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Who is the real Purim hero?

Posted on 09 March 2017 by admin

Dear Families,
We have a contest going on — Who is the real Purim hero?
Each of us look for heroes and the story of Esther is filled with possibilities. Gather some friends together and have some take parts, then talk about the many heroes and finally take a vote. We are voting at the J so you can send me your answers and we will add to the numbers!
King Ahasuerus: I am King Ahasuerus. Many people think I’m foolish because I always listen to others to make a decision. I know I wasn’t so nice to ask my Queen Vashti to come dance naked. I especially know it was wrong to listen to Haman and agree to kill all of the Jews, but in the end I listened to Queen Esther and the Jews were saved. Without me listening to everyone, we wouldn’t have such a great story.
Queen Vashti: I am Queen Vashti. I didn’t have a big part in the Purim story but I got the story going. I was the first woman in Shushan to stand up to her husband. If I hadn’t set the stage for Esther, she never would have been queen, let alone had the opportunity to save her people, the Jews. Even without all the problems of the Jewish people, I was a hero of a story for all women.
Haman: I am Haman. I know you cannot imagine that I would be a hero but without me there would be no story. And I’m really a product of my environment. My wife picked on me — no one really liked me — I just needed to feel important. Mordechai and the Jews just got in the way.
Mordechai: I am Mordechai and although I really don’t want to brag, I managed this whole story. I got Esther into the palace, I saved the king’s life, I convinced Esther that it was her great opportunity to save her people and I took care of all the details for the Jews to fight back and not be killed.
Queen Esther: I’m Queen Esther and everyone knows that I’m the real hero. I was the one who went to the king, accused Haman and then figured out how to save the Jews. So what if I was a little afraid and had to fast for three days — I came through and saved my people.
God: Wait a minute…you forgot Me! Just because I’m not mentioned in the story doesn’t mean My presence wasn’t felt or important. The Jews are My people and even when bad things happen, I am always watching out for them.

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Good, bad of US democracy

Posted on 02 March 2017 by admin

People are protesting many of the actions of our new president’s administration, while he has been attacking the credibility of the press. That is “only the tip of the iceberg.”
People are rightfully concerned and many are questioning his actions.
Can a U.S. president do whatever he pleases? What about Congress and the courts? We should all know the answers to these questions, but many of us do not.
Studies taken by various professional education organizations show that only 25-30 percent of America’s high school students are proficient in U.S. history, civics and geography.
In spite of these alarming statistics, many of our nation’s top universities may actually be contributing to this problem.
A recent national study reveals that of the 76 most highly rated universities, only 23 require history majors to take at least one U.S. history course.
Remember that these are “leading” universities that other schools tend to emulate.
This de-emphasis of U.S. history and U.S. government at the college level may help to, at least partially, explain the problem of today’s ill-prepared high school students whose history and government teachers may be as ill-prepared as they.
In addition, state- or federally-mandated tests at public schools often pressure teachers to teach to the expected test items in the form of short-answer-type questions, such as true-or-false, multiple-choice, matching and fill-in-the blanks. None of these determines a student’s understanding of government and history as would essay questions, which require more complex thinking and general knowledge.
The good news is that we have the U.S. Constitution, which defines the specific powers of each branch of government and the rights of the people as specified in the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, otherwise known as the Bill of Rights.
No matter what your level of knowledge may be of the Bill of Rights, I highly recommend that TJP readers of all ages make their way to the Bill of Rights exhibit, currently running through March 16 at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, in downtown Dallas.
The Dallas Holocaust Museum, which is just around the corner from the Sixth Floor Museum, has a special exhibit, Filming the Camps.
A daylong visit to both exhibits will be a meaningful learning experience for anyone concerned about people’s rights in our nation.
A supposed Thomas Jefferson quotation says it all. “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.”

