Sunday, March 27, 2016

We Could Count on Each Other

Saturday evening I officiated Jaclyn and Norman’s wedding ceremony at Marché Bonsecours, in Montreal, Quebec. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Jaclyn and Norm have a very special love story. It begins with a mixture of innocence and what Norm calls "cheekiness". Listen to the how Norm tells it. It starts right outside his apartment. Coming from a family with a family business, you would probably not be surprised that he felt right at home living "above the store", or at least A store:

"The store and my apartment shared a common entrance and it was in that little corridor where I met my future wife. I was jiggling with my keys to get in and this cute girl popped out of the store to greet me. She was wondering what I was doing (not knowing I lived upstairs). When I told her that I was simply going home she asked me if she could run up and see my apartment and instructed me to watch the store – I loved this cheekiness right away."

So, why do I say cheekiness AND innocence? Well, because neither of these two were looking for a mate. They really were just going kind of minding their own business, until this encounter. Listen to Jaclyn's complementary description of their chance meeting, and you'll see what I mean:

"When Norm came into my life it was completely unexpected. There must be some truth in the saying ‘Love happens when you least expect it.' I was not looking for anyone or anything in particular. It was just any other day and I was alone working at a boutique... (Parenthetically, I find it interesting that the one with the non-French name called it a boutique...) It was a Sunday (in the) late afternoon and I was just about to close..." Really innocent, so far, right? Well, the cheekiness is about to come back: "I was not expecting a very tall and handsome young man to walk up to the store. He couldn’t possibly be shopping for costume jewelry. I popped out the door and asked him what he was up to. When he answered that he was on his way up to his apartment I was intrigued because I had no idea that someone was living up there, yet alone that ‘someone’ happened to be a young and charming guy."

This was the beginning of a deep love connection. What do I mean by deep? Well, two things. Listen to Norm describe what might be referred to as the "essence" of his bride: "What I love about Jaclyn is her genuine kindness. She is a wonderful person with a massive heart and she seeks to make those around her happy." And Jaclyn tells us about Norm and how he makes her feel, "I am completely myself when we are together and he understands me more than anyone has. He is also the ultimate life partner- he is patient, supportive, interested, affectionate and always so positive."

The second reason for why I say deep, is that marriage is sometimes somewhat of a gamble, or at least an educated guess. What do I mean by that? Well, typically, a young couple has not had to deal with too much in their lives. So, essentially they bet on the fact that not only will they be able to celebrate in the good times, but also weather the bad times together. That is why the traditional vows say, "in good times and in bad."

Well, no educated guesses needed with these two... Norm recounts the realization they came to together, "[In] that extremely difficult time, we realized how much we could count on each other for support and strength. Moreover, we realized that we could likely get through anything life would eventually throw at us as a team."

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Renewing the Covenant

Wednesday evening, I officiated Jenna and Mike’s vow renewal ceremony at the Hyatt Place Dallas/Garland/Richardson, in Garland, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

There is not much in the research literature about vow renewals. Though the eternal source of all great wisdom, Wikipedia, contends that this custom has some roots in Italy, it admits that this is a largely modern and largely American phenomenon, not that there is anything wrong with that.

Interestingly, though, the Hebrew Bible actually tells a fascinating story, which can be understood through this modern ritual, that Jenna and Mike celebrate today. In the final chapter of the Book of Joshua, this mythical successor of Moses gathers all of the people. He reviews their history, from the days of Abraham, through the slavery and exodus from Egypt, to the battles he himself led to settle the Land of Israel.

