Sunday, August 5, 2018

Maybe All We Need is Just a Little Faith

Saturday afternoon, I officiated a celebration of McKenna and Michael’s marriage, at the Southridge Lakes Clubhouse, in Southlake, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

One of the things that most fascinated me about McKenna and Michael’s relationship is their different paths in life, that eventually brought them together. Roll back the tape, and it’s not at all obvious that we stand with them here today. What are the odds of this girl from Fresno and this boy from Southlake, meeting in Italy, becoming friends, and eventually, back stateside, becoming a lot more than friends, leading them to this very celebration?

Interestingly, when I was writing this ceremony, I just happened to be listening to “Destiny” by Jim Brickman, which I had not heard for years. He asks the same question:

What if I never knew
What if I never found you
I'd never have this feeling in my heart
How did this come to be
I don't know how you found me…

Being the nice Jewish boy that he is, Jim actually answers this, unwittingly, with an answer from the Talmud, the foundational book of Judaism. (That’s right, it’s not the Bible, actually; the foundational book of Judaism is the Talmud!)

The Talmud tells us that 40 days prior to the formation of an embryo, a heavenly voice proclaims, “The daughter of so and so, shall marry so and so.” Or as Jim puts it:

… You’re my destiny
You and I were meant to be
With all my heart and soul
I give my love to have and hold
And as far as I can see
You were always meant to be my destiny

Essentially, Jewish tradition tells us that, yes, McKenna and Michael were destined, from before they were even born, to stand with us here today. There is actually a word for this in Yiddish, bashert, which means “meant to be”, or match made in heaven.” Is that incredible or what?

Incidentally, if you continue to listen to the song, Jim, I am sure unwittingly, reflects something that we find not in the Jewish tradition, but in Mormon theology, where marriage is, “for time and all eternity”:

I wanted someone like you
Someone that I could hold on to
And give my love until the end of time
But forever was just a word
Something I'd only heard about
But now you’re always there for me
When you say forever I'll believe

Pretty wild, huh?

So, what was it that did the trick for McKenna and Michael? We need not guess. McKenna tells us: “Since I was little, I knew exactly what I wanted to find in my future husband… I knew I wanted someone who was always kind and gentle, and that I could depend on for anything. I knew I wanted someone who loved God more than he loved me.”

This fascinated me, because it reminded me of a story from the Midrash. The Midrash is not a book, but a genre of Jewish literature. The Ancient Rabbis in the Midrash fill in gaps in the Biblical narrative. One of the most dramatic moments in the soap opera that makes up the latter part of Genesis, is when Jacob, who thought his favorite son, Joseph, was dead, gets to see him, again. The teenager he thought long lost, twenty-two years prior, is now the sagely viceroy of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh, the god-king of the mightiest country on earth.

It is a very emotional moment. The Rabbis tell us the strangest thing, though. They say that right before they embrace, Jacob recites the Shema, the proclamation that is first and last on the lips of devout Jews every day; the same words that are supposed to be the final words uttered by every Jew, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” Through this legend, the Rabbis wish to express the idea that McKenna expresses, that the love of God must precede everything.

Even if you are not a Mormon, not a Jew, and yes, not even a theist, this is an important idea. It is paramount that your values, your beliefs, your convictions precede everything. And, guess what, THAT makes you even more lovable! That makes you even more ready, in Michael’s words, to “take on all of life’s adventures together.”

And in the final words of Jim Brickman’s song, he speaks of embracing his beloved and loving her, “with all my heart and soul,” the exact phrase used in the second verse of the Shema. However, once again, he precedes that with these words, “Maybe all we need is just a little faith…”

And, then Jim unites the two complementary ideas we started with, one from the Jewish faith and one from the Mormon faith, which come together in McKenna and Michael’s union:

I believe that love will find a way
Baby you’re my destiny
You and I were meant to be
With all my heart and soul
I give my love to have and hold
And as far as I can see
From now until eternity
You were always meant to be
My destiny

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