Monday, September 19, 2011

She Takes Him Out of His Comfort Zone…

This last Saturday I co-officiated Brooke and Casey’s wedding in Durango, Colorado, with Pastor Dave Robinson, who I am proud now to count as a good friend. This is a very impressive couple. Brooke is a successful attorney, and Casey is a graduate of the Air Force Academy, who served our country for five years in the military. (Many at the wedding had attended military colleges, including the best man, who delivered his speech via recorded video address from Kirgizstan!) Pastor Dave is an old friend of the family, and an impressive humanitarian, who travels the world helping those in need. Here are the personal words I shared with Brooke and Casey and their guests:

Someone once asked me, "Rabbi, why do you frequently, answer a question with a question?" I thought about it for a moment, and I said, "Well, why not?"

Seriously, though, people often think that religions exist to answer their questions. Some even think that their religion gives them all the answers. They forget that the words attributed to the founders of most of today's religions show that they, challenging the status quo, had way more questions than answers. It was the only way they thought people could grow – if they constantly questioned themselves.

This is an attribute that Brooke and Casey share, and can teach us all. Brooke openly talks about her spiritual journey that is replete with questioning. She talks about how through a journey of questioning and exploration she and Casey have mutually grown together. Casey, in turn, gives Brooke the greatest compliment a man (we are a little more set in our ways than women are) can give to a mate, "She takes me out of my comfort zone... She makes me a better partner." He too discusses how they have learned so much from each other.

Brooke and Casey, we hope that you continue down this very path. Some might tell you that the most important words in marriage are, "Yes, dear." I actually think that the sentence needs to be more cerebral and a little longer. (I am a clergyman, after all...) It should be, "That's a great question! Why don't we try it that way?" Keep doing that, and your bond will be unbreakable.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Beyond an Operator’s Manual

This last Wednesday I officiated Nad and Alex’s wedding in Koh Samui, Thailand. Here are the personal words I shared with them and their guests:

Often when one conjures the (sometimes scary) idea of a member of the clergy trying to speak words of wisdom, one expects something along the lines of the following: “The Torah/Bible/Koran/Veda says we must do X, and it being a divine ‘operators’ manual’ for how we should live our lives, must be obeyed.”

Now, frankly, I find this rather tiring. First, with so many different and contradictory “manuals”, how are we to discern what could be the right one to use? However, second, and much more fundamentally, how many of us actually find any actual operators’ manuals in real life the least bit helpful? True learning is not done through a manual. It is done through trial and error, through observation and discovery. If this is true regarding an iPad or a cell phone, how much more so regarding something as complicated as life itself.

This is why it was so refreshing to me to read the words Nad wrote me regarding her philosophy of life, “I don't believe one should live life according to how someone else says life should look like.” How simple, yet how profound! It is clear that Nad and Alex have both lived their lives in this fashion. These are good, kind, solid, and responsible individuals, who are fun to be with, and who truly enjoy life. How did they become such individuals? It was not from reading an ancient book from 3000 years ago. Rather, it was from experiencing the world, living in different cultures, speaking different languages, interacting with other people, and observing the world.

So, Nad and Alex, thank you. Thank you for exemplifying one of the best ways to live life fully, and reach true happiness. We hope and pray that the happiness you have found together, through living life to the fullest, in just this fashion, will continue to be the path you tread for the rest of your life together.

Following Aaron’s Example

This last Saturday I officiated Wadia and Jared’s wedding in Merida, Mexico. Here are the personal words I shared with them and their guests:

One of the most interesting characters in Jewish lore is Aaron, the brother of Moses. We are told that Aaron loved people, and through this brought them closer to the Torah. Now, what exactly does this mean? How do you through love bring someone closer to the Torah, which really means closer to being a good moral person, in general?

Legend has it that whenever Aaron would bump into someone, regardless of if he knew the person or not, regardless of whom that person was, he would greet the person warmly and very kindly. There were no airs about him. He did not pull rank or act like a celebrity. The result, we are told, is that due to his loving and caring attitude people did not want to disappoint him. Therefore, they would make much better moral choices in their lives, do more positive things, and stay away from what was not proper.

Now, we can ooh and aah about Aaron’s greatness, but I think that there is a much more important lesson here. Feeling loved helps us develop in ways we could not otherwise, and it has the power of making each of us a better person. We each can better ourselves through the knowledge that someone who truly loves us would want us to do the right thing.

I have never heard this better described than the way Wadia does. She describes Jared with these words, “the voice of my conscience”. That is so simple, yet so profound! Jared too reflects this mutual aspect of their relationship, when he says that, “Wadia keeps me both in line, and on my toes.” (BTW, the very first time I spoke to Wadia I picked up on the “on his toes” part…)

Wadia and Jared, thank you for reminding us of this important lesson. May you continue to grow together, to develop together, and to serve as an example for us all for how a true love and being loved can bring us just a little closer to perfection.