valentine’s Day which I continue to think of as a day of love and caring about each other – I choose to remember on this and every day that I am in
    G-d’s love – and what better love could there be? Happy Valentine’s Day to you xo xo

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