Sunday, August 29, 2021

Truly Successful

Saturday afternoon, Pastor Chad Mager and I co-officiated Sydney and Brian’s wedding ceremony at Tea Garden of the Grand Hotel, on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

So, Sadie Goldstein goes to the park one day, and sees her good friend, Sheila Berkowitz. Sheila had told Sadie that she was looking forward to her grandchildren’s visit, and indeed Sadie spots the two children with the beaming Sheila. Sadie greets her warmly, and says, “They look so cute! Please introduce me.” Sheila says, “Of course!, This is Sheldon, the doctor; he’s eight. Over there on the jungle gym is Irving, the attorney; he just turned six.” (Rim shot.)

Now, obviously, this story is apocryphal, but is this approach regarding what matters in life not true of the outlook of many people in our society? Indeed, if you didn’t know any better, attending a wedding of not one but two doctors of optometry, you might think that this is the approach they grew up with and hold to themselves. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. 

Brian, in fact, says, “My father taught me that to be truly successful in life means to have a loving family.” That is why he says, “I wanted to find someone who I could make happy every day, share and build a life together, and most importantly build a family together… I am so lucky to have found Sydney, to have her in my life… I found my soul mate… I found my best friend.”

And Sydney shares this very approach. She says, “I found the right person who makes me laugh, who is serious enough to make me feel confident in their abilities to take care of our family, who is silly enough to make the life and the serious times it has not so serious, and who is a good role model for our future children. I wanted someone who was kind, nurturing, caring, but also someone who was strong, confident, and motivated. Brian is all of these things and more.”

This is why Sydney says, “All of these things and more make me certain that… I have found the right man for me.” This is why Brian says, “I can’t imagine having anyone else by my side as we navigate this life.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Embrace Your Differences

Saturday evening, I officiated Emily and Mike’s wedding ceremony at Live by Loews!, in Arlington, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Emily and Mike’s message to us today is one that I have been preaching for the last fourteen years. Now, there is nothing like the word preach to bring both uneasiness to the soul, as well heaviness to the eyelids. Have no fear; this message is simple yet profound, and I will use Emily and Mike’s words, not mine, to convey it.

Emily says, “I quickly fell for him. He was someone I was instantly comfortable around even from our first date. We come from very different upbringings, religiously speaking, but have grown closer through them. We have continued to learn more and more about each other’s religions and learned to embrace them both.”

And Mike says, “We quickly took to each other, reveling in each other’s different upbringings, life stories, and cherished moments. I firmly believe it is my being Jewish that allowed me to connect so well with Emily. It was clear we were meant to be together… and as we grew together as a couple, we both knew marriage would be right for us.”

Though our society has come a long way, some people still view interfaith marriage as a negative. Others might not go as far as that, but still see it as second best. It might make me less popular among most of my colleagues, but I agree with Emily and Mike.

Every couple is different, but I have seen numerous couples like Emily and Mike, whose relationship is enhanced, specifically by the interfaith aspect of it. Every person is different, but I have seen numerous individuals whose relationship with their own faith has grown through such relationships.

We owe a debt of gratitude to this couple here today. Emily and Mike, for reminding us all of these important truths.

Monday, August 2, 2021

They Keep It Real

Saturday evening (7/24), I officiated Kayla and Stephen’s wedding ceremony at The Joule in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Like most couples today, Kayla and Stephen’s relationship began in the ether of the internet. Her first impression of him was mysterious yet fortunate: “I didn’t quite know what to make of him… He didn’t come on too strong, which is really what I needed at the time because I was really guarded.”

The moment they met might sound like it came out of a sitcom, “I obviously took the time to look nice for our date but when I went downstairs to meet him, he was standing there in a bright green Under Armor workout shirt. I immediately felt self-conscious that I was a lot more dressed up. He looked a little intimidated and said, ‘You look beautiful.’”

Here is the intriguing observation she made, though, that really hooked her during that first encounter, “Even though I was nervous and probably super awkward, talking to him was easy.” As their relationship progressed, she came to understand that this was part of a wider quality Stephen possesses.

“My favorite thing about him,” she says, “is he’s always smiling when he talks. He’s the best listener and I know all of his friends would agree. When we get into Ubers, I’m the one hoping the driver doesn’t try to talk to me, while he takes an immediate interest in their life, listens to them, and is giving them heartfelt advice by the end of the ride. I love that about him.”

All these quotes come from Kayla’s essay about her and Stephen. I have each person I marry write such an essay. Stephen’s is the first essay of about 1,000, which begins with a disclaimer, “Redacted after peer review.”

It is also the first essay with a term, I, the Jew, was not familiar with. Stephen who had high hopes for their first date discloses that “the date was fun. Towards the end, ‘her friend needed help’ and I got a Christian side hug, so I thought I'd never see her again.” Fortunately, this was one of the few times in documented history that the friend was not imaginary and did really need help, so here we are today.

Stephen shares an observation that I am sure will not be foreign to you if you know Kayla, “Undoubtedly Kayla has the most tenacity of anyone I've ever met. But with that tenacity comes someone who loves fiercely and will work towards overcoming any adversity…

What these two people share, each in their own way, is a quality we could all learn from to enhance our relationships, romantic and otherwise: They keep it real. Kayla says, “Stephen is super genuine, never puts on a fa├žade, just is who he is.” And Stephen says, “Kayla is definitely someone who walks her own path in life, which I greatly respect.” We should all be so lucky.