Friday, February 25, 2011

Choosing Your Destiny

This last Saturday I co-officiated Meredith and Bert’s wedding in Beaumont, Texas. What a wonderful and warm couple! It was heart-warming to see what tremendous nachas Bert’s 84 year old dad, Irvin, got from my joining the celebration. Dr. Harland Merriam, Meredith’s pastor and a real pro, was a pleasure to work with too, and it was clear that a good time was had by all. Here are some of the words I shared with the couple during the ceremony:

Now, of course, I stand here at a disadvantage to Dr. Merriam, who baptized the bride, while I have known the couple for only a short while. I was struck though by a fascinating aspect of their love story. You see, one thing that both will tell you about the time they met is that neither Meredith nor Bert were looking for a serious relationship. They were co-workers, who found they had some common interests, and developed a friendship. It was only later that they started to date and fell in love.

What that reminded me of is one of the most important lessons for life, and specifically for married life. We have very limited control over our circumstances. If there is anything we as a nation and as individuals have learned over the course of the last two or three years, it is that there are many things in life that we have no control over whatsoever. We do however have control over how we choose to relate to our circumstances. In other words, we cannot choose our fate, but we can choose our destiny.

Meredith and Bert, you had no control over how you met; that was merely fate. But what is it we wish every couple – happiness – that was in your hands. You chose your destiny – to stand before us today to commit yourselves to each other for the rest of your lives. So, Meredith and Bert, thank you. Thank you for reminding us of this important lesson. Now, look into each other’s eyes. As the years go by, take a moment here and there, to do what you are doing right now. Take a moment to forget your circumstances, let what is around you melt away, and remember this very moment, remember your destiny.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Raya Mihaimana – a Wife of Noble Character Who Can Find?

Two weeks ago I officiated Raya and Adam’s wedding in West Orange, New Jersey. Though I go all over to officiate weddings, I have to admit I was surprised when Adam first contacted me. After all, contacting a Dallas rabbi to come to the New York City Metropolitan area to officiate a wedding, would seem tantamount to Eskimos asking the same rabbi to bring them some of that renowned pure Dallas snow… It is not that Raya and Adam had not looked; they – as many of my couples – had looked for a rabbi who would officiate their interfaith wedding, and really work with them to create the personalized ceremony they were looking for. They truly believed that the ceremony was what would “make” their wedding. Everything else would make it pretty. After speaking to Adam for just a few minutes, I knew this was a special couple, that I would love working with, and Adam knew he had found the rabbi for his wedding!

Raya and Adam are both extremely talented attorneys. Adam works in private practice. Raya who was born in Bulgaria, came to this country when she was twelve years old, and today she works for the Obama Administration. (As Yakov Smirnoff would no doubt say, “What a country!”) As some may know, while some people collect coins or shells, I collect languages, in which I can recite the Priestly Blessing. I have already blessed couples with this blessing in Spanish, French, and Arabic. Raya was kind enough to not only transliterate the verses from the Cyrillic Bulgarian characters for me, but also leave me a message with the blessing on my phone, so I could practice the pronunciation. So, I was able, much to the gratification of Raya’s parents to bless the couple in Hebrew, English and Bulgarian.

Here are the personal remarks I shared with Raya, Adam and their guests:

When I first spoke to Adam and Raya, I told them that her name in Aramaic, an ancient sister language of Hebrew, means wife, and that sometimes the adjective Mihaimana would be appended to it, which means “trusted” or “faithful”. As Raya has told me, Adam will frequently joke that she is already his wife, which beautifully fits with the meaning of her name. Talk to them about their relationship, and you can really tell that the foundation of Raya and Adam’s love is a deep friendship and a profound mutual trust, which fits the bill of that whole phrase, Raya Mihaimana.

Raya and Adam both talk about how deep not only their relationship is, but how their relationships with family and loved ones are so important to them, so central to their lives. Raya says that living in diverse places, taught her that “home” is not defined by a location, but by people. “Home” to her is being with those she loves and cares about. Home to her, in her day to day life, now has a name, Adam. Adam speaks of seeing “family as the lens through which love and happiness shine brightest; it is an uncompromising cloak of unity draped over those who selflessly love one another.” He says Raya has become part of that family experience for him, and how that has increased his love for her even more.

Adam movingly writes about how spending time with his family and with Raya is more important to him than material possessions or worldly experiences. This reminded me of the poetic words attributed to the legendary Chaldean king, Lemuel, quoting words of wisdom his mother gave him about the ideal wife. These can be turned around easily to fit the description of the ideal husband too:

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full trust in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.

So, Raya and Adam, thank you for reminding us of these important lessons. We hope and pray that you will continue to live your lives by these values. With the hustle and bustle of daily life, that can sometimes be a tall order. So, here is a suggestion. Look into each other’s eyes. (Yes, now…) As the years go by, take a moment here and there to look into each other’s eyes, like you are now, and remind yourselves of what is most important in life – not material possessions, or worldly trappings, rather your mutual love, your trust in each other, and your relationships with your family and loved ones.