This week, like most weeks it seems, the media is filled with stark contrasts: the exuberance of the Olympics with North and South Korea presenting as a unified “team.” There are reports of the good work that many communities have done in coming together to raise awareness against discrimination, harassment and violence which is beginning to gain traction. And then we have hearts and flowers in celebration of Valentine’s Day.
This is contrasted with the presentation of the American president’s 2019 budget proposal to congress, where he will increase the national deficit exponentially, decrease funding to the vulnerable, the environment, and so many other areas that detract from keeping the United States as a world leader.
In world news, xenophobia continues to run rampant: the Syrian civil war rages on. Terrorism looms large in many countries. On January 26, Poland voted in favor of a bill making it illegal to accuse Poland of complicity in Nazi crimes (the Polish parliament passed this vote on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day). Poverty and hunger affect millions of people world-wide.
And yet today, February 14th, we have what appears to be a frivolous break from the vicissitudes of life: the observance of Valentine’s Day. A day of expressing love. How do we reconcile this day of frivolity with what’s taking place in the larger world around us?
Perhaps we can learn something from my artist friend Pedie Wilfond. Pedie expresses this concept of love through her beautiful “Heart Series” paintings. She uses colour and light to to express her feelings and emotions. Mostly, Pedie wants people to feel joy, happiness and love when they reflect on her paintings.
Pedie’s intention with her “Heart Series” is: “to create more love and more kindness in this world. It is my wish that you will feel joy and happiness as you look at these hearts and share with others a desire to love and be loved.” (Pedie Wolfond, Introduction to “Find Your Heart”, 2011).
Pedie’s motto is simple: live life to the fullest and find a way to fill this world with love.
I was thinking about all of this during this past year, a year fraught with great trouble, when many people wonder “how do we find hope? how do we find love in a world that has gone awry?”
We find hope in the ability to use our hands, our hearts, our actions to bring love to others, to use our lives to fill this world with love. Valentine’s Day itself may seem frivolous, it may seem to be a day when the hype in the media tends to make people who are not paired up seem to be left out. We find love in the actions of those working together to fix the wrongs of our society, by joining together as a community, by speaking up and speaking out. By reaching out to those in distress and those in need, by being the voices for those who cannot speak for themselves.
And even though Valentine’s Day is Christian in origin, the concept of “love” is a very Jewish concept indeed. In fact, we even have a Jewish Valentine’s Day on our own calendar. It is called “Tu B’Av” – the 15th day of the month of Av. This was a spring-time day of matchmaking for unmarried women during the time of the 2nd Temple before it was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 AD.
Perhaps, we should view the concept of “love” more broadly than just as a day devoted to romantic love. We should view it as a time to think about how we can actualize one of the most famous uses of the word “love” from our Jewish teaching in the Hebrew bible:
Love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:1) – V’ahavta l’rei’acha ka-mo-cha
This is known as the “Golden Rule.” Many religions have different versions of this teaching embodied into their ethos as well.
If we can find a way to bring the concept of Leviticus 19:1 to fruition, February 14th, Valentine’s Day, will truly be a day of love.
What will you be doing this year to “love your neighbor as yourself” and fill our world with acts of love, peace and justice for all?
“With loving hearts together, we can create a better world.” –Pedie Wolfond
Happy Valentine’s Day.