Friday, February 17, 2012

Valentines in Reflection: The Jewish Passion For Being in Love

Holding hands - Elizabeth Ann Colette
For one day this past week, Jews turned their attention away from Iran, presidential elections and financial crises to consider the more profound and complex topic of human nature: love.

Even though some rabbis continue to debate whether Valentine’s Day is a kosher Jewish holiday, its enigmatic hero St. Valentines still figured large in Jewish publications on February 14 this year. From North America to Israel, Jews adopted the once Catholic holiday as a pretext for openly demonstrating feelings of love and commitment. They also demonstrated that dates matter least when love is present, and matter most when one wants to make a social statement.

The words “Valentine’s Day” was nowhere to be found in the press release issued by the Israeli organization Nefesh B’Nefesh, on February 14. Still, the sentiment of love could hardly be missed when husband and wife Phillip and Dorothy Grossman stepped off the plane in Israel on Tuesday. Phillip, age 95 and Dorothy, 93, stand as the oldest individuals in Israel’s history to make aliyah. They had already been married for seven years by the time Israel was granted statehood, and have contributed a long list of family members to the country’s safekeeping. They’ll be joining their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in their new home.
Phillip and Dorothy Grossman - Sasson Tiram, courtesy of Nefesh B'Nefesh

Cupid – or the Jewish equivalent – was busy in the Judean Desert of Israel this past week, where religiously observant young men and woman matched skills to find out who would be best suited in a shidduch (traditional Jewish arranged marriage).

The biblical-themed farm Genesis Land was the site of the Amazing Race, in which Orthodox-observant men and women competed together in competitions that involved skills such as drawing water, sheep herding and other biblical-era tasks. In addition to acquiring some new (and hopefully rarely needed) rural skills, they’ll have gained an opportunity to find out just how well a potential spouse really works under pressure. 

Romantics have known it for ages, and now researchers have proven it: Love is a many splendored thing – especially when your oxytocin levels are high.

According to researchers at Bar Ilan University, elevated levels of our “cuddle hormone,” more clinically known as oxytocin, have been found to be present in the early stages of a romantic relationship.

Young love at the malt shop - Keven Simpson
“New lovers had substantially higher plasma levels of oxytocin, as compared to non-attached singles,” the research team reported.

To confirm this, the researchers measured the oxytocin levels of couples who had just engaged in a new relationship, and then retested those who were still together 6 months later. The team found that the cuddle hormone stayed high in those who were still romantically involved.

The report concluded that “(these) findings suggest that oxytocin in the first months of romantic love may serve as an index of relationship duration.”

And lastly, to ensure that man’s (and woman’s) best friend is not forgotten, Jasmine TV (a subsidiary of the Jasmine Group Holding Company, which is based in Israel) has developed a television station just for dogs.

According to Haaretz Newspaper, DogTV in Southern California (where else?) is a step closer to ensuring that our best friends are not left lonely next Valentine’s Day evening when their custodians are out enjoying that romantic dinner. 
Dogs watching TV - Krossbow

 Sharing the steak and bone with you may be closer to Fido’s concept of a perfect dinner, but at least this time he’ll have the TV all to himself. DogTV points out that the happy sounds and images that are broadcast are specially configured with canine sensibilities in mind.

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