Valentine’s Day and Jewish Law

 

A Reply to a Thoughtful Critic: New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Halacha

Guest post by R. Michael J. Broyde and R. Mark (Moshe) Goldfeder

Rabbi Michael Broyde is a law professor at Emory University, was the founding rabbi of the Young Israel in Atlanta and is a dayan in the Beth Din of America. Rabbi Mark (Moshe) Goldfeder is an SJD student at Emory University, served on the rabbinic staff at Mt. Sinai Jewish Center in Washington Heights and received his law degree from NYU.

Introduction

Matters of halacha are never simple and Rabbi Yair Hoffman’s response (link) and reply to this short article on celebrating New Year’s Day (link) represents everything that is excellent about Torah study on the internet – and it is not surprising coming from such a thoughtful writer on current events. We welcome this opportunity to reply to his views and hope that this column clarifies our view of the relevant halacha.

Rabbi Hoffman disagrees with us about three matters. First, he thinks we have misread Rav Moshe Feintein’s view on when gentile customs can become secular; second, he thinks that Valentine’s Day is still limited in celebration to Christian lands; and finally, he thinks that Rav Moshe did not permit New Year’s Day celebrations, only bar mitzvah or wedding celebrations that happen to fall out on New Year’s Day. We stand by the original article.

When Can Pleasurable Customs lose their Pagan origins?

First, Rabbi Hoffman thinks we misunderstood and thus mistranslated a line in a ruling from Rav Moshe Feinstein in Iggerot Moshe, Yoreh Deah 4:11(4). The original piece stated that:

Rabbi Feinstein (Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 4:11(4)) is logically correct in his observation, ‘Thus, it is obvious in my opinion, that even in a case where something would be considered a prohibited gentile custom, if many people do it for reasons unrelated to their religion or law, but rather because it is pleasurable to them, there is no prohibition of imitating gentile custom. So too, it is obvious that if gentiles were to make a religious law to eat a particular item that is good to eat, halacha would not prohibit eating that item. So too, any item of pleasure in the world cannot be prohibited merely because gentiles do so out of religious observance.’

For the sake of clarity, the actual line from Rav Moshe reads:

והנה פשוט לע”ד דאף מה שהוא ודאי נחשב חוק העכו”ם, אם הוא דבר שחזינן שעושים כן כולי עלמא דנכרים, גם אלה שלא שייכי כלל לאמונתם ולחוקותיהם, מטעם שכן יותר ניחא לעלמא להנאתם, כבר ליכא על זה איסור דבחוקותיהם לא תלכו. וגם פשוט שאם יעשו עכו”ם חוק לע”ז שלהם לאכול איזה מין מדברים הטובים והראוים לאכילה – שלא יאסר אותו המין לאכילה. וכמו כן כל הנאה שבעולם, לא שייך שתיאסר בשביל שעכו”ם עשו זה לחוק.

Rabbi Hoffman noted that it is his belief that a more accurate translation of Rav Feinstein’s words would read:

…that even a matter that is certainly considered chok haAkum, if it is something where we observe that the entire gentile world does this, (even those) that have no connection at all to their belief and to their customs, rather [they do so] because it is more convenient for the masses to do so, there is already no prohibition of imitating gentile custom.

And what flows from this translation is that Rabbi Hoffman feels that Iggerot Moshe cannot be used then to justify giving chocolate on Valentine’s Day since (as he states) it is: “hardly the universal practice to give chocolates on February 14 in cultures that are foreign to Christianity.”

We think that Rabbi Hoffman’s translation is too literal, and the root of our disagreement hinges on how one translates the words “kulei alma.” We think that Rav Moshe is using the term in its colloquially accepted sense in describing a general practice or mode of behavior (much as nowadays we would use the term “everyone,” as in “everyone does it,” to mean that many people have a certain practice) and that it is not necessary, as Rabbi Hoffman claims, that “the entire gentile world does this.” Based on this, we felt that celebrations of Valentine’s Day have already reached the point of “everyone” doing it, at least in America, leading to our second dispute.

