Question: In the New Year, I wish you'd write a column for newlyweds. My friend's son will soon be married, and while wedding cards have their place, I'd like to convey something more meaningful as these two start their new life together.
Thank you for being the gift you are and for sharing yourself with us all. A blessed and healthy New Year to you and your family! — J., West Haven, Conn., via firstname.lastname@example.org
Answer: After 40 years in the rabbinate, and after hitching hundreds of couples, I'm happy to share with you some thoughts by others about love and marriage.
The following quotations come with my blessings for all those folks who've decided to make the profound, frightening and joyous commitment to live their lives somewhat apart but mostly together.
My absolute favorite quote about marriage is from a passage not included in the final version of D.H. Lawrence's novel "Lady Chatterly's Lover." And, as band leaders are wont to say, it goes something like this:
"So it must be: a voyage apart in the same direction. Grapple the two vessels together, lash them side by side, and the first storm will smash them to pieces. This is marriage, in the bad weather of modern civilization. But leave the two vessels apart, to make their voyage to the same port, each according to its own skill and power, and an unseen life connects them, a magnetism which cannot be forced. And that is marriage as it will be when all this is broken down."
If those words of Lawrence are too bold (and they're definitely wrong for a second or third marriage) try these:
"I would like to have all the rest of the world disappear," she said, "and live with you here."
"It won't disappear," he said. They went almost in silence through the lovely wood. But they were together in a world of their own.
OK, I'm a Lawrence lover, but if that quote seems too grim, here's the briefest and most perfect wedding wish from the great one: "May you have the courage of your tenderness."
I also love Rainier Maria Rilke, so here's a Rilke goodie:
"For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation."
For a more conventional but still lovely and mystical Jewish wedding wish, try this quote from the founder of Hasidic Judaism, Israel Baal Shem Tov, who taught:
"From every human being there rises a light that reaches straight to heaven, and when two souls that are destined to be together find each other, their streams of light flow together and a single brighter light goes forth from their united being."
Great Christian quotes for weddings must begin with this thought from Augustine: "And so we must share the light and enjoy one another."
Poet Robert Browning gave us these famous and luminous wedding words in his poem "Rabbi Ben Ezra":
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made;
Our times are in his hand.
Who saith, "A whole I planned, youth shows but half;
See all, nor be afraid!"
Finally, there are the words of Isaiah 54:10, where God speaks through the prophet:
"For the mountains may move
And the hills be shaken,
But my loyalty shall never move from you,
Nor my covenant of friendship be shaken."
Ira Gershwin interprets Isaiah in a more tuneful mode:
"In time, the Rockies may tumble,
Gibraltar may crumble,
They're only made of clay,
But our love is here to stay."
Mazal tov to all those whose love will flower into marriage during the year to come. May you live together in joy and may you see the children of your children's children. God bless you!
Q: I've heard that the word "shalom" has three meanings, but I was only taught two: 1) hello and 2) goodbye. What's the third?? — K., via email@example.com
A: The third meaning of the Hebrew word "shalom" is peace. In Arabic, the word "salam" means the same thing. Actually, the translation "peace" is not quite complete because peace can mean many different things and can be quite abstract. The proper and exact translation is "completeness."
When you have peace, you're complete in a spiritual sense.
You are complete when you know that God loves you. You are complete when you know that everything you have is a gift, not a possession.
You are complete when you know that we've all been given more than we deserve.
You are complete when you believe that we will not be separated forever from those we love, and you are complete when you are awake to the wonder of the world.
Shalom, my friend. Shalom!
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