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Eight weeks left until the big day and I feel like we have barely gotten started on what needs to be done. Life just flies by so fast now that I know June will be here before we know it. Between the invitations that havenâ€™t gone out and the Ketubah that is yet to be made, I feel like we have more on our plate now than when we started. How did that happen?
Lu and I have taken every step to internalize each piece of tradition and make it our own. It is a big task to be able to separate ritual from tradition and I often feel that life would be easier were we to take things at face value. But hey. Whatâ€™s the fun in that?
Tradition ends where the new age begins. Right?
I mean. There comes a point where a chuppah is just a chuppah and a ketubah is just a ketubah. But why not make these things ourselves? Why not create them so that they donâ€™t create us. I feel like we spend a lot of time internalizing and a lot of time in conversation about these traditions. We make each piece a challenge. And the truth is: I love it.
It makes me feel closer to Judaism.
We have spent the better part of a year planning this thing and the more that we have to learn, the more I feel connected. The more that we have to figure out together, the more I feel connected. The more we meet with Rabbi Berman, the more I feel connected. The more I write this blog, the more I feel connected. Itâ€™s like Iâ€™m creating a new relationship with an old friend. My Judaism is fresh. It makes me feel good.
I know that we have much learning to do. And just like when our son, Raiden was born, I know that we will never be ready.
The best that we can do is to do our best. We will begin our life together knowing that we didnâ€™t just take what was prescribed and that we are in every capacity to carve out our own path.
Where does one put her individuality and feminism aside for the greater good? This is the question I face.
I’m talking about our processional at our wedding. What I didn’t know is that it is Jewish tradition for the parents to not only walk their child down the aisle but to also stand under the huppah with them. For various reasons mostly dealing with logistics, we had decided that only us, our son, and the rabbi would be under the huppah. Needless to say, this was quite the punch to my mother-in-laws gut. However, she accepted this with the consolation that she would still get to walk her son down the aisle.
That’s where the issue begins. I didn’t want my parents to walk me down the aisle. As a thirty-two year old mother who has been on her own in the world for quite a while, I felt that no one needed to “give” me away. I am giving myself to Alx. To add to this, there is some heavy water under the bridge when it comes to my relationship with my father. I’ve come a long way in life emotionally but on this issue I’m torn. Do I put aside my issues and let my parents walk me so Alx’s parents can walk him?
From what I understand, in Judaism this is a symbolic gesture of releasing their child into adulthood. They’ve supported and cared for them under their own roof and they are now escorting them with love to the new home that the child will make with his/her spouse. It’s actually a heart warming ritual but what about when there is unresolved issues between child and parent(s)?
I guess this would be easy if I were Jewish as well because then it would just be. The choice would be made for me out of tradition and ritual.
Alx and I have talked about this intimately and I’ve even spoken with my mother-in-law about it. She understands my position and has selflessly left it up to me. Even though it breaks her heart, she is willing to give up this ritual if it is going to make me uncomfortable. I have to say that I really lucked-out with mother-in-laws. Miki is caring, understanding, easy to talk to, a bit bossy at times but always, always puts her children’s well-being before anything.
She has accepted me as her daughter with open arms and an open heart. This is why I’m in the process of reconciling the issues that are stopping me from participating in this ritual. It bothers me to have my parents walk me but that pales to the heaviness in my heart at taking this away from Alx and his parents. Jewish or not, Alx is extremely close to his family and they are active participants in every aspect of his life. I want to accommodate but I don’t really know how to do that without compromising myself.
Our rabbi says that this situation is a paradox because it’s all in the viewpoint. I can have them walk me and see it as a healing moment or I can focus on the negative and allow that to ruin the moment. I can not walk with them and it might be negative since it is in reaction to the unresolved issues or I can not walk with them and retain my current viewpoint of individuality and self-sufficiency. I think it all boils down to what I’m ready to accept, forgive, and move past.
If I’ve learned anything from Alx’s family, especially his mom, is that love knows no bounds and for family we gladly sacrifice to ensure the happiness and well-being of our loved ones. For my mother-in-law, I am willing to sacrifice. I am willing to endure the pain that it will take to resolve my issues and move-on so that on our beautiful wedding day she can walk her son down the aisle. The thought of this makes me happy. Maybe this was the stimulus that I needed. The last little nudge to take those last painful steps towards forgiveness and closure on a not-so-great chapter of my life.
