Saturday, August 29, 2020

Be Fearless

Friday evening, I officiated Carly and Javier’s wedding ceremony at The Mason in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I ask every person I marry to write an autobiographical essay, and I tell them that their essay serves as the raw material for these remarks. I love quoting couples in their own words and learning from what they say. I don’t usually quote three whole paragraphs. However, these three paragraphs with which Carly opened her essay are just incredible. Check this out:

“The moment I knew I was in love with Javier, we were sitting in Houston traffic, stuck at a stoplight. It was a clear, blue skied, Saturday. It was one of those few days we get in Texas between summer and fall where the sun is bright, but the wind is cool. The windows were down. We had been driving around Houston and trading songs back and forth, and I put on Celine Dion’s song ‘It’s All Coming Back to Me Now’.

Stay with me here, because I know Celine Dion conjures up just about every love cliché you can think of. I put on the song, thinking he’d shake it off, and tell me to change it. But he didn’t. He leaned his head out the window and started belting out the words. He knew all of them. I laughed. The car next to us laughed. And I started singing along too. Sitting there in that car with him reminded me of all the road trips I took with my dad growing up – how we would set off onto the open road, play music, and sing the whole way without regard to who might stare into our car and wonder why.

After I lost my dad, the hardest part was feeling like I had lost my own fearlessness. I had lost the reminder that no matter where I was, or what I did, I was good because I was his. But, as I sat in that car, and looked over at a man who knew that a cool breeze meant the windows were down, and a good song meant that he would be singing it, that I had found a man that could hold me and set me free all at once.”

I wasn’t lying when I used the word incredible, was I?

Now it’s interesting. I do ask couples to tell how they met and why they want to get married. I don’t usually ask when they fell in love or when they realized they were in love, but not only does Carly address this, Javier does too. His story also involves Celine Dion. No, I’m joking. It involves The Doors: “The day came when I realized I was in love and was going to marry this beautiful woman. Earlier in the relationship my friend Ricardo had told me, after meeting Carly, ‘She is not the kind of woman you date; she is the kind you marry.’ I remember I brushed it off with a smirk… One night we were in my apartment with friends. She was in the kitchen listening to Ricardo rant about how much he loves The Doors… She was looking at me and smiling and it hit me, I remembered Ricardo’s words… From that day forward I decided I would do whatever it takes to be with this woman forever. My life was with her.” 

Sounds like he is pretty fearless too. 

Check out what Javier’s fearlessness does for him: “I could go on with so many stories of how amazing Carly is, but the truth is I found my person, my favorite person on this earth, my friend in times of need and my companion in life. Every day waking up next to Carly is a blessing and I am thankful every day that I have her in my life. With her I am the best version of myself, my true self, not withholding or hiding anything. I know my life is better with her.”

It is this same fearlessness that allows Carly to say: “Finding Javier was like finding my heart again. He taught me that I could honor what I lost by discovering what I could find. I never thought at thirty, with all the things life has brought my way, that I would somehow feel brand new, like I could learn how to hold someone’s heart, and all the while, find space to grow… There is something eerie and cool and big before us. And we’re ready to give it all the love we got.”

What a fabulous lesson. If you take one thing from today, be like Carly and Javier: Be fearless. 

Anything But Crazy

Saturday evening (8.22), I officiated Chanel and Ben’s wedding ceremony on Zoom. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Chanel and Ben first contacted me back in early 2019, and from the get-go they knew what they wanted to open their wedding ceremony with, Let’s Go Crazy by Prince. I feel like there is something prophetic about this choice. 

Why do I say that? Well, weddings have many expectations attached to them in this country. Many a bride and groom will hear that there is a certain way to do things, or at least parameters, within which their choices need to be confined. 

Prince, on the other hand, says, in a word, nonsense, or in three words, let’s go crazy. It’s your wedding. Forget about what everyone else says or thinks. You do you. I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume that Chanel and Ben did not realize how crazy it was going to get, but there you are!

Seriously, though, there are tremendous lessons here for life. After all, despite the word play that opens the song, Prince is not really talking about weddings, he is talking about life. This might be the non-prophetic reason that Chanel and Ben chose this song, in the first place, and the reason they ended up choosing to conduct their wedding in the iconoclastic way we are conducting it today.