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Reporter plans ‘maximum flash’ in final days

Posted on 02 March 2017 by admin

He’s had a hell of a nasty medical history already, but has handled life very well.
Remarkably well, considering diabetes and two prior cancers. He and his longtime wife live in a nice North Dallas house, and he’s held an excellent local job for the past 28 or so years. Not easy, juggling serious illnesses and keeping up with work. But now, this combo has become virtually impossible.
He is Jeffrey Weiss. Maybe you’ve read him over those past almost three decades. He’s taken some necessary breaks, but always gotten back on the ever-bucking horse that carries career journalists outside of themselves to report on the facts, fantasies and foibles of others. Only now, he’s reporting on himself.
And maybe you’ve been reading his own installments on his own health “adventures” in the Dallas Morning News. They started last Sunday on the front page, with Jeff’s declaration that if he’s destined to flame out, he wants to do it with the maximum flash possible. This time, he has glioblastoma, a brain tumor that’s a virtual death sentence.
First, he noticed that his writing was becoming garbled; he knew what he wanted to say, but couldn’t get the words out right. He thought maybe he was just tired — with his medical history, who wouldn’t be? But rest didn’t help. And then came the trouble with one eye, the diagnosis, the question-mark-shaped cut that removed a chunk of his skull so surgeons could excavate the tumor. They got 95 percent of it, then replaced that piece of his head.
Jeff and his wife have no children. Marni is a nurse, which has probably been a very good thing in the past and is certainly more so now. She knows what’s happening, and what her part in it is and will be. She takes care of that, while Jeff worries about making sure he takes care of everything he’s put off for so long — and which of us hasn’t put off finalizing some necessary documents, writing down those “what if?” plans because we don’t know how to plan for things if we don’t know whether or not they will ever be real? Especially if we don’t want them to be real. … But for Jeff, everything is real now, and he knows what he has to do.
For someone in his situation, he’s in a good place. Years ago, when I did some heavy-duty freelancing for the DMN, I worked with an editor who developed an eventually fatal illness. I learned then that the paper would not leave such a person hung out to dry. I hope that’s still a policy as true now as it was then.
I know Jeff has company insurance, and enough discretionary funds that he and Marni plan to take a trip, soon, to Miami — his home town — then board a ship for a weeklong cruise, doing nothing at all but sailing and relaxing. They both need it. They both deserve it.
I have a hard time getting my head around the fact that Jeffrey Weiss was born the same year I graduated from college! How is it that some of us are granted long and at least relatively healthy lives, while some are plagued with serious problems early-on and faced with an untimely ultimate end?
When I posted Jeff, with some trepidation, to ask if he’d permit me to write about him here, he posted back virtually immediately: “Absolutely use me!”
But I’m really asking all of us to use ourselves. Will all the congregations in our area unite in putting Jeffrey Weiss’ name on their mishaberach lists? In the long run, his body will run its own course. But our prayer is for spirit as well as for body. He’s already way ahead of us on that; still, some extra help can’t hurt.
If you haven’t read Jeff’s take on himself in the paper-on-paper, just go to dallasmorningnews.com/jeffweiss for the whole story.

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Purim’s joy heightened by reversal of certain death

Posted on 02 March 2017 by admin

Dear Rabbi,
I always have trouble feeling joyous on Purim. That salvation happened thousands of years ago, and we have had so many troubles since then and have scores of problems now here at home and in Israel. Any suggestions?
— Martin W.
Dear Martin,
The miracle of Purim was one of a great “Reversal.” What was going to be our destruction became our redemption. Just when Haman went to the king to have Mordechai deposed, he became the very one who was ordered to lead the Jewish leader through the streets of the capital, according him the greatest honors. The enormous gallows he erected to have Mordechai hanged was the very same gallows he himself was hanged upon. The date that the Amalekites had decreed to kill every last Jewish man, woman and child became the very same day that their enemies were destroyed. The Megillah of Esther calls the month of Adar “the month that was reversed, from sorrow to rejoicing, from mourning to festival” (9:22).
The precedent to this phenomenon was the episode of Balaam, the Gentile prophet who, in the employ of the wicked Balak, sought to decimate the Jewish people by curse (Numbers Ch. 22-24). Instead, all of his curses were reversed into blessings. “But HaShem, your God, refused to listen to Balaam, and HaShem, your God, reversed the curse to a blessing for you, because HaShem, your God loved you” (Deuteronomy 24:6).
This occurrence was a sine-qua-non for much of Jewish history. Truth be told, for the Jewish outlook on life!
The Talmud speaks of a pious man nicknamed Nachum Ish Gamzu. He was called that because his motto in life was “Gam zu l’tova,” or “This is also for the good.” No matter how dark and despairing a situation he found himself in, he would always utter, with complete faith and trust in God’s goodness, “Gam zu l’tova.” Only later would the others around him perceive how the terrible situation was actually the best circumstance they could have hoped for. Through his remarkable trust in God, Nachum lived a life of reversals.
I once read the account of German Jews who had gained transport on a British ship to escape the Nazis to England near the outset of the war. They were treated very roughly by the British crew, who stole many of their valuables. Their hearts sank when they passed England, obviously rerouted to another undisclosed locale. During the long voyage they were harassed, the remainder of their belongings stolen from them. All they had left were their pictures and letters from their loved ones, their final vestiges of humanity. Then the British confiscated from them that final remnant of their past, and they cast the Jews’ letters into the sea. At that point the Jews sank into despair, and felt that all was lost. As soon as they disembarked and the ship returned to the high seas, it was blown up by a German submarine.
After the war the German commander of that submarine was interviewed and asked to explain why he blew up the ship full of Jews only after they disembarked. He explained that they were about to sink the ship when it left England’s waters, but suddenly they noticed the sea was full of papers.
They pulled the papers onto the submarine, and, although they were very blotted and impossible to read, they could at least tell that the letters were written in German, making them realize the British had a ship full of German nationals. They decided then to guard the ship until they were sure the German prisoners on board had gotten to safety and only then destroy it. Little did they imagine they were protecting a ship full of Jews! What those Jews had thought was their destruction was actually their salvation!
The reversal of Purim is a Jewish paradigm; we need to rejoice in God’s love for us and look for the reversals in our own lives today, on both a personal and a national level. Purim is just over a week away, so we have a little time to contemplate this and notice the surprisingly good occurrences in our lives and that of our people, so we can truly be joyous on the day of Purim!

