Sunday, October 8, 2017

Hans vs. Severus

Saturday evening, I officiated Sharon and Tim’s wedding ceremony at the Trophy Club Country Club, in Trophy Club, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

 
One of the most iconic movie villains in the history of American Cinema is the villain in Die Hard, a man named Hans, who arguably had the best last name a movie villain could have. That's right, Gruber. Hans is up against the hero of the film, played by Bruce Willis, a New York City cop.

One of the reasons that this movie was so popular and remains iconic today, even though it has not aged well, and is barely watchable, is that it is SO American, and not in a good sense. It portrays a battle between good and evil, as one between two quintessentially flat male characters, full of bluster and bravado. Good is absolute, evil is absolute. All other characters are mere props.


And, so, naturally, even though the whole plot rests on the fact that the hero and his wife are estranged, largely due to the hero's behavior, all he has to do is vanquish her captors, and she, the prize, falls into his arms.

It is almost poetic that later in life the same man, who played my erstwhile and flat cinematic relative in that forgettable film, played one of the most complex figures in modern popular literature, Severus Snape. And the world Severus Snape inhabits is as rich, as Die Hard's world is flat. Perhaps that is why Alan Rickman said, "When I am 80 years old, and sitting in my rocking chair, I'll be reading Harry Potter. And my family will say to me, 'After all this time?’ And, I will say, ‘Always.’"

Now, if you know Sharon, you know that she could have uttered those very same words. That is why Tim proposed to her at, that's right, Nakatomi Plaza... No, not really. He proposed to her at Harry Potter World.

I, like, Sharon, and so many others across languages, cultures and borders, love this world, because of its complexity, its depth, and its characters' struggles. This makes so much of what happens in that world much more realistic than the world of Die Hard, and certainly more applicable to our lives.

Harry, and his friends, are introduced to us and to each other through a world of magic. You might not know this, but Sharon and Tim were introduced to each other through magic too. After all, as Arthur C Clarke once said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." You have to admit that the complex array of electrons and algorithms that brings people like Sharon and Tim together in our world is hardly distinguishable from the Sorting Hat, that brings people together, in a slightly different way, in Harry's world.

What makes that world so easy to identify with, though, is the realism of the internal lives and interpersonal relationships of the characters. Few can see themselves in John McClain from Die Hard, but magic aside, we can see ourselves in Harry, Ron, Hermione or Ginny. And the friendships and romantic relationships in that world are very very real, with all of the messiness and beauty that comes with them.

And so, we know that Hermione and Ron could truly identify with how Sharon describes her relationship with Tim, "He is my best friend and there is no one that I'd rather share all of life's experiences with." And, as we see the closing scene in that magnificent series, in just the body language, we know that Harry and Ginny could identify with how Tim describes his relationship with Sharon, "We are a team, which is one of the things I love most about her. Together we are unstoppable!"

Unlike the characters in that closing scene, we don't get to see where life will take us. And, even in that scene, the lesson is that the future is not predetermined. However, interact even a little with Sharon and Tim, and I believe you can see them in that scene, years ahead from now. You know that Tim can see that, when he says, "Sharon is the love of my life. I want to spend the rest of my life and grow old with her." And you know that Sharon can see that too, when she says, "Ultimately, Tim is everything I could want in a life partner, and my life is better with him in it."

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Amazing

Saturday evening, I officiated Ashley and Erez’s wedding ceremony at the Blue Sky Ranch, in Wanship, Utah. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I ask every person I marry to write an autobiographical essay. When reading Ashley's essay, I noticed a word repeating itself: Amazing. 

 
Ashley tells us that her brothers are amazing, that they married two amazing women, and that together they are raising amazing children. Ashley tells us that Erez's sons are amazing. And, finally, Ashley says, "We... want to grow our family and having the commitment of marriage is part of that amazing journey." Can you sense a theme here?
 
