Jessica and Levi's Wedding

  1. Welcoming
  2. Kiddush
  3. Ring Ceremony
  4. Tallis & Ketubah
  5. Communal Vow
  6. Sermon
  7. The Seven Blessings
  8. Remembrances
  9. Breaking the Glass


Baruch haBa bShem Adonai

Berachnuchem miBeyt Adonai

Welcome. We meet here today to celebrate and to witness the marriage of Jessica and Levi. That each one of you has come here today is a sign of your love for them. This is a sacred day: by that I mean, a day set apart; a day which none of us will forget; a day which will be inscribed on our hearts as Levi and Jessica are inscribed on our hearts. Thank you for being here.

We are not here to marry Jessica and Levi to each other. That is not our job. Strictly speaking, in the Jewish tradition, Jessica and Levi are the actors. Nobody marries them to each other. They do all the marrying.

They enter into a new legal and spiritual relationship, and this is called kiddushin and nissuin, consecrating and exalting. The core of it is when they say to each other, in the presence of witnesses, "harei at mekudeshet li" - which means, "behold, you are consecrated to me" - "behold, you are made holy to me."

I would like to confront us all with the strangeness of that. They do not say "I love you" or "I promise to cherish you" or "let's live together". They say, "you are holy to me".

We don't usually think of the people closest to us as being holy. Most of us are somewhat cynical about holiness anyway. If we believe in holy people or holy experiences, we think of them as being mostly outside of our own lives, far from our own imperfection. Even if we believe in holiness in principle, in practice we don't spend much time seeking it in the people we live with.

The word "holy" in "Hebrew" is "qadosh". It means "set apart". In the simplest sense, what Levi and Jessica will say to each other is "I set you apart for me from all others".

To set something apart, though, is also to distinguish it from the background, to see it truly. To see something as holy is to see it the way we see a forest at dawn when we are hiking all alone - to see it with fresh eyes, to sense its sublime and glorious power in being what it is.

That is what you two will promise each other today: to see each other as holy.

And as for the rest of us, what are we here to do?

First, we are here to witness. Levi and Jessica cannot marry each other without our witnessing, because marriage is a public act. It changes forever not only their relationship with each other, but also their relationship with their community. Today they knit two families together. Today they call on us to be one family in loyalty and support of them. Today, under this chuppah, they also create a new home, a new space, a new family of each other. That transformation occurs in our witnessing.

Secondly, we are here to celebrate. The Jewish tradition sanctifies beauty and fun, hiddur and oneg. You are commanded by God to have a lot of fun today.

Our last job is to treat Jessica and Levi as a king and queen today. After kiddushin, consecrating, comes nissuin, exalting. Lifting up. As Jessica and Levi claim each other as holy today and lift each other up, we too lift them up, we exalt them, and we rejoice.


Two cups are before you. By your choice, only one is reserved for the two of you alone. You decided to share the first cup with those who have been partners in your lives thus far, those who have helped make you the people you are.

[Wine blessings]

[Betrothal blessings]

Ring Ceremony

Levi: Harei at
mekudeshet li
b'tabaa'at zoh
cdat mosheh

Behold, I am my beloved's
and my beloved is mine.
Wherever you go I will go
and your people will be my people.
With this symbol all shall know
that you are my heart of hearts
and I shall always abide with you
according to the traditions of the Jewish people

Jessica: Harei atah
mekudesh li
b'tabaa'at zoh
cdat mosheh

Behold, I am my beloved's
and my beloved is mine.
Wherever you go I will go
and your people will be my people.
With this symbol all shall know
that you are my heart of hearts
and I shall always abide with you
according to the traditions of the Jewish people

Tallis & Ketubah

Just as these two families are today knit into one, the prayer shawl of Jessica's grandfather and the prayer shawl of Levi's grandfather have been sewn together. As they are embraced by the love of their community, yet their marriage is a space set apart for only them; so we wrap them now in this tallit, so that they have a moment to reflect (and cuddle) in the midst of everything, while their marriage contract is read aloud.

[Betsy reads ketubah]

Communal Vow

You are all here today because you have a history with Jessica and Levi, a history of love and friendship. Your standing around this chuppah symbolizes your support for them. Maintaining a marriage is no simple feat, and it does not depend merely on the efforts of the couple themselves. I therefore ask you to take your own vow to them now:

Do you promise to affirm the love and commitment Jessica And Levi share, and to support and nurture them as they become the family, the partners, they dream of being today?


The Talmud says that making a good marriage is harder than parting the Red Sea. The story is told that Rabbi Akiva married 10,000 pairs of his disciples, from Dan to Jerusalem, and one day, all 20,000 died, because they did not respect their spouses.

So you have a big job ahead of you.

But I can't think of anyone I have more confidence in, to do the work of being married. The work of listening to each other, of empowering each other, of returning to the sources of your commitment to each other.

