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Archive for July, 2008

More Wedding Pictures – This time from Richard Becker

Posted by rabbiart on July 28, 2008

http://www.kodakgallery.com/BrowsePhotos.jsp?UV=578466377319_89373483614&US=0&collid=64731583614

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Its the Journey! אֵלֶּה מַסְעֵי בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל

Posted by rabbiart on July 26, 2008

Its time for the summing up.  In last Shabbat’s parshah, which is read most years with this parshah, Moshe was commanded to take one final action, after which he would be “gathered to his people.” (BaMidbar 31:2)  Now, in the final chapters of the book, we read an accounting of the journey.  We begin by escaping from Mitzrayim while the Egyptians are burying their first born.  We go from place to place over some thirty plus verses.  The story pauses to recount the death of Aaron in the fortieth year at the age of 123 years old.  It resumes for eight more verses until we reach “the present”, camped by the banks of the Jordan river in the plains of Moav.

Each verse that recounts the journey begins the same way; with the word וַיִּסְעוּ (va’yis’ue) – they journeyed.

Why is it important to recall the specific steps of the journey by mentioning place names? We, the engaged reader and Torah student, would have expected a recounting of significant events and memorable features of this forty years of going walkabout.  The miraculous escape, the miraculous splitting of Yam Suf, the miraculous giving of the Torah, the miraculous manna (literally “portion”, but colloquially – magic food), the miracle of Miriam’s well.  Maybe also we would be reminded of the “downs” of the journey; amazing incident of the golden calf, the rebellion of Korach, all the complaining, the moaning, the groaning, the crying, the lack of faith.  Instead we get place names!

Why?

The original Clinton campaign was famous for its slogan “It’s the economy, stupid”. Being Jewish is to participate in a campaign; not for stupidity or by stupid people, but to become enlightened.  Not with any kind of enlightenment, but with the light of the Torah.  To be Jewish is to be on a journey. The Torah, in this parshah, gives us a literal road-map of the journey taken by “the greatest generation” of our people.  This is a generation mostly maligned, left to die in the desert, and forgotten.  But… this is the generation that walked our people out of the depths of Mitzrayim to the heights of Har Sinai.  What generation ever did more for us in the entire history of the Jewish people.

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Parshat Matot – Must tribes practice tribalism?

Posted by rabbiart on July 22, 2008

We start our study by listening to the words of Rabbi Arik Ascherman. He lives in Jerusalem. He is the executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel, dedicated to teaching and implementing the Jewish tradition of human rights and honoring God’s Image in every human being.  RHR works tirelessly to protect the rights of the powerless in Israel, even the powerless who seek, or affected by those who seek, to destroy us. Regarding the parshah he begins with this observation

“Each section is problematic for me: The first section treats women as property, the second describes a merciless war in which the Israelites slaughter men, women and children, while the third establishes the basis for some Jewish groups not only to want to hold on to the West Bank as part of the Land of Israel, but to aspire to ‘Both banks of the Jordan.'”

After observing that the oral law at times modifies or even negates the written law, he continues…

“This is difficult for me because I believe the Torah to be closer to God’s revelation to Moses than Torah sh’ba’al peh (the oral tradition that became the basis for rabbinic law), although I believe that the Torah was also passed by word of mouth for generations. This leaves open the right of interpretation and even the possibility of human additions and errors. However, what tools do we have for making such determinations and how can one do so with any measure of intellectual honesty? Are we at least being honest with ourselves? To what degree are we dedicated to discovering God’s Will for us? To what degree are we dedicated to continuing the tradition passed down to us? To what degree are we consciously or unconsciously bringing our ideologies, presuppositions and world views to the text?”

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Wedding Pictures from the Professional

Posted by rabbiart on July 22, 2008

You can get right to Jessica’s pictures here.

http://www.printroom.com/ViewGallery.asp?userid=babybaum&gallery_id=1185688

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Mitzvah 50: Off with their Heads

Posted by rabbiart on July 22, 2008

A study of the traditional 613 mitzvot (commandments/obligations) according to their order of appearance in the Torah.

No one ever said that all the mitzvot are easy – to study or to carry out.  So here is the Torah on capital punishment.  In Shemot 21:20 we read

וְכִי-יַכֶּה אִישׁ אֶת-עַבְדּוֹ אוֹ אֶת-אֲמָתוֹ, בַּשֵּׁבֶט, וּמֵת, תַּחַת יָדוֹ–נָקֹם, יִנָּקֵם.