So, how does a couple end up with amazing children? Put a little differently, and this is the way I like to think about child rearing in my own life, how do I ensure my children will only need a minimal amount of therapy... Seriously, though, how do we, as parents, raise a child that ends up describing his youth like Erez does, "I always had a good head on my shoulders, treated people with respect and tried to enjoy life."
 
The answer isn't really that complicated, the entire industry of child rearing books notwithstanding. Part of it, like anything in life, is luck. Another part, and this is easier said than done, is treating your kids like you would others, when they do things differently than you. Erez says, "I have a tremendous respect for people and their choices, so I don't judge." And, he is consistent, in that he practices what he preaches with regard to his kids. 
 
The most important prerequisite for ending up with amazing children, though, is unconditional love. Ashley says about her parents, "I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am today, if it wasn’t for all of the continuous love and support they have provided me throughout my life." 
 
Now, by this point you might wonder, are we at a wedding of two individuals or a parenting seminar. Well, neither. As I mentioned earlier in the ceremony, this day celebrates Ashley, Erez, and Erez's sons becoming one family. 
 
That said, if you think about it, the ingredients I mentioned for raising great kids are, not surprisingly, great ingredients for a successful marriage. You need a little bit of luck, say like joining the right workplace soft ball team, and playing positions on the field that are fairly close to each other. 
 
You need to respect the fact that people are different, and will do things a little differently, say, and this is just a random example, that that person may be a fairly secular Jew, while you are more of a traditionally minded Catholic or vice versa. 
 
And, you need unconditional mutual love. This kind of love might cause you to repeat that word we started with. You might say, as Erez does, that, "Ashley is an amazing woman. She's fun, smart and makes me feel like a better man." This kind of love, if you were Ashley, might cause you to say, "I’ve always dreamt about my wedding day and who would be my husband. I’ve found him. We’ve been together for over 4 years and I’m ready to wake up everyday to call Erez my husband."

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Live Our Path Together

Saturday evening, I officiated Sam and Beau’s wedding ceremony at the Pine Creek Cookhouse in Aspen, Colorado. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:
I always ask every person I officiate for to write their life story. Most do not get into the details of their birth. Interestingly, both of these individuals did. Listen to Beau, first: "I was six weeks premature and needed to be in an incubator. The same day I was born, a nurse walked by my incubator and realized I was not breathing. She resuscitated me and I remained strong from that point on. Because I was so premature, a nurse who had worked with me from the day I was born, took me to live at her home with her husband as a foster child so that she could make sure I was well taken care of, and had the direct attention of a health professional. The nurse fell in love with me, and fought to become my mother."
 
Now Sam's birth, while less medically perilous was no less, shall we say, interesting: "Having put my parents through three fake labors, I finally came into this world upside down and backwards. It was definitely a dramatic night, and a sign for the future."
 
Sam ties this to her path in life, when she says, "Thus began my journey… of unfolding and discovering my truths, choosing and creating my fate, connecting to my higher Self." And, Beau too has embraced the perfection and imperfections that life has lead him through, to arrive here today. Together, as a couple, as well as each of them individually, they have embraced a simple sentence that guides their lives, "We each have our own journey."
 
And, what a journey each of them has had, and they, as a couple, have had together. Their stories are fascinating and inspiring, specifically, because it has NOT been one long uninterrupted fairy tale. They have led interesting and complicated lives, and have taken the time to reflect on and learn from their experiences.
 
And these led them to that wonderful, elusive, messy thing – love. Listen to Beau, reflecting on a difficult yet pivotal point in his life, and in what brought him back to hope in and for the future: "I came across a drawing... It was Guanyin, the Tibetan goddess of love and compassion. At that point, I deeply lacked love and compassion for myself, and therefore had nothing to spare for those around me. I realized that this was a sign... and had the drawing of Guanyin tattooed on my left arm to remind me that I along with everyone in the world need and deserve love and compassion no matter their story or situation..."
 
And, Sam speaks of an evolution towards love and compassion in a very similar way: "I slowly left the dogma of structured religion and focused more on my own personal connection to a higher power and life lived fully in right action and attitude. My heart exploded with love and compassion and desire for adventure and new experiences."
 
