Sunday, January 29, 2023

Forged a Wonderful Partnership

Saturday afternoon (1/28), I officiated Amanda and Carl’s wedding ceremony at the Barr Mansion in Austin, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Amanda describes how she and Carl first met: “Carl and I met through a social kickball league. When I moved to Austin for graduate school, I really did not know anyone, so I decided to join the league to try and expand my social circle. We talked briefly at the first game and then again for a bit longer at the bar after the game. Personally, I thought we had hit it off that night, but when it was time to go our separate ways, Carl just waved goodbye and walked away without so much as a second glance.” Oh, boy… 

Now, if you guessed that that was not the end of the story, congratulations, Sherlock. We are, after all, here at their wedding. Perhaps, being in graduate school, Amanda was inclined towards allowing make-up work if submitted within a reasonable time. Amanda continues, “A couple of weeks later… we had our next game and spent some more time talking and getting to know each other, and I was introduced to Carl’s cat, Ellie (who is now one of my two fur babies). After that was when things officially came together…” 

Now, I assume most of you grew up in this country, so unlike me, reading that your first question was not, what on earth is kickball? Americans may have too many sports. I grew up in Israel, where we mostly kick a ball around for 90 minutes and occasionally into a goal, but that’s about it. For some reason, someone in America decided that that is all fine and good, but what if we made that more complicated and more like baseball? I don’t know why.

Having also lived in King Charles III's realm, I discovered a fascinating sports factoid. When His Majesty’s subjects gather to compete, they call what they do not a game but a test. That seems more appropriate because if you have seen how they treat their sports, they are not playing around.

The idea of a test is one of the oldest ideas known to humans, showing up several times in the Epic of Gilgamesh, for instance. The Ancient Rabbis contend that God tested Abraham ten times and that he passed every one of them. Then they proceed to endlessly argue what those ten tests were, of course, because, as they say, two Jews, three opinions. 

Now, you might ask, why does God, who knows the future, need to test Abraham? However, this fundamentally misconstrues the Rabbis’ idea. Tests are meant not to show the deity if we can pass them, but to discover for ourselves if we can withstand them. They are a vehicle through which we can prove our character not to the deity but to ourselves. And these tests make us better and stronger as individuals and as couples.  

We have all experienced this in a fashion so intense that, pre-March 2020 none of us could have imagined. Our relationships have been tested, even forged by our collective experience. As Carl succinctly puts it, “If we could live together successfully through all the nonsense that occurred through the past years, I’m confident it will be a successful partnership.”

Amanda elaborates on how these experiences have forged a wonderful partnership of learning and personal development: “Carl makes me better, or want to be better, in almost every area of my life… I do the same for him. He… challenges me and encourages me to think critically and explore ideas and different avenues I wouldn’t have otherwise given a second thought… We have both grown… both individually and as a couple… We know what we want and what we need and are ready for those next steps of building a life and a family together.”

Monday, January 2, 2023

Energy, Peace, and Healing

The evening of December 30, 2022, I officiated Alicia and Jonnie’s wedding ceremony at Rancho Shibumi, in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Alicia and Jonnie, in old-school fashion, did not meet through an app. Alicia says: “I was with friends at a bar. Jonnie and I spotted each other across the room and kept making eye contact throughout the night. A girlfriend of mine asked me if there was anyone I had my eye on. I pointed to Jonnie, and she immediately said, ‘I know him,’ and ran over to say hello. I followed her over, Jonnie and I met, and the rest was history.” Jonnie describes the moment in cinematic terms: “Alicia and I spotted each other across the bar, and I think we both immediately just knew.” 

Jonnie elaborates on how this moment was more than a moment: “From the day I met Alicia it was clear that she was special – she had the biggest heart and the most radiant smile… We’ve been through a ton together… and I truly don’t know what I would do without her…” 

Alicia describes the moment they cemented their relationship. A relationship that began with a cinematic moment could only be cemented with another such moment. Naturally, for their engagement, they traveled to the south of France. 

Here is the fascinating thing about the south of France, and I do not know if Alicia and Jonnie were aware of this, but with their religious heritages, I am not sure there could be a more appropriate place for their engagement. 

Though, we, as Americans may not realize this, France is home to the third-largest Jewish population in the world. And Jews the world over interact with the French rabbis of old, daily, in the study of the Torah and Talmud.

Though Alicia and Jonnie identify as Jews and look forward to raising a Jewish family, they also have meaningful connections to Catholicism. Jonnie’s mother grew up Hindu but attended Catholic schools, and Alicia, herself, grew up Catholic.

The south of France has a unique Jewish-Catholic story. As French Jewish life succumbed to ongoing persecution, in one area of France, though not fully spared of prejudice, they were able to persist, under the protection of a unique ruler, the head of the Catholic Church. 

We often forget that the smallest country in the world, today, Vatican City, is a remnant of a much larger territory, which was ruled by the Pope, and which for hundreds of years included the south of France. Even when the Jews were hounded out of France’s other regions, the “Pope’s Jews” as they were nicknamed, remained in that area. 

Under the Pontiff’s protection, they developed a unique dialect and unique religious practices, until they, with the Jews of the rest of France, were fully liberated by Napoleon and began to enjoy Libert√©, Egalit√©, Fraternit√©.”

And so, part of me imagines that when Alicia says that that trip was one she will never forget, it is not just the romance of a proposal that made her and Jonnie feel that way. Perhaps, with their unique background, their subconscious sensed some of the same “energy, peace, and healing” that Alicia found standing in Jerusalem.

Regardless, without that moment in the former realm of the Pontiff, we would not be standing here today. As Alicia says, “It was the happiest moment of my life. I know the love that we have for each other will only grow more every day.” And Jonnie agrees, “She’s my best friend and I can’t wait for all the new exciting things in store for us together.”