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Morally outraged? Public shame last resort

Posted on 23 February 2017 by admin

Jan. 28 was a typical day at Joe’s Coffee Shop in East Atlanta, Georgia. The smells of distinct Intelligentsia Coffee were wafting through the air, and the usual mix of coffee patrons were busy mulling about the roomy space and sitting at tables.
Asma Elhuni, a Georgia State University graduate student and hijab-wearing Muslim, was sitting at a table by herself, working on her computer, when she first noticed Rob and his camera pointed right at her. Asma claims to have tried to ignore him at first, but soon engaged Rob in a conversation that she would videotape herself on her phone.
“You like taking pictures of Muslim women?” Asma asked Rob. Rob initially laughed off her question, claiming that he wasn’t taking a picture of her but of something in the shop’s background, but soon became defensive and abrasive. Seating himself at Asma’s table, Rob leaned in and called her a dirty name only to follow that up by asking Asma if she had a green card (Asma is an American citizen). Rob was in for a surprise if he imagined that this would be the last that he heard of this short encounter. Asma posted her video to her Facebook page with the caption, “Fight back with your cameras y’all,” and encouraged everyone to “spread widely.”
Within only two days Asma’s video went viral, having been viewed by 1.6 million people and shared 17,500 times.
This, in fact, is how this story came to my attention. A Facebook friend of mine had heeded Asma’s charge and shared the video with all of her friends. She was morally outraged and wanted the social media stratosphere to know it. Writing in the style of the Dick and Jane children’s books of the 1930s she added her thoughts on the matter:
“See Rob!
Rob is a bully!
Shame Robert K. … (last name withheld by the author)!
Rob is Islamaphobic!!!!
Shame Robert K. … (last name withheld by the author)!”
The interesting thing is that both Asma and my Facebook friend posted the video to share the kind of discrimination that Muslim women encounter in America, and I’m sure they imagined that by doing so they were helping to further their moral cause. But what of the fact that in this very process a man, however nasty he may have been in that coffee shop, was publicly tarred and feathered?
It wasn’t long before Rob’s identity and Facebook page were discovered and he was soon inundated with death threats and nasty comments. Rob was clearly concerned that this new notoriety could impact his livelihood as well and posted an apology to all of his business partners for his less than stellar behavior.
As a student of Jewish law, the irony of this story is glaring. To maliciously hurt someone’s feelings with mean words in private is no doubt an egregious sin of onaas devarim (“words that hurt”) and one of the negative commandments of the Torah (Vayikra 25:17), but to publicly shame someone is far more egregious!
The Talmud famously notes, “He who publicly shames his neighbor is as though he shed blood (Bava Matzia 58b).” It hurts to be insulted and demeaned in private, but to suffer the fate of public shaming is something else entirely. Unfortunately in our day and age we hear too often of teenagers ending their lives rather than having to face another day of public humiliation due to leaked pictures or videos that had been spread online by their peers.
The Talmud’s words are all too poignant. And although it is true that there are cases in Jewish law when public shaming is allowed, and even meritorious, this device of destruction is kept under strict lock and key, only to be utilized in cases when all other methods of rebuke toward a sinner have been attempted and fallen flat. Public shaming is not meant for your everyday conflict, however painful that conflict might be.
Recently a congregant of mine shared with me that she had come to the conclusion that she had no interest in being ritually observant and would be satisfied by just being a good person. “Well,” I told her to her utter surprise, “you’ve got to learn a lot of Torah to accomplish that!”
You see, as much as our tradition shines its light on the kosher status of different food items, and the permissibility or lack thereof of different actions performed on Shabbos, it equally teaches us how to behave toward others, how to act ethically in the workplace and how to engage with social media. Had Asma or my Facebook friend asked my advice on the matter I would have encouraged them to post the video online, encourage everyone to share the video, but first and foremost to hire a video editor to blur out Rob’s face. The message of the video would come out just as clearly but with the moral clarity to know that no one has to suffer public shaming on the crucible of moral advancement.