And, Sam sums up beautifully how this love for everyone and each other guides their next steps together, in a few short words that Beau could have written too: "So, through my... messy journey of heartache, perseverance, strength, will, love, and gratitude... my personal and spiritual journeys define big parts of who I am and who I strive to be. They have not only gotten me where I am, but they have lead me to Beau and allow me to fully experience and live our path together."

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Meant to Be…

Saturday evening, I officiated Lizzy and Aaryn’s wedding ceremony at Ten Mile Station, in Breckenridge, Colorado. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:


As I sat down to write these remarks, I had a sudden revelation. This was all meant to be. What do I mean? Well, here is the interesting thing about Lizzy's name. Elizabeth or Elisheva shows up once and only once in all the Hebrew Scriptures. Guess who she marries? That's right, the first high priest of Israel, the brother of Moses, Aaron.

Fittingly, when Lizzy describes her Aaryn, he seems to possess some of the characteristics of that original Aaron. Listen to what she says: "Aaryn is the best companion. He consistently listens attentively, offers the best advice, demonstrates his love and support for me, and makes breakfast whenever I want it. He is confident, caring, perceptive, loyal, and – very important when you deal with me on a regular basis – level-headed."

Pretty cool, huh? But why do I say he has some of the original Aaron in him? Well, here is how the Rabbinic tradition describes Aaron: "Loved peace, pursued peace, loved his fellow man..." And the ancient rabbis expound on this with various legends in which they extol Aaron's character, telling us how, to paraphrase Lizzy, he was caring, supportive, loyal and yes, level-headed.

Now, Lizzy, in a self-critical manner, seems to think that level-headedness is key, when you deal with her. This tells me that one of her best qualities is that she is passionate about what she believes in, and is not afraid to not only express this, but act on it too.

The ancient rabbis see the same in the original Elizabeth, Elisheva, Aaron's wife. You may remember that Pharaoh orders the midwives of the Hebrews to help him with his genocidal plots against the Hebrews. Guess who the rabbis tell us one of the midwives was? That's right, Elisheva. These two women do what nobody else dares to do in that story. They disobey Pharaoh's orders. Elisheva refuses to go along just to get along. Sounds a lot like Lizzy...

Now, not only is Lizzy passionate; she is much much more. In fact, Aaryn describes Lizzy in a similar fashion to how she describes him. He tells us that Lizzy, "is beautiful, adorable, smart, friendly, caring, genuine, sweet, loving."

And he ends with what you sense could be a mutual statement, "I am ready to care, love, partner, parent and more with Lizzy for the rest of my life." Like I said at the beginning, Lizzy and Aaryn - they were meant to be...

Monday, September 4, 2017

Beyond Anything I Can Compare

Sunday evening, I officiated Sivan and Kevin’s wedding ceremony at the Vouv, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

In Texas, being fully honest with others is something of a challenge for many of us. Hence, those oh so Texas sayings, "It is what it is," "Well, there you go," or (my favorite), "Bless your heart!" Each of these really means, "I think you are full of crap, but I won't tell you that, because we don't do that here."
 

Now, the great thing about Israelis, and I can say this because I am one, is that we don't talk like that. We are like New Yorkers on steroids. We say what we mean, and we mean what we say. The sabras, or native born Israelis, like Sivan, really stand out in that respect. I can say that, because I am married to one. You always know where you stand with a sabra.

If you know Kevin, you know that description fits him too. You might be called an honorary sabra. He met Sivan through her coming to speak to a club he belonged to. Meant to be, you might say? Here is how Kevin describes it: "Though there is no evidence for fate or determinism, I will admit circumstance did align." Poetry it ain't, but isn’t it honest?!

And what was Sivan thinking as she waited to speak, and saw Kevin in the audience? "I couldn’t look away. He was beautiful. After the panel he came to introduce himself; he was so nervous. He was too great. So naturally, I assumed he’s gay. I legit tried to set him up with my gay best friend as the night went on and he was incredibly confused." Hey, I told you she was honest!

