A rabbi’s thoughts as he officiates his daughter’s wedding
By Rabbi Ben Kamin
SAN DIEGO — A lot of things flash before you as you anticipate the event: the time another man, much less worthy than the one she’s marrying, toyed with her heart; the late night call she made from London, quivering with anxiety about academics, the distance, the sense of loneliness, her own worthiness in a clan of international students.
And there was the time when we romped in Disney World together and she was this pinwheel-eyed child and she brimmed with pride and clout when I asked her to carry my American Express card in her fanny pack. And the middle of the night during the first conflagration in Iraq when she tapped me on the shoulder and, with a tear glistening in her eye, asked me, with the yoke of hope on her nine year-old shoulders, “Daddy, when will the war end?”
We negotiated the tender complexities of me performing her Bat Mitzvah ceremony as both rabbi and Dad in the large temple I led then (just as I had done with her older sister)—when she lyrically chanted her portion about her namesake, the prophetess Deborah, with aplomb and joy and spoke with dignity and wit about the meaning of her emerging life.
Then, it was just Debra and me, flying off to New York City, gleefully taking in five Broadway shows within five whirlwind days, strengthening the bridge between us, the shared love of baseball and and journalism and human rights, and the healthy skepticism about organized religion, any newspaper that is not The New York Times, and a dirty vodka martini that—heaven forbid—is devoid of bleu cheese olives.
The inevitable difficult moments that skew any father-child relationship, the intersections of rage and mistrust, the resentment that was attendant to the pain of her parents’ divorce—all of these shook the foundations of that bridge between us. But love was always the river beneath. And as I gazed into her eyes last week, in the cool, sunlit afternoon that blessed my home during the afternoon of her nuptial ceremony, I saw that the bridge more than stands.
She chose her mother and stepmother to sign as witnesses to her state marriage certificate; all of us sanctified the occasion with sweet champagne and the salty waters of our happy tears. Just before I opened the ritual, performed under a canopy of my great-uncle’s prayer shawl, and with a combination of Scripture and e.e. cummings, I closed my eyes. I saw the newborn Debra emerging, like a moonrise, from her mother’s womb and reminisced about the gift of life.
Yet I could speak of none of these memories during the little ceremony in our backyard. For they are mine; now she is his. I can remember and I can bless but I cannot possess. She loves a man—a good man—and she is a bride, a partner, a builder of their future, an architect of a new century. The fanny packs, the theater tickets, the baseball games, the sweet jokes—they are all theirs now, along with the risks. Bless them both; they are my children and my hopes.
Rabbi Kamin is a freelance writer based in San Diego. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org The staff of San Diego Jewish World are delighted to wish the Kamin family a hearty mazal tov!
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