Is Everyone Across the World Celebrating Valentine’s Day?

While the sociology of Valentine’s Day is far from our area of expertise (and we suspect that it is far from Rabbi Hoffman’s as well) and it is understood that this is an area where reasonable people may well disagree, the article’s original conclusion that we are well past the point where Valentine’s day is only celebrated by Christians or in Christian lands, is entirely defensible. A cursory search on the internet seems to only bolster this point of view. See, for instance, here:
link 1 and here: link 2 for articles discussing Valentine’s Day celebrations in Japan and India, respectively. We think that “everybody” – Jews, Christians, pagans and atheists – are all already sharing chocolate on Valentine’s Day in many different parts of the world, and thus halacha does not prohibit such behavior.

This is even more correct in America, where people who never celebrate Christian holidays still celebrate Valentine’s Day. For more on this, see the article at link, which concludes that, like New Year’s Day, it is the conduct of the pious to avoid overt celebrations, but which states that:

eating chocolate on Valentine’s Day and even giving chocolate to another, so long as there is not notation of why such is being given, is clearly permissible,

and that:

it is the conduct of the pious to avoid explicitly celebrating Valentine’s day with a Valentine’s Day card, although bringing home chocolate, flowers or even jewelry to one’s beloved is always a nice idea all year around, including on February 14.

New Year’s Day and Halacha

Rabbi Hoffman also takes issue with the article’s permissive view regarding New Year’s celebrations. The original article stated, in relevant part:

According to Rema (Y.D. 148:12), New Year’s Day is a Christian holiday . . . whose celebration must be avoided and can only be marked when long-term, life-threatening hatred to our community will result if gifts are not given.’ On the other hand, the reality seems to have completely changed. New Year’s Day—like Valentine’s Day and unlike Christmas—seems to have completely lost its Christian overtones. Even in the deep Christian South where I live, there are no indicia that connect New Year’s Day to Christianity. The ‘first generation’ Hindu and Muslim communities in Atlanta—who would never celebrate Christmas—have New Year’s Eve parties. It is obvious that the status of New Year’s Day has changed in the last 300 years. Indeed, in contemporary America there is little religious content or expression to New Year’s Day. Few would classify it as a religious holiday, as there is a clear secular method and reason to celebrate New Year’s Day, and thus it has lost its status as a Christian holiday. Rabbi Feinstein notes this directly himself in Igros Moshe (Even HaEzer 2:13). He writes with regard to New Year’s: ‘The first day of the year for them [January 1] . . . is not prohibited according to law, but pious people [ba’alei nefesh] should be strict.’ This insight, written in 1963, is even more true nowadays. The Christian origins of New Year’s is even more cloaked now than a half century ago . . . I think that Rav Moshe’s assertion that avoiding such a [New Year’s] party is the conduct of the pious is correct, and technical Jewish law permits such.”

Rabbi Hoffman feels that here too Rav Moshe has been misread and misapplied, in that he feels that Rav Moshe was solely discussing the permissibility of conducting a bar mitzvah or Jewish wedding celebration on New Year’s Day on account of the prohibition of marit ayin (the appearance of impropriety). In this instance, however, we must actually disagree, because we think that if one reads the responsum closely, it seems clear that Rav Moshe is in fact discussing two different kinds of parties.

Again, for purposes of clarity, we include the actual text of Rav Moshe in Even HaEzer 2:13:

בדבר לעשות איזה שמחה בימי איד של הנכרים אם הוא מצד אמונתם, אם בכוונה מחמת שהוא יום איד אסור מדינא ואם בלא כוונה יש לאסור מצד מראית העין, וסעודת מצוה כמילה ופדה”ב יש לעשות אפילו בימי איד שלהן, דאין לאסור בשביל מראית עין סעודה המחוייבת, אבל סעודת בר מצוה טוב לדחות על יום אחר, ואף נישואין יש לקבוע לכתחלה על יום אחר. ויום ראשון משנה שלהם וכן טענקס גיווינג אין לאסור מדינא אבל בעלי נפש יש להם להחמיר.