Now, being honest with others is one thing, but being honest with yourself, can be a challenge regardless of where you come from. This is an area where Sivan and Kevin really stand out. They have asked uncomfortable questions, and they have not shied away from the answers they have found, regardless of where these answers took them, and what others might think. In fact, it is not often you meet two individuals, who have thought so long and hard about their places in the world, their life journeys so far, and where they wish to go from here.

When you are honest with others and with yourself, you have a shot at true self-actualization as individuals and as a couple. Listen to Kevin: "My desire and love for Sivan is beyond anything I can compare. She is really a great person to be around. Being myself, being THAT person (I am) when I am around her is amazing... With Sivan the best things come out... I just want to spend as much time as I can with her doing everything. It is strange that one person can make one so happy. (Even) going out to Costco is an adventure with her. Who knew that was possible?"

And Sivan adds, "I want to be with Kevin for the rest of my life... We’ve been through a lot together, in a very short amount of time... If we were able to overcome so much together, I know this is the right time for us to claim our love in front of everyone we love."

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Love So Powerful

Friday evening, Rev. Chuck Sisneros, of LoveNotes, and I co-officiated Brittany and Martin’s wedding ceremony at the Northeast Chapel in Hurst, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

You can't beat Martin's vivid description of the first time he saw Brittany. They had decided to go to a Sherlock Holmes movie: "As I entered the movie theatre and looked around, up came a stunning woman in a black leather coat, with long hair, large bright eyes, and a huge smile on her face that lit up the room." Sounds like this "Sherlock" found what he was looking for! (#dadjoke)

So, naturally, after the movie was over, he did what any smitten guy would do to show a girl a good time. This is how Brittany describes it: "Afterwards we went to Walmart. Martin needed to buy some sandwich items so he could have lunch ready for work. He now says that he wanted to spend more time with me but he could not think of anywhere else and he really did need sandwich bread."
 

Interestingly, as their relationship progressed, Martin discovered that it was not sandwich bread that was missing. It was something else. Eventually, he says he discovered that it was Brittany. He says that he came to realize, that "She fills the void of everything that was missing..." And so, looking back, Martin says something fascinating, "I... believe this is where my... apathetic life ended, and my happiness began anew."

Why do I say that is fascinating? Because it implies that (unlike with the sandwich bread) before his relationship with Brittany, he didn't feel like anything was missing. It is only upon meeting her, and their relationship progressing, that he made that discovery. Once he did, his whole perspective on life, not just as Brittany's partner, but as an individual, changed.

This is reminiscent of the second creation story in Genesis: "And the Lord God said: 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.'” Now, pay attention to the words; it's not Adam that says this. He's fine, or rather thinks he's fine. However, once she is created, what does Adam say, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh." Now, he knows what he had been missing all along; he knows the void, and what or rather who has filled it.

In the Jewish tradition, we bless the bride and groom that they find happiness like that of the first couple. What do we mean, specifically? We pray that the love of the couple be so powerful, that it seem to her, that he is the only man in the world, as Adam was to Eve, and that it seems to him, that she is the only woman in the world, as Eve was to Adam. Brittany says something very similar about why she wants to marry Martin, "I want to get married to Martin because I love him with all my heart and I don’t see myself with anyone else."

Sunday, August 27, 2017

I Always Believed in Love

Midday Sunday, I officiated Kate and Jim’s wedding ceremony at their home, in Frisco, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

The story of how Kate and Jim became a couple, once they met, is like out of a romance novel. (Ladies, you can explain to your guy friends what those are later.) It truly was one of those stories of love at first sight, or more accurately, first interaction. Their initial date, per the laws of online dating, was only supposed to be a brief "meet and greet". The chemistry was so incredible, though, that it turned into dinner and a long deep discussion into the night.

