This last Saturday I officiated the wedding of two American Buddhists. Brian is originally a Kiwi of Chinese descent, and Natakan is from Thailand. Of course, when Brian called me the first time, I asked no doubt what you are asking now, “Why would two Buddhists ask a rabbi to do their wedding?” He explained that a modern American wedding was what they wanted, and that would not really work well with what the temple monks would be comfortable doing. On top of that, their date was a day before Easter, so a Christian minister did not make sense. Hence, they called on me. (The postscript is that after the ceremony all of their guests told them they would want this rabbi to officiate for them!)
Natakan and Brian are very special, modest and quiet individuals. They each have suffered more personal losses than would seem fair, but are extremely sunny and optimistic individuals. I found myself learning a lot from them. I shared some of that in these personal words during their ceremony:
Friends, when people ask me to describe myself, I say that I am first and foremost a learner. So, whenever I officiate a wedding, I ask myself, this couple, being unique individuals, what can I learn from them, what are they, consciously or maybe even unconsciously, teaching me, and indeed us?
I found that I learned so much from spending time with Natakan and Brian. Whenever someone has a job that is so specialized and demands such intelligence and skill that I can’t even understand what they do – that is a person I know I can and will learn a lot from…
Seriously, though, these are two individuals who share the fact that they have been schooled by and in the school of life. They have had to deal with their share of physical and emotional pain. In the face of these, they have not only been stoic; they have exhibited, and continue to exhibit quiet determination and powerful love.
When one observes the simple, deep and mutual love that this couple shares, it brings to mind the story about an elderly rabbi who took his wife to the doctor. The doctor asked what the problem was, and the rabbi said in Hebrew, “Ragla shel ishti ko’evet lanu”. Now in Hebrew it works a lot better, but essentially what he was saying was not “My wife feels pain in her leg”, rather “We feel pain in my wife’s leg”. You see, he was so in love with his wife, that when she was in pain, he basically felt pain too. From how Natakan and Brian describe their strong emotional connection, and just from interacting with them, one can really tell that they feel each other’s pain. On top of that, they each have and show true empathy for the pains of others’, friends and strangers alike.
What struck me most though about Natakan and Brian, is that not just do they feel each other’s pain, rather that they truly and utterly feel each other’s joy. The enjoyment they each find in the happiness of the other is truly inspiring. The pleasure they find in just knowing that the other is content and happy is enviable. And again, each of them finds true joy in the happiness of others too.
So Natakan and Brian, thank you for sharing these important lessons with me and with all of us. I bless you and pray, that you will henceforth always experience only joy, happiness and pleasure in the bonds of mutual love.