Sunday, October 23, 2022

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

On Thursday afternoon, October 13, 2022, I officiated Cindy and Matt’s wedding at the Dana Villas on the Island of Santorini in Greece. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

The Ethics of the Fathers is a tractate (or volume) of the Mishnah, the 200 C.E. compendium of the Jewish Oral Law, which unlike the other tractates, as its name indicates, discusses ethics, not laws. In the very first chapter, we are told that Rabbi Simon said the following:

“All my days I grew up among the sages, and I have found nothing better for a person than silence. Study is not the most important thing, but actions; whoever indulges in too many words brings about sin.”

At first blush, it seems odd. I contend that no one becomes a clergyman if they don’t like the sound of their own voice. On top of that, as I just mentioned in my introduction, lifelong learning, study, is paramount in all religions.

In fact, ordination in Judaism does not indicate special sacramental powers like in Catholicism and does not necessitate any type of calling like in Protestant Christianity. It is simply a mark of having achieved a level of wisdom that one can apply in ruling on questions of Jewish Law.

Once we take a more careful look at what Simon said, it becomes clearer. He does not say study is not important. He says that words and study are not as important as actions. Essentially, as we first find in a letter, written in 1736 by a man from Boston, “Actions speak louder than words.”

If you know Cindy and Matt, actually even if you don’t them and just look at their wedding website or their social media, you see what they are saying through their actions. In fact, the very way they decided to celebrate this wedding is an action that speaks.

And what do those actions tell us? This is going to sound totally alien to the so-called American Dream, though very much at in sync with where we are in Southern Europe: Experiences beat stuff every time. Specifically, new experiences brought about through travel beat mere stuff every time.

There are many reasons that experiences beat stuff, and one main reason that travel is one of the most superior experiences. It goes back to that idea of lifelong learning, and it is a lesson Mark Twain teaches us in his very first book.

The book, “The Innocents Abroad,” is a humorous and witty travelogue which, though little remembered today, remained his best-selling book throughout his lifetime. The ultimate destination was the Holy Land, but the group of Americans he was with visited many countries, Greece included, though regretfully not this beautiful island. (Poor Samuel Clemens.)

He writes as follows, and keep in mind the voyage was made on what was a decommissioned Union Civil War ship, but two years after the surrender at Appomattox Court House: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” Wow. Do these words, published 153 years ago, not seem as prescient today as they did then? 

Cindy and Matt, thank you for celebrating the beginning of this new chapter of your life in this special place. Thank you for reminding us through actions, not words, what is most important. May we all heed your lesson. 

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Luckier Than Most

On Sunday afternoon, October 2, 2022, I officiated Taylor and Ben’s wedding at the Hidden Creek in Heath, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Ladies, find yourself someone that says this about meeting you. “Taylor and I met on October 29, 2017, in a fluke accident. Neither one of us was supposed to be there and for me it was like hitting the lottery as soon as I met her.”

Now, Taylor, I’m sure you will be stunned, describes this encounter in a slightly more, um, earthy way: “Benji and I met at a Halloween party on the Saturday night before Halloween. I went to go play beer pong and ended up playing against him. FYI, I won in beer pong. He would not leave me alone the whole night and asked for my number.”

Ladies, again, find yourself someone whose response to that is: “She was the most gorgeous girl there, the smartest girl there and I wasn’t going to let her get away from me. She often recounts this night that I wouldn’t let her leave my sight. This is true, I got her number and the next day facetimed her. We set up a date and to this day we still bring up our first date. It was great.” 

The next thing Taylor says about Ben, is the best you can hear about your loved one’s partner, “I want to come home every day, see my husband’s face and just know that everything is going to be okay. Benji’s the only man who has made me feel this way. He treats me right and always loves me. He makes me feel just so special.”

Ben shares that sentiment. “She is my through and through, she is my backbone, my motivation to be better and be stronger… The unconditional love that we share is something that will never be replicable.”

Taylor, in referring to Ben being the only man who makes her feel the way she does and Ben, in referring to meeting Taylor as winning the lottery, remind us of an important Jewish custom. 

We bless marrying couples that their love should be analogous to the mythic first couple, Adam and Eve. For Adam, the only woman in the world was Eve. For Eve, the only man in the world was Adam, and we hope every couple should experience a love so unique.

Taylor and Ben, you are luckier than most. You are already there. What we wish for you is that this continue. May your love for Ben, Taylor, be so strong, that it should be like he is the only man in the world. And may your love for Taylor, Ben, be so strong that it should be like she is the only woman in the world.