Monday, August 26, 2019

Do Justice, Love Goodness, Walk Modestly

Sunday morning, I officiated Emily and Elliot’s wedding at the Filter Building in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

There’s nothing really instructive about how Emily and Elliot met for the first time. I mean, he was stacking Stella chalices, and she threw her phone at him. That’s just what a Wildcat does when she sees a Jayhawk, who later became a member of the Wolfpack. And, since it was at SXSW, they had to do their part in keeping Austin weird... 

One of the best things about weddings is that there is no right or wrong way to celebrate your wedding, and certainly there is no right or wrong way to plan it. So, the following should not be construed as criticism of any other couple. 

During our preparation for this ceremony, Emily and Elliot really talked a lot about the importance of the Jewish faith in their relationship, and in the family they are building together. That is not something that always comes up in wedding planning discussions. Clearly, this is an important aspect of their life together. And, if you know anything about Elliot’s professional and volunteer experiences, in the U.S. and Israel, you can understand why. This guy is one hardcore Jew! 

Now, here’s where a note of caution is in order: Sometimes people describe a person as religious or very religious, and you sense they are automatically equating that with good or very good person. You really shouldn’t equate the two. Look around you in today’s world, and you will see too many examples that will show you why. 

That’s why I love what Elliot says when he speaks about the core of his faith, what it means to him, and how it shapes the lives of this couple, this budding family: “I try and do the best I can and show my true faith in how I treat and love Emily, my family, and my friends…” 

In these words, but more importantly in how Emily and Elliot live their lives, they embody the true message of our faith, its daughter faiths and the faiths of all men and women of good will, as spoken more than 2,700 years ago by the Prophet Micah: “He has told you, O man, what is good, And what the Lord requires of you: Only to do justice And to love goodness, And to walk modestly with your God.”

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Travel the Word Together

Saturday night, Reverend Aaron Teague and I co-officiated Alexis and Logan’s wedding at Marie Gabrielle in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

This couple, actually, teaches us two important lessons, and they are of the unconscious variety, and boy are they deep!

First Alexis’ lesson for us. Here is what she says about Logan: “I want to spend the rest of my life with him, I want to start a family with him, I want to grow old with him. He brings so much color to my life, color I had no idea I was missing. The sun shines brighter when we’re together, food tastes better when we’re together. Everything is better when we’re together.”

Now, the romantics among you are going, “Awwwwwww!” The rationalists among you, conscious of the fact that usually your verbal insights are not appreciated at events like these, perhaps winced a bit. “Food tastes better when we’re together?” Really?!
Well, I am no scientist, and I don’t even play one on TV. However, I believe this is quite rational. We think that taste is something in the tongue. It is not. It is in the brain. The entire food restaurant industry makes that quite clear. 

Now to Logan’s lesson for us. Here is what he says about Alexis: “She has helped make me a better person every day we have been together. I am so lucky to have met such an unbelievable caring, kind, and loving person. I want to spend the rest of my life with her to grow together, to experience life together, travel the word together, and raise a family together.” 

Now, you are probably thinking to yourself, “Oh boy, he’s a rabbi, and he can’t read. How sad.” Because, surely, I should have read, “travel the world together.” Here’s the thing, I am not misreading. Logan accidentally typed “word” instead of “world.”

However, through this he teaches us an incredible lesson. You see, there can be two ways to approach our differences in the realm of faith. And, you will see examples of this among interfaith couples, among friends who are members of different faiths, and even among faith communities. One way is not to really talk about faith. Let’s just play it safe. We don’t want to argue or disagree, so let’s talk about anything else.

Well, that may be safe, but it’s really boring, and it is not conducive to learning. Guess what, if you think your tradition has a monopoly on the truth, and that you have nothing to learn from other faiths, you are wrong. So, the smarter move is to, in Logan’s words, “travel the word together.” Learn about the other person’s faith, learn about their traditions. You will become richer for it, we all will become richer for it, just like Alexis and Logan.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Slow Dance with Me

Saturday morning, I officiated Chris and Ari’s wedding ceremony at BRIO Tuscan Grille, in Allen, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I made a false assumption about Ari. I assumed that his Hebrew name was Ari, which means lion in Hebrew. He corrected me, and said his Hebrew name was Avraham or Abraham. That, actually, made more sense to me. 

Why do I say that? Well, one of the things the Ancient Rabbis tell us, by reading between the lines of the biblical text, is that Abraham was a doer, not a talker. And, in the short time I have known Ari, that seems like a good description. 

(By the way, I say this as someone who is rarely accused of being too quiet. This might be a generalization, but clergy do usually like the sound of their own voices...)

When you are a doer, not a talker, that allows you to slow down a little, take the world in, and even notice things others don’t. More than that, you can have a profound effect on those you love. 

Just listen to how Chris describes Ari’s effect on her: “He makes me smile, laugh and makes me think. I am a feeler and hate to think. He slows me down, when I am mad or lost he doesn’t have to say a word he just hugs me and kisses my head. My whole demeanor changes in seconds.”

Now, we are “package deals” most of us, and so those of us who are quieter and take things slow, sometimes need a nudge from our loved ones. Ari gets this. He says, “I have many endearing qualities; my hesitancy is not one of them...” 

This makes Ari appreciate the passion that Chris brings, not only to their relationship, but to the way she lives in the world:  He says that, “she has become my best friend... I love her smile, how she dances around me, and her spirit of generosity and love to help others less fortunate than herself...

What Chris and Ari show us is the importance of balancing each other out, and complementing each other’s differences, which is core to any lasting relationship. 

This is why Chris says, “I love that no matter where we are or what we are doing, Ari grabs me and starts to slow dance with me and we are dancing to a song that is not playing but we hear.”