Monday, September 23, 2013

The Timing was Right

Last night, Sunday 9/22, I officiated Ella and Chris's wedding at the Venetian Terrace in Las Colinas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Chris's description of his first date with Ella is like something out of a movie:
"When she opened the door I saw the most beautiful brown eyes ever. I had the most awesome time, and I knew then she was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with."

The feeling was mutual. These two were apparently meant for each other, but the timing and the time were not right.

Clearly, though, in the back of their minds something was going on. The smoking embers of love were there. That feeling is best described by Regina Spektor, who like Ella, arrived in the US as a young woman from the Former Soviet Union, in her song, "How":

“How can I forget your love?
How can I never see you again?
There’s a time and place
For one more sweet embrace...
I guess you know by now
That we will meet again somehow...

How can I begin again?
How can I try to love someone new?
Someone who isn’t you...
I guess you know by now
That we will meet again somehow

Time can come and take away the pain
But I just want my memories to remain
To hear your voice
To see your face…”

And, so Ella tells us the rest of the story:
Little did I know, but our paths crossed again three years later in the summer of 2012... As our relationship progressed, we discussed what our future would be like together. Chris's loyalty, dedication, patience, and the desire for family appealed to me. We both agreed it is time to take our relationship to the next level and so here we are!"

Here they are, indeed. The timing is right this time, and your memories, Ella and Chris, have not only remained, but you are and will make many new ones together.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Last night, Saturday 9/21, Father Don Devine and I co-officiated Giulia and Ross's wedding at the historic First Congregational Church in Detroit, Michigan. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Imagine for a moment showing an iPod to Mozart, a laptop to Maimonides, or a smart phone to Aristotle. They would not only be speechless, but might lack the capacity to frame their wonder in their own minds.

True love is analogous to this. It defies explanation, it so envelops the lovers that words fail them, it so overwhelms the mind, that clear articulation of thought is impeded.

I was reminded of this when I read Giulia's description of her love for Ross. It is almost like she is grasping for words:
"He is the most caring, humble, and selfless, man I have ever met; I was under the impression men like him didn’t exist anymore, then I met Ross and everything just fell into place. He is everything I never thought I would find all wrapped up in one person."

It has been said that technology we do not understand is indistinguishable from magic. Indeed most likely, geniuses like Mozart, Maimonides and Aristotle, who come along only every few hundred years, would likely surrender to the thought that our everyday gadgets are simply magical.

I was reminded of this when I read Ross's description of his love for Giulia. It is almost like he is surrendering to the fact that something magical is afoot:
"I almost feel bad for other people because their relationships can't possibly be as good as ours... I think two observations from others make it obvious how much I love her:
1. My mom noticed that I all of a sudden became more photogenic, at least in pictures I took with Giulia;
2. At my first resident review... there were comments from multiple people that I was smiling more."

Giulia and Ross, what more can I say? Just keep doing what you're doing. Let your love keep defying words, and let your life together continue to be magical.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Got It Made!

Last night, Friday 9/20, I officiated Stacie and Maurice's wedding at the historic Hotel Galvez in Galveston, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I ask every person I marry to write a short autobiographical essay. One of the things I ask them to write about is how they met. Maurice's description is, shall we say, different:

"Sitting in the bar, she was staring at me from across the room. Don't believe anything she says about when we met, because it is probably a lie. SHE was definitely staring at ME from across the bar. No, really, she likes to make up stories and pretend like she wasn't; but she was."

Now, laugh if you like, but since I pre-cleared these remarks with both of them, what does that tell you? It tells you that they both have a tremendous sense of humor, and that they don't take themselves too seriously. This is not true with every couple, certainly not to the extent it is true regarding these two lovers.

It is profound what a sense of good fortune and gratitude they feel in their relationship. As Stacie says, "Maurice is a wonderful man who is incredibly good to me and my son and I'm extremely grateful that I found him."

And what a true sense of belonging they have found with each other. As Maurice says, "She is the one person on this planet that I was meant to be with. I just can't imagine being with anyone else."

