Keshet is a national organization that works for LGBTQ equality in Jewish life. The organization equips Jewish leaders with tools to build LGBTQ-affirming communities, creates spaces for queer Jewish teens to feel valued and develop their own leadership skills, and mobilizes the Jewish community to fight for LGBTQ justice. Keshet’s blog spotlights this work, as well as the voices of LGBTQ Jews, our families, and allies.
This month, in honor of Valentine’s Day, Keshet is sharing love stories. We heard about a proposal at a Pride Parade from Aden and his fiance, Josh, a story of love and parenthood, and what it means to be demisexual. If you have a love story for the Keshet blog, let us know! And, celebrate all kinds of love with our queer Jewish Valentines!
I’ve been single for nearly 4 years.
The last time I had a Valentine’s day date was 2011. Actually, that has probably been the only time I’ve had a “Valentine.” So, to say that I have had complicated opinions on this particular holiday, would be an understatement. I’ve gone from absolutely dreading it and refusing to acknowledging it, to now, marking the day in my own special way. Recognizing the love of self.
The Torah teaches us “V’ahavta L’Reiacha Kamocha”, or, “Love Your Neighbor As Yourself”. What does this mean? For me, I think it highlights the idea that you cannot truly love someone else until you fully love yourself. Or as the world-famous drag queen and TV personality, RuPaul, says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” Can I get an amen indeed!
Finding a person to enter into a romantic relationship with is challenging. A lot of it is, arguably, out of our control: fate, luck, chance, timing, chemistry. What we can control is how we love ourselves. Self- care and self- love is a journey that all of us are constantly on.
One of the most important steps for me on that journey was coming out and loving myself as a gay man, being proud of that aspect of my identity—something that took 19 years. Once I was honest with myself about that, the floodgates opened and I began to explore more aspects of who I was, not that they weren’t there before, but by loving my gay identity, I was able to love all other aspects of myself.
During this period in which I was learning to truly love myself, Valentine’s Day turn on a variety of meanings. After I first came out and I was desperately wanting to be in a relationship but wasn’t in one, Valentine’s Day became a day of mourning for a romantic love I didn’t have. Sometimes I would react with sarcasm and anger-celebrating Single Friend Awareness Day.
As I matured and became more comfortable in my identity, I realized that Valentine’s Day could be a day to celebrate love in all of its form, including yourself. That’s why, this year, I plan on using the day to take care of myself. To treat myself. To love myself. Once I committed myself to this, and stopped worrying about finding a Valentine’s Day date, I was amazed to discover that I wasn’t stressed out about not being a relationship.
I’m looking forward to taking myself out to spending the day doing my favorite things—exploring New York City, taking myself out to a nice dinner, and seeing a Broadway show. But why only practice self-love on Valentine’s Day? When you take care of your personal needs, every day can be Valentine’s Day! And if loving yourself makes it easier to show love to other people and receive their love, then perhaps this act of self-love will help make my sphere of influence a more inclusive place!
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Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.