Ironically, the best wedding ceremonies are those that make clear what this couple felt from the start: What we are doing here today is but a preamble. Chanel and Ben’s marriage, the life that they will live together from this day forward, is what really matters. 

That is why when I asked Ben why he wants to get married now, his answer was, “I could have waited… but why? I’ve found the person who I want to be with, who I want share great news with first, who compliments me. who pushes me, who makes me want to be better every day.”

That is why Chanel’s answer to the same question was, “We openly put it on the table, what we wanted for our lives. From the beginning I knew what kind of man Ben is. A serious one. When I say serious, I mean a man with goals and values... a good, kind, reliable, and patient partner to me… We’ve been consistent with one another through it all. So, when I try to answer, ‘Why, now?’ my answer is, ‘Why, wait?’"

That my friends, it seems to me, is anything but crazy.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Plow Forward and Overcome

Thursday night, I officiated Ellie and Edwin’s wedding ceremony at the Springs Events in Aubrey – the Lodge, in Aubrey, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

You might wonder why Ellie, an off the beaten path LDS member and Edwin, a (likely) undefined theist of Christian origin, would choose a rabbi to officiate their wedding. Not if you know them, however; if you know them this makes perfectly good sense, precisely because it doesn’t. They are both very deep thinkers and to say they are iconoclasts in their thinking is an understatement.  

Now, though I am not your average rabbi (another understatement), to a hammer, everything is a nail. So, naturally, when I think of Ellie and Edwin, I am reminded of a comment made by a 16th Century Polish rabbi. 

Rabbi Moshe Isserles was one of the most important authorities in the history of the development of Jewish Law. His rulings take the form of glosses on the text of his Spanish counterpart, Rabbi Yosef Karo’s compendium, the Shulchan Aruch or Set Table.

Sometimes he is silent regarding his counterpart’s rulings, sometimes he has a short comment about them, and sometimes his glosses are much lengthier than Karo’s text. The first gloss in this compendium is an example of the latter. Isserles, commenting on just ten of Karo’s words, goes on at length, quoting not only scripture and previous legal sources as he is wont to often do, but even a philosophical work.

And then, in the very first gloss in this lengthy multi-volume compendium, he makes a comment that might seem curious for a religion focused not on beliefs or emotions, but on action, “And he should not feel shame because of those people who ridicule him in the work of the Lord, blessed be His Name.”

Most people are deathly afraid of what other people will say. And, so they conform. They just go with the flow. They never step out of line. I’m not sure how you would say this in 16th Century Polish, but what Isserles says here is, basically, screw that.

Recognize that those who try to do the right thing will always face opposition. This is just the nature of the world. Inoculate yourself, so you may continue to do the work. Know that there will be forces arrayed against you, and plow forward and overcome them. And, just like Ellie and Edwin, do not feel shame because of those people who ridicule you in the work of the Lord, blessed be His Name.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

We Forge On

Saturday morning, I officiated Cydney and James’ wedding ceremony in Farmers Branch, Texas. All participants are in this picture! (Masks were removed just for the ceremony, in case you were wondering, which under the Governor’s executive order, is kosher.) At the end of the ceremony, before James broke the glass, I shared these words with them:

When the Temple was destroyed, many responded by going into a perpetual state of deep mourning, refusing to eat meat or drink wine. 

A great sage, Rabbi Joshua, challenged a group of these people: “My sons… why do you not eat meat nor drink wine?” They indignantly replied: “Shall we eat flesh which used to be brought as an offering… drink wine which used to be poured as a libation?” 

Rabbi Joshua challenged them not to eat certain fruits or even bread, since these too were offered in the Temple. They managed to wiggle out of those challenges, with their idea intact, saying they would eat other foods. He reminded them that once a year, water was offered, and so, by their logic, they could not drink water. Now, they were stumped. 

Then he said, “To not mourn at all is impossible… to mourn too much is also impossible… The Sages, therefore… ordained: A man may stucco his house, but he should leave a little bare… A woman can put on all her jewelry but leave off one item.” This is, likely, the origin of the next custom. 

We are currently experiencing a calamity, without precedent. One could respond in different ways, just as Jews responded to the Temple’s destruction in different ways. Obviously, response to trauma does not follow logic. However, we should aspire to respond as Rabbi Joshua suggested then and as you do today. 

While not minimizing the suffering we see around us, we adapt, and by the grace of God, with hopes for a better future, we forge on.