And if a man smite his bondman, or his bondwoman, with a rod, and he die under his hand, he shall surely be punished.

Because the Torah is explicating a divine law, it assumes that punishments will not be carried out incorrectly.  We also know that the Talmudic sages put so many restrictions around the exercise of capital punishment that it became almost impossible to carry out.

Why does the Torah (as interpreted by our tradition) provide for capital punishment?  Does that mean that the Torah, or HaShem, is bloodthirsty by nature, or angry, or harsh?  Or does it mean that the world in which we find ourselves is unfortunately filled by people who answer to that description?  What are we to do when confronted by people who abuse, beat, imprison, even kill innocents.

A response is required, a deterrent is needed. If we do not respond in a significant way when we see injustice, what kind of people are we? If the evil inclination is not deterred, what kind of world are we living in? Consider this teaching. “At the root of this precept lies the reason that HaShem wished to eradicate from the midst of His holy people the heart’s evil and great cruelty. Therefore the Torah commanded that if anyone becomes so overwhelmed by fierce anger that he beats to death his servant who is in his home and has no one to save him, then let the one who did this be put to death. Even though (it may be the case) that the servant was his purchased possession (a separate topic), and he lost his own property (what kind of reason is that) by the other’s (the servant) death, nevertheless he is to be slain, since his rage prevailed over his spirt to such an extent.

From the tradition’s point of view, failing to execute this law when circumstances require, is tantamount to putting a stumbling block before the blind, because it encourages terrible behavior.

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My Mom Blogs the Wedding

Posted by rabbiart on July 19, 2008

Technically, not a blog, but here are my mom’s recollections of the wedding.
+This is a sort of “communal” letter to several of my friends who asked to hear about it.    I’ll start at the beginning.   I arrived on Thursday afternoon 7/10   and had a scrumptious dinner at a local cafe courtesy of Art & Carol, just the three of us.

Shana and Daniel and baby Joseph arrived about then, but chose not to accompany us.    However, I had a few moments to admire Joseph, who weighs over 17 pounds at 3 1/2 months, and is a calm , cheerful, responsive baby.

On Friday evening, we were all invited to Shabbat dinner at Michalle’s, hosted by Art & Carol.   For the first time I met Walter, who has hair almost down to his waist, and he’s not even a musician!    Met his father, who said “But you’re so young!” to me, and then his mother, who said, “You’re so young”  which of course made me feel great.  (She hadn’t heard him say it).   Art made Kiddush and Motzi, and I think we made a Shehecheyonu (sp?)  too.   Then it was buffet style, delicious of course, and we all sat and stood around, circulating.    There were about 20 people there, but most important to  me was that all my children and grandchildren (except Keren, Hillel’s wife, who is in Israel fulfilling a professional commitment) were in the same room — not to omit the great-grandson.

I spent a lot of time in the air conditioned motel room, but Saturday Larry & Ruth took me for a ride to glimpse the Dell (yes, the computer guy) Jewish Campus, which has four synagogues, the JCC, the day school  and I guess a few other things.    It is said that Dell is a product of Austin, and when he made the big bucks he donated  a  pile to buy the land, etc.

Saturday night \the eight of us, plus Joseph, went to a restaurant that Shep chose.    He goes to Austin every year for the Music Festival.     Again, we had a wonderful time just being together, joshing, kidding, enjoying.   The eight is Ruth & Larry,  Daniel & Shana, Hillel, Mara,  Shepard and me.  We were seated that way at the wedding reception too.

Sunday we had to get started early; Art insisted the ceremony start on time, and it did.   It was in the Texas Hillel, which had a sign on the door “Closed for private party.” We went upstairs for the ceremony.   The Chuppah was a red silk cloth on which all the members of the Chang family still in Taiwan had signed their names and wishes.     (Later, there was a smaller piece of similar cloth and markers on which we all signed;  that was downstairs at the reception) Art, resplendent in formal wear and the most beautiful white square top Kippah I have ever seen,  first explained to the guests (around 100) what the procedure would be.    There was a five piece live orchestra that played, but I don’t remember what.    The maid of honor, best man, and three more couples (3 women, 3 men) walked in while Art went out a side door in order to be able to walk Miriam in with Carol on the other side (the aisle was kind of narrow).

Miriam was absolutely gorgeous in a white gown with a train, beaded at the train and in a center inset in the front.   It had an empire waist and halter neck, but you couldn’t see her bare shoulders because her hair was down.     The accent was a RED sash that tied in a bow in the small of her back and went all the way to the end of the train.

