Marriage, like Life, Is Cumulative

On Saturday, I’m performing a wedding in NYC with my friend Cathy Schwartzman, who is a Cantor. We’re marrying my son Simon and my soon to be daughter-in-law. The E-pistle this week is my reflection for their wedding!

“Where you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people will be my people, and your God my God.”

So promises Ruth to Naomi, when everything else about their situation argues against it.

What to say to my son and daughter-in-law at their wedding?

Your circumstances are much more promising than Ruth and Naomi’s!!!

May your promises then be as deep and strong.  And your future be as profound and far-reaching…

While it may not be traditional, I wonder if there isn’t something auspicious about getting married between Roshashanah and Yom Kippur?

May your marriage be more for your needs than about tradition.

May it always be characterized by mercy and new beginnings… and have twice as many reasons for celebration!

What else has occurred to me is that almost all cultures and religions offer rituals for life’s rites of passage, but marriage is unique among them.

Transitions can be difficult — they call everyone to start seeing you and relating to you differently. Perhaps hardest of all is being different towards yourself.

For example, after today, Arielle and Simon will be a family in their own right. Not unconnected from the families they have come from. But also their own family, deserving due recognition and respect. Rituals somehow make these sorts of identity changes easier and smoother.

But marriage is the only rite of passage engendered first and foremost by a decision on the part of its subjects.

All the rest of life’s transitions just sort of happen to us — sooner or later, inevitably, as a matter of time itself.

But marriage comes of a decision, or a bunch of decisions. Much as Ruth decided to stay with Naomi despite her mother in law’s entreaties that she’d have a better future returning to her family.

You both know that you are in for more than just a one-time commitment today.

Real life is always cumulative. The big events are the sum total of thousands of tiny events that lead up to them. Countless small acts. So many decisions and re-decisions, often so small as to be barely recognizable. Commitments that become reflex and habit. Together — it all builds up to the lives we live.

So remember your promises to one another on days when you are sure of yourselves. And days when you are not. Or when you are winging on a hope and a prayer. Or counting on mercy and understanding.

As I said earlier, it takes a lifetime to learn and say and do the really important things.

Marriage, like life itself, is cumulative. It is built of so many enactments and habits and corrections as to almost be almost too much for you to notice or keep track of. But it all adds up, so maintain ample room for one another, and the forgiveness, do overs and restarts that come of love.

Pay attention to the little stuff.

Be present to one another in ways big and small, even when a hundred other things call on your attention.

Never forget to be thankful.

Hold fast to a sense of wonder. And your sense of humor. Laugh at yourselves.

And remember how you can be blessing to one another and together to so many more…

Almost in the beginning, a human, quicker than it suited his own good, snapped back at God, asking falsely, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Of course that’s the farthest from what he’d been. And the closest to what we are to be.

You two now have the opportunity,

the blessing and hope of caring for each other for the rest of your lives. May it be so…