Monday, April 13, 2009

Muzzle Tov!

Photo Courtesy of the New York Times

I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry after stumbling upon this article in the New York Times. A seder for dogs? A full organic kosher feast for canines to devour? It's so self-indulgent on the one hand, yet so light and fun on the other. Excessive yet non-traditional. Unique but costly.

One might feel it makes a mockery of Judaism and a very important holiday celebrating freedom for the Jews. And yet, it involves the very freedom to choose, indulge, and to live without judgment for which our people have fought so hard.

So I try to take it in stride, let it provide an opportunity for reflection and an outlet for humor. It reminds me of the wedding planning process, where we often need to differentiate between what others have done and have chosen for their special celebration, and what feels right for us. We must constantly decide which things are worth fighting or working for and which parts we should just let roll right off our shoulders.

This weekend, Jake and I went to a local Judaica store to look at Ketubahs (a Jewish wedding "contract" which spells out what each partner promises to the other, similar to a vow, signed by witnesses and a Rabbi, and generally hand drawn/painted in a beautiful, artistic manner by a Ketubah artist).

Some sample Ketubahs courtesy of

We quietly looked through a stack of Ketubahs in the store, and their accompanying texts. Next to us, another couple was also looking through the stack. Every few seconds the couple would hem and haw over a specific Ketubah, wondering if it was "nice" enough or "large" enough, or if the text was "appropriate." Then they discussed what others would think about it, what color it should be, should it be in Hebrew or English or both? They questioned whether it was worth spending the extra $100 to have their Ketubahs personalized (meaning the artist adds their names rather than leaving a blank line on which they fill in their names themselves). Then they debated the price, and next, whether they were going to frame the Ketubah after the wedding (a common practice, both to display the artwork and to remind the couple--especially in bad times--of their promises to each other).

While these are all valid concerns to discuss, this couple was, in a word, STRESSED. I could see that they were quickly losing perspective. They were focusing on the "shoulds" and not spending energy to decide what they liked and wanted. They were forgetting, that while the Ketubah is a beautiful tradition and an important consideration to many, it is only a one of the many details of a wedding. But it is not the end all-be all of the marriage. I wanted to say something, but despite having a pretty big mouth (for better and for worse), I kept it shut. None of my business.

Jake and I already knew we wanted an "alternative egalitarian" text, a colorful design, probably a tree pattern (we are having our wedding in a park and are very outdoorsy people, plus we love the symbolism of growth and nature in a tree), and we wanted to keep the cost to a minimum. We spent about 10 minutes going though the stack. I found a colorful tree with "conservative" text that I loved and showed it to Jake. He loved it too. We asked the salesman if he could do that design with the alternative egalitarian text we wanted? Yes, he could. We laughed out loud at the idea of shelling out $100 just to have our names on it (Not that it's wrong--just not worthwhile for us), and we figured we would decide later (as in after the wedding!) whether we wanted to frame it or not--that wasn't something we had to determine right now. We paid and we left. Done. The couple was still debating all the options (and making phone calls to family/friends for even more advice) as we walked out the door and spent the rest of the afternoon strolling and taking photographs through Central Park with our pup.

I certainly don't feel superior to that couple, because I've certainly been there myself. We all get caught up in certain aspects of the wedding planning and are susceptible to losing perspective. And after we left, I wondered aloud, "should we have looked around more?" Jake replied, "Why should we? We found what we like and we get to spend the day together. What could be better?"

I couldn't argue with that. You don't always need to search out every option and compare a million choices to one another. Sometimes the first choice is the right choice, as simple as it may seem. As long as you are happy with it, no need to search any further. And don't let anyone tell you any different. I think part of what made this process easy for Jake and I is that we really had no one to please but ourselves. We made it clear to family from the start that we were doing things the way we wanted. We weren't rude about it, but we were firm. At times, it has meant that we have had less help from others around us (sometimes help = opinions), but for the most part, we have enjoyed the confidence and simplicity of making decisions on our own. And our parents and family have really respected this, whether they agree or not. Both Jake and I think it's important to start our married life with our own traditions and selectively choose which family traditions and practices we wish to incorporate, rather than blindly adopt whatever our families have done in the past. This doesn't translate into an attitude of exclusion--quite the contrary--we really welcome whole-heartedly the advice that we seek out on our own, or the traditions we want to incorporate. Surprisingly, I think this has led to our families being more appreciative of the choices we make, and to treat us like adults (duh!).

Bottom line = lighten up! Don't take it all too seriously, and for goodness sake, have fun! Life is too short. Start out this week by resolving not to stress out about the small stuff. I know summer is approaching and for all of us summer brides, this is the time we tend to feel anxious and overwhelmed with fear that we aren't crossing enough off of our hundred-page-long list, or that we will forget something crucial and will spoil our special day. But while we sit and worry about ruining our future wedding, we might actually be spoiling our present day. Not good.

Hey--if the dogs can have their kosher organic unleavened cake and eat it too, no reason why we can't. It'll all work out.

Happy Passover to those of you who celebrate it!

BTW, this is the Ketubah we chose, from this artist (though we did not pay that much). I love it! I'll share the text with you soon...

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