I can’t remember much about the actual ceremony, but it was Jewish all the way, especially when Walter stomped the glass in its white satin envelope.   I thought he might smash the floor. After the bride and groom left, we guests all went downstairs for the reception.   The bride reappeared having changed into a bright red/gold dress.   I think you call it a Chong-Sam.   She looked as though she was poured into it.  Mandarin collar,  thigh high slit.    Now her hair was up with one of those long Oriental sticks holding it up.        Gorgeous.

My fingertips are getting tired.   I’ll have to omit some detail.    All the food was Kosher, prepared and served in the Chinese fashion.      There was round dancing, and the hoisted chairs, and when Miriam and Walter did the “first dance” you could see what a trained dancer Miriam is — it was like no other, carefully choreographed.

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Zeal in the Age of Tolerance

Posted by rabbiart on July 15, 2008

To study this parshah we must turn back to the end of last week’s parshah and read verses 6 thru 9. Pinhas, grandson of Aaron, sees an Israelite man and a Midianite woman committing “harlotry” in front of all of Israel. Pinhas spears the two of them with a single thrust, ending a plague resulting from HaShem’s anger.

As our parshah opens, Pinhas is given HaShems “covenant of peace” and a covenant of everlasting priesthood for him and his descendants “because he was jealous for his G-d, and made atonement for the children of Israel.” A census follows, and we learn that there are no more survivors from the generation that stood at Sinai, except for Moshe, Joshua and Caleb.

The modern reader is most likely to have tremendous difficulty with this parshah.  We like to think of ourselves, and perhaps we are, tolerant of other religious practices, and willing, if not eager, to say that each individual has autonomy.  We also seek to blur the lines between cultures, ethnic groups, and for some, religious practices.  We are uncomfortable with the idea of murder as an act of religious zealotry, and troubled that Pinchas, the perpetrator, is rewarded by Hashem with HaShem’s covenant of peace.

What are we to make of this episode?

We should note that modern readers are not the first to be troubled by this episode.  We note that Pinhas acted “on the spur of the moment, without trial, or offering previous warning, without legal testimony being heard, and in defiance of all the procedures of judicial examination prescribed by the Torah, which in practice render a conviction well nigh impossible.” (Nehama Leibowitz in Studies in Bamidbar).

Nehama Leibowitz points out that the sages of the Jerusalem Talmud state that Pinhas action was disapproved of by Moshe and the elders, who would have excommunicated Pinhas, except that the Kadosh Baruch Hu granted him the covenant of peace.

Rav Kook comments on the prayer against Jewish heretics found in the weekday amidah, which is harsh and unforgiving in its tone although authored by a sage who was noted for his love of all creatures.   Regarding the author – Shmuel HaKatan – he writes “One could be sure that he was dominated by completely unselfish considerations and inspired by the purest of motives, and had removed from his heart all private feelings of hatred for the persecutors of his people.” (ibid)  This of course, may also be read as a comment on Pinhas and his seemingly impetuous actions.

Ultimately, we are left with these questions.

  1. Was Pinhas’s act a one-time event, or might there ever be a situation where it should be imitated?
  2. We live in an age of increasingly religious toleration, inter-faith dialogue and acceptance of the idea that there are multiple understandings of, and paths to G-d. (See the Pew Study on Religion) Is there any place for zealotry in the age of religious tolerance?
  3. What should our reaction be when we witness acts of religious zealotry?

Shabbat Shalom

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Mitzvah 49: The Laws of Fines

Posted by rabbiart on July 15, 2008

A study of the traditional 613 mitzvot (commandments/obligations) according to their order of appearance in the Torah.

We see the Talmudic concern for midah k’neged midah (measure for measure) reflected in the explanation of this commandment.  The commandment itself is based on Shemot 21:18-19 which reads

אִם-יָקוּם וְהִתְהַלֵּךְ בַּחוּץ, עַל-מִשְׁעַנְתּוֹ–וְנִקָּה הַמַּכֶּה:  רַק שִׁבְתּוֹ יִתֵּן, וְרַפֹּא יְרַפֵּא.   .וְכִי-יְרִיבֻן אֲנָשִׁים–וְהִכָּה-אִישׁ אֶת-רֵעֵהוּ, בְּאֶבֶן אוֹ בְאֶגְרֹף; וְלֹא יָמוּת, וְנָפַל לְמִשְׁכָּב

if men contend, and one smite the other with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keep his bed; if he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed.

