Wednesday, June 15, 2011

20 Years

Usually I write about other couples. Let's depart from that once, and allow me to muse out loud on top of that...

So despite the common stereotype, it was I who remembered. Of course, I cheated a little. This is not our 20th WEDDING anniversary. It is the 20th anniversary of the date we used to celebrate evey month when we were going out as the date we "officially" started dating.

(I recently remarked to my daughter, who just turned 17, that her mom was that very age, when we started going out. Good thing she is ALREADY visually impaired, as an eye roll back that far could have hurt anyone's vision...)

How does one reflect on 20 years? I don't really know. We have lived on three continents. We had four children, are raising three that bring us much joy (and some frutration here and there...) and together buried one. We went from being very Orthodox to well, very not. We are very different people than we were, a little older, hopefully wiser, most of our lessons not the type one learns in the classroom.

So, we still have a road to hoe, and many adventures we plan together, and corny as it may sound, I wouldn't trade what we have for anything. Her name is Liat, which means, "You are mine." For the past 20 years she has been... Here is to many more multiples of 20!

Monday, June 6, 2011

What about Now, What about Today?

Yesterday, I officiated the wedding of a very special couple, Stacy and Mark. This couple has one of the most unique love stories I have come across. They were good friends in high school, both separately wanted to be more than that, and as men are from Mars and women are from Venus, had some miscommunications about that very fact. So, “Harry and Sally” like, each went their separate ways, married, had kids, and eventually divorced. Then they found each other again, and this time, grabbed the bull by its horns, fell very deeply in love, and the rest is history. Here is what I shared with them during their wedding ceremony:

I am about to divulge to all of you one of the most telling details one can share with others about him or herself. I have never really done this before, so deep breath, here goes. I am going to share some of the contents of my iPod playlist…

Seriously, though, many times, when I am trying to write personal remarks like these, I listen to music. Corny as it may sound, music can inspire my writing. This time, however, I didn’t just become inspired; I hit the jackpot. Here is the song by Chris Daughtry that my iPod came up with as it shuffled, when I sat down to think about what I would share with Stacy and Mark, and you all. Listen carefully to the words.

Shadows fill an empty heart
As love is fading,
From all the things that we are
But are not saying
Can we see beyond the stars?
And make it to the dawn?

Change the colors of the sky
And open up to
The ways you made me feel alive,
The ways I loved you
For all the things that never died,
To make it through the night,
Love will find you

What about now,
What about today,
What if you’re making me all that I was meant to be,
What if our love never went away,
What if it’s lost behind words we could never find,
Baby, before it’s too late,
What about now.

The sun is breaking in your eyes
To start a new day
This broken heart can still survive
With a touch of your grace
Shadows fade into the light
I am by your side,
Where love will find you…

Now that we’re here,
Now that we’ve come this far,
Just hold on
There is nothing to fear,
For I am right beside you.
For all my life,
I am yours.

It is almost like this song could have been written for Stacy and Mark. What Daughtry in his words, and Stacy and Mark in their love story teach us, is that in our lives as individuals, as couples, as families, as a nation, as a world, there are second chances. In fact, there may be more second chances than we realize. Too many times, we let those second chances, which could redefine our lives, which could revitalize our existences pass us by. What both this popular singer, and this lovely couple are telling us is – it does not have to be that way. They call upon us to ask ourselves, to ask our partners, to ask our families, to ask our nation and the whole world itself – what about now, what about today?

So, Stacy and Mark, thank you. Thank you for serving as an inspiration. Now, go ahead and hug each other (it’s perfectly OK, you are almost married…) and as the years go by, take a moment here and there to do what you are doing right now. Perhaps you might even say to each other when you do, “Just hold on, there is nothing to fear, for I am right beside you. For all my life, I am yours.”

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Lifting a Burden

The goal of this blog is to share what I learn from my couples, and usually postings contain my personal remarks at weddings, which share that goal. This posting will be a little different.

Recently at a wedding reception I had a fascinating discussion, during which I was able to help someone with an issue that was weighing heavily on her heart. This woman could be described by the rabbis of old as a “ba’alat yissurim”, a woman who had more suffering in her life, than would seem fair. She had lost two daughters, one at the age of nine in a horrible traffic accident, and one in her thirties to cancer. Having lost a child myself, I immediately felt a sense of kinship.

A close family member had criticized this woman for not being as devout as he was in terms of belief and church attendance. He told her that since she was not properly devout, she would not get to see her daughter in the afterlife. This greatly troubled the woman, and she sought me out at the wedding, as a rabbi, to ask me what I thought.

Now, personally, I have little use for the afterlife. I think it is extremely difficult to prove that this is an original Jewish concept. Even after this concept made its way into Judaism, our writings have always focused on this world, not the next. However, what one, especially a rabbi, must judge in such a situation, is not what do I think, rather what will bring comfort to this individual. This does not mean that I would utter anything I think not to be true. It just means that one helps the other person state what he or she believes in, what brings him or her comfort, and then validates that as a legitimate position.

I asked her if she had read Lance Armstrong’s book, It’s Not About the Bike, My Journey Back to Life”. She said she had. I reminded her of this excerpt:

The night before brain surgery, I thought about death… I asked myself what I believed. I had never prayed a lot. I hoped hard, I wished hard, but I didn’t pray. I had developed a certain distrust of organized religion growing up, but I felt I had the capacity to be a spiritual person, and to hold some fervent beliefs. Quite simply, I believed I had a responsibility to be a good person, and that meant fair, honest, hardworking, and honorable. If I did that, if I was good to my family, true to my friends, if I gave back to my community or to some cause, if I wasn’t a liar, a cheat, or a thief, then I believed that should be enough. At the end of the day, if there was indeed some Body or presence standing there to judge me, I hoped I would be judged on whether I had lived a true life, not on whether I believed in a certain book, or whether I’d been baptized. If there was indeed a God at the end of my days, I hoped he didn’t say, “But you were never a Christian, so you’re going the other way from heaven.” If so, I was going to reply, “You know what? You’re right. Fine.”

She said she remembered that, and agreed wholeheartedly with Lance. Still, it seemed that she needed someone, who had pastor or rabbi in front of his or her name to tell her that Lance was right. She needed that someone to tell her that not spending every Sunday in church would not prevent her from seeing her daughter again. I reassured her that Lance had it right. I reassured her that the person who had clearly hurt her with his remarks was wrong. I could see from her face that a tremendous burden had been lifted from her shoulders.