Don't take my word for it. Listen to Jim: "Our first date was magical and as close to love at first sight as it can get." Kate is - I'm sure this will shock you - more verbose: "I felt a surge and connection immediately upon looking into Jim’s eyes! Our first plan was to just have a drink, but we both agreed that we had a very special chemistry and decided to spend the whole evening together. We shared our life stories, and found ourselves immediately moving closer physically and emotionally that evening. It was a freezing cold evening, but my heart was glowing warmth. When Jim walked me to my car that night, and we kissed goodbye, I knew I was falling fast!" Is that beautiful or what?
There is great beauty in the story of two lovers, say in their mid-twenties, who come together in the bond of marriage, and so what I will say next should not be misconstrued as diminishing that at all. However, there is a unique and unmatched beauty in the love story of two seasoned (don't call us old; we are not) individuals like Kate and Jim, who have found such hope and loving friendship together.

Love stories like Kate and Jim's inspire me. Why? Because it is so very human. The fate of humanity, is to experience loss. That is the nature of our species, and every other species. However, what sets us humans apart is that we need not surrender to fate.

We have a choice. Regardless of what the universe throws at us, we still can choose how to react to that situation. It's not easy, but we can choose what to do next. Kate and Jim each made a choice. Kate, again, shockingly, is more descriptive. (I'm really happy she is coming out of her shell!) "I always believed in love and became hopeful that I could love and trust again. I started dating..."

That choice to look fate in the eye, and choose your destiny, is what brings us here today. As Jim says, "I want to marry Kate now because I love her, and we both want to take our relationship to the next stage... to bind and bond our relationship to each other." And as Kate says, "Once we fell in love, we both felt that life is too short and unpredictable to wait to take our love to the next level."

Forever Love

Saturday evening, Rev. Tom Robbins and I co-officiated Danielle and Chris’s wedding ceremony at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas, in Irving, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Imagine, you handed in a screenplay for a rom-com. (Guys, those are those movies you only see a quarter of, because you're fast asleep twenty minutes in.) The story is about an Oklahoma gal and a Texas guy, who fall in love. You set the scene for their first interaction on a ranch in Texas. And, it's Texas Independence Day. And, he's wearing cowboy boots. And, he's teaching her how to shoot. Oh, and the scene ends a month in, and they each both know that this is it, this is their soulmate! Likely, you'd get a note back, telling you to rewrite, because that scene was just too "on the nose". Well, folks, truth IS stranger than fiction, because that scene brought us here today. This is for REAL! Sometimes (guys, this is at the end of the rom-com, when your girl is shaking you to wake up), fairy tales do come true.
Now, I always ask couples why they want to get married and why now. Chris's answer for the why now question (I am not making this up) had something partially to do with football schedules. For the why question, which he was ready to answer a month in, here is part of his answer: "She was the most beautiful girl I’d ever spoken with, she was so easy to talk to that I was spilling my guts constantly left and right, and she was very witty. I hadn’t ever found a girl with that combination, so I knew she was the one."

Now, the one downside of rom-coms and fairy tales is the assumption of "happily ever after." What do I mean? Well, life isn't happier ever after. Life has challenges. Marriage has challenges. And you need to be there for each other, through those challenges. Rachel Platten puts it so well in a recent song:

"Hands, put your empty hands in mine...
If your wings are broken
Please take mine so yours can open too
'Cause I'm gonna stand by you...
I'll be your eyes when yours can't shine...
And when you can't rise, well, I'll cry with you on hands and knees...
Even if we're breaking down, we can find a way to break through. Even if we can't find heaven, I'll walk through hell with you..."

Well, not to keep in suspense, but Danielle and Chris totally get this! Listen to Danielle: "Being with Chris thus far has exceeded those expectations and really has shown me that he is my forever love. I love sharing my life with him and can’t wait to continue that (whether they are happy or sad moments) and experience life moving forward with him. I think that marriage is... one of the best support systems that life offers, and when going through a difficult time, just knowing that we have each other to share and ease our burdens is something I’ve always desired. I love that marriage means you... love your spouse selflessly and unselfishly, and I have no doubt that Chris is able to fulfill that... Hell, he already does!"

