It all happens tonight. In about 10 hours from now you will be a married man.
Wait. Let me write that again.
In about 10 hours from now you will be a married man.
Thank you. I just needed to let that sink in, though I have a feeling it might take considerably more time for that to happen.
Tonight it will be just you and Reena…finally… standing under your very own chuppah, looking out on 600 or so of your closest friends and relatives, who will leap to their feet in joy and unison ("Mazel Tov!") when they hear that glass break.
Off to the side will stand Mommy and I. We'll be doing the whimpering thing. Even though you are our fourth child to be married, we have earned our crying stripes and we may well take full advantage. You won't really notice us. Your focus will be elsewhere, as it should be. That's okay - it's about time I let someone else take the spotlight.
Just a few minutes earlier we will have walked you down the aisle, each of us clutching an arm of yours, as if trying to hold on to our "little boy" for the last time. But when the march concludes and the band goes quiet, we will let go… I promise. And you will climb the steps of true independence; for that is truly the fulfillment of our dream for you.
In those few moments everything will change.
In those few moments under God's canopy, everything will change. You will welcome Reena to stand beside you. What a marvelous choice you have made -- she is beautiful both inside and out.
Finding one, single, definitive way to send you off with the perfect life perspective is nearly impossible. Hopefully, having lived with us for 23 years, you already know something about what we consider to be life's priorities, goals, and problem-solving methodologies.
Rather, my thoughts today are simply about love -- the love of a father to his son -- from me to you. So many loving images dart before my eyes as I try to capture (and preserve) those special moments. And a lot of what I cherish about you are qualities of your personality that others have similarly noticed and appreciated. Who hasn't enjoyed your easy laugh, your gentle disposition, and your kind and tender temperament?
Arguing with you was usually a one-way street, as your disarming manner and oh-so-logical mind just wouldn't cooperate with everyone else's sparring inclinations. And when the persistent will of others would just refuse to capitulate, you always seemed to find it so easy to be the one to "give in." What a beautiful feature! How can we not love you for that?
Growing up in a big family like you did, and being in the middle of the pack is not easy. You have to be a big brother to some, the little brother to others and usually end up with the privileges of neither. Somehow, you wore the uniform perfectly. It just didn't bother you. Never too demanding, rarely complaining, and always ready to extend yourself to anyone else's whim. I'm not quite sure how you managed it all, but you did -- and everyone adored you for achieving that unusual balance.
Shmuel, we survivors on the home front are going to miss that. We'll miss that at the Shabbat table, at dinner, and at our "midnite and beyond" laughing sessions. But you have a chance to further utilize those special qualities to make your own home a haven for that unique brand of kindness and serenity. Not coincidentally, I have already detected much of those very same traits in Reena. So you have a rare opportunity to meld those attributes you both hold precious, to forge a happy, calm, and secure living environment. I have a feeling it will work.
The only additional essential ingredient to your mix is, of course, God.
"Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, Who has created everything for His glory."
This is the very first blessing recited to you after your marriage. Curious. While no one would doubt the veracity of the claim -- the world is God's and His honor is supreme -- why do we choose to inaugurate your life together with this obvious reminder?
Our Sages knew what they were doing. Tonight you are truly the Big Man on Campus. That's fine. Every note, every wish, every flashbulb, every toast, every embrace, and even every envelope truly belongs to you and Reena. And that's the way it should be. This is your moment together.
In fact, that's the way it's been since your engagement, some three months ago. Despite our busy home, lately everything else has kind of played second fiddle to "The WEDDING!" All this is rather wonderful, but it is also potentially dangerous. With so much focus, so much attention, and heck, so much money thrown your way, you might (subconsciously, of course) begin to actually believe that the world revolves around you. It's hard not to think that way.
Of course, it is this much distorted perception that has ruined many a good marriage. Precisely at the time when you need most to shift your egocentric patterns and begin a life of true sharing and selflessness, you are put to the real test.
Marriage is not simply a more serious Seinfeld episode. It is a holy union.
And so, in full cognizance of this pressing need, our Sages wanted to remind you -- right from the start -- that those days are over. Marriage is not an exercise in self indulgence. It is not simply a more serious Seinfeld episode. It is a holy union, one that must not only include, but highlight God in every fiber of your newfound coexistence. He is not a silent partner or an innocent bystander of your relationship. He is, in fact, the very essence of why you have been destined to share your lives together.
This opening blessing is a proclamation of this essential life tenet. It is one that we hope you have witnessed yourself, growing up in our home. May you both be blessed with the strength, the insight and the tranquility to live and breathe with that constant reality.
Shmuel, my dear son, tonight you and I will experience every emotion that a father and son can possibly experience: joy, fear, pride, longing, separation, unification, ambivalence, reminiscence and delight… to name a few. We will dance with many partners, all of whom represent a relationship that has meant something important to each of us.
But there is sure to be a moment -- and it may not last very long -- when you and I will dance together and our eyes will meet. Mine are sure to be restless and moist; yours will be determined and reassuring. I hope to cherish that moment forever.
And when the guests have all parted and the drummer has wrapped up his cymbals of joy; and when the petals have long been trampled on and the final kisses have been firmly planted; and when the coat-check room has only empty hangers and the serenade strains are no longer wafting in the melancholy air, you and I will bid farewell.
Mommy and I will watch as you and Reena disappear into married life. Please… do me one small favor. Don't look back. We'll be okay. Our throats may lump a bit and our stomachs may churn, but that will pass. Tonight is about you and Reena… nothing else.
See you later, kid.
Don't forget the ring.