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Courage After Love

 

April 24, 2012

One of our congregants did something beautiful this past Friday night. This was the Shabbat service at which we honored congregants who have been married on the “fives.” Congregants married in years ending in a 2 or 7. It really was a nice night. More than 15 couples came up to the bimah for a ceremony of renewal and blessing. One couple (the youngest!) had been married 15 years. One couple had been married 55 years. The rest were somewhere in between.

It was an emotional evening.

But even as I spoke about love and marriage before our ceremony, I also knew I had to be careful. I couldn’t praise enduring marriages without realizing that not everyone at Temple could share in the joy. Some were divorced. Some were never married. Some had lost their spouses to death. For all of these people, I knew our celebration of marriage had to be bitter sweet or worse.

And yet, we did carry on because not to celebrate would also be robbing those who are married of their opportunity.

You might say, we walk a delicate balance: somehow trying to create an umbrella of community broad enough to embrace different people at all the different points on the life journey.

Which brings me back to that congregant who did something so beautiful on Friday night. It was after the service during the Oneg Shabbat when she walked up to me to show me the brooch she was wearing on her jacket. It was a delicate gold piece. And it was more than that because, she told me, it was a gift from her late husband. In fact, she decided to put it on last Friday because she knew the theme of our service would be love and marriage. “Even if I couldn’t go up on the bimah with the couples,” she said, “I could at least have a part of my husband there with me in my sanctuary seat. I could celebrate in my own way, and I did so during the service. He was there. I was with him. I’m thankful for everything we had together – even now.”

Wow!

Talk about courage and dignity. Strength. Honesty. And compassion.

Talk about being big enough to make room for others while not forgetting one’s own self.

Sometimes I do the teaching at Sinai Temple; other times congregants teach me. This was one of those opportunities when the world was larger and the word “love” meant more.

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