Sunday, August 20, 2017

My Person

Saturday afternoon, Rev. Jay Hutchinson and I co-officiated Michelle and Max’s wedding ceremony at the St. Andrew's School in Middletown, Delaware. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:


Michelle and Max introduced me to a new and fascinating term that relates to love and friendship. Listen to how they describe their relationship, and how their love brought them here today:

Michelle says, "I want to marry Max because I know he is my person. He understands me, I understand him and it just works. It isn’t always easy – but I know we can get through the hard times together because we have already been tested and our relationship only gets stronger from it. He has... a big heart and makes me laugh all the time. I feel safe, loved and understood."

My person was a new concept to me. I thought perhaps it was just a term Michelle used. Then I read Max's words: "Michelle, in addition to being undeniably quirky, is one of the most caring people I’ve ever met. She also doesn’t judge me or anybody else, and accepts people’s flaws with grace and compassion. I don’t know when I realized that she was my person, but I realized early on that this one was different. We complement each other so well, which I think is somewhat rare in relationships. We are very different from each other, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s why it works... We strengthen and support each other, and work as a team better than any couple I know."

There it was again, that term, my person. Now, this couple is probably one of the smartest and most creative I have worked with, so I was not surprised they would introduce me to a new term. I felt like I needed to understand exactly what they meant. So, I went to that fount of all wisdom; no, not the Bible, the Internet. 

Here is one of the best explanations I found, written by Faith Fishkin: "The term my person originated from the show 'Grey's Anatomy.' My own personal definition is the person you go to for everything, the person you can't live without, the person you can't stay mad at, and the person that supports you in everything that you do."

I love that. When two people decide to marry, you know they are in love with each other. That almost goes without saying. However, you also hope they are friends. In fact, if you sense that they are just lovers, but not friends, that may not bode well for their marriage. Friendship in this case is like the foundation of a house. You have to have a foundation to build your love on. 

At least, that is how I would have put it until now. Really, though, I realize that is just not nearly enough. You need a foundation stronger than that. You need the mutual understanding that Michelle and Max bring to their relationship. You need to be each other's person

In fact, though Fishkin points out that your person can be entirely separate and apart from your romantic relationship, the rest of what she says sounds like the ideal marriage. "Being someone's person is a commitment," Fishkin says, "...Being called someone's person is an absolute honor. It means you are the person's 'go-to'. Your friendship has no limits, you will be best friends and each other's person until the day you die, and even then, the friendship is too strong to end…"

That, my friends, is what Michelle and Max share. We should all be so lucky. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

What Really Counts

Saturday evening, I officiated Jeanne and Ronen’s wedding ceremony at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa, in San Antonio, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

One of the things that strike us, Israelis, about Texas is its sheer size. Everything IS bigger in Texas, including, well, Texas. Texans, in turn, are struck by how tiny Israel is. 

I have personally confirmed this story with our former governor and president, which illustrates this fact. George went on the obligatory visit to Israel in 1998, when he was planning his eventually successful run for the presidency. In those days, then future prime minister, Ariel Sharon, would take each prospective candidate on a helicopter ride. He would specifically show them the distance between the Green Line, the border of Israel Proper and the sea, which is just a few miles long. Seeing this #43 exclaimed, "We have driveways longer than that in Texas!" Humor aside, if you have been to a large Texas ranch, you know he was not lying!

Now, there are not that many American states that Israel can lord over due to their small size. Israel is often compared to New Jersey. It's not just because our politicians are usually also indicted shortly after they take the oath of office, just like in New Jersey; their size is similar. And New Jersey is much bigger than Rhode Island, where Jeanne is from. In fact, you could fit seven Rhode Islands inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories

Fortunately, size isn't everything. Mark Twain lived his latter days in a tiny state not far from Rhode Island, and earlier in life he visited what is now Israel, which was quite a feat at his time. He reminds us of a fact, that Texans would be wise to keep in mind, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight; it's the size of the fight in the dog." 

