Sunday, July 13, 2014

Whole Tablets and Broken Tablets

Yesterday, Saturday 7/12, I officiated Sharon and Judy's wedding at the Sheraton Albuquerque Uptown in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

The Bible tells us that after Moses received the Ten Commandments, he saw the people worshipping the Golden Calf, and broke the tablets. Now, being a sensible Jew, Moses had taken out a full warranty, so after paying a fifty shekel deductible, God gave him a new set of tablets. Eventually, Moses is instructed to put both sets of tablets in the Ark of the Covenant, so Indiana Jones could rescue it from the Nazis... (Not really.)

Now, the Rabbis of the Talmud learn a really cool lesson from this. "Be careful to respect a Torah scholar, who has forgotten his learning, since the whole tablets AND the broken tablets, both rest in the Ark." So, the Rabbis are afraid that since the Torah scholar has dementia, people might not accord him the respect he is due. They say, no, you must respect him. He is like the broken tablets. They too rest in the holy Ark.

I was reminded of this idea, when I reflected on what Sharon and Judy say about each other. They each are very particular about respecting those, who because of age or ability, are sometimes themselves forgotten. Listen to Sharon: "Judy demonstrated such deep compassion for the elderly people in our neighborhood. It was not uncommon, on a hot Summer’s day, for her to offer a ride home to some poor little elderly woman, or man, trudging along in the heat, trying to get groceries home before they spoiled. Our own shopping trips seldom ended without helping a senior neighbor to get home a little sooner and a little cooler. Not only did I love her for her sensitivity, I admired and respected her character and integrity. We also discovered that we both love animals and the natural beauty of our world and fervently believe that both should be protected and preserved."

Judy insists that if anyone is to be praised in this regard, it is Sharon: "Sharon cared and treasured all. Even if it was a mouse that we just could not allow to roam free in the house, she buried it as she does all of the Lord’s creatures and offered a blessing. When I think of these times, I fill with tears of love. This was carried into her work with her patients. As a speech language pathologist, she worked exclusively with older patients. She was dedicated to helping them find ways to communicate. I still hear her saying, 'I know that she is in there. I have to find a way to get in there and help her get out.'"

There is however another broader understanding of this idea of the whole tablets and the broken tablets both being important, that Sharon and Judy talk about and embody. They both understand deeply as individuals and as a couple, that life is a journey, where there are whole tablets and broken tablets along the way, and that true love is about treasuring both. As Sharon says: Thirty years ago, we met as two individuals.... each bringing a set of life experiences, joys, disappointments... talents and skills. Over the years we have blended all those ingredients and created a new shared set of life experiences. Together we have shared life cycles, as any other couple does... we have endured the heartache over the death of loved ones... parents and younger ones taken too soon... together, we’ve cried at the weddings of our nieces and rejoiced when a new baby was born into our family. We have enjoyed the acceptance of our relationship by loved ones from both families."

Judy reflects this too: "The Bronx, Mahopac, Mount Vernon, Manhattan, Madrid, Goshen, Connecticut and Albuquerque, New Mexico: all stops on the train of my life. The connection to New Mexico is the one that brings us to our celebration on July 12. My beshert and I have been together 30 years; as one can imagine we have shared both good times and difficult times. The 30 years have been a blessing, and though it would be hubris, it would be great to have an additional 30!"

There is one final way that Sharon and Judy's story, and the story of the two sets of tablets can inform what we celebrate here today. Liberal Judaism holds that though we treasure and value our ancient traditions, we shouldn't stick to each and every one of them. Sometimes, if a tradition is out of date and categorically wrong - for example the tradition of only heterosexuals being allowed marry - then we need to break it. We need to break it, set it aside, and carve a new fresh more inclusive tradition. God wasn't afraid to do that, and nor should we be, in our religious traditions and in our civil laws.