Sunday, December 30, 2012

Life is Self-Transformation

Last Friday night (12/28) I officiated Pat and Steve's wedding ceremony at the beautiful Harmony Chapel in Aubrey, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Pat and Steve are such a unique couple. You really sense a quiet wisdom emanating from both of them. They have been around the block. They have learned a thing or two. They have each transformed their lives as individuals and as a couple.

Now, sometimes, what comes with this type of wisdom is a feeling that an individual or a couple might be a little staid, or dare I say, stale, maybe even timid. But not Pat and Steve.

You sense that they are vibrant and young at heart. You know that they are at an exciting period in their lives. You see how being with each other makes them just giddy in anticipation of each and every day.

Ask them why, and they will tell you, modestly, because of him or because of her, depending on who you are talking to. And they each are emphatic that being together not only brings them happiness; it makes them better people. And so, their love, is seasoned and mature, and at the same time fresh and invigorating, even contagious.

Thinking about Pat and Steve, I was reminded of the words of the Bohemian poet and essayist, Ranier Maria Wilke. Listen to this; it is as if he was writing about Pat and Steve:

"Life is self-transformation, and human relationships, which are an extract of life, are the most changeable of all, they rise and fall from minute to minute, and lovers are those for whom no moment is like any another. People between whom nothing habitual ever takes place, nothing that has already existed, but just what is new, unexpected, unprecedented."

Pat and Steve, continue to relish in your self-transformation. Continue to live life to the fullest. Continue to grow together, as individuals and as a couple, in ways that are new, unexpected, and unprecedented.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Lifelong Learning in the Broadest Sense

On Saturday night (12/22) I officiated Florencia and Gustavo's wedding ceremony at Casona San Ignacio in Santiago, Chilé. This is the first wedding I officiated entirely in Spanish. Here is an English translation of the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Friends, one of the most fascinating things about the Jewish tradition is that a Jewish scholar, be he the greatest scholar of his generation, is referred to as a talmid chacham, literally a wise student. That is because Judaism so values the idea of lifelong learning. Whenever I officiate a wedding, I ask myself, this couple, being unique individuals, what can I learn from them, what are they; consciously or perhaps unconsciously, teaching me, and indeed us?

In fact what I think we can learn from Florencia and Gustavo is just that - the importance of lifelong learning in the broadest sense. They are first and foremost learners. They relish learning. They look for opportunities to learn. They try to learn from every person and from every situation.

What qualities do these two exhibit that enable them to be the ultimate learners?

They are very self-aware and deeply self-reflective. They have never really been interested in conforming and doing something just because others do it. They highly value difference - be it different outlooks, different cultures and especially different people. They know that nothing worth having comes easy. They are thoroughly independent. Perhaps the most important thing is they care very deeply about others, and they realize that in almost any situation, the healthiest approach is to realize, that it is really not about you.

The really cool thing is that they live by this creed not only in their individual lives, but in their life as a couple. In fact that makes their relationship so strong, since the very qualities that make a person a lifelong learner are the qualities that will make a person an ideal lifelong partner.

Florencia and Gustavo, thank you for this vital lesson. May you continue to live your lives in this very fashion for many happy years to come.

And here they are, as I actually did them in Spanish:

Amigos, una de las cosas más fascinantes de la tradición Judía, es que un sabio Judío, aunque sea el mayor sabio de su generación, es llamado talmid chacham; literalmente, estudiante sabio. Esto es porque el Judaismo valora mucho la idea del aprendizaje a lo largo de la vida. Cada vez que oficio en un matrimonio, me pregunto; ¿De esta pareja, siendo individuos únicos, qué puedo aprender? ¿Qué es lo que ellos, consciente o tal vez inconscientemente, me enseñan a mí, y a todos nosotros?

En efecto, lo que creo que podemos aprender de Florencia y Gustavo, es precisamente eso – la importancia de un aprendizaje a lo largo de toda la vida, en el sentido más amplio. Ellos son, primero y ante todo, estudiantes. Aman el saber. Buscan oportunidades para aprender. Intentan aprender de cada persona y cada situación.

¿Qué cualidades tienen, que les permiten ser grandes aprendices?

Son muy conscientes de sí mismos, y profundamente auto-reflexivos. Nunca han estado interesados en conformarse, y hacer algo sólo porque otros lo hacen. Valoran mucho lo distinto – ya sea un aspecto distinto, una cultura distinta y, especialmente, personas distintas. Saben que nada que valga la pena se consigue sin esfuerzo. Son sumamente independientes. Tal vez lo más importante es que se preocupan profundamente de los demás, y se dan cuenta de que, en casi toda ocasión, lo mas sano es notar que la situación no gira en torno a ellos.

La cosa más increible es que viven bajo ese credo, no solo en sus vidas individuales, sino que también en su vida como pareja. De hecho, esto fortalece su relación, pues las cualidades que hacen de alguien un gran aprendiz, son las mismas cualidades que hacen de una persona una pareja de vida ideal.

Forencia y Gustavo, gracias por esta vital lección. Esperamos que continúen viviendo sus vidas de la misma forma, por todos los felices años que vendrán.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Thanksgiving Day Wedding

Thanksgiving Day I officiated Ginger and David’s wedding at their home in North Dallas, Texas. This was a really special. Many Jewish weddings are celebrated under a chuppah, which serves as a symbol of the home the couple builds together. Just as Abraham and Sarah had their tent open on all sides to welcome guests, so too is the chuppah open to represent the hospitality and sense of community the couple hopes to create in their own home. With this wedding, we did one better. We had no need for a mere symbol of home and hospitality. We had the real thing, as we celebrated this wedding in the couple’s home, surrounded by their family and very close friends.

Ginger and David decided on November 22nd, Thanksgiving Day, as the day they wanted to get married for a number of reasons. It was Ginger's late father Bob's favorite holiday, and 22, as her cousin reminded her, has always been a significant number for Ginger. Thanksgiving has been important to David’s family, since they immigrated to the United States, as the quintessential American holiday.

Here are the remarks I shared with them:

Ginger and David are extraordinary together. Spend just a few moments with them, and you can sense not just their love, but their deep friendship. They are truly best friends.

They are both passionate about each other and passionate about life. They work hard and they play hard. They have formed not just a genuine partnership with each other, but a wonderful, loving, cohesive family with Sally and Peter.

So, one might ask the same question they each asked themselves and each other rhetorically many times over the last decade, why get married? I mean, if everything is working well, why is that last detail important?

Now, Ginger and David are very close with their families, and Ginger says the idea of marrying was crystallized for her by one of her many cousins. This cousin asked her why they did not get married, and Ginger, like any good Jew, answered the question with a question, and asked why they should? His answer was simple yet profound, "Because you love each other."

Now, I don't know how much longer that person thought about this short exchange, but it really resonated with these two. They resolved to marry, because they love each other. That's it. You can't really top that, so let's not try to, let's get these two lovebirds married!