Sunday, November 19, 2017

Why Not?

Saturday afternoon, Rev. Grady Roe and I co-officiated Shelby and Alex’s wedding ceremony at Ma Maison in Dripping Springs, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:
When I was thinking about how Shelby and Alex have lived their lives, as individuals and as a couple, I was reminded of the well-known saying of Robert F. Kennedy, “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”
I don’t know if RFK, who was a great friend of the Jews, knew this, but he was channeling a very Jewish sentiment. After all, the answer to the question, “Why do Jews always answer a question with a question,” is just that, “Why not?” Seriously, though, there is something quintessentially American about the willingness to push the envelope. It might be the most pronounced marker in our cultural DNA.
We see this in Alex, who out of the three choices available to Jewish children, doctor, lawyer or accountant, entered college to pursue that money-making juggernaut, film... But we also see it, perhaps because his parents were wise enough to let him learn and develop his own ideas, in how he adjusted course and chose marketing, allowing him to continue pursuing his passion for creativity in a very practical fashion.
We see this in Shelby, who coming from a family of lawyers, naturally vowed she would never be one... She opened up to this idea, when she discovered she had a knack for the law. Still she kept her options open by studying business too, and working in the business world for a little while, which solidified her passion for the world of law. 
Where we really see it, though, is in Shelby and Alex’s love story. Because Alex had a “Why not?” attitude when he moved out to California to pursue what looked like a great professional opportunity. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out. (Spoiler alert: Something else did…) Now, knowing he was about to return to New England, dating a Pepperdine student was a little risky, all things being equal. As Alex says, “Before Shelby and I met, I was apprehensive to even go on a date, because I knew I would be moving back to the northeast so soon. It took some convincing… We went on a date, and then another date, and another… We had such great chemistry right off the bat. We couldn’t stop spending all of our free time together… We both knew that what we had was something different, something special.”
Shelby poignantly talks about her feelings when Alex left California, “When Alex moved 6 weeks later I was crushed, because I had developed strong feelings for him and I thought I might never see him again… After he moved, we talked to each other all-day every day… I went to visit him in Boston for New Year’s Eve and I think that’s really when we both realized how special this was… After I graduated, I moved to Boston to be with him. This was a risky move… However, I had a gut instinct that this was the person that I was going to marry…” If you are listening to this, you know the rest of the story.
There is a great lesson here for all of us, in life and love. Objectively, at many different times in our lives, there is a strong argument to just go with the flow. No one could have argued with Shelby and Alex had they, as individuals and as a couple, chosen not to heed that advice when it seemed that the odds were stacked against them. Happily, they did, deciding to just give their relationship a chance and see where it went. In each and every one of the pivotal moments in their relationship, they said to themselves and to the world, “Why not?”

Monday, November 13, 2017

Greece and Judea – Inseparable

Saturday evening, I officiated Stacey and Dean’s Jewish-Greek wedding ceremony at the Samuel Lynne Galleries, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

What struck me about Stacey and Dean, is that if you didn’t know otherwise, you wouldn’t believe they had only been together for three years. In that sense, they are reminiscent of their respective cultures. To us, in the 21st Century, it might seem like the interactions between the Greek and Jewish cultures are fairly new. However, when you look a little closer, you discover that our relationship goes back a very long time, and our cultures mutually influenced each other, across history. 
Our cultural relationship began through a brief introduction, just like Stacey and Dean’s did, with the Persians likely serving as the Karen of Stacey and Dean’s story. We each liked what we saw. There were clear similarities in our Mediterranean ways of life.
With Alexander’s conquest and the advent of the Hellenistic Culture across the empires founded by his generals, came one of the most significant events in Jewish and Greek history, the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. And, so while Jews throughout the world were exposed to Greek ideas, the Hellenistic world was exposed to the ideas of Judea.
None of this would have been possible without mutual respect, patience and understanding. The same was true in Stacey and Dean’s story: Just like Judea and Greece, Stacey and Dean came together from different backgrounds and each had busy lives, but together they found common ground. 

The relationship between Greece and Judea continued to grow. From acquaintances, we moved on to become friends. Eventually, we became so close, our lives became so intertwined, that you couldn’t even picture us apart. And guess what? That is exactly what happened to Stacey and Dean!

Now, like Stacey and Dean, Greece and Judea were different. We came from different places, had slightly different accents, sometimes spoke very different languages. However, like Stacey and Dean, we were confident in our relationship. We knew we were inseparable. 

Eventually, a strong succession of rabbis came along and affirmed something fascinating: If you are just Greek, without that relationship to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, you’re not the best Greek you can be. And if you are just Jewish, without that relationship to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, you’re not the best Jew you can be. 

If you know Stacey and Dean, you see that same sentiment not only in their verbal interactions with each other; you see it in their body language. Stacey is essentially saying, I am not the best Stacey I can be without Dean. And Dean is essentially saying, I am not the best Dean I can be without Stacey. 

That is probably why Stacey told me a few weeks ago, and I quote, “Now marry us. The girls and I can’t wait for Dean to be my husband and (their) step dad.” And if have learned anything in the last decade, it’s this: Don’t argue with the bride, Jewish, Greek or otherwise, so let’s get to it!