That aphorism is very relevant to this couple. The special intimate ceremony we take part in today is not a Texas sized celebration. That would not fit the personality of this Rhode Island native or this sabra. However, if you know Jeanne and Ronen, you know this: The care they show for one another is great; the commitment they bring to their relationship is vast, and the mutual love they share is without end. And that, my friends, is what really counts. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

With Hearts Open

Saturday evening, I officiated Becca and Daniel’s wedding ceremony at the Wedgewood at the Brittany Hill, in Thornton, Colorado. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Friends, our shared traditions embrace lifelong learning, and learning from everyone. 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?

Here is the secret to this exercise, which might sound easier than it is: Shut up and listen. I ask some open ended questions, and I listen to people, as they tell me about their lives. Do you realize how difficult that can be for a rabbi? After all, you don't become a rabbi if you don't really like the sound of your own voice! 
Now, in Becca and Daniel's case, in particular, this really paid off. The way they describe what each of them has been to the other is like poetry. Listen to what Becca says:

"Daniel has been a really large rock in my life. He has challenged me and has pushed me to strive for something better. He's taught me what meaning something to someone actually stands for. He watched my heart break, then helped put it back together. Together... I think we are at a pivotal point in not only our relationship, but our lives as individual people, and we will need the strength we lend to each other in order to make it the best (time) of our... life."

Wow. It's raw, it's honest, and you can tell what an affect Daniel has had on her life. Now listen to Daniel:

"As I look into the future, I can finally see my goals and wants. Becca is a big part of that. Before I met her, I never thought I would have gotten married or have kids. Not because I didn't think I would find someone but because I thought it just wasn't me. Then I met her, and all that changed. She was sweet and caring. She saw good in people, and always thought the best of the world. I tend to be more cynical and rough around the edges. She makes me a better person and man. Where I want to be in life, my dreams and plans have all changed. I can't imagine it any differently."

Again, the raw honesty really comes through. The affect has not only been profound, it has been fully mutual. 

If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. On the one hand, we imagine and strive towards a perfect life. But, have you ever met that person who believes that he or she is perfect? Not great marriage material. Counterintuitively, in marriage and in life, in general, the words of Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk ring true: "There is nothing more whole than a broken heart." 

The great Quaker thinker, Parker Palmer, explains this idea. He says that the heart as it is, is closed. It is only when it breaks, that it truly opens up. He cites Hazrat Inayat Khan, a Sufi master, who says, God breaks the heart again and again and again until it stays open. 

That is the lesson Becca and Daniel teach us today too. With hearts open, they now write the next chapter of their life, together. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Next Adventure

Saturday, I officiated Michelle and Matt’s wedding ceremony at the Omni Dallas Hotel, in Dallas, Texas. These are the words I shared with them and their guests:

I truly love Michelle and Matt's approach to life. I believe it may be the perfect vehicle to not only survive (which is kind of boring) but to truly thrive (which is way more exciting) in the world we live in. 
The post WWII era begot a way of life, where for a short period of three to six decades, depending how you measure it, the Horatio Alger myth of American life seemed to become a reality. If you worked hard and played by the rules, you could, regardless of your station in life upon birth, achieve the American Dream. That American Dream was based largely on working for one corporation for most of your adult life, buying a home, and earning a pension. These structures would grant you stability throughout your life. 

Now, this never really was true, but it was not till the late 2000s that this really hit home, just as Michelle and Matt's generation was coming if age, and entering the workforce. They and we discovered that the structures that had defined our lives were truly gone. The question was, what now?

Michelle and Matt have the answer, and I love it. While some saw the tidal wave approaching, and could or would not act, this couple (with a twinkle in their eyes) said, "What if we surf that bad boy?! Now that might be scary, but it would be fun!" That is the secret to their success. 

