My Younger Brother’s Wedding

Rabbi Moshe Abarbanel

Last Sunday June 7, 2015 I attended my younger brother Shane’s wedding.  He honored me by requesting that I speak at the reception.  Shane and I are three years apart and truly grew up together.  My brother does not always do things the easy way, but it always comes out well.

New York City must be the city with the largest population of Jews in world.  My younger brother found a non-Jewish girl visiting from Australia at a Café in Manhattan.  They fell deeply in love; yet she returned to Australia.  They maintained a long distance relationship traveling back and forth.  As things got more serious, Shane wanted to ask Linda to move to New York City.  He recognized what direction their relations hip was heading.  He told  Linda he could not get more serous unless she would consider conversion.  She agreed to consider this.  Linda studied different religions and found Judaism very intriguing.

Shane’s pride to be a Jew runs deep, but his observance lagged way behind.  After Linda moved to New York City, they researched different conversions.  To their credit they chose KJ (Kehilat Jeshuran) an orthodox congregation on the upper east side of Manhattan.  When they met with the Rabbis, Shane was told he too would now keep Shabbos, Kosher and the laws of family purity.   They could not allow a convert to live with a non-observant Jew.  This would violate the  prohibition of “v’Liphne Evar, Lo tetan Michshol.”  Which translates as “Before a blind person, do not place a stumbling block.”  In other words, if a Jewish spouse did not keep the Mitzvot it would create a temptation, a “stumbling block” in the converts ability to keep the commands.  To my brother’s credit, he agreed on the spot.  He told the Rabbi if she goes to Shul, I go to Shul, if she keeps Shabbos, I keep Shabbos.  So in the end, not only did Linda convert to Judaism but Shane converted his life style.  This is something to be very proud of.

The following expands on my speech given at the wedding:  

All of Humanity searches for the truth.  All of mankind seeks out his Creator.  As Jews, we believe the truth can be found anywhere. But the best and most constant source comes from our tradition, the Torah, the five books of Moses.

In our Torah one does not have to look far for the perfect example of a marriage.  In my opinion we find this in the first book of the Torah, Genesis.  If we study Adam and Eve we can find all elements.  First Adam is created alone.  God recognizes that man should not be alone:  “And God said it is not good for Adam to be alone, I will make for him a mate (Ezer Kenegdo, Genesis 2:18).”   Yet, God does not immediately create Eve.  Instead, he directs Adam to name all the animals: “God the Master created the earth and the wild animals of the field and birds of the heavens and brought them to the Man to see what he would call them…(Genesis 2:19)”   Rabbi Pinny Rosenthal asked why God did this.  He could just simply created Eve.  It seems Adam would not appreciate Eve unless he struggled to find her.  Only after studying all living animals and their mates could Man understand the need for a mate.  My brother partakes of this as well.  It took him until the age of 44 and many different experiences to appreciate the need for a spouse as perfect as Linda.

I also want to circle back to language used in the Torah for mate, “ezar kenegdo.”  The translations is peculiar. Literally, it means a helper against himself.  Many years ago I attended a lengthy shir given by Rav Aaron Soloveitchik  when the only thing I understood was his explanation of this strange word for a mate.  He explained that a couple works together…but not as one thinks.  They must be dedicated to the truth, and in order to do so they must maintain their humility.  So when the husband comes home from work all full of himself, the wife tells him to take out the garbage!  This helps him realize his humility.  On the reverse side, when the husband comes home to find his wife overwhelmed with the children he must cheer her up and help.  Of course this principal goes on.

Now Back to Adam and Eve.  If we study more of their lives we can find more examples of challenges they faced together.  I feel the challenges fall into two categories:  external obstacles and internal obstacles.  After they were thrown out of the Garden of Eden they faced loss of income and housing.  Marriage faces two very classic external challenges.  Adam’s role of “scientist” by studying the creations and naming the animals changed to a farmer: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat bread( Genesis 3:19).”  Yet we see they overcame these challenges, I believe by supporting each other.

The second type of challenge we find within the family.  Their boys grew up and fought to point of murder: “And Cain arose and killed his brother Hevel (Genesis 4:8).”  They survived this tragedy I believe by supporting each other in their terrible time of distress.  They even continued to have more children, namely Seth (Genesis 5:3).

I bless Shane and Linda wishing them that whatever life brings them, they will continue to grow in their striving for the truth, bring healthy Jewish children into this world and support each other like Adam and Eve, as true Ezer Knedgdos.