I am a teacher, a spiritual leader and steadfast believer in the values of faith. Maybe that is why Shavuot has always been special to me. Much less celebrated than the “big” holidays (Passover, Hanukkah, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), Shavuot falls at a time of year where, in America (and specifically South Florida) it seems to get over looked. [Read more…]
I received an email from someone in Philadelphia this morning who was considering using her brother as a wedding officiant.
“My daughter is getting married on July 22 (her fiancee is not Jewish). She and her fiancee have asked my brother to marry them. My brother is going to get certified on line, but we want to be sure the marriage is legal. Could you recommend a cantor in the Philadelphia area, that would be willing to come to our venue, before the wedding ceremony, to sign the marriage license (and maybe Ketubah) so the marriage would be legal?” [Read more…]
It’s so hard to comprehend death..
The hardest part about my job is when a young person asks me why G-d had to “take” someone so young, when it clearly wasn’t “time” for them to go yet.
Today, I’m stricken with grief over 2 young FSU students who lost their lives heading back to school after spring break. While I did not know them, many of my students – students I love and adore – did know them, and several of them have asked me why.
Don’t forget – I’m a mom, too, and I cannot count the times I put my kids back in their car, kissed them goodbye and then held my breath for 6 hours praying to G-d to carry them safely back to school, and then breathing a sigh of relief when the text or call came through to let me know they were ok.
Sometimes, the call wouldn’t come, and then I would freak the heck out on them, but that’s a whole entirely different post. Clearly, they were always safe – and for that I am eternally grateful.
“Why did God take them?”
Today, I am reminded of what I say every week in my services when I talk about God. I remind everyone that God does not control every occurrence in the universe, and that we all have personal and human responsibility to use the gifts God has already given us, to create the lives of our dreams. But we also make human choices, uncontrolled by God, that cause outcomes both good and bad – and sometimes tragic.
I don’t believe God takes children away. EVER. God gave us the precious gift of life, and it is up to each of us to treasure it. But our bodies are made to fail. Nobody gets out of this life alive, and we are all going to pass away, some sooner than others. I believe this is an occurrence that falls out of God’s hands.
Without knowing that at any day we could take our last breath – would we treasure life so deeply? If we knew just how much time we had – would we wait till the end to fill it up?
How many of us post every single day about reminding ourselves that tomorrow may never come? The gift of tomorrow is not from God. It is simply a gift – not from a sender.
“What can we do?”
We simply cannot know – nor should we – and we must treat every day as if it were our last. But when someone we love is taken from us – we must know it was not God’s intention. God gave us life to love and enjoy without any promise of a number of days we will have.
Rest in peace, to the 2 students I do not know. But I pray my prayers are carried to the hearts of the parents who grieve their losses. And to the hearts of the mourners who grieve.
If anyone knows these parents, and can possibly let me know how my community can support them, please contact me offline.
May their memories be a blessing….
Once upon a time there were two very special people, David and Katie. Meeting David and Katie was a pivotal moment, not only in my career, but also in my life. I love sharing the most special moments of my career with people, so below is our story….and when you read it, you’ll know why this Interfaith family is so special!
In November of 2008, David and Katie contacted me to discuss their upcoming Jewish – Interfaith wedding. David was Jewish; Katie was not. They loved each other unconditionally; and they both also had great love and respect for their families. Because of this, they were concerned about their upcoming wedding and wanted to ensure that at the ceremony, both families would be comfortable.
I appreciated their concern as well as the fact that they were so straightforward in communicating it. It was just as important for their families to enjoy this special day as it was for them. So, we talked….and talked ….. and talked some more. In fact, we spent an entire year getting to know each other. While Katie was not planning on converting, she did want to raise a Jewish family. Throughout the course of the year I was able to serve as advisor for her. We discussed Jewish lifestyles, I helped her understand many of the things she could expect her future to hold.
Finally, their wedding weekend arrived. Their family and friends gathered in St. Petersburg, Florida; and they invited me to share their wedding weekend with them! I stayed overnight at the same location as their families and had the chance to not only meet everyone, but also see, see first hand, the joy everyone had for David and Katie. Needless to say, the wedding was filled with emotion and love. Before I left, David and Katie made it clear to me that they wanted to continue our relationship; and we did.
You can imagine my reaction when I received an excited phone call in 2014 – David and Katie were having a baby!! We had been in regular contact since the wedding; but this moment was so special. They shared that they would love for me to perform their baby naming ceremony in St. Petersburg, and naturally I was thrilled! The car ride to the service flew by, probably because I was so excited to meet baby M and catch up, in-person, with this very special couple. Honestly, I truly don’t have words to describe my excitement; you may have thought this baby was MY family!! After a meaningful ceremony and celebration, we parted ways with promises to keep in touch and plans to see each other again.
In August of 2016 my phone again rang with happy news; their family was continuing to grow! The joy I felt was immeasurable. You know the feeling, when good things happen to good people – good people that you love! And so just recently, on December 4th, I hit the road on a highly anticipated trip” to St. Petersburg to celebrate their beautiful new addition, Baby R, and their very special family.
It is an experience like this that helps define who I am and what I do. My job is so much more than simply performing a ceremony for Jewish and Interfaith couples, and it is more than offering advice and counsel. What lights me up is watching people grow and develop, helping people clearly see their futures, it’s building relationships and helping make life a little bit better for everyone I serve.