Although the text in Shemot refers only to striking, we learn that regarding one who shames another, the beth din should cause him pain by requiring the perpetrator to pay money to the person that has been shamed.  We learn elsewhere that fines are only to be imposed by an ordained, authorized beth din in the land of Israel. The proper age for a recognized scholar to sit on a Bet Din is 18, but a judge acting as a solo Bet Din must be forty in order to impose monetary penalties.

The Talmudic explication of this particular mitzvah (of course the identification of specific mitzvot, and the creation of a list, is post-Talmudic) reveals some of what modern non-Orthodox readers may see as gender related difficulties in the tradition.  On the one hand, the implementation of the laws of fines is a mitzvah that applies only to men, because men are assigned public roles, including the imposition of justice.  On the other hand, the effect of the law is extended to women; who might be either victims or perpetrators of wounding or shaming.

The specifics of the law vary depending on the location of the incident in question and the Beth Din.  The law is primarily intended for a court system in the land of Israel which Hashem originally promised to Abraham Avinu.  Batei Dein acting outside of the land have authority (in Jewish law) only by being agents of courts inside the land.  Courts outside the land do not impose and collect fines, but any transgressor is palced in herem (excommunication) until he (or she) makes teshuvah with an injured party.  Once the teshuvah (RMBM describes a very specific procedure) is attempted, the transgressor is released from excommunication whether the injured party becomes reconciled or refuses reconciliation.

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More Wedding Pictures – Thanks Betsy!

Posted by rabbiart on July 15, 2008

Wedding pictures from Betsy Markman are here!

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The Season of our Joy – All the Wedding News that I can recall – part two

Posted by rabbiart on July 15, 2008

Check out the Hupah – Continued

So I get upstairs to check out the hupah; it is beautiful beyond belief. In addition to having sentimental and symbolic presence because it was lovingly made, printed and signed by Walter’s relatives who live in Taiwan.  They are, unfortunately, too elderly too travel to the U.S. for the wedding, and due to timezone differences, Walter turned down my suggestion to webcast the wedding.

I immediately see that we can get the bridesmaids and groomsmen much closer to the hupah than what we had rehearsed the night before.  I find the table, collect the 2nd kiddush cup (supplied by Hillel), grab Walter’s kiddush cup and the bottle of kosher wine he selected for the ceremony, take it all upstairs and set it up under the huppah.  Fortunately, at some point I realized that the wine had to be de-corked, otherwise I would have been trying to pour wine during the ceremony from an unopened bottle.  That would probably be considered a rabbinic faux pas (sorry, don’t know the Talmudic term for that, but I’m sure there is an equivalent).

Go back downstairs where I am informed that it is time to get the ketubah signing underway so that the photographs can be completed before guests star arriving. At this point it is probably close to 10:30, and we have encouraged guests to arrive early because of the parking situation.  Next order of business, find a good location in the Hillel lobby (glass walls open to the outside view) where the photographer can shoot the ketubah signing (as opposed to shooting the signers) without capturing the trucks parked outside.  Lots of table and chair moving ensues, nephew Seth is very helpful in this regard.  Herbert and I locate the Ketubah (picture coming, please be patient) which is wrapped in cellophane or something.  We slit open one end, after which Hubert realizes that the other end was designed to be opened and then resealed.  Oh well.  We gather Emmanuel (best man), Denise (maid of honor) Walter (groom, you knew that), and Miriam (bride beautiful beyond belief) and commence signing.  Everyone has diligently practiced signing their Hebrew names, or at least has a cheat sheet to copy from.  I am of course reminded of when Carol and I were signing our Ketubah lo these many moons ago, and the photographer shot Merle Feld from an angle that basically was, shall we say, a bit revealing (significant understatement).  (note to self, should scan picture and post, or, maybe not).

After significant urging to hurry things along, the signing is completed.  Bride and bridesmaids go outside to the patio, where the temperature is 100+ in the shade.  Of course there is no shade, and the patio is all concrete, so the effective temperature is probably, well, let’s not worry about it.  I take the groomsmen upstairs and show them their new positions, lined up along side the outer edge of the huppah, stage left. Proceed downstairs, find out that brother-in-law Bob has safely returned from his iPod-fetching mission with success. Take possession of Miriam’s precious iPod, or, her iPod with its precious mix tape for post-band dancing.   Bridesmaids and bride come inside, groom and groomsmen go outside to be tortured by Jessica (photographer) in the increasingly hot sun.

