Friday, April 29, 2022

Follow Micah

Wednesday night (4/27), I officiated Robin and Michael’s wedding ceremony at a friend’s home in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Robin and Michael’s description of each other’s essence is very similar, which I find fascinating. Robin says that Michael is, “a righteous dude with an elevated consciousness and a high vibration.” Oh, sorry, wrong Jew, that’s her description of Jesus… You gotta admit, though, hard to argue with and accurate.

OK, where was I? Ah, yes, their description of each other’s essence. Robin says, “Michael has good energy and a chill vibe. He’s calm and level-headed… He is just such a good person to be around and everyone who knows him says it.”

And Michael says, “Robin has very positive energy and has a smile that will make you just want to smile as well… she is just a great person and has a personality that can light up a room.”

This raises the question: what does it take to be a good person? Many people, especially in Texas, have really definitive answers to that question. You just have to believe exactly what they believe and do exactly what they do.

You might think that such immature approaches would be confined to kindergarten. In fact, one of the most prominent preachers in Dallas, recently gave a sermon from his gaudy $142 million downtown church, titled “Why God Sends Good People to Hell.”

It’s strange really, because the Bible, that same book that all these people claim to believe in, has the answer. I’m not just talking about the general vibe, to use Robin’s word, of the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures, who seem way more interested in social justice and way less interested in religiosity. 

I’m talking about their explicit words. Micah, who lived in the 8th century B.C.E. in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, is really quite straightforward. He asks, “With what shall I approach the Lord, do homage to God on high?” He goes on to ask, do I need to offer animal sacrifices, do I need to offer maybe even human sacrifices? Remember, those were not unheard of in the ancient world.

His answer is simple. It almost seems like he is somewhat exasperated with having to repeat himself: “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.” Basically, like every good Jew, he answers a question with a question: Just be a good person; seriously, is that too much to ask?

Beyond the lesson for life, in general, there is a great lesson here for marriage. Would you like yours to be successful? The answer seems almost too simple. Chill out; follow the approach of Micah, follow the approach of Robin and Michael.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Continue on This Journey

Saturday evening (4/9), Reverend Carol Montgomery and I co-officiated Laura and Brett’s wedding ceremony at the Dallas Arboretum, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Listen to Brett’s description of how he met Laura: “How crazy it is to reflect on the start of my relationship with Laura. I do remember the exact day that we met, and in fairly good detail… My friend, Ross, invited me to a white party hosted by the Dallas Chabad… I asked Ross what this was, only to find out that it was a JEWISH SINGLES PARTY! Who knew these parties even existed… Once we arrived… this girl with beautiful red hair came up to talk to me. 

The one thing that stood out was that she kept telling me all of these things about Judaism; it was crazy how much she knew, because I’m pretty sure she was the only non-Jewish girl at the entire party. That’s right – I went to a Jewish singles party and ended up linking up with a Christian girl. I should probably start playing the lottery.”

Laura says that at that party, “He asked for my number, and we started dating right after we met.” Pretty soon, she says, she was hooked, “As we got to know each other more and more I fell in love. I knew he was the one… I knew this was the man I wanted to marry.” 

Brett was smitten: “I thought she was so perfect. I couldn’t believe a girl this great could still be single… When you’re lucky enough to stumble upon the person who you think is perfect, who you think you could spend the rest of your life with, then that is why and… when you should marry.” And Brett emphasizes: “A big part of life is luck, luck that I moved to Texas, luck that I decided to attend the white party, luck that Laura agreed to go out with me.”

What a profound idea. One can go through life thinking that it has mathematical precision. If I do A, B will happen. One might say that in America in particular, all evidence to the contrary, we like to tell ourselves that this is so. We even like to believe that if I do A, I deserve for B to happen. This is a fast road to ruin, particularly in interpersonal relationships and most importantly, perhaps, in the deepest of all personal relationships, marriage.

A much better approach is to understand that much in life is down to luck. Sure, work hard, play by the rules, be kind, and follow the path of righteousness in all matters. Just don’t think the results will always be positive and automatic and be OK with that.

This approach will make you not only more psychologically healthy, but more understanding of others. It will make you many more times appreciative of your good fortune, and much less prone to despair in times of bad fortune. 

It will make you certainly more appreciative of what Laura sees in her future with Brett, “A life of adventure, support, integrity, accountability, patience, kindness, honesty and most importantly love.”  It will help you feel about your spouse what Brett feels about Laura: “Laura definitely makes my life feel complete, and I can’t wait to continue on this journey with her.”