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Human uncertainty simply 1 of God’s tools

Posted on 23 February 2017 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
I’ve been following your treatment of the parallel universe theory in physics as it relates to Judaism. What I see as a real problem with relation to Judaism, or any religion that believes that God created the universe, is the uncertainty principle in physics; how could there be uncertainty on the part of God?
Rick B.
Dear Rick,
Your question is an excellent one, and was first raised by none other than Albert Einstein, as I will explain.
For the readers, Rick is referring to a principle first elucidated by Werner Heisenberg in 1927. It states, based on the mathematics of quantum mechanics which govern subatomic particles, that we cannot know both the position and the velocity of a subatomic particle. If you know its exact position, you will not know its exact direction or speed.
This principle is based in mathematics and is not to be confused with another principle of quantum mechanics, known as the observer effect, which notes that the very measurement of a system affects the system. This effect is worthy of discussion in its own right. It is, however very different from what Heisenberg, and after him Niels Bohr, stated, that even if we could develop a mode of measurement which would somehow not affect the system, it is a deeply-rooted fact of our universe that there is uncertainty in the knowledge of a particle because every particle acts in an uncertain way. All we can know is the likelihood of a certain number of particles to act in a certain way; we can never know exactly how any given particle is acting by its very nature.
Einstein’s famous reaction to Heisenberg was, “God doesn’t play dice!” Einstein, although not an observant man, was a believer in God, and could not accept that there is inherent uncertainty in His creation. It must be that God created the world with certainty and we are simply missing the appropriate equations, just as there is certainty in the macro level as elucidated by his own theories of relativity. Einstein, over the course of years, attempted to disprove uncertainty with a series of thought experiments, but, alas, experimentation proved him wrong and uncertainty triumphed. Uncertainty remains (in various forms) a pillar of quantum mechanics with tremendous ramifications on a practical level besides in its understanding of the universe.
Your question, Rick, which was the question inherent in Einstein’s “dice,” remains for us a profound theological question. How do we, in fact, reconcile uncertainty with a universe created by God?
I think the answer is precisely the opposite of what was bothering Einstein. God created the world with inherent uncertainty to relate to us humans the profound message that we are not in charge and ultimately only He is in charge! Uncertainty for us doesn’t spell uncertainty for Him, it just limits our control.
There are scientists who have further theorized that uncertainty is the scientific source of the concept of free choice, which is a core Jewish belief. Absolute determinism would present a challenge to free will; uncertainty could be its foundation.
This relates to another area of science which we have discussed in past columns, that of the determination of weather. Many scholarly articles have been written on our inherent inability to predict rain with true accuracy. We explained this with the Talmudic statement that rain is one of the areas for which God didn’t “hand over the keys” to man. The intrinsic nondeterministic nature of rain is actually a God-given quality. This is explained in the deeper sources of Judaism that rain is the physical example of how all of life receives its sustenance, physical and spiritual, from Above. That is why, in Hebrew, the entire physical world is referred to as the olam hagashmi, or the “world of rain.” In order to keep the message alive and well that the existence of the universe depends upon the will of God, He created rain and the entire weather system to be innately nondeterministic.
So too, as mankind forges forward boldly in the understanding of the inner workings of the universe with the massive intellectual achievements of quantum mechanics, we may have come to the point that we would truly feel we are the ultimate controllers of the cosmos and life itself. So at the point that we are nearly there, God winks at us through the equations of Heisenberg, letting us know that Someone else is in charge!