Meanwhile back at the ranch (Hillel lobby) guests are arriving in significant numbers.  Lots of hugging, kissing, and “it’s so good to see you again” ensue.  I think at some point the parental units are ushered outside for pictures; then it is decided that wedding time (11:30) is fast approaching, and additional pictures can be taken later.  Sorry, its a little blurry.

Where’s the pants!

Sorry, cousin Aaron, but, as I told you, there is no way this does not become part of handed-down-thru-the-generations family story telling.  Carol’s first cousin Mark (brother she never had) arrives with wife and younger son Aaron.  As we found out then, or maybe it was later (see ain mukdam v’ain m’uchar batorah), at 11:10 as the Weksler family was ready to leave the hotel, Aaron discovered and then had to confess, that he had forgotten to bring the trousers of his suit.  A pair of “waiter pants” is borrowed and Aaron is dressed for the wedding.  For some reason his father decides that he should bring the track shorts (that Aaron threw on when he discovered he was sans pants) into the wedding venue.  I know this because I remember seeing Mark holding the aforementioned track shorts.

Time to get this party started!

The wedding ceremony, that is.  I circulate in the crowd and ask the groomsmen to “encourage” everyone to go upstairs and take their seats.  Once the room is full I go into the room and assume the dual role of father-of-the-bride and rabbi-performing-the-ceremony.  I have previously explained to Jessica that she may take pictures at all times except while the ceremony is going on.  (By the way, Miriam had asked me to write an explanation of a Jewish wedding that they could print and put on all the seats.  Walter’s contribution was to tell me to keep it to a single page. I wrote it, they edited it and printed it).  I explain to the folks that they are part of a congregation, and not an audience, and rehearse them in saying the four traditional Hebrew words with which bride and groom are greeted once they are under the hupah.    (ברוכים הבאים בשם יי  or Blessed are they who come in the name of HaShem). I explain that they don’t have to actually learn the phrase; that we will be doing it on the – for those who took high school french – ecoute et repete system.  I will say two words, and they will repeat them.  We practice a couple of times.  I also explain that we have engaged a professional photographer and that people may take pictures, but only without using a flash.  I completely forget to tell them not to take pictures during the ceremony.  (Difficult to get G-d to sign a release form, and some things in life should be experienced and remembered, not video-ed or photographed, and yes, I know I am in a minority on this, but fortunately I’m the rabbi, but unfortunately, I forgot to mention this).

Bedeken

The final pre-wedding ceremony is the veiling of the bride. I find Miriam and Walter – and Jessica of course – on the landing where Jessica is taking pictures of bride and groom.  I interpose myself and say it is time for the bedeken.  Walter lifts the veil up and pulls it over Miriam’s face. I mention to the two of them that the rabbi’s manual says that the rabbi or a designated relative is to read the accompany text, and that as rabbi I have designated myself as the relative.  I read the five lines of the bedeken text as my heart swells to the point of breaking and my eyes glaze over with tears of joy.  (All of this might actually have taken place before the explanations described above, I can’t remember, and anyway אין מוקדם ואין מאוחר in my memory.

Let the wedding begin!!

I exit the room, check that the entire bridal party is present upstairs and ready, tell Yoli we are ready to start, go back, stand under the hupah, and somebody cues the band, probably both me and Yoli, but at the same time.  Lights (well, not really), camera, action!  The music begins.  Hubert(FoW) and Shirah (niece) come down the aisle arm in arm, more or less as rehearsed the night before.  They are followed by Peter and Nadine.  In turn they are followed by William (Walter’s brother) and Michalle (Miriam’s sister).  Finally, Emmanuel (FoW and best man) and Denise (FoM and maid of honor).  When they are halfway down the aisle, I exit through the side door stage right (which I have tried at least three times to make sure I don’t commit a Marx-brothers-movie-moment and find myself unable to get out of the room), so that I can join Carol so we can walk Miriam down the aisle.  One of my many vivid goofy-wedding-dreams earlier that week was that I am delayed getting to the back of the room, and Carol and Miriam walk down the aisle without me.  Fortunately, the door opens, and I go to outside the entry door and stand with Carol and Miriam as Walter’s parents walk him halfway down the aisle, where they are supposed to leave him as they proceed to stand under the huppah.  Finally Yoli lets us start down the aisle, and I see that Walter, rather than being halfway down the aisle, is standing in front of the hupah waiting for Miriam.  Oh. Miriam’s incredible bridal gown is so wide that the three of us can’t all go through the door at the same time, so I do have to wait, then catch up to Carol and Miriam (hmmm. that dream almost came true).  We stop halfway down the aisle, kiss Miriam (through the veil, of course). I motion Walter to come up the aisle to get Miriam, and Carol and I walk (float, actually) the remaining 10-15 feet to the hupah. Carol stands next to Denise, I assume the “rabbinical position” at the back of the hupah, and watch Miriam and Walter come down the aisle, enter the hupah, and stand facing each other as instructed (one final chance to exercise parental ?rabbinic? authority).

