Two weeks ago I officiated Raya and Adam’s wedding in West Orange, New Jersey. Though I go all over to officiate weddings, I have to admit I was surprised when Adam first contacted me. After all, contacting a Dallas rabbi to come to the New York City Metropolitan area to officiate a wedding, would seem tantamount to Eskimos asking the same rabbi to bring them some of that renowned pure Dallas snow… It is not that Raya and Adam had not looked; they – as many of my couples – had looked for a rabbi who would officiate their interfaith wedding, and really work with them to create the personalized ceremony they were looking for. They truly believed that the ceremony was what would “make” their wedding. Everything else would make it pretty. After speaking to Adam for just a few minutes, I knew this was a special couple, that I would love working with, and Adam knew he had found the rabbi for his wedding!
Raya and Adam are both extremely talented attorneys. Adam works in private practice. Raya who was born in Bulgaria, came to this country when she was twelve years old, and today she works for the Obama Administration. (As Yakov Smirnoff would no doubt say, “What a country!”) As some may know, while some people collect coins or shells, I collect languages, in which I can recite the Priestly Blessing. I have already blessed couples with this blessing in Spanish, French, and Arabic. Raya was kind enough to not only transliterate the verses from the Cyrillic Bulgarian characters for me, but also leave me a message with the blessing on my phone, so I could practice the pronunciation. So, I was able, much to the gratification of Raya’s parents to bless the couple in Hebrew, English and Bulgarian.
Here are the personal remarks I shared with Raya, Adam and their guests:
When I first spoke to Adam and Raya, I told them that her name in Aramaic, an ancient sister language of Hebrew, means wife, and that sometimes the adjective Mihaimana would be appended to it, which means “trusted” or “faithful”. As Raya has told me, Adam will frequently joke that she is already his wife, which beautifully fits with the meaning of her name. Talk to them about their relationship, and you can really tell that the foundation of Raya and Adam’s love is a deep friendship and a profound mutual trust, which fits the bill of that whole phrase, Raya Mihaimana.
Raya and Adam both talk about how deep not only their relationship is, but how their relationships with family and loved ones are so important to them, so central to their lives. Raya says that living in diverse places, taught her that “home” is not defined by a location, but by people. “Home” to her is being with those she loves and cares about. Home to her, in her day to day life, now has a name, Adam. Adam speaks of seeing “family as the lens through which love and happiness shine brightest; it is an uncompromising cloak of unity draped over those who selflessly love one another.” He says Raya has become part of that family experience for him, and how that has increased his love for her even more.
Adam movingly writes about how spending time with his family and with Raya is more important to him than material possessions or worldly experiences. This reminded me of the poetic words attributed to the legendary Chaldean king, Lemuel, quoting words of wisdom his mother gave him about the ideal wife. These can be turned around easily to fit the description of the ideal husband too:
A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full trust in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
So, Raya and Adam, thank you for reminding us of these important lessons. We hope and pray that you will continue to live your lives by these values. With the hustle and bustle of daily life, that can sometimes be a tall order. So, here is a suggestion. Look into each other’s eyes. (Yes, now…) As the years go by, take a moment here and there to look into each other’s eyes, like you are now, and remind yourselves of what is most important in life – not material possessions, or worldly trappings, rather your mutual love, your trust in each other, and your relationships with your family and loved ones.