Last Thursday I had the privilege of attending a friend’s wedding. The groom was a childhood friend who recently moved to Israel from Santa Cruz, California. While we lived thousands of miles apart for over two decades, we managed to stay in touch and kept the bond of friendship alive.
Though my dear friend and I have very similar backgrounds, our lives have taken somewhat different paths. I’m a pretty regular middle-of-the-road kind of guy, while my friend is anything but mainstream. I got married in the U.S. in a typical wedding hall, wore a suit and tie, and had a formal reception, but my friend Levi took a different approach to his nuptials.
Levi and his wife Alisa got married along the shore of the Dead Sea. Wanting to connect their wedding union with the land of Israel, they decided that the entire reception would take place in the Holy Land’s unique natural habitat. The food was not catered, but rather cooked up on the spot by local Israelis who appreciate the spiritual richness of the land, and are sensitive to the intrinsic holiness of the food it produces.
The couple united with no shoes on their feet, so as to not have any separation between the sanctity of the land and the union of their bond together. The music was not played by a hired band. Instead, we handed out drums, tambourines, guitars, and even ram’s horns to create the melodies which escorted the bride and groom into their new life as a couple.
The groom called me up to bless him and his new bride under the traditional chuppah, or wedding canopy. And as I stood there blessing the bride and groom, I realized something very unique about this particular wedding.
The Dead Sea, where we stood, is the lowest geographical place on earth. There, as we celebrated a wedding at the lowest place on our planet, the irony of the situation taught me about the sanctity of marriage in the Jewish tradition.
In Judaism, we are commanded to get married and to have children. The search for spiritual attainment without the sanctity of marriage and children is viewed as lacking something essential. To amplify the importance of this union, God gave having children as the first commandment in the Bible, as stated in Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful, and multiply” (KJV).
In other words, raising kids, communicating with a spouse, and caring for a family are the highest and holiest acts. Washing dishes, preparing lunches for your young schoolchildren, and even changing diapers and doing bath time with the kids, are all intrinsically holy. God felt this so strongly that without the interaction of a family unit, even the high priest in the Temple of Jerusalem was not allowed to perform his service.
Finding peace with God happens when we find peace with our spouse, our children, and our community. And anyone who has found their peace within those relationships knows how humbling it can be. It is through the beautiful and often challenging relationship between husband and wife that we begin to learn what it means to “live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1).