Saturday, April 2, 2022

He Restoreth My Soul

Saturday evening, I officiated Sarah and Mark’s wedding ceremony at the Adolphus Hotel, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

I have every person I marry write about themselves and this writing not only enables me to get to know them better but informs these very remarks. Sometimes what a couple writes is so deep, that these remarks almost write themselves. This is one of those cases.

Now, they start off seemingly contradicting each other. Mark says, “In all honesty, I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to marry again.” Sarah says, “I knew I always wanted to be married again.” LOL, one might exclaim.

However, I really think this is more of a Mars and Venus semantic kind of thing than a true contradiction, because when I was reading their essays and when I was talking to them about their story, a verse most of us are familiar with, whether Jewish or Christian or even neither, kept coming to mind, or rather a snippet of a verse. This verse is part of a Psalm that is often included in liturgy, and this snippet includes one of the words that shows up only once in the entire Hebrew Bible.

This snippet in Hebrew is “Nahfshee yishoveiv,” or as you may know it, “He restoreth my soul.” Because though on their surface Sarah and Mark seem to contradict each other, when we delve a little deeper into the rest of what they say, they say the same thing. What they did for each other was restore in each other the very idea of the institution of marriage and through that their souls.

Just listen to Mark’s comment in its full context: “In all honesty, I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to marry again. Then I met Sarah, and it’s important that she becomes my wife, because she is more to me than just my beautiful, sweet girl. She’s become my life, and I don’t want to imagine my life without her. I need her to be by my side for the rest of my life.  For the first time in any relationship I’ve ever been in, nothing I do with or for Sarah is an obligation or responsibility of being a boyfriend/husband. Rather, I want to make her happy. Her smile makes me feel fulfilled. I want that forever.”

And listen to Sarah’s comment in its full context: “Very shortly after meeting Mark I knew we had something special. He is the perfect balance to my sometimes uptight or stressed personality. His level headedness calms me… He helps bring me out of my shell. I knew I always wanted to be married again.  I always wanted to share my life with someone and have a companion that I feel safe and loved by and vice versa. Mark is that person for me. I love him more deeply then I knew possible… I look forward to our days together.” 

Sarah and Mark, what we wish for you is that you continue to experience together happiness that is emblematic of another word in that Psalm that shows up only once in the Hebrew Bible, “rivaya,” or as you may know it, “runneth over.”

Establish a Great Foundation

Friday evening (4/1), Father Robert Maguire and I co-officiated Jennifer and Joshua’s wedding ceremony at Marie Gabrielle, in Dallas, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Like these two, once upon a time I lived in Kansas. (Go Jayhawks!) When you first move to Kansas and then to Dallas, one thing really strikes you. Both regions have their fair share of tornadoes. Consequently, you will rarely find a home in Kansas without a basement. In Dallas, on the other hand, the best you can do is like in those old films of nuclear attack drills in schools. Hands over your head, and kiss your, um, posterior, goodbye.

Why is that you may ask? Well, the soil here in Dallas sucks. You couldn’t build a basement even if you wanted to. In fact, I knew a guy in North Dallas, for whom money was no object. Neither was common sense. So, he built a basement. It still floods every winter. Nature, as they say, finds a way. Invariably, in Dallas, you are constantly dealing with foundation issues, hopefully, only on the front end, but many times on the back end.

There is a great metaphor there for relationships. None of us chooses how we meet our mates for life, but if you can establish a great foundation of friendship, first, it really helps cement your relationship for the long haul.

Not that it makes things easy, in that first stage of pouring your relationship’s foundation. Just listen to Josh: “It happened in the fall of 2011 during the early weeks of our sophomore year at KU. I immediately was attracted to Jen for her vivacious personality, big smile, and (speaking honestly) blonde hair, long legs and incredible figure. I did my best to play it cool with Jen as our groups became friends, but quickly began to realize that ‘friends’ was all we might be.” Ouch, Jen!

And you definitely don’t want to hear, “I loved all the guys,” even if it is followed by, “but always felt a super special connection to Josh. He was my #1 in the group. It did not click that he considered me as more than a friend…”

Still, Josh tells us, “We had grown close, especially by the time Jen went to Italy and France to study abroad.” This friendship grew and endured beyond their Jayhawk days. Josh continues: “I left college with many close friends, but none like Jen… I had found someone truly special. A best friend… I would always treasure and adore. This thought really never faded and, as post-grad years went on, Jen and I would regularly find ourselves at friend get-togethers with other former Jayhawks, cozied up in the corner, laughing about who knows what, loving and savoring every second of one another’s presence.”