A (color coded) close read of the teshuva is needed. Iggerot Moshe opens with the following halachic claim regarding making a celebration on a non-Jewish religious holiday (in orange): if the celebration in question is done intentionally on that day because it is their holiday, that is in fact assur midina, forbidden by Jewish law. Then Iggerot Moshe states (in blue) that if it is not done on that day intentionally because it is their holiday then one’s concern is only for marit ayin, and he adds (in green) that in such a case if it is a seudah mechuyevet (an obligatory meal whose day is set by halacha), such as a brit milah or a pidyon haben, one can participate and not be concerned about marit ayin. But (he adds in red) if it is a seudah like a bar mitzvah, which is not an obligatory meal, or a wedding, where the parties select a date for convenience, one should push it off to a different day to avoid a marit ayin issue. Iggerot Moshe’s next and last statement is the crucial one. New Year’s and Thanksgiving, he says (in purple), are not assur midina, forbidden by Jewish law; however, baalei nefesh (pious people) should be stringent on themselves. The last line seems to be clearly harking back to the first kind of party, the kind that is intentionally done on this particular day because it is their religious holiday, and here Rav Moshe distinguishes New Year’s and Thanksgiving from, for example, December 25, which as he noted, aside from being marit ayin would in fact be assur midina if celebrated for itself.[1]

Thus, again, we stand by the conclusion that participating in an office New Year’s Eve party when one feels that such conduct is needed and part of the culture of the office in which one works, is not a violation of “following in the ways of the gentiles,” although we think that pious people ought to be strict on these matters. Practically, we have been asked by people who feel that non-attendance at a work New Year’s Eve party would jeopardize their employment, and we tell them in such cases that attendance is permitted and a wiser course than being unemployed in these hard economic times.

Conclusion

Torah discourse over the Internet is yet another wonderful manifestation of the Divine plan and a great use of technology to foster religious growth. We thank Rabbi Hoffman for helping us refine our views.

Our view is that while New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day both used to be Gentile holidays, in the United States in the year 2012 they are no longer celebrated as such by the vast and overwhelming majority of citizens. Given that fact, it is still the conduct of the pious to avoid such celebrations, but not a categorical violation of Jewish law. As such, a Jew may go to a New Year’s Eve party to avoid job instability. “Celebrations” that involve conduct that normal people view as generally positive – such as eating chocolate on Valentine’s Day (or even fruitcake on Christmas[2]), or making a resolution to be a better person on New Year’s Day – do not on their face present a violation of Jewish law, so long as they are not done as part of a religious celebration.


[1] Over email correspondence, the ever polite Rabbi Hoffman disagreed with the above analysis and posited that Rav Moshe would never have argued with the Rama about New Year’s Day without more explicit acknowledgement that he was arguing with the Rama. Based on that, Rabbi Hoffman does agree that Rav Moshe permits Thanksgiving celebrations; he insists, however, that Rav Moshe does not permit New Year’s celebrations. While we understand Rabbi Hoffman’s fine analysis on this issue, we are not inclined to agree with it for three reasons. First, it is quite possible that Rav Moshe would argue with a factual assertion of the Rama about a social norm, as these “facts” on the ground can, and do, change. Second, it is quite possible that Rav Moshe was not aware of the Rama at all – it is only cited in the uncensored recent editions of the Darchei Moshe, which were published only a few years before Rav Moshe’s passing and which perhaps he was not aware of. Finally, Rav Moshe elaborated on his view concerning Thanksgiving many times, and never indicated that the rule for New Year’s Day and the rule for Thanksgiving would be anything other than identical, as he noted in his very first responsum on this matter.

[2] This view is consistent with that which is noted in the original article, which states:

Thus, eating chocolate on Valentine’s Day and even giving chocolate to another, so long as there is not notation of why such is being giving, is clearly permissible, even if one disagreed with the analysis above and thought Valentine’s Day was still a Christian holiday.

