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Feb 14 2014

Turns Out Shabbat and Valentine’s Day Have a Lot in Common

By at 11:43 am

shabbat

Tonight I’m planning dinner by candlelight. It will engage all five senses, with attention lavished on the tiniest details, including our wedding china instead of Corelle, and soup that requires a trip to the butcher instead of just a can opener. They say oysters are an aphrodisiac, but I’m banking on the kneidelach my husband likes: the firmer, the better. Ah, February 14th.

Isn’t this how Shabbat should always go?

My kids’ preschool director sent an email out reminding parents that “we celebrate love and caring all year long, but we do not celebrate Valentine’s Day at school.” Last V-Day, when my son found a cupcake in his cubby with the Post-It note reading “Baked with love in our kosher home,” he thought it was a happy coincidence.

No valentines, no candy hearts–would Friday be any fun?

The same day of the director’s email, I attended a seminar on “Shabbat for the Busy Family” at my local JCC, where a social worker distributed a copy of Dasee Berkowitz’ Kveller post on the tradition of blessing the children on Shabbat: “The wonder and awe that marked the moment of birth quickly turned into mind-numbing monotonous work. I felt a real need to distinguish between the everyday ‘sameness’ of the job of parenthood with the outright wonder of it all.”

Our social worker carried the idea even further: what if, on Shabbat, there was no criticism, gossip, limit-setting, problem-solving or even discipline? What if, instead of expressing hope that our sons are blessed like Ephraim and Menashe, we said, “May you be like Grandpa Abe, who instructed by his own example,” or “This is what I love about you,” or “This is what you’ve done this week to make me proud,” or “Let’s have fun as a family by blowing bubbles inside the house—like you’ve been asking to do all week.” She called it a “day of yes.” She also reminded us that Shabbat should hold a special treat for all the senses, from savory aromas to gold-rimmed china to the chime of coins dropped into the tzedakah box.

Love, sensuality, a “day of yes”: isn’t this the essence of Valentine’s Day? What better way to mortgage all that love in the air than to use some hearts-and-flowers hype to recharge our Friday nights? We’ve all heard that sex on Shabbat is a double mitzvah, right–being fruitful on the day of creation? I think my husband could get behind the idea. Besides, the Shabbat tradition of reciting the Eshet Chayil to the wife and mother of the house–“the woman of valor…she is worth far more than precious jewels”–is the perfect way for him to explain why he didn’t get me any jewelry: clearly it would demean me.

It makes me laugh when my little boy shouts with rapture, “She said YES! She said YES!” after I reply it’s okay to have a bit more dessert or watch 15 more minutes of “The Princess Bride.”

“I hope you’re just as excited when you pop the question,” I tell him; to which he replies, “Pop a question? You’re funny, Mommy.”

I’m not sure I’m willing to forgo all discipline on Shabbat, especially when my kids are jumping off tables or jabbing each other with toy swords. But the idea reminds me how enthralling “yes” can be, and how every Shabbat–not just February 14–can bring the feeling home.

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