1. I recently attended a beautiful wedding in Brooklyn. It was a traditional Jewish wedding in many ways with the signing of the ketubah, a separate tisch for the bride and groom, dangerous lifting of people in chairs, a rowdy hora played by a punk band that lasted for 10 minutes, and delicious brisket. The chuppah under which the couple was married belonged to the bride’s zaidye, who couldn’t be there in person.
2. The officiating rabbi spoke about the couple’s commitment to shalom bayit, peace of the home, and to making their home a refuge. As the rabbi spoke of the bride and groom’s own social justice work in the aim of tikkun olam, repair of the world, I began to wonder about whether or not the act of loving, the commitment to love and care for another or several others, could itself be a contribution and action of labour towards repairing our broken, fragile world. Might deciding to love and actively being loving to others be the work of tikkun olam? My friends made a commitment to each other, and we witnessed the ritual ceremony that sanctified this commitment. As a congregation we held them and witnessed their intention to work together and stand with each other: to be teammates.
3. Perhaps love and marriage is not as traditional as we think it is. I wonder if this act of commitment is radical in and of itself. What is love in the 21st century? What is the marker of healthy, respectable partnerships, committed family or household units, no matter how they are composed or function? Is it radical to decide to hold each other up and face the world together, to commit to the ongoing effort of “working on it” over time? Is this a radical act in the aim of repairing the world?
4. Love. Is it all we need? Maybe. Because how much more loving and kind could we be to each other, if we all felt beloved, if we never felt alone and always felt safe? What kind of a world would be possible?
5. I am not simply speaking of romantic love here. I witnessed that wedding ceremony in the company of friends I consider my soulmates. Our friendship, now spanning 16 years, has defied the challenges of time, distance and life. It has defied the odds. But this friendship is a work of the heart and a labour of love. I do not take this friendship for granted; it has not always been easy to be loving towards each other. We have worked for it, and we will have to continue to work for it, if we want the friendship to survive and continue to nurture us. I think this kind of friendship is also an act of radical love. It is also an act of resilience and an offering of hope.
6. In her performance poem “What’s Next,” the Canadian-Jamaican artist D’bi Young wrote of her desire to learn to love courageously, relentlessly and with integrity, despite the past experiences that so often teach us otherwise: “Yes, in all cases, fear has been my worst enemy. Were fear not here, I would kiss you, and feed you food from my mouth, and I would stop you from aching, and share a smile, and I would wait with you by the roadside for a while. Were fear not here, I would give name to these unnamed spaces of accountability, our responsibility to each other … and we would both shine brilliantly! But who amongst us carry those safe secrets of loving?”
7. In our tradition, a wedding ceremony includes the “seven blessings” or “wedding blessings,” known in Hebrew as the “Sheva Brachot.” These are traditionally chanted in Hebrew and form the liturgical moment where the power of love is expressed and where celebration for that love is encouraged. The words of the blessings are from the Talmud, and they begin with a Kiddush over wine and conclude with a blessing that honours the gladness and joy of the community of friends and family who are witnessing the ceremony.
I wrote seven blessings for my friends on the occasion of their marriage, but I add this piece as well to the litany of blessings, hopes and prayers I want to shower upon them, and upon all of us, as a tiny action of radical love for our fragile, fractured world.