So, thank you Miki, for being you. For being caring, understanding, easy to talk to, a bit bossy at times but always, always putting your children’s well-being before anything and for being the little nudge that I needed to strive to become healthier, happier, and whole.
So Iâ€™m faced with the question as to whether or not I will take a dip in the Mikvah â€”figuratively or literally.Â Iâ€™m left to ponder both the traditional and the contemporary and what either of the two would mean to me.
When we take a look at what a trip to the Mikvah means in the traditional sense, I am left almost speechless at how central it is to Orthodoxy.Â You see.Â The idea is that with full immersion into a body of water, one can find ritual purity.Â That is to say, you are washed clean of the things that make you impure.
Traditionally, it has different uses for men and women, but in the end it boils down to cleansing your self/your soul after one journey and before the next.Â It sets you up with Tabula Rasaâ€”a clean slate.
So why wouldnâ€™t I want a clean slate before the wedding?
Can I achieve that without the traditional bath?Â Is there something else that I can do that would achieve the same goal for me spiritually?
Would skydiving feel the same to me?
Itâ€™s not that I am against this tradition.Â It is, in fact, something that seems beautiful and honest and something that I would be TOTALLY intoâ€”if it didnâ€™t feel so stuck in the past.Â The thought of a woman bathing herself in the Mikvah after each menstrual cycle before she can resume sexual relations with her husband just doesnâ€™t sit right with me.Â I think that it boils down to my egalitarian views on what a relationship should be and the inequalities that I see between matriarch and patriarch in organized religionâ€”not just Judaism.Â Itâ€™s traditions like these that I feel solidify gender roles in the past and donâ€™t look to our modern day for guidance.
There I go again.Â Leaning left.
I have some thinking to do.Â How can I achieve what I will perceive as a ritual cleansing without the tradition?Â If I donâ€™t follow tradition, should I even bother?
So.Â Friends of interfaithfamily.com.Â Please feel free to offer me some guidance.Â Maybe through conversation I will have my Aha moment and figure out what I need to do.
Christmas, Hannukah, New Year’s, Rai’s first birthday, Alx’s mom’s birthday, my brother’s birthday, Purim, St. Patty’s Day…The list goes on and on and just keeps on going. On top of all of these extracurricular activities, there’s daily life. Not to mention trying to transition from mom back to business woman or more accurately, a finely balanced mixture of the two. Then, to pack on just a little bit more to see if it’ll all come tumbling down, we’re trying to plan the perfect interfaith wedding. Oy vay! Do I need a break.
It just hit me. Judaism figured this one out a long time ago and it’s called Shabbat. Of course. It’s so simple yet so meaningful. So I’ve decided to create my own Shabbat. It might not always be on Friday night but I’m going to make a concerted effort to respect the Shabbos. Miki, Alx’s mom, is an observant Conservative Jew and she takes Shabbat weekly. No one bothers her. We leave her be to a day of quiet and rest. The biggest point of all is that she doesn’t work. She doesn’t even talk about work!
In the footsteps of Miki, I’m going to put aside one day a week where I don’t talk, do, or even think about work. Or for that matter, all of those little things that create so much chatter in the back of my head. One of the bigger voices being the wedding since it’s right around the corner. Taking Shabbat will allow me to take a step back and see things with refreshed and rested eyes.
I think no matter what you call it or from whatever faith it’s rooted in; we all need to remember to take a step back and breath. Life is too short and there are too many more important things than what color your table cloths are at your wedding reception. We have life, we have love, we have each other. Happy Shabbos.
Yes, yes indeed, the ketuba was ultimately not killed off and is going to be very much alive and present at our wedding ceremony. I was put off at the thought of a ketuba at the beginning. As stated in my previous post, Ketuba or Not to Ketuba, I relentlessly swayed back and forth on the idea. What changed my mind you ask? Well, it started with finally letting go of the traditional meaning of the ketuba and embracing it for what it could be.
Our ketuba won’t look like a ketuba at all. For one, it won’t be two-dimensional. It also is going to serve as a written document announcing and confirming our marriage as well as double as our vows. So instead of having a ketuba and separate vows, we’re going to make them one-in-the-same. The reading of the ketuba will be us saying our vows. Besides, that’s what the essence of a ketuba is anyways, right?