This is based on the view of Rav Moshe mentioned above in Iggerot Moshe, Yoreh Deah 4:11(4)). Although this specific example rarely comes up, the question of eating Christmas (red and green) M&M’s put out for employees to eat has been asked a few times.

 

Share this Post

 

Related Posts

About the author

 
The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.
 

47 Responses

  1. joel rich says:

    I seem to recall something about not doing business with non bnai brit 3 days prior to their holy days. Unless I am mistaken, it seems we no longer observe this limitation? Am I misreading the early halachic sources?
    KT

  2. abba's rantings says:

    R. Joel Rich:

    i seem to remember that it is 3 days prior and 3 days after. this halacha was legislated out of existence in europe because it meant we could never do business with christians, as every sunday is a holiday. at least this is what i seem to recall.

  3. IH says:

    See Prof. Elisheva Carlebach’s 2011 Palaces of Time pp. 149-150 (which references Baron A Social and Religious History of the Jews, 4:325.)

  4. IH says:

    Link to the page is http://books.google.com/books?id=dZSmDsoU11kC&lpg=PP1&dq=Carlebach%20Palaces&pg=PA149#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Worth reading from p. 142, but then a dropout before the most relevant section on p. 149.

  5. Tzvi Klugerman says:

    I think there is still reason to forbid Valentine’s Day practices. The day is cearly pagan in its origins and reference the mishna in Avodah Zarah, (I believe the fourth chapter) pertaining to the one who throws rocks at Markulis regardless of intetnion is culpable. The distinctions in the Talmudic arguments regarding the permissibiity to reuse those stones for pavers is that the stones lose their meanings when repurposed. The chocolates or other symbols of affection are what specifically lend the flavor to the day and while might be considered unintentional pagan practice are objects that used purposefully.
    As an educator I think the mental gymnastics to permit that which has become common custom but is solidly rooted in idolatry is a very dangerous exercise. It blurs the distinction that the Jews need to remain distinct from the nations.
    The general audience of the Jews do not normally practice the delicate calculus required to make these determinations. Rather they see these examples as gateways towards other practices which are even more solidly pagan.

  6. Dov says:

    Joel – The third Tosafos in Avodah Zarah deals with your question.

  7. IH says:

    Chocolate, of course, was not introduced to Europe until the 16th century, so mental gymnastics cuts both ways.

  8. emma says:

    “The chocolates or other symbols of affection are what specifically lend the flavor to the day and while might be considered unintentional pagan practice are objects that used purposefully.” – tzvi klugerman

    if you want to treat the chocolates themselves as objects of quasi-idolatry, would that mean there is a problem of buying them on sale tomorrow?

  9. Nachum says:

    Abba: The Gemara itself mentions the problem of the Christian Sunday. Artscroll claims it is referring to an obscure Babylonian sect when it’s pretty obvious who it’s referring to.

  10. Dov says:

    As another (perhaps sad) example of the spread of valentines day into non-xian secular culture, secular Israelis have started celebrating it as “chag ha’ahava.”

  11. joel rich says:

    i guess irony doesn’t come across all that well – my point was that pmho many halachot are impacted by facts on the ground and general worldview.

    (Unless it emanated from a “severe conservative” :-) can you imagine the response to “this halacha (of not attending their celebrations) was legislated out of existence in US because it meant we could never do business with christians.”

    KT

  12. avi says:

    I wonder how this analysis changes with the headlines the other day of over 100 people being arrested in Saudi Arabia for selling roses and choclates.

  13. Mike S. says:

    Tzvi Klugerman: It seems to me those are reasons to discourage rather than forbid. We do not make new gezeirot today–at least the Rishonim said they lacked the authority to do so and I don’t see how we have more authority than they did.

  14. Steve Brizel says:

    IIRC, R M Willig gave a shiur at LSS in the late 1980s in which he stated that going to an office party for the “end of the year” or during the “holiday season” was an essential part of being an employee and therefore mutar, provided, of course, that one had kosher food with them.

