Monday, August 22, 2011

Where to Find Real Treasure

One of the most intriguing mystical teachers of 18th Century Judaism was Rabbi Nachman of Breslau. He, like many mystics before and after him wrote fascinating parables. One of his most well-known goes as follows. A Jew in a small village had a recurring dream that there was a treasure buried under the bridge in front of the royal palace in Vienna. At first he tried to ignore it, but finally he could no more. He packed a bag and a shovel, and made the journey to the capital. Of course, digging right in front of the palace proved to be a challenge, to put it lightly. All he really could do was survey the area day after day, till he aroused the suspicion of one of the guards, who asked him what on earth he was doing. The man told the guard the whole story, upon which the guard had a very unexpected response. He snorted and told the man that he too had a recurring dream that under the stove in the home of a Jew in a far away village was buried a treasure. Did that mean he would make the journey all the way to that village and try to dig it up, all because of a dream? With that he shooed the man away, who with a smile on his face did not seem to mind, since the home the guard had described was his! He went home, dug up the treasure, and lived happily ever after.

The lesson of the parable is simple yet profound, and is one Sarah and Matt are teaching us too. Many of us seek our treasure away from home; this is only natural. It is also true that we often find that the treasure we seek is not out there, but in the very place we came from and the relationships we formed there. Sarah and Matt embody this truth. These are two individuals who enjoy very close relationships with their family and friends. They know that their treasure is found in all of you who are here today, so much so that they chose to celebrate the most important day of their lives in the very home where Sarah grew up.

So, Sarah and Matt, thank you. Thank you for reminding us of this important truth. May you continue to treasure each other and your families, and through this find genuine happiness.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Becky and Larry – A Great Pair of Learners

This last Sunday I officiated Becky and Larry’s wedding in Riverside County in California. Becky and Larry are both intriguing individuals. Becky is a teacher in the true meaning of the word, and Larry works in the entertainment industry. (This is the first wedding I have done, where the groom grabbed some drumsticks, and sat down to play with the band!) Here are the personal words I shared with this unique couple:

Becky and Larry are an inspiring couple. They are first and foremost learners. They relish in learning new things from each other and from those around them.

Both Becky and Larry do not hesitate to question, and this is really the foundation of learning. It is also the foundation of both Judaism and Christianity. The former’s foundational book is the Talmud, a book that is all about questioning (as if to emphasize this its very first words are a question). The latter was born out of questioning the religious order of the time, and its hero ends his life asking a question that has resonated through the generations, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Now, on the one hand, one might say, duh! Isn't it obvious that one should use every opportunity to learn? Isn't it a given that the only way we can improve is through life long learning? Well, yes, but unfortunately in our very individualistic culture, people seem to sometimes overlook this concept. Too often, the response to a question is, "Who do you think you are to question?" All too frequently, the response to a prompt to learn is, "You are not the boss of me!"

So, we should be thankful to people like Becky and Larry. Be it from older siblings, be it from indigenous inhabitants in a village deep in the Yucatan, their inclination is to learn as much as they can. Thank you, Becky and Larry, for setting a great example for all the rest of us.