The Talmud says: "considering someone who loves their partner as themself, who honors their partner more than themself, who guides their sons and daughters in the right path and arranges for them to be married near the period of their puberty, Scripture says: 'And you will know that your tent is at peace.' "

I don't know anyone who adheres to that better than you do -- except for the part about arranged marriages at puberty. Loving your partner as yourself, and honoring them more than yourself.

You have been engaging in the work of getting married with verve, with passion, with playfulness, and with tremendous energy. You may think that after the party is over and the guests go home, you get to relax. I think you'll find that this was just the warm-up.

In Hebrew the word for "to marry" is "nasa'". Here are the meanings of "nasa'":

To marry.
To lift.
To bear.
To sustain.
To endure.
To take away.
To receive.
To forgive.
To destroy.

Marriage can be all of those things. What you are doing today is not only an act of great joy. It is an act of great bravery.

Marriage is dangerous partly because it feels complete. There is a temptation to relax. We in the modern West, we who do not have arranged marriages at puberty but who nevertheless aspire to lifelong, loving unions, put an enormous amount of energy into years and often decades of serial courtships. We put all this time and energy into finding a partner, evaluating constantly, is this the right one? Is this someone I can live with forever? Does this one love me enough?

The good news about marriage is that this quest is over. You no longer have to worry about finding the partner that is right for you.

The bad news is that you now have to attend to being the you that is right for your partner. Now you have to discover how you can live together forever, as each of you grow and change in unexpected ways. Now you have to attend to the question - how can I love this one enough?

Instead of arranged marriages at puberty, we have what's called, anthropologically speaking, love marriages; and I thank God that two people who love each other as much as you do can choose to marry. But though love marriage has its advantages, it also has its dangers. The biggest danger is that of having a marriage that is based on a feeling - the feeling of love. Too often in our society, marriages are thrown into crisis because that feeling is gone for a while. We notice that the feeling of love is gone and we think, "oops - there goes that marriage."

I ask you to base your marriage on something deeper than the feeling of love. I ask you to base it on the commitment to love - to love in acting and in speaking. The feeling of love is not a basis of such acts, but the product of them. It is the achievement of acts of love: of the willingness to listen, to honor each other more than yourselves, to forgive, to see each other anew, to support each other, to lift each other up.

And to see each other as holy. May the memory of this day support you in that.

I don't know any two people I have more confidence in to do the work it takes. I honor the culture you've created in your relationship - a culture of humor and wisdom and curiosity, of responsibility and flexibility, of respect for individuality, of intelligence and caring, of sharing and listening. I honor your commitment to each other's growth, in relationship and as human beings, and to making each other's lives great. I honor the way you delight in the privilege of giving to each other.

May you guard and tend the garden of your love. May all around you honor and exalt this marriage. May you draw strength and delight from your tradition. And may the Source of All Life bless you and keep you safe.

The Seven Blessings

Tiffany: We are grateful for the human capacity to express joy, embodied in the symbol of the fruit of the vine.
Johanna: We are grateful for the mystery, wonder, and glory of creation.
John: We are grateful for the force that enabled humanity to walk the earth.
Brenda: We rejoice in the extraordinary nature of human beings -- that we are greater together than we are alone, that we can see beyond ourselves to our community and to the world. And it is with this nature that we are prepared for marriage.
William: We are grateful for a vision of paradise we dream of creating with our own lives. May all people learn to live in peace, and may the world rejoice as a mother whose children return to her in joy. Frada: May these two lovers and friends find bliss as bride and groom in marriage as in the Garden of Eden. Stephan: We are eternally grateful for the creation of exaltation and joy, bride and groom, merriment, pleasure, and delight, love and closeness, peace and friendship. Soon may we hear in the streets of the cities and paths of the fields the voice of happiness, the voice of the bride, the voice of the groom, the triumphant voice of lovers from the canopy, and the song of young people from their feasts of songs.

[the wine is drunk]


Jessica and Levi wish to remember Levi's father Jacob Wallach, his grandparents Jacob and Ida Leah Sklar and Rose and Max Wallach, and Jessica's grandparents Ida and Lou Sosewitz, John and Georgia Skintges and Faye Arnos. Jessica and Levi wish they all were here today.

Breaking the Glass

The tradition of breaking a glass at the end of a Jewish wedding apparently started in Talmudic times when Rabbi mar bar Rabina got upset that the other Rabbis were getting way too drunk and having way too much fun at his son's wedding, so he smashed some glassware to get their attention.

Now it symbolizes that in the midst of our greatest joy there is also sorrow, that the world is still broken and it is still our job to mend it. (And you're supposed to shout "Mazel Tov" when they do it.)

[Levi breaks the glass]

By the power vested in me by the State of Maryland, I now pronounce you husband and wife.

You may smooch.