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.