Friday, November 26, 2010

Dave Barry Writes (Hilariously!) About Interfaith Marriage and About Weddings Too

Ever since I was eighteen, Dave Barry has been my favorite humorist. I first borrowed his “Dave Barry Turns 40” from my high school friend, Dovi, read it, and promptly returned it a little after I got married three years later. (Liat only had to remind me about 12 times, and hand deliver it to him or his girlfriend or sister or something.) That is how great it was. Fortunately, Dovi had not even started law school yet, so he could not sue me for returning his book just a tad late…

I have read each one of his (Dave Barry’s, not Dovi’s) non-fiction books since. What I love about his humor is that he talks about the simple unvarnished truth of what happens to every guy in life. You find yourself again and again agreeing with his silliness, and also feeling validated that you are, after all, not crazy… A few years ago he wrote a fiction book, called “Big Trouble”, where he took many elements of his non-fiction books and laced them into a crazy story. This was then made into a great movie, which you should see, if you have not seen it yet.

His latest book, which was just published, is called "I'll Mature When I'm Dead". As usual, I got weird looks from my kids, who could not understand why their dad was laughing so hard from a book. I especially liked two essays, “Judaism for Christians”
and “Father of the Groom”. (I knew Barry, a non-Jew, had remarried a few years ago, but I had not known that his second wife was Jewish.) In the former he gives a hilarious and irreverent description of what it is like for him to sit through synagogue services, what it is like for him to celebrate Jewish holidays and more. In the latter he describes many funny aspects of what it is like to be the father of the groom.

This is definitely worth a read. Enjoy, and if you borrow it from my friend, Dovi, make sure you return it by Thanksgiving 2013…

Monday, November 8, 2010

Michelle and Josh – Going Above and Beyond

This last Saturday I officiated a wedding between a really cool couple, Michelle and Josh. Michelle is a Christian of Palestinian/Jordanian descent and Josh is Jewish, so this was not only an interfaith but also an intercultural wedding. The wedding included not only Hebrew, but Arabic too, with Jimmy, Michelle’s cousin, reciting the Lord’s Prayer in the latter. We also included a beautiful tradition called crowning, in which the priest crowns the bride and groom to symbolize that they are like royalty on their wedding day. Finally, we included the Priestly Blessing in Hebrew, Arabic and English. My friend, Pastor Jalil Dawood, taught me how to do this in Arabic, and Jimmy helped me out too. Here are the personal remarks I shared with everyone during the ceremony:

There is a fascinating story in the Book of Genesis. Abraham has a typical concern of many parents of Gen Xers. His son Isaac is 40 years old. He has dated a few Canaanite girls, but really hasn’t found the right one. Abraham who really hasn’t liked any of the girls anyway, and who really wants some grandchildren, sends his Chief Servant back to his hometown of Charan to find the perfect match for Isaac. Now, Abraham seems to be a really forward thinking manager. He does not micromanage his employees. Rather, he gives basic instructions to his COO, and empowers him to act.

So how do you find the right match for your master’s son, particularly in a city you are not familiar with? The Chief Servant arrives in Charan, and the first thing he sees, right off the Canaan-Aram interstate most likely, is the city well, with the women of the city going back and forth, drawing water for their families. The Chief Servant prays to Yahweh, the God of his master, Abraham, for help. He basically makes a deal with Yahweh and says, that he will ask individual women for water, and the one who responds, saying that she will water him and his camels, will be the one that Yahweh has chosen. Indeed, Rebecca, the first woman he chooses to ask, who conveniently turns out to be Isaac’s cousin, gladly pours him some water to drink, and then volunteers to water his whole entourage, which she does promptly. The Chief Servant then happily slaps costly gold tennis bracelets on her arms and a golden nose ring in her nose (Our “avant garde” matriarch was apparently into the piercings…), and the rest is history… The lesson, colorfully told, is an obvious one. If you are looking for the right mate, choose someone who is not only not self-centered. Choose someone, who cares about others, and who does not wait to be asked to help, rather volunteers of one’s time and/or treasure at the sign of need, expecting nothing in return.

Fast forward about 3500 years to last June. I meet with every couple three or four times before their wedding, and we get to know each other pretty well. I had had two previous meetings with Michelle and Josh, but that was over the phone. This was the first time we met in person, and I was about to see a side of them, that I don’t get to see in couples all that often. I was in Houston for a small wedding at a B&B in the Montrose area. Michelle and Josh had just arrived in town a few days before, were in the process of building their furniture, and had had to attend a social at Josh’s new workplace, before they met with me. We had our meeting at the B&B, and they intended to return home to continue building furniture into the night. I took them on a quick tour of the B&B, showed them where the wedding would be taking place, and we suddenly bumped into the bride and groom. I introduced the two couples to each other, we talked a little bit, and we discovered that the three guys who were supposed to help the couple set up for the wedding had bailed on them. That, apparently, was why they were both in shorts and a t-shirt two hours before their ceremony, with the B&B manager and the best man in tow helping them set up…

We went back inside to the air conditioning, and then it happened, kind of all at once. Josh disappeared, and quickly appeared again with some dishes, gave them to Michelle, and dashed back outside. Michelle started setting up everything inside, while Josh started to set up tables outside. They got to work, I got swept up in it (though I did advise them not to expect this type of service at this wedding…), and they did not leave until everything was pretty much set up for the wedding. The couple, who was marrying that day, was really blown away, as was I.

Michelle and Josh, I think it is by no means coincidental that you have found love with each other and built your life together. Not many people would have done what you did that day, and something tells me that if I asked your family and friends, I would hear of other incidents, where you have acted the same. You two share something very special, that not enough people share, but that all of us should learn from. Thank you for your kindness and the example you set that day, and for giving me such a meaningful lesson to share with everyone here on your wedding day.