  15. IH says:

    Since no one has mentioned it, the phrase that captures my feelings about Valentine’s Day is — Hallmark Holiday.

    That said, it seems to me that a day in which everyone goes out of their way to show a sign of affection is a positive thing, overall. It is a shame we in US did not embrace the RZ revival of Tu B’Av as our day to do that, so we are where we are: using the Hallmark Holiday, just like all other Americans.

    Frankly, it made me smile when walking outside yesterday and seeing so many people walking around with flowers. Life is good.

  16. Rafael Araujo says:

    Ach! Valentines’s Day is just crass commercialism, as IH puts it a “Hallmark Holiday” and sucks in people to spend their hard-earned money on chocolates, flowers, cards, day at the spa, etc. Why would you a Yid even consider celebrating a holiday with the word Saint in it? This is just unbelievable….just make sure not to let my wife know I wrote the above. Thanks a million.

  17. Steg (dos iz nit der shteg) says:

    Rafael Araujo:

    R’ Broyde & R’ Goldfeder’s point in the article is that in the common culture, *Valentines* Day doesn’t actually have the word ‘Saint’ in it anymore.

  18. Steve Brizel says:

    Perhaps, one can argue (as I heard once from R N I Oelbaum) that such “holidays” as Fathers’ Day, Mothers’ Day, and even Valentine’s Day ( between a husband and wife) are possibly Minhagei Shtus because one is obligated to honor, respect and treat one’s spouse Yose MeGufo on a 24/7 basis.

  19. Tal Benschar says:

    There is another aspect to Valentine’s Day which the authors have not discussed. The Rema in Y.D. 178:1 also forbids non-Jewish customs which are done for the purpose of licentiousness (pritzus). While the modern Valentine’s Day has moved away from its original Catholic origins, it has definitely moved much closer to the direction of pritzus. As practiced among the general population, it is hardly limited to married couples, and seems mainly an excuse for romantic, i.e., licentious, behavior.

    While there is room for “romance” in Judaism, one hardly needs to say that such should be limited to husband and wife within marriage. A husband can give his wife flowers or chocolates on her birthday or their anniversary without participating in a non-Jewish holiday dedicated to “romantic” relationships.

  20. Dov F. says:

    Joel – I’ve added the F to distinguish between myself and the other Dov posting here. As for your point, I don’t see the irony. The halacha wasn’t “legislated out of existence.”

    First, forget Europe – already in the Gemara we find that the three days thing does not apply to modern day Christians, because they do not cling very strongly to idol worship. אמר שמואל בגולה אינו אסור אלא יום אידם בלבד – A.Z. 11b. Rashi and Tosafos refer us to Chullin 13b – א”ר יוחנן נכרים שבחוצה לארץ לאו עובדי עבודת כוכבים הן אלא מנהג אבותיהן בידיהן.

    Second, while as Tosafos (which I cited above) note that this would not explain how it might be permitted even on the actual holiday, they do present a few options: 1) איבה. Tosafos bring proofs from the Gemara that this is a valid consideration. 2) The Yerushalmi explicitly permits doing business with people you know; the prohibition was only in regard to strangers. 3) Rabbeinu Tam: There was never a prohibition on doing business with anything other than things which might be used in the worship of idols.

    I don’t know where you get the premise that nowadays no one would accept such heteirim. These are all grounded in Gemaras and svaros. Nothing here has been legislated out of existence.

  21. Josh says:

    Dov: As another (perhaps sad) example of the spread of valentines day into non-xian secular culture, secular Israelis have started celebrating it as “chag ha’ahava.”

    I am not familiar with this designation of Feb. 14 in Israel, but I do know for a fact that secular Israelis celebrate Tu B’Av as “Yom Ha-Ahava.” Are you sure you’re not confusing the two?

