In the Suburbs / Always a beacon of love and commitment
Updated 2:18 pm, Thursday, April 7, 2011
We attended my nephew Jonathan's wedding to Halissa in Washington this past weekend. I knew it would be a lovely wedding, but I never realized how much my being there would mean to me until I added my signature to the special Jewish Katubah (Certificate of Marriage) as one of two witnesses.
I was touched that my nephew, whom we call JD, thought enough of me to ask my involvement, and I was honored to be part of the agreement that would bind this couple together in commitment and love. The Rabbi, a wonderful woman, pointed out the specialness of this agreement and alluded to the journey that this beautiful couple would embark on the following day.
While I couldn't remember all the words in this Katubah, I did recall that across the top were words from the "Song of Songs" about the love of two people. And throughout, there were beautiful phrases and words to be cherished for a lifetime by a loving husband and wife.
While there is something special about every wedding, there is something particularly special about a traditional Jewish wedding, because the declarations and commitments go back across countless generations and still have the same significance. As I listened to the rabbi, I couldn't help remembering back to my own wedding nearly 45 years ago and wondering how I would ever live up to the words of our Katubah.
I was a 22-year-old teacher, wondering how I would be able to provide and care for my wife, according to the laws of Moses and Israel. But I looked at my bride to be and somehow knew that I would find the knowledge and the strength.
As I glanced at my nephew and future niece last Friday evening before we signed the Katubah, I wondered what they must have been thinking as the bride's aunt read the various declarations and commitments. But in my heart I knew they were thinking, as I did, that this was the most special moment of their lives. They were sealing a bond that only they could break and that was highly unlikely.
Just 24 hours later, with the Katubah in the foreground as a gentle reminder of the strong commitment this couple was making, we were touched by the warmth of the rabbi's words under the sacred Chupah as she guided JD and Halissa through the blessings and traditions that would make them husband and wife. She spoke of the brighter light this couple would create with their unity.
She touched on the difficulty of relationships and of her journey with Jonathan and Halissa, knowing from the start that they were a strong fit. And she reminded us that after God created Adam and Eve, she (God) acted as the officiant at a similar wedding ceremony and that each wedding harkens back to the first.
I have never forgotten the vows around the rings. For me -- Haray at mikadeshes lee, v'tabat zo, Kadash Moshe v'Yisrael -- Be thou consecrated unto me as my wife according to the laws of Moses and Israel. And for my wife -- Ani L'Dodi, v'Dodi Li -- I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine.
My wife and I were mouthing the words during this ceremony, wiping away tears at the same time. We always get choked up during that part of the ceremony. Toward the end of the ceremony, the rabbi stepped off the podium to read the Katubah in Hebrew. This time it really had impact and the reading by the bride's aunt, a minister, made the moment even more touching.
Then all too quickly, the final seven blessings ended, the bride and groom and families tasted the last sips of wine and JD broke the glass. Everyone broke into a lively song, "Mazel Tov, A Mazel Tov, A Mazel Tov," et al, the bridal party left quickly followed by the guests, and my wife and I sat quietly for a few minutes.
When we looked up, there in the solitude of the sanctuary was the Katubah. Bathed in soft light, it reminded me of a beacon, guiding the way to a future filled with wonder and excitement; ups and downs, possibly a family and so much more.
Steven Gaynes' In The Suburbs column appears each Friday in the Fairfield Citizen. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.