Stacie and Maurice, hold on to the funny, keep feeling lucky, and revel in your inseparability. If you do that, I think you've got it made.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Partnership That Bears Dividends

Sunday evening (9/1) Father Brooks Keith and I co-officiated Jessica and John's wedding at the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch in Beaver Creek, Colorado. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Friends of Jessica and John know that the first time they met was when Jessica came to interview for a job at the company John was working for. (She got the job, in case you were wondering. The rest, as the say, is history...) There is something really symbolic about this, because finding and then working a job is similar in many ways to finding your soul mate, and building a relationship.

We dress up really nicely, and we think about and plan what we will say. We try to impress, but not overdo it. We try to sell ourselves, but also see if we want to buy in. We emphasize our similarities.

A few days later we call back or wait for a call back to see if we can move this forward. Hopefully, we get the job, and the real work begins.

We tread lightly at the beginning, and we don't really let our guard down. We don't let our freak fly yet, rather we once again emphasize how well suited and similar we are to others. We are highly interested in making sure we are seen as similar to whatever ideal employee we think the boss is looking for us to be.

Now, unfortunately, in many companies you never really advance beyond that stage. Anyone who studies the sociology of management will quickly see that many companies don't really know how to advance beyond that stage. A Kabuki dance of conformity and similarity, where everyone just plays their part is just so much easier. Usually, this can bring fair to mediocre results, which many managers, being risk averse, are very comfortable with.

Fortunately, there are smarter workplaces out there. They have no use for conformity; they seek difference. They have no time for games; they are serious about getting the unique contributions each person can bring the table. They seek not the bland peace of mediocrity, but the fruitful tension of meeting new challenges and excelling through them.

Once again, this is like a mirror image of romantic relationships, and where they can go. What is a date if not a softer version of an interview? Does not the beginning of every romantic relationship involve some serious sales skills, just like a job interview? Do we not seek, at the beginning, to see how similar we are?

Once again, some relationships, like many jobs, never really deepen beyond that stage. However, those that do, watch out! In those that do, we relish in the difference that the other person brings to the relationship. This is why Jessica says, "John makes me think about things in a different way." And we don't just passively wait for such differences to manifest; we seek them out. That is why John says, "I love the way that Jessica challenges me." We realize that true growth comes not from trying to tone this down, rather from relishing it, and harnessing our differences to make our partnership greater and more successful.

Jessica and John, continue to embrace your differences, let your freak fly, and together build a successful romantic partnership that bears dividends for many years to come.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Communal Connection

Saturday evening (8/31) I officiated Sarah and Edmund's wedding at the Windsor at Hebron Park in Carrollton, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

In the United States we have many different options when it comes to wedding officiants. Therefore, whenever someone contacts me to officiate their wedding, I ask why having a rabbi, specifically, officiate their wedding is important to them.

I get a variety of wonderful and thoughtful answers. I particularly loved the answer I got from Sarah and Edmund. They wanted to get it right from the very start. They wanted Judaism to be a serious and integral part of their shared life and the life of their future children.

Now this might seem like a simple, even simplistic question, but why do people seek to connect with their heritage? Why do WE seek to connect with our Jewish culture?

I believe that the answer lies in the very core of our souls. We all seek meaning in our lives. We can find meaning in ideas and truths we discover. However, the greatest meaning is not found in the I, rather in the thou. The greatest meaning is found through our relationships, through our connecting with others, through our community.

Our cultures give us communal connections both vertical and horizontal, if you will. Through our heritage, passed down to us, we connect with the community of the past. Through passing on our rich civilization to our children, we connect to the community of the future. Through involvement in our culture today, we connect with the community of the present.

Each one of us interprets these connections differently. It is not for naught that we say, "Two Jews, three opinions..."  This is the great beauty of our Jewish culture. It encourages each of us, nay, demands of each of us to do what Sarah and Edmund seek to do in the new home they form today, to form community, to build anew, and to take it and make it our own.