  22. Dov F. says:

    Steve –

    I’ve often heard that argument, but I think it is weak. Perhaps Pesach is a shtus, because we are obligated to remember the Exodus from Egypt all year round. Forget Pesach, why do we need Shabbos to remind us that Hashem created the world, if we are always supposed to believe that? We can go through most of the Jewish holidays and ask the same question. Ela mai, there are varying degrees and distinct qualities of remembering and declaring and expressing ideas, and having a special day dedicated to something goes beyond what is normally expected. So lehavdil, the same is true here.

  23. Dov F. says:

    Tal –

    While the modern Valentine’s Day has moved away from its original Catholic origins, it has definitely moved much closer to the direction of pritzus. As practiced among the general population, it is hardly limited to married couples, and seems mainly an excuse for romantic, i.e., licentious, behavior.

    +1

    I was wondering why they seem to ignore this important point.

  24. Chanokh says:

    If I may add an Old World perspective:
    1. In France we do not give chocolates. “We” (i. e. They) offer flowers and go on romantic dinners.
    2. In France, many many non-Jews would emphatically deny that they do it for religious motives. For them it’s just a feast for the children. Why, following your logic, would it then forbidden for Jews?

  25. joel rich says:

    r’ dov f,
    i’m aware of the technical path the gemara and tosfot took. The meta question is why does the halachic process sometimes take this route and other times not (e.g. if it was a small sect would they still have allowed?)

    and no I think in our generation it’s more likely to take defcon 5 to mattir something on a society has changed basis-again probably a function of overriding worldview.

    KT

  26. Jerry says:

    “As practiced among the general population, it is hardly limited to married couples, and seems mainly an excuse for romantic, i.e., licentious, behavior.”

    You’re probably young, and besides I know the whole linear, “our society is increasingly full of pritzus” narrative is really neat and comfortable, so I won’t belabor the point, but…when has Valentine’s Day ever been limited to married couples?

  27. Tal Benschar says:

    You’re probably young, and besides I know the whole linear, “our society is increasingly full of pritzus” narrative is really neat and comfortable, so I won’t belabor the point, but…when has Valentine’s Day ever been limited to married couples?

    Young? I’m 45 and married for 13 years. Still I guess that’s young. They once asked Sen. Robert Byrd, when he turned 90, why he did not retire from the Senate. He responded, “I was going to retire, but then I heard that 90 is now the new 80. So I am staying.”

    I never said that Valentine’s Day was ever limited to married people. In fact, Wikipedia claims that it has been devoted to romantic love since the 15th century.

    My point is that even granting that it has lost its religious significance as a feast of a Catholic saint, it is still a holiday of pritzus, perhaps now even more so than before. THAT is still forbidden by the Rema.

  28. The Dude says:

    What’s Valentine’s Day?

    – The Dude, Jerusalem

  29. Superintendant Chalmers says:

    I think that the tshuva of Rav Moshe (YD 4:11(3)), not (4) by the way) is being misinterpreted completely by both Rabbi Broyde and Rabbi Hoffman.

    Rav Moshe is coming to say that going without a yarmulke is not a problem of Bechukoseihem, because that is the normal mode of behavior in the world. Similarly, in his example of making a law to eat a particular item – he is saying that something which is NORMAL behavior, can not be “hijacked” so to say to become chukas akum.

    This is entirely irrelevant to Valentine’s Day, because of course that began as chukas akum. Rav Moshe does not address in any way practices which are intrinsically chukas akum based.

  30. SO says:

    The Christian celebration of Valentine’s Day was deleted from the General Roman Calendar of saints in 1969 by Pope Paul VI. There never was a Saint Valentine.

    It would be very difficult to make the claim today that Valentine’s Day is a Christian holiday. It certainly is a commercial holiday.

    Because of its earlier association with the Catholic church, it is certainly understandable why Jews would not celebrate this day.

    That having been said, Rabbi Broyde’s analysis is compelling.

  31. Dov F. says:

    Joel –

    and no I think in our generation it’s more likely to take defcon 5 to mattir something on a society has changed basis-again probably a function of overriding worldview.

    The thing is, none of the explanations presented by Tosafos are saying that society has changed. Shmuel, perhaps, was saying that, but the explanations offered by Tosafos (certainly the latter two) would apply equally in every time and place.