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Got it? Reading toward sisterly connection

Posted on 23 February 2017 by admin

My sister called from New York with an imperative: “Read this book — Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart.”
She said she was confused at first, but after persevering, she figured she had “got it.” And she wanted to know what my conclusion would be.
So I found the book at the JCC’s Tycher Library and began to read. I must admit, I haven’t finished it yet. I haven’t even gotten very far — just about 100 pages out of a whopping 350. But I already understand what she meant by “getting it.”
Little Failure is a rough Russian translation of what two concerned parents called their puny, asthmatic baby soon after they brought him home. His first six years were a constant battle between childish desires for a normal childhood and adult worries about health. And then, at seven, this “little failure” was transplanted, with those parents, to America, one family among the many “rescued” Soviets we all worked so hard to bring here and resettle some 40 years ago.
Currently, my “pleasure” reading has been almost entirely Philip Roth. I’m trying to understand how one man could write in one lifetime some 30 books, every one of prize-winning quality. Where does all that productivity come from? Now, I think Roth is a useful tool to help me figure out Shteyngart. And vice versa.
No writer of fiction makes things up out of whole cloth. Writers write what they know, what they’ve gleaned from their own experiences. Roth’s most honored novels have grown out of his own life experiences. Shteyngart has already written a trio of novels, none of which I’ve read (yet), but all of which hint to me by their very titles that they must have his sharp wit and cutting-edge irony, most of the latter directed at himself. I can’t imagine otherwise about The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, or Absurdistan, or Super Sad Love Story. These came relatively early, but were after he’d honed his English skills to the same sharp points he jabs the reader with in Little Failure. This autobiographic memoir was written in 2014, many years after he landed here in the United States.
I don’t think I’m stretching — at least not too far — to read a kinship into the works of these two talented but very different writers. Both are born Jews, but disaffected in their different ways. Both were adored sons of overprotective mothers, and grew up to kick over the traces that are still so much shining through their writings. Roth, who created a fictional “hero” who grew up to marry Miss New Jersey, writes a biting tale of one of his own wives; Shteyngart has chosen a Korean woman as his life partner. Both draw themes from and about their childhoods — even when their characters are adults: the old neighborhoods, current events of their growing-up days (for Roth, Hebrew school and polio, among others; for Shteyngart, the overpowering figure of Lenin coupled with food shortages and primitive medicine). I wonder if they have ever met. I think they should…
It’s as dangerous to judge a book one hasn’t finished reading as it is to do what the old saw says not to: judge it by its cover. But I’ll try. The covers of Roth’s books, for the most part, give only the merest pictorial hint of what’s within. But Shteyngart’s memoir is quite different; here is a little boy “driving” a little car, but he’s not looking at whatever road is ahead — he’s staring sideways, at the reader, with dark eyes set into a face that might be either serious or sad, depending on the viewer’s interpretation.
My sister is an astute reader. I want to ask her what she thinks of that cover photo (one of many childhood photos of Shteyngart scattered throughout this book). But I’ll wait until I’ve finished Little Failure and can tell her — I hope — that I also “got it.”

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Teaching justice, fairness no easy task for parents

Posted on 23 February 2017 by admin

Dear Families,
A challenge with children and even for us as adults is understanding and practicing justice and fairness.
From these challenging concepts we move to how to eliminate hatred and prejudice based on the teachings of Judaism. A pretty tall order!
How do we teach our children? Through our texts and by our example. Fairness is a word that is really about justice or mishpat. Judaism has the message of justice deeply implanted in the spirit of Jewish life. The Torah is filled with laws and examples of how to make a fair judgment and the importance of being fair and just.
You shall not render an unfair decision: Do not favor the poor nor show deference to the rich; judge your neighbor fairly. (Leviticus)
Only to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. (Micah)
Rabbi Hillel said “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” This is a very easy way to understand how to treat others. However, being fair isn’t always easy or simple. Fair doesn’t always mean the same!
Try these conversation starters with your children:

  • Have you ever been treated unfairly? How did it make you feel?
  • Do you think it is fair that older children get to stay up later and do more things than younger children? Why or why not? Do you think it is fair that boys get to do things that girls don’t get to do? Why or why not?
  • Some families have a rule that if there is a piece of cake to share, one person gets to cut it and the other gets to choose the first piece. How is this a fair way to divide the cake? Can this system be used in other areas?

