This past Sunday, I had the honor of officiating at a beautiful wedding. Rachel and Nathan met last year here in Austin, and very quickly knew that they wanted to spend their lives together. Rather than traveling back to New Jersey to get married, they held their wedding here, in their new hometown. They were thrilled to welcome their family and friends to Austin, introducing them to the vibrant Jewish community, the live music scene, and the fabulous energy that makes this city the largest destination point for young folks between the ages of 22 and 35.
Days before the wedding, Rachel’s beloved grandfather became sick and was not able to travel to Austin. This was heartbreaking for Rachel – she couldn’t imagine not having her grandfather there on her wedding day. Although there was no feasible way to delay the wedding or move it to New Jersey, the family did have a plan to bring Rachel’s grandfather as close to the chuppah as possible. A videographer created a live stream of the ceremony so Rachel’s grandfather could watch and listen from the comfort of his bed, and following yichud, the couple was able to speak with their grandfather on an iPad.
The dancing began with an enthusiastic horah. Multiple circles of joyful guests held hands, moving around the dance floor with great excitement. Rachel and Nathan’s friends and family had learned about the tradition of preparing schtick for the bride and groom – a custom that emphasizes the importance of bringing laughter to the newlyweds on their wedding day. Young and old alike performed silly dances and songs, generating both surprise and delight.
As the music subsided and guests found their way to their seats, the iPad was brought to the front of the dance floor, the microphone was held up to the screen, and Rachel’s grandfather began to speak. He may have been giving a toast from his home in New Jersey, but the love that he felt for Rachel and Nathan and his immense gratitude for being included in their wedding festivities was palpable right here in Austin. He was then able to join together with the rest of the grandparents as they raised their voices to say HaMotzi — the blessing over the bread that officially begins the meal. Our hearts were opened a little wider in that moment.
I’m by no means a “techie,” which may be all the more reason why I was so moved by how this technological innovation enhanced our spiritual celebration. As a community builder, I truly believe in the power of being present. And, in this case, under these circumstances, Rachel’s grandfather was present. He was right there with us in Austin, TX.
As I walked to my car on Sunday evening, I said to my husband, “I think it’s time to get an iPad.”