    As for the meta question – I think that a nuanced approach usually demonstrates that it makes a lot of sense, but others think I am just an apologetic for a misguided halachic perspective.

  32. J. says:

    Superintendant chalmers – you are so obviously right that I can’t understand how anyone who has read the teshuva could say otherwise. The comparison is to making a chok about something that people would do anyway and has no relevance to a holiday which has lost its idolatrous significance.

  33. Steve Brizel says:

    Dov F wrote:

    “I’ve often heard that argument, but I think it is weak. Perhaps Pesach is a shtus, because we are obligated to remember the Exodus from Egypt all year round. Forget Pesach, why do we need Shabbos to remind us that Hashem created the world, if we are always supposed to believe that? We can go through most of the Jewish holidays and ask the same question. Ela mai, there are varying degrees and distinct qualities of remembering and declaring and expressing ideas, and having a special day dedicated to something goes beyond what is normally expected. So lehavdil, the same is true here”

    One can argue that Pesach and Shabbos, to the extent that they are designed to inculcate and strengthen our sense of Zecer LYetzias Mitzrayim, as well as all of the other Chagim, and even RH, are rooted in Hakaras Hatov-for which there is apparently no statute of limitations because of the critical importance of our being liberated from Egypt and Kabalas HaTorah as individuals and as a nation in forming our individual and national identities- regardless of how many years ago we are from the Exodus and Kabalas HaTorah.

  34. Dov F. says:

    Steve – But shouldn’t we have hakaras hatov every day of the year?

  35. Steg (dos iz nit der shteg) says:

    And doesn’t Hakarat Hatov apply to Mothers, Fathers, and Spouses too?!

  36. Jerry says:

    Tal: “My point is that even granting that it has lost its religious significance as a feast of a Catholic saint, it is still a holiday of pritzus”

    Only in the sense that the line between love and pritzus has been blurry since…umm…always.

    Listen, it’s not supposed to be pritzusdik, but obviously anyone can make it about whatever one wants. Same with Tu B’Av. The point is that showing a spouse that you love him or her is valuable and to the extent that Valentine’s Day is certainly supposed to include that, I don’t see what you’re accomplishing other than being a curmudgeon (and not the lovable kind). No one’s forcing you, or even encouraging you, to do anything on V-Day (I’m sure you’re a baal nefesh). It’s just mutar.

    Besides, since I’m sure you’re quite understanding of the way in which Purim can still be made meaningful notwithstanding the embarrassing and disgusting leitzanus (at best!) that many have come to identify as its essence, I’m sure you can find it within yourself to be understanding of those who think giving chocolates to a spouse on V-Day is okay (and that baalei nefesh should avoid this).

  37. Yair Hoffman says:

    Superintendant Chalmers is certainly correct and that was exactly my reading of it. Yair Hoffman

  38. Jr says:

    I don’t think it is at all obvious that superintendant chalmers is correct. The emphasis is not on what is the normal behavior, but that it is not done nowadays by Gentiles for idolatrous reasons. Whether it’s because it’s convenient for them such as in the case of the yarmulke, or because it’s a secular practice is irrelevant. That is definitely a plausible reading of Rav Moshe.

    He also mentions this idea of not hijacking a normal pleasure, but that’s an additional point, not a continuation of his previous statement.

  39. S. says:

    “This is entirely irrelevant to Valentine’s Day, because of course that began as chukas akum. ”

    I agree that you’d think so because of the name, but if you actually look into the history of it, it’s not so clear at all.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine%27s_Day#Modern_times

    If it did – and I stress if it did – really begin in the early 19th century, or even as late as 1840 (Valentine’s Day as such) then it would not seem to fulfill either of the Rema’s descriptive criteria of chukas hagoy, even if it is or was named for a supposed saint.