It is this foundation that led to the next step. Jen tells us, “After another group trip with the college crew, this time in Austin, Josh pulled me aside before we were to go our separate ways yet again and asked me to really give it a go. To really give ‘us’ a go. I said yes.” Because they had that solid foundation of friendship, Jen says, “fast forward four years later, in our living room in Chicago, I said, yes, again. This time to a whole life together.”

What led from the one yes to the next, yes, that eventually brought us here today? Josh says, “I knew, years and years back, that I had found my best friend, but our time together – the experiences good and challenging we had faced the years of dating – had validated that she was ‘my person.’”

Jen agrees, “I am so glad I said, yes! Yes is the best word! Josh is truly the most wonderful, kind, patient, LOVING, fun, dependable man. Sometimes I truly can’t believe I am lucky enough to call him my (almost) husband.”

A Lot Better Together

Sunday evening (3/27), Father Dennis Venegas and I co-officiated Erika and David’s wedding ceremony at The Arneson River Theater at La Villita, in San Antonio, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

David describes the very beginning of their relationship. It’s, shall we say, different: “We had a great first date and a fun conversation.” OK, so far so good. “On our second date, we went to a rock-climbing wall because we both like to exercise. I remember thinking to myself on that date, this could have a lot of potential.” And I remember thinking to myself just reading about that date makes me feel tired.

David continues: “Everything seemed very natural, and it was nice that we both enjoyed similar activities. As we learned more about each other, we realized that we had very similar values and beliefs and our families even seemed to be kind of similar.”

Erika concurs: “He was interesting, fun, relatable, and genuinely seemed interested in me. He didn’t seem concerned with looking cool or playing hard to get, and I found it incredibly refreshing. As we got to know one another, we found more and more things in common, and I felt like I could truly be myself around David.”

The next part of what they both say invokes an ancient idea I don’t know they are even conscious of. David says, “Erika felt somehow familiar to me. She also expressed that I felt familiar to her. Somehow, very organically, I started to think that Erika was the woman I wanted to marry. She is the sweetest person I know, we have shared values, and we complement each other in many ways.”

And Erika agrees, “I can honestly say I am very happy. Before David I had felt unbalanced, but David evens me out. I feel stable, I feel loved, and I feel blessed. I am so thankful to David and the love we have for one another.”

The ancients, pondering the idea of soulmates, imagined that the gods or God, depending on their theology, created the first human as an androgynous intersex being. If you are hearing this for the first time, it is only because of a mistranslation of the second creation story in the Bible. Long story short, Eve was not created from Adam’s rib, but from his side.

Erika and David add one coda to this ancient legend. Some read this legend as implying that your partner completes you. Not so. In fact, a prerequisite seems to be what David says, “We are both fine on our own, but I think we are a lot better together.”

Lovin’ You

Saturday evening (3/26), I officiated Marcela and Doug’s wedding ceremony at The Hillside Estate, in Cross Roads, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Marcela describes their love story as beginning on an app… and just barely. She says she hesitated before deciding to meet him IRL, because, “he did everything they say not to do… He had only one picture and no information other than that he was from Indiana. But somehow his smile was enough to convince me. Thank goodness!”

Listening to Marcela’s state of mind before this occurred gives this step more context, “Before I met Doug, I was losing hope regarding dating. I was 26, and I found myself eliminating qualities I was looking for to find a life partner. I just concluded there were no longer any good men out there and I needed to lower my standards.” As a man, all I can say is, “Ouch!”

Guys, our entire gender owes a debt of gratitude to Doug. Check this out: “I was instantly impressed by Doug's chivalry. Dating him was easy. Then loving him became easy too. There were no games. I never knew a relationship could be so mature. I knew I could count on him. He had all the qualities I always hoped for in my future husband and father of my children… He's kind, loyal, intelligent, adventurous, handsome and he makes me feel beautiful. He is also neat, organized and likes to clean. Talk about the jackpot. He also has the most amazing family. I feel tremendous gratitude to them for raising such a special human for me to one day meet.” Wow!

The feeling is mutual. (That’s kind of why we are here, you might be thinking. Duh, rabbi.) What I mean is that the feeling of easiness in this relationship is mutual. Doug says, “Not only was she beautiful, but we had great conversation. We mesh extremely well. Marcela has a kind heart and is very well liked and highly respected by everyone who knows her. She’s a good listener and an amazing person.”

What we wish for you, Marcela and Doug, is that this easiness stay with you for years to come. May the words of that love song from another interfaith couple, Minnie Riperton and Richard Rudolph, continue to define your relationship, “Lovin' you is easy, 'cause you're beautiful… Lovin' you is more than just a dream come true, and everything that I do is out of lovin' you.”