Under the hupah

Everyone is now under the chupah. I invite the congregation to repeat the traditional words of greeting with me.  They do.  Apparently, at this point Ruth (my older sister) begins weeping tears of joy (according to the report I got from my mother) and continues to weep tears of joy until the end of the ceremony.  it’s on with the (it’s not a) show!  Reading from ye olde (actually the new version) Rabbi’s Manual, I conduct the first part of the ceremony, known as the Arusin (betrothal). This involves reciting a borei pri hagafen and the blessing that thanks G-d for sanctifying his nation of Israel through the instruments of hupah (marriage canopy, if you haven’t figured that out and I haven’t explained it) and kiddushin.

I prompt Emanuel for the ring which Walter will place on Miriam’s forefinger.  I have previously (at rehearsal dinner) warned him that under the hupah is no place for ring?-I-forgot-the-ring-jokes.  He hands Walter the ring; Walter places it on Miriam’s forefinger and recites the traditional wedding formula.  I prompt Denise for the ring. She gives it to Miriam, who places it on Walter’s finger, and she recites the traditional (OK, not really traditional, since the traditional jewish concept of wedding is that the groom is acquiring the bride. Hah, try telling that to Miriam. Or Walter for that matter).

I now tear my eyes away from Walter and Miriam (especially Miriam, after all, I’ve known her for thirty years) and look out into the congregation.  I point out that the rabbi’s manual says the rabbi may make some remarks at this point, and that I will.  Chuckles ensue, and Nadine later tells me she loved my sense of humor under the hupah.  As near as I can recollect, it went something like this.

“Miriam’s cousin Shana asked me this morning if I had planned out what I would say under the hupah.  I told her that I planned to say whatever came out of my mouth.  We have an expression in Jewish tradition – devarim hayotzim min ha lev nichnasim lalev. Words which are spoken from the heart (literally “come out of the heart”) enter the heart.  Always remember this moment, when your hearts are open to each other.  In all of life’s moments, speak from the heart.  When life favors you with blessing, speak from the heart, and when life hits it’s inevitable more difficult moments, because no one goes through life unscathed, also speak from the heart, and you will be fine.  The Talmud has a story. Well, the Talmud has lots of stories (people in the congregation are chuckling at this point).  There is a particular story of a Roman maiden who comes to a rabbi; it does matter which rabbi, and challenges him.  I know you believe you G-d is great and created the world in six days, and rested on the seventh, but what has your G-d done since then? What does your G-d do all day?  The rabbi replies, G-d sits all day and arranges marriages for brides and grooms.  The Roman matron says, that’s doesn’t seem too difficult, I can do that!  She goes off to her estate and arranges marriages for all her slaves and servants.  After a few days she goes around checking on them, and finds them very unhappy, all battered and bruised.  She returns to the rabbi and confesses that arranging marriages is a lot more difficult than it appears.  Miriam’s friend Nadine arranged for Walter and Miriam to meet, but G-d arranged for them to find each other, to fall in love, and to marry”.  [there might have been more, and these might not be the exact words, but you get the gist].  Anybody who remembers more, please make a comment and report your recollection.”

I give Walter and Miriam their kiddush cup so they can hold it together during the final part of the ceremony.  Their eyes are locked on each other (and have been the entire time). I now read (in English) and chant (in Hebrew) the sheva brachot (seven blessings) which are the marriage part of the ceremony.  Pausing before the seventh bracha, I read the first part of the Ketubah and mention that it details Walter’s obligations to Miriam, and conclude by saying that we will stipulate to the reading of the remainder of the Ketubah.  The seventh bracha is read and chanted.  As I’m chanting the last brachah, I hand Emmanuel the smash glass (in it’s cloth container) so that he can place it on the ground for Walter to stamp on.  As the seventh brachah concludes, Walter takes a hop step on his left foot, raises his right foot to about knee-height, and drives it down through the glass. Good thing the floor is concrete (I’m guessing), or he would have driven the glass, and his foot straight through the floor.  Walter and Miriam embrace and kiss, the music starts up, and they proceed back down the aisle as husband and wife.  If there was dry eye in the house, I don’t want to hear about it.  I know there weren’t any in my family.

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