  40. Shasdaf says:

    Rav Moshe distinguishes New Year’s and Thanksgiving from, for example, December 25, which as he noted, aside from being marit ayin would in fact be assur midina if celebrated for itself.[1]

    Perhaps a distinction can be made: having a wedding on New Years or Thanksgiving is an event which is independent of the [basis of the] holiday, and is not prohibited. However, a wedding on Valentine’s day, or giving candy, which is itself the CELEBRATION of the Christian religions holiday, even if you do not do it because of religious connotations, is improper.

    Even today, (actually one year ago) I was informed by a photographer that he had a job for a 10-minute wedding ceremony at a Catholic church in downtown Chicago – since so many couples get married on Valentine’s Day, they limit each ceremony to 10 minutes. And we are talking about non-frum Catholics who had been divorced. Still, they observe VT as a religious day.

  41. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    The Gerers have a simple solution: For them it’s assur to give one’s wife chocolates every day of the year!

    Shasdaf: The fact that people are getting married on Valentines day, even in a Church, does NOT mean they are observing it as a religious day.

  42. Aaron Ross says:

    We think that Rabbi Hoffman’s translation is too literal, and the root of our disagreement hinges on how one translates the words “kulei alma.”

    I’m not sure that I agree with this point. The original text says כולי עלמא דנכרים, which is what Rabbi Hoffman is translating. It seems to me that by adding the word נכרים, Rav Moshe is specifically offering an explanation of כולי עלמא that differs from the standard, colloquial usage that Rabbis Broyde and Goldfeder posit.

  43. Superintendant Chalmers says:

    Aaron Ross – the back and forth of whether to take kulei alma literally – is irrelevant for the reasons mentioned above – Rav Moshe means kulei alma do it, that it’s the normal thing to do, as is clear from Rav Moshe’s examples.

    This nitpick about whether it means “many people”, or “everyone in the world”, or “colloquial usage” – totally misses the point.

  44. pink gun says:

    I don’t understand r moshe’s reasoning re maaras haayin. If someone is making a wedding in a hall on thanksgiving, new year’s, xmas, etc isn’t that a sign that the bride and groom and guests are not celebrating the holiday? Frum people are off work and so these are convenient days for most guests attending. If the guests were actually celebrating, these would be awfully inconvenient days for a wedding, no?
    I can see how a wedding or other simcha held in a family home or some type of vacation resort is maaras haayin, but I can’t understand how a wedding in a hall is.

  45. […] SJD student at Emory University co-wrote an article with Rabbi Michael J. Broyde on the question of “Valentine’s Day and Jewish Law.” It is a real pleasure to follow along the Halachik discourse as traditional sources are used to […]

  46. Milhouse says:

    The Christian celebration of Valentine’s Day was deleted from the General Roman Calendar of saints in 1969 by Pope Paul VI.

    You mean he deleted the Catholic celebration from the general calendar. He had no power to do anything to the Christian celebration. America is still a Protestant country, where the Pope and the Roman calendar are mostly irrelevant. In any event, even if this was a Catholic country, how would it be relevant that the day was no longer on the general calendar? It’s still the saint’s day, and those who choose to celebrate it are celebrating a saint’s day, just like the ones that are on the calendar.

    There never was a Saint Valentine.

    What nonsense is this? Where did you get such an idea?

    “This is entirely irrelevant to Valentine’s Day, because of course that began as chukas akum. ”

    I agree that you’d think so because of the name, but if you actually look into the history of it, it’s not so clear at all.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine%27s_Day#Modern_times

    If it did – and I stress if it did – really begin in the early 19th century, or even as late as 1840 (Valentine’s Day as such)

    What are you talking about? There’s nothing in the Wikipedia article to suggest that it began that late; on the contrary, it explicitly says it goes back at least as far as Chaucer! I don’t understand how anyone can read that and come away with the impression that it began in 1840 or anywhere close to then.

    But suppose it had been that late. Again, so what? Since when is there a deadline on the invention of chukos akum? Will you claim that the celebration of St Mary of the Cross is not chukos akum just because it only began 3 years ago?!

 
 

Submit a Response

 

You must be logged in to submit a response.