Weddings. Welcoming a New Baby. Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

Weddings. Welcoming a New Baby. Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

These are moments of celebration.  Of transformation.  Of transition from single to married, from couple to parents, from child to teen.

How do we make these precious moments meaningful?

How do we create a wedding or other lifecycle ceremony that celebrates who we are- individually and as a couple or family?  That expresses our most treasured values?

How do we prepare for the ceremony itself and plan thoughtfully and lovingly for the new stage of life that follows?

How do we create space to connect with each other amidst all of the details of planning an event?

As a rabbi and teacher of mindfulness meditation, these are the questions that are in my heart and mind as we work together.

-Rabbi Margie Jacobs


Gratitude Practice

There is a practice in Judaism to recite words of gratitude each day even before opening one’s eyes in the morning:  “I am grateful before You, who has restored my soul to me.”  Research indicates that people who actively cultivate gratitude tend to be happier.  In our family, we have begun to list 3 good things that have happened each day to our bedtime routine.  Another friend asks her daughters about their rose (best moment), bud (something new), and thorn of their day.

How do you cultivate an “atitude of gratitude” in yourself and your family?  By sharing the best parts of your day?  By setting aside a particular time in the day or week to express appreciation to each other?

My teacher James Baraz, co-founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center and author of Awakening Joy, points out that we can’t make ourselves feel grateful or happy.  But we can create conditions that incline the mind and heart toward happiness, inviting gratitude and joy into our day and then waiting for these lovely guests to arrive.


Shavuot: The Sacred Wedding

In the Jewish tradition Shavuot, the time when the Torah was received at Sinai, is described as the wedding between God and the Jewish people.  The Torah is the Ketubah, the marriage contract that expresses the vision for the new way of being that results from the union and reflects the commitment that the people make.  But the most important aspect of Sinai is not the Torah itself- it is the wedding, the encounter with the divine that each person experienced in their own unique way.  The Torah is given as a reminder, a way back to the moment of deep connection when the boundaries between self and Other become more permeable.

So it is for our relationships with our beloved.  The essence of the wedding is not the beautiful flowers, wonderful food, or even thoughtful ceremony.  It is the connection, the bond, between two people which invites everyone present a glimpse into a worldview  in which all differences and conflicts are less salient than that which moves us to love each other and form a life together.  As we continue on our journey and build a life together, we often have so much demanding our attention that it is easy to forget that state of connection and delight in each other on our wedding day.   The Ketubah, which may contain a couple’s unique expression of their vision for their life together, can be a powerful reminder in the midst of a busy life.

In her book Hold Me Tight, Sue Johnson suggests that just as children have a basic need to feel deeply connected, or attached, to their parents, adults have a profound need for attachment to other adults.  This need for attachment is central to a love relationship.  As you prepare for your marriage, how do you cultivate the connection between you amidst the demands of wedding planning?  After the wedding, how do you continue to let your beloved know how special s/he is to you?



A Blessing for The Journey (Buddhist Prayer)

Let us vow to bear witness to the wholeness of life,
realizing the completeness of each and every thing.
Embracing our differences,
I shall know myself as you,
and you as myself.
May we serve each other
for all our days,
here, there, and everywhere.
Let us vow to open ourselves to the abundance of life.
Freely giving and receiving, I shall care for you,
for the trees and stars,
as treasures of my very own.
May we be grateful
for all our days,
here, there, and everywhere.
Let us vow to forgive all hurt,
caused by ourselves and others,
and to never condone hurtful ways.
Being responsible for my actions,
I shall free myself and you.
Will you free me, too?
May we be kind
for all our days,
here, there, and everywhere.
Let us vow to remember that all that appears will disappear.
In the midst of uncertainty,
I shall sow love.
Here! Now! I call to you:
Let us together live
The Great Peace that we are.
May we give no fear
for all our days,
here, there, and everywhere.
— Sensei Wendy Egyoku Nakao.

An Apache Song

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be a shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no loneliness for you, now there is no more loneliness.
Now you are two bodies, but there is only one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place, to enter into your days together.
And may your days be good, and long upon the earth.

The Seven Blessings, Adapted from Deena Metzger

Blessed is the one who created the fruit of the vine. Bless the two of you who come out of long traditions of struggling to find out what it is to be human. May you be full of the wine of life. May the life force and the knowledge of the human heart always be with you.
Blessed is the One. All creation mirrors your splendor and reflects your radiance. Bless the two of you. May the two of you know that all beauty comes from the Great Heart, and may you always live in its radiance.
Blessed is the one who created human beings. Bless the two of you. May you know it all–joy and struggle, beauty and sorrow, sweat, tears, solitude, companionship, laughter and ecstasy. May your marriage be strong enough to support you to experience whatever you must as you come to know yourselves and each other and to discover the entire range of your humanity.
Blessed is the one who created Woman and Man in the divine image, so we may live, love and perpetuate life. Bless the two of you. May you delight in the wonder and impossibility of the fact that you are so similar and so different–may the difficulty and enormous pleasure of being a man and woman continually fascinate and engage you and be the source of your bonding.
Blessed is the one who brings people together and unites the divided. In joy we have come to witness this marriage of many cultures. It is said that everyone gets married at a wedding. Bless the two of you who bring us together through your union today.
Blessed is the one who rejoices that the love between this woman and this man is as the very first love in the Garden. Bless the two of you who recreate the world for us and for yourselves. May your love be as old and as new as the first love, and may you also bring new life, in all its forms, into the world.
Blessed is the creation of joy and celebration, lover and beloved, gladness and jubilation, pleasure and delight, love and solidarity, friendship and peace. Soon may we hear in the streets of the city and the paths of the fields the voice of joy, the voice of gladness, the voice of lover, the voice of beloved, the triumphant voice of lovers from the canopy and the voice of youths from their feasts of song. Blessed is the joy of lovers, one with another.

A Blessing for Wedding by Jane Hirshfield

Today when persimmons ripen
Today when fox-kits come out of their den into snow
Today when the spotted egg releases its wren song
Today when the maple sets down its red leaves
Today when windows keep their promise to open
Today when fire keeps its promise to warm
Today when someone you love has died
or someone you never met has died
Today when someone you love has been born
or someone you will not meet has been born
Today when rain leaps to the waiting of roots in their dryness
Today when starlight bends to the roofs of the hungry and tired
Today when someone sits long inside his last sorrow
Today when someone steps into the heat of her first embrace
Today, let this light bless you
With these friends let it bless you
With snow-scent and lavender bless you
Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly
Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears
Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes
Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you
Let its vastness be undisguised in all your days

A Brighter Light

The Baal Shem Tov said, 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.