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I couldn't believe everything that went into planning a wedding! We were very fortunate to be able to reserve the Rothberg Amphitheater for the Saturday evening during Pesach. The