Stories work well for discussions, too: A young boy came to a woman’s house and asked if she would like to buy some of the berries he had picked from his father’s fields. The woman said, “Yes, I would, and I’ll just take your basket inside to measure out 2 quarts.” The boy sat down on the porch and the woman asked, “Don’t you want to watch me? How do you know that I won’t cheat you and take more than 2 quarts?” The young boy said, “I am not afraid, for you would get the worst of the deal.”
“How could that be?” she asked. The boy answered, “If you take more than 2 quarts that you are paying me for, I would only lose the berries. You would make yourself a liar and a thief.” Talk about the meaning of this story with your family.

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Empathy key Jewish value

Posted on 16 February 2017 by admin

Dear Families,
One of the most important Jewish values is “empathy — rachamim” and one of the best ways to teach it is by modeling.
Rachamim, the Hebrew word, is usually translated as compassion. As we acknowledge other people’s feelings, thoughts and experiences, we feel compassion for them — we identify with them and want to help them, which is also called empathy. Psychologists tell us that compassion and empathy begin to develop in the first years of life. In fact, scientists assume that we are biologically wired for these feelings. Yet, we must also teach our children to be empathetic and compassionate. Rabbi Wayne Dosick in Golden Rules writes:
“You can teach your children that a good decent, ethical person has a big, loving heart when they feel you feeling another’s pain, when they know that you are committed to alleviating human suffering.
“You can teach your children that a good, decent, ethical person has big, open hands when they watch you give of your resources — generously and often — and when they watch you give of the work of your hands — willingly and joyfully.
“You can teach your children that a good, decent, ethical person can fulfill the sacred task of celebrating the spark of the Divine in each human being and the preciousness of each human being when you teach them to imitate God who is ‘gracious, compassionate and abundant in kindness; who forgives mistakes, and promises everlasting love.’”
Family talk time
What does it mean to be kind to a friend? What does it mean to be kind to an animal?
Think of a time when someone hurt you. How did it feel?
Try to “put yourself in someone’s shoes.” What does that mean? How does it help us to understand others?
Tell about Rabbi Tanchum, of whom it is said, “When he needed only one portion of meat for himself, he would buy two; one bunch of vegetables, he would buy two — one for himself and one for the poor.” How could you do this in your family? Make a promise to think of others when grocery shopping — buy a second portion of something for the food bank.
Today as we read and hear sad stories from around the world, we question how much to share with our children, and that is an individual family matter. We also must look inside ourselves to not only feel empathy toward those who are suffering and struggling but to decide how we can act to help others.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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Double celebration of love: Tu B’Av, Valentine’s Day

Posted on 16 February 2017 by admin

I am watching the 5:30 p.m. news when a colorfully red commercial pops up advertising Valentine’s Day with a jewelry store’s array of diamonds, which of course “would make wonderful gifts for your loved ones on Valentine’s Day.”
It really got my attention because I am writing this on Jan. 31 and Valentine’s Day is still two weeks away. Maybe it will take that long to float a loan to pay for those expensive jewelry items.
By the time you read this, Valentine’s Day, 2017, will have passed, but after seeing that ad, I recalled that growing up in a primarily Jewish neighborhood in The Bronx during the 1940s and early ’50s, Valentine’s Day was still called by many adults “Saint Valentine’s Day,” a goyishe holiday.
Times were changing, however, and many Jewish and non-Jewish youth seized the day as an opportunity to express their romantic feelings by giving Hallmark or homemade heart cards to the girl of their dreams. Valentine’s Day had no aspects of religion attached to it at all.
As far as religion is concerned, what may have begun as a pagan purification ritual in ancient Rome was introduced into the Catholic church’s rites of purification, honoring two or three saints, all named Valentine.
Because of the confusion surrounding the true identity of Saint Valentine, Pope Paul VI removed him from the Catholic calendar of saints in 1969.
For those Jews who still think of Valentine’s Day as a Christian belief, there is always Tu B’Av (15th of Av), falling this year on Aug. 7.
Historically, Tu B’Av was a celebration of the grape harvest in the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, which included unmarried girls dressed in white, dancing in the vineyards.
In modern Israel, Tu B’Av has great similarities to Valentine’s Day, a day of engagements, weddings, renewal of vows and a general celebration of love.
So, if you are really serious about the one you love, remember that you will have another opportunity to express your feelings on Tu B’Av,  Aug. 7.

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