Then Joshua says, “Now, therefore, revere the Lord, and serve him with undivided loyalty… Or, if you are loath to… serve the Lord, choose (who)… you are going to serve…” So, despite their long history together, despite their ongoing relationship, Joshua says that they must make a covenant with God. Here is what they answer, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord… He is our God… We will serve none, but the Lord.” And then scripture tells us, “On that day… Joshua made a covenant for the people.” Now, if you know the Bible story up until that point, this might seem a little odd. What on earth is Joshua doing here? Hadn’t the people already made a covenant with God, at the time of Moses? Why this seemingly superfluous repetition?
However, if we think about the marital relationship, and many scriptures allude to the relationship of the God of Israel and his people, as analogous to a marital relationship, it makes total sense. You see, not to rain on any romantic party, but let’s face it, at best, committing to someone in marriage is an educated guess. Why do I say that? Well, because the “I” of today is not the “I” of ten years from now, and the “You” of today are not the “You” of ten years from now. So, when we marry, not just for today, but for tomorrow, the day after, ten years later, and hopefully many more, what are we saying? We are saying that we know each other well enough, and that our love is strong enough, that we know that the “We” of tomorrow, will be as committed and as in love as the “We” of today.

Now, again, fairy tales are lovely, but if you know anything about marriage, especially one with four great kids, all under the age of ten, that fairy tale can be hard work! And so, the fact that the “We” of yesterday committed to each other, carries heavy weight, but it is not enough. Consciously and unconsciously, you must make an affirmative decision, like Jenna and Mike do, to keep investing in that wonderful endeavor we call marriage and family. And, if you know Jenna and Mike, you see that love and determination, with which they make that affirmative decision, not just today, but every day.

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to what they wrote about their love story, “We are honestly like two peas in an odd pod. We are almost complete opposites on almost every topic. However on all the important things we are exactly on the same page. We choose to stay married because we have a strong sense of family and love. We both love each other for our flaws and for our greatness. We build each other up everyday.”  

Through what Jenna and Mike do today, we gain understanding of Joshua’s actions too. Joshua recognizes that the historical covenant is important, but not sufficient. He, therefore, calls the people, not to make a covenant, but to renew their covenant with their heritage and with their historical traditions; traditions which Jenna and Mike embrace in their lives, and embrace in today’s ceremony too. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

What Matters Most

Saturday afternoon, I officiated Kelly and Joey's wedding ceremony, at Crosswater Hall at Nocatee Center in Ponte Vedra, Florida.

One of the interesting facts about life in America is that when we meet someone new, one of the first questions (if not the very first) we usually ask is, "What do you do for a living?" In some societies this would be considered rude. And, in the forties, fifties and sixties, men would usually ask each other, "Where did you serve?" Having grown up in Israel, the latter question is the same we would ask meeting someone new.

The fact that we, as a society, are conditioned to accept that the first thing we might ask someone is what their profession is, should trouble us just a little. Obviously, work is important. Most of us spend much of our time at our workplaces. Hopefully, if we are lucky, we have found not just a money making opportunity, but a meaning making opportunity. Still, we should not take ourselves and our jobs so seriously.

Now, no one can say Kelly and Joey are pikers in the professional arena. They have each ascended to what is number two on the Jewish Mother MVP (most valuable profession) list. Luckily, though, they have not let this get to their heads.
In fact, one of the refreshing things about Joey is that in defining himself, very straightforwardly he will tell you, "I never really took myself too seriously..." And Kelly, when I asked her, as I ask every person I officiate for, to write about herself, she did something telling too. She wrote her essay in the third person. To me that indicates, that she is able to do what all of us should, but not all of us can: She can step away from her own vantage point, and view herself and her world objectively.

What do they value? Well, they value what matters most to them, family and friendships. After all, Joey works for the family firm. And Kelly (in the third person) says, "Kelly is a 'Mama’s Girl.' Since moving to Jacksonville, she speaks with her mom at least 6 times throughout the day, and is not ashamed to admit it! ... Throughout her entire life, Kelly has managed to create meaningful and lasting friendships that go back to kindergarten. Since her fabulous family is quite small, she considers all of her friends an extension of her family and is very fortunate for that." Wow. How cool is that?

And the focal point of their lives is their love for each other. Joey, as a lawyer, does list bullet points to this effect. By the way, if you know Kelly and Joey, hearing this list, you will know she could and would write more or less the same:
"Why I want to spend the rest of my life with Kelly:
(1) She's beautiful - inside and out
(2) She's funny
(3) She's caring
(4) She's smart
(5) I never get sick of her (that may be damning with feint praise, but still, and finally:)
(6) I love her
I could go on all day with this list, so let's just consider it non-exhaustive.”