Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
I’m getting married! And I’m wondering if you’ll officiate. The wedding will be before sunset on Saturday and, well, my fiance/fiancee isn’t Jewish. We’re even thinking about having a minister at the ceremony was well. I’ll completely understand if you say no.
I receive emails like this one regularly. And my answer is always yes. Yes, I’m thrilled you’ve found love. yes, I will represent God, your ancestors as well as the Jewish people and sanctify your union. Yes, I’ll stand under a chuppah with you, your minister and your non Jewish fiance/fiancee and pronounce you married. Yes, I will be thrilled and honored to officiate at your wedding.
Kiddushin, the sanctification section of a wedding, the part where two lovers stand under the chuppah or wedding canopy and unite their lives foreshadows your ideal future. If you hope to be close with your families, for example, you invite your parents to stand under the chuppah with you and share in one of the cups of wine. And if a couple’s future is going to involve Judaism, then I want to stand there in that moment with them. I want to affirm that Judaism is happy for them, that the Jewish people will welcome them into the hallowed halls of religious institutional life, should they ever choose to enter them and that that God, I truly believe, is thrilled that two people in this crazy world have found someone else to commit their life to as they embark on their lives journeys, hand in hand, arm in arm.
It’s Tu B’Av this weekend, the Jewish holiday dedicated to love. In looking through countless websites on the topic, the focus seems to be on the fear that intermarriage is eroding the future of Judaism, or on concerns about breaking Jewish law by doing a wedding before sundown or on anxiety about condoning multiple religions in one home by co officiating at a wedding. But what’s missing is a conversation the power of love. When did we take love off the table in the conversation about Jewish marriage? It feels overwhelmingly missing and in honor of our Jewish Valentine’s day, I’d like to propose we put it back in.
Because if we’re getting smarter we can see our fear of intermarriage has done more damage to the future of Jewish peoplehood than a bunch of Jews and non-Jews throwing their lots in life into the same noodle bowl together. Because I make no Jewish law requirements for my couples after they marry so why would I demand they follow halachah during a ceremony which shows a glimpse of the beautiful future they’re trying to create? And truth be told, a couple is going to do whatever they are going to do with any religion in their home if I say yes to officiating or if I say no. So I would rather say yes with all parties involved feeling warmly loved and welcomed by the Jewish people when they asked for its representative to bless their union than to be greeted with a resounding no.
I know many disagree with my stance on officiating at mixed marriages, co officiating and doing a wedding before sundown on Shabbat. Here’s the thing, I’m not a border guard. It’s not my job in my opinion to decide what’s in and what’s out or rather who’s in and who’s out. It is, I believe, my job as a rabbi is to perpetuate Jewish wisdom, to use our rich heritage for the betterment of humanity and facilitate the use of our people’s rituals for the sanctification of life’s sacred moments.
In short, it is my holy task, where there is love to always say yes.
Pronounced: KHOOP-uh or khoo-PAH, Origin: Hebrew, canopy under which a Jewish wedding ceremony takes place.