Between 2010 and 2013, I co-officiated Jewish High Holyday services with a very influential 20th/21st century Rabbi, a man whose impact on how Judaism has been practiced since the Holocaust cannot be overstated. His name was Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, may his memory always be for blessing.
Reb Zalman was born into an Orthodox Jewish home in Poland. He was schooled in a deeply Orthodox Yeshiva (religious school for boys and men), and he was ordained as an Orthodox rabbi in 1947 within the Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic community. Most people that I’ve met over my lifetime who come from very traditional religious backgrounds like this tend to keep this level of orthodoxy throughout their lifetime. Something I’ve noticed about very traditional people like this is that while they may or may not respect the views of other people that don’t share their background, they often aren’t quick to “intermingle” with other folks who don’t come from a background like theirs. It’s not always like this, of course, but it’s not necessarily uncommon, either.
Learn to make love, not war.
Which is why something that Reb Zalman said from the pulpit, with me standing 6 inches away from him, had such a strong impact on me, and why it influences how I conduct my Wedding Officiation business to this day. At one point during the Rosh HaShanah (Jewish New Year) service, Reb Zalman turned to the entire congregation and said, “You know, Moshiach (the Messiah) will only come to Earth when all the people learn to make love with one another, not war.” The people in the congregation nodded and smiled politely. Reb Zalman looked at everyone, understanding that they might not have completely gotten the point. “No”, he said, “I mean, MAKE LOVE, not war”. The congregation gasped, and then laughed, a bit nervously, and knowingly.
Reb Zalman very literally meant what he said.
Get to know one another
Everyone, make love with everyone else. He wasn’t talking about orgies (at least I don’t think he was!). But he did mean that co-mingling, getting to know one another in the deepest, most intimate sense, may be the only thing that will foster understanding, compassion, tolerance, curiosity, and just plain good will among people the world over. Making love, not war, is literally what will usher in peace on earth.
This is why I’m a Jewish Wedding Officiant who’s comfortable officiating interfaith wedding ceremonies. I’m Jewish by birth, and I was raised in a Jewish home, so Judaism’s in my bones. In my 20’s and 30’s, however, I was a guest vocalist in various Unity Churches as well as in Churches of Religious Science (now called Centers for Spiritual Living) and Universalist-Unitarian (UU) churches. Believe it or not, when I was in the 4th grade back in the 1970’s (!!), the very first essay I ever wrote (2 pages long) was on The Seven Major World Religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Hinduism). My friends have called me “ecumenically correct” for as long as I can remember!
No one needs to give up anything.
One of the most beautiful things for me is to see my couples come together in love and share the depth of their religious, spiritual, and cultural backgrounds with each other, whatever those backgrounds are. Compromises don’t need to be made. My prayer for you is that you each honor and express as fully as possible your own religious/spiritual/cultural heritages, you each share the traditions and truths you’ve been endowed with. You learn from one another, you grow together. Your specific backgrounds fertilize the soil of your new life together as a couple, your new creation.
One of my greatest joys as a Wedding Officiant is to learn about the various, myriad ways there are to be human! I love helping you craft the wedding ceremony that is personal, unique, and meaningful to YOU. After all, you two are creating a whole new universe when you marry each other! As Jesus says in the Christian tradition, “where two or more are gathered, there I am (Matt 18: 19-20). In Judaism, we find a very similar idea in the Mishna: “Two or three who are sitting together and speaking words of Torah (divine Revelation) between them, the Divine Presence (the ‘Shekhinah’) rests with them”. What are YOUR traditions? How can I support you in bringing the best, most cherished aspects of your traditions together, to create the most authentic, joyful wedding celebration to life for the two of you? With the two of you?
I’m excited and honored to guide and support you on your way to the wedding ceremony of your dreams!