I couldn't help laughing out loud at Michelle's description of the beginning of their relationship: "During our first few dates I liked Matt a lot but wasn’t sure how much. (Well now! - DSG) I got the impression that he liked me a lot and I loved how open and honest he was. Well, eventually, I was all in!" Lucky for Matt, huh?!

Michelle and Matt's relationship budded, deepened and cemented, as they rode the waves of their professional lives, and traveled the world together. It was on a European trip between jobs for Matt, that he says, "We truly became each other's adventure buddies. I had known Michelle was awesome before, but spending time together in tiny rooms with no A/C and long days of travel helped me realize how much of a perfect fit we were. We... totally clicked."

That sense of adventure was one they honed in their professional lives, their travel, and even in just relaxing together. As Michelle says, "I loved how easy our relationship was, we always had fun even when we were doing nothing. (One) summer, we... (traveled) to Belize. It was then that I realized how little Matt likes to sit still... I loved that Matt was so adventurous and helped me break out of my comfort zone too! We now call each other 'adventure buddies'."

Now, it's important to understand that leading an adventurous life takes some bravery and some sacrifice. Matt appreciates that, when he says, "That's what I absolutely love about Michelle. She is willing to make extreme sacrifices for me, and I can't imagine anyone being in love with me as much as she is." 

It is this love that causes Michelle to say, "He doesn’t know this but sometimes when we snuggle at night silent tears of joy roll down my cheeks, because I cannot believe how lucky I am to be marrying the man of my dreams." It is this love that causes Matt to say, "I am always on the lookout for our next adventure together." Well, Michelle and Matt, how about we start that next adventure right now?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A Power Couple

Today, I officiated Mandy and Paul’s wedding ceremony, at Reflections on Spring Creek in Plano, Texas. Here are the words I shared with them and their guests:

I ask every person I officiate for, to write an autobiographical essay, and I ask them to touch upon a few specific points in the essay. Among other things, I ask them to tell me why they want to get married and why now. After all, these are important questions to consider, and no one else, aside from me, can ask them without seeming quite rude!
Mandy showed she was a true Jewess with her answer to, “Why now?” What do I mean by that? Well, they say that Jews often answer a question with a question. Do you know why? Simple: Why not?

That is Mandy’s answer to why she wants to marry now, “Why not?” Fortunately, she does elaborate on that: “I love this man with every ounce of my being, and I cannot be complete without him… Everything in my existence is better because I have him in my life. We are stronger and better together. We often refer to ourselves as a ‘power couple’. There’s nothing we can’t do together, nothing we can’t achieve, nothing we can’t overcome…”

A “power couple” is an interesting phrase. I looked up what it meant in the Urban Dictionary, and here is the top definition, which (once you hear it) I think you will admit, fits Mandy and Paul, like a glove:

“A relationship between two people who are equally as cool as each other. They are as individually awesome and fun to be around as they are when they are together. Neither one depends on the other for their feelings of self-worth – they know in their heart that they are just as valuable to the world as the other. Good looking, optimistic, and sparks a light in the world that people recognize that goes beyond a normal relationship. In a power couple, if one person is flawed, the other person makes up for their weaknesses in strength. Together they are the epitome of what anyone would desire in a relationship. They encourage goodness in the world and make it a better place by being together.”

That final point is the one that stood out to me the most about Mandy and Paul. In my discussions with them, it was very clear that in their professional endeavors, as well as in their personal lives, encouraging goodness and making the world a better place, was of paramount importance to both of them. This is why they work with kids; this is why Paul chose to serve our country in uniform in peacetime and wartime; this why in said essay, Mandy added a whole paragraph just to tell me about their family of seven, the two of them and five members of their furry brood (her word, not mine).

This might seem like a trivial, matter of fact point, but it is not. In a world that seems to have grown colder and less caring, in a world where the fictional Gordon Gecko’s, “Greed is good,” is seen as a positive statement, in a world that mistakes the ownership of things for actual accomplishments, this is very very serious.

The world needs more people like Mandy and Paul, the world need more couples like Mandy and Paul, to encourage goodness and to make the world a better place.