Tuesday, February 14, 2006

No Valentine's Day - Just Love

"The family is the school of duties - founded on love." Felix Adler

It's Valentine's Day here in Hallmark America. But it's just February 14th where I'm going today -- Israel.

Saint Valentine definitely doesn't play a role in Jewish culture. And for sure not with the family members I'll be visiting. They're Orthodox Jews. Religious, kosher, hair covered, modestly dressed keepers of the Sabbath. Observers of the laws of Torah and Talmud.

Love, on the other hand, plays a major role. I can't think of a better way to share genuine non-commercialized love than by spending it with my brother-and-sister-in-law and their devoted, warm, funny, special family. They and their ten children, three sons-in-law and four grandchildren welcome me into their homes every year and give me two weeks of unconditional love.

I wouldn't trade that for anything. And every time I visit, I learn more about my religion and culture. Because it's such a big family, almost every year there's a joyous event. The picture above is from the third daughter's wedding three years ago. The bride is holding the oldest daughter's first child. This year daugher number two has a new baby for me to meet.

Our part of the family isn't religious. We're known as Secular Jews. Which is not to say we don't practice many of the customs of our faith and culture. The difference isn't so great really. It's not what you wear that makes you a Jew. It's what you believe and how you feel.

The feeling of spirituality I get when I visit our family in Israel can't be measured or even described. You just know it when it wraps itself around your heart.

I might check in from Israel. So much is happening in the Middle East now. But I might be too busy enjoying the good and trying to ignore--just for a little while--the bad.

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