And to make it even more multi-functional, it will also serve as a sculpture and interesting conversational piece for years to come.
What is it you ask?
Plain and simple, it’ll be a tree. But not just any tree. A tree sculpted by us and embroidered with the wonder of our relationship. Each leaf signed by a loved one on our wedding day serving as witness to our union. My favorite part is that the tree will be hollow. Upon our wedding day, we will ask each person to write us well wishes, blessings, advice and wisdom. These will fill our tree just as our loved ones have filled our life with their warmth and caring.
It just goes to show that if one lets their mind and heart open up without bias, amazing things can happen.
Last night as we sat with Rabbi Berman, I was so exhausted that I was loopy.Â My new job at JPS is in my brain all the time and I was having a hard time turning my brain chatter down so that I could pay attention to the most important task at hand.
We were talking ritual.
Rabbi Berman is totally down with our questioning of rituals and our desire to make them our own.Â This is exactly why we knew she would be the right fit.Â We had so much to talk about and decide upon and I think in the end, we were left with more to ponder than we walked in the door with.Â You know.Â This is a good thing.
Something that came up, that Lu and I just love, is the idea of a Bedeken.
Now.Â Traditionally a Bedeken Ceremony in an Orthodox wedding takes place right before the actual wedding ceremony and is the unveiling of the Bride.Â The story here (traditionally speaking) is that the groom should see the brideâ€™s face before the magic happens so that he doesnâ€™t marry the wrong womanâ€”Like how Jacob married Leah accidentally when he meant to marry Rachel in Genesis:29
So.Â Not only is this custom out of date and totally weird, but you wouldnâ€™t even think that it could be a positive thingâ€”a spiritual moment–the connotation that the woman would be trying to get over on the man, and that the man is so distrusting of his wife-to-be that he has to check to make sure that she is who she claims to be. Preposterous!Â Lu and I are just way too liberal for that!
So Rabbi Berman presented an alternative ideaâ€”Let me elaborate.
In the weeks leading up to the wedding, Lu and I will be hectic.Â Crazy, pull out your hair, yell at each other, and maybe even start drinking-hectic.Â We will be making last minute plans, gathering family, and working to make our wedding, a wedding.Â On the big day there will be getting dressed and taking pictures and decorating and flower arranging.Â We will be totally hectic right up until the moment when we stand there-under the huppah- and look into each otherâ€™s eyes.
So why not make THAT our bedeken?
As Lu and I meet, for the first time, under the huppah, on our nuptial day, we will take a moment.Â We will be silent and we will ground ourselves.Â We will be sure that we are there completely; leaving behind all of the hectic life that was the wedding-prep and we will unveil each other by taking a breath.Â By looking into each others eyes and be sure that we are there with each other and for each other.
We know that we can only remain in silent meditation for a few moments without causing our guests to stir.Â But with any hope, the moment will feel like an eternity.Â It will be the most calming, grounding, humbling moment that a couple could ask for.
I for one am looking forward to that little break.
As I sit here on the eve of our son, Raidenâ€™s first birthday all that I can think about is how good Lu and I have it.
We met so long ago that I canâ€™t actually imagine life without her in it. Â Itâ€™s amazing how quickly someone binds themselves to you and intertwines with every aspect of your life.Â Itâ€™s almost as if we have grown up together, which in essence, we have.
In our first year of parenting we have learned to really lean on and support each other.Â Our relationship has only grown and strengthened.Â We have come to terms with our differences and have learned to love the fact that we are in it together.
We are.Â In it together.
When we became pregnant, I was overcome with happiness that Lula was going to be a mother, and that she was going to be a mother to the same child that I would father.Â To this day, I couldnâ€™t be happier.
All the time I find myself telling Lu: â€śIâ€™m so glad itâ€™s you.â€ť I canâ€™t think of anyone that I would rather take this journey with.
Lula: Thank you for being my stronghold.Â Thank you for being the best mother that I have ever met.Â That you for caring, and thank you for feeling, and thank you (most of all) for being born!Â Raiden is lucky.Â I am lucky.Â We are one lucky family.
Lula and Raidenâ€”on your special day.
This post is for you.
Raiden: Baby boy, Dooker Butt, One-Sock-Block Â Â My son.Â My light.Â My life.Â I know that you are just learning to walk and to talk and to really show us who you are and â€śIâ€™m so glad itâ€™s you.â€ť You are the best thing to ever happen to us. You amaze us everyday with your strength in body and mind.Â You make each moment precious and amazing.Â Iâ€™m glad that you are our teacher and am honored that we will be able to learn from you for years to come.
Iâ€™m so excited that the three of us are embarking on this life together.Â Our future is bright.
It’s a continuous cycle that doesn’t seem to have an end. It’s not Alx’s fault. It’s not my fault. It’s not anyone’s fault.
I just can’t get over that little twinge in the back of my conscience that’s irritated with the whole Jewish wedding thing. I mean, we have already established that the wedding isn’t strictly Jewish. We’ve established that every single minute aspect will be filled with the essence of us. So why is it still bothering me? Well, I think I figured it out. It’s a point that Rabbi Berman brought up in our last meeting but I didn’t put any thought into it at the time. She hit the nail on the head though. She said that milestone events such as weddings cause a plethora of emotions to surface that really have nothing to do with the event; however, the event serves as a platform for the issues to be brought forth. Okay, either she is psychic or just that damn good.
What are the issues you ask? Where do I even start. Well, you know that perfect family set-up, Leave It to Beaver style? That’s Alx’s family except much, much cooler. They are the most tight-knit family that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Now this isn’t a bad thing. This is an absolutely fantastic thing. I love it. I love that our son, Raiden, will grow up with that.
So what’s the issue then? The issue is that my family is the opposite of that. We love each other but we are not close by any means. It isn’t for a lack of trying but we grew up with a tough love kind of dad. There wasn’t much hugging, pat-on-the-back kind of stuff going on. My mom grew-up in a traditional Japanese household where emotions and physical affections just aren’t a part of the family structure. To top it all off, my dad was in the military so we moved about every four years. Putting it bluntly, my brothers and I had no issues with packing-up, skipping town, and none of us have ever looked back. Until now.
Now, I’m looking back. I’m looking back at the missed opportunities of intimacy with my family. How does this pertain to the wedding you ask?
Well, it has everything to do with the wedding on an emotional level. I want what Alx has always had and always will have with his family. I am close with his family but let’s face it, it’s totally not the same. It doesn’t fill that longing void in the pit of my heart that bleeds because my family missed out on Rai’s first everything while Alx’s family has been there for all of it. Frankly, I’m down right jealous at times about Alx’s family intimacy and solid cultural background. It makes his aspects of our wedding pretty straight forward. I’m proud of my heritage, my diversity, even my complete fractured randomness but how do you make all of those pieces into something tangible and wedding ready?
This is my issue. This is why I’m going around and around and around with no end in sight. My pragmatic logical self tells me that it is an unwarranted fear and that all will be well. However, my somewhat schizophrenic emotional self obsesses over those fragmented pieces of me and worries that they won’t stack up. I’m thinking that Rabbi Berman has some work cut out for her. Thank the powers that be that she’s psychic and damn good.
Many people have asked us why we wanted a Rabbi instead of a justice of the peace or a non-denominational minister.Â And I think that I would like to try to answer the question:
Have you ever just felt inside that something needed to be a certain way?Â Maybe it was because of your upbringing or maybe it was because of your education.Â But you just knew in your heart of hearts that if it wasnâ€™t done that way that it would not feel as complete as you needed it to be.Â Well.Â I have just always known that I would be married by a Rabbi. This put Lu in a tough spot and I think added to the depth of our quest. Iâ€™ve felt that a Rabbi would be most amenable to the soul searching and thought that we sensed should be present in our wedding ceremony.Â That is not to say that a non-denominational minister wouldnâ€™t do just as good of a job.Â I mean.Â My own mother, Miki Young, is a non-denominational minister who often officiates at interfaith ceremonies.Â And she is AWESOME.Â I just feel better trusting this most important moment in our lives to a Rabbi.Â Itâ€™s just important to me.
Our search for her was not as easy as we would have liked and I think much of it had to do with us in the end:
First, my need to have a Rabbi didnâ€™t make it easy for Lu.Â She was totally great in understanding why it was important to me, (and I think she often understood my need better than I did.) but I didnâ€™t give her much of a choice in the matter.Â The best that we could do was totally agree, 100%, without question, who the Rabbi was.
And second,we really felt that we needed someone who would help us to create a ceremony that was totally ours.Â Someone that we really felt would go through each step of the process, piece by very piece, to help us discover how we could own the ceremony.Â We were looking for someone who could make me feel like I was having a meaningful Jewish ceremony and allow Lu to have a ceremony that suited her and wasnâ€™t too bogged down with customs that she couldnâ€™t relate to.Â Well.Â We found her.
You read right.Â We found her!
Rabbi Marjorie Berman just stepped into our life with a bang and we couldnâ€™t be happier.Â Our quest was long, but it was totally worth it.Â It took some persistence and some real thought, but I am positive that we couldnâ€™t have made a better choice.Â She is thoughtful and smart and nice and really knows how to get down into it; deep inside.Â She asks questions that really make you think about who you are both as an individual and in the relationship.Â She is energetic and funny and she cares as much as we do about current politics.Â Her library is bigger than ours and you can tell in the first minute of conversation the reason that she pursued the rabbinate.
Rabbi Berman couldnâ€™t be better suited to us.Â We have only had two meetings with her and we already feel like we are on the path to making our day more meaningful for us.Â We are closer to creating a template on which to base our home and our life together.
Now that we’ve decided to go forth with the amazing Rabbi that we recently had the honor of meeting, the details of the ceremony come into play. The tug of war has begun with the give and take of specific aspects to be put in, left out and transformed. I’m cool with the Chuppah. I’m down with the breaking of the glass. Mostly because I like to yell “Mazeltov!”. It just rolls so nicely off the tongue, how can one resist? However, there are a few aspects that I really get hung-up on like the Ketubah.
The Ketubah or marriage contract is one of the more significant components within a Jewish wedding. Back in the day the Ketubah basically was a guarantee in writing that the man would provide for the woman’s needs and if he divorced her then he had to pay a specified sum of money to ensure her well being. In other words, it’s just like a modern day government issued marriage license but with a bit of a sexist edge. That’s a whole ‘nother post so we’ll just ignore that little piece…
Here in lies my dilemma. We weren’t going to get legally married on principle because we believe that everyone has the right to love who they want and in-turn should be able to marry who they want. In representation of our beliefs, we had decided not to marry until our friends could marry. Having our son Raiden enter our lives completely changed that ideology on a strictly legal level.
Either way, we were going to have a wedding to celebrate our love for one another and our life together. The legal representation of it was not important to us. That is until we found out that there is a ton of red tape to cut through just to ensure full legal rights to one another without it. Even if we somehow figured out a way around not getting officially married, it wouldn’t actually guarantee anything. So, we could go that route or we could just get legally married and have it done in one easy step. With the future of our son at stake, we weren’t willing to take any chances. So, hello marriage license goodbye good intentions. We had to choose our battles and unfortunately lost this one.
This brings us to the Ketubah. It holds no legal significance other than in Jewish Law. For me, Jewish Law has no bearing other than in respect for Alx and his family. For Alx, Jewish Law is circumstantial. So, Alx wouldn’t mind having a Ketubah. I’m not sure if I mind. I mean it’s just another contract, right? So what is my hesitance? I think it stems from that fact that a piece of paper means nothing when it comes to my love for Alx. We have already confessed our love and commitment to each other. We have been calling ourselves husband and wife for years, frankly because we have been living in matrimony. We don’t see our son as being born out of wedlock at all. The commitment was and is already there. The rest is just formality.
Our Rabbi has suggested that we have a Ketubah because it would be a great place to bring together all that is us. It can be as creative and unique as we want it to be. It can encompass all aspects of our culture, selves and family. Whether it be two-dimensional, three-dimensional, in English, Hebrew or Japanese, it could be the embodiment of everything of importance to us.
Â Streets of Desire by Micah Parker
Well, when you put it that way, why NOT have a Ketubah? I mean really, it sounds right up my alley but I still have this little itch in the back of my brain that just doesn’t want it. I’m not sure what’s causing the itch or even if it’s significant, but it is really annoying. I’m confident that our Rabbi can help me scratch it but do I want to? This must be the nature of weddings or any other major event for that matter.
Maybe I’ll give a bit of slack or maybe I’ll tug a bit towards my end. Either way, I’m sure we’ll figure it out but there’s no one I’d rather be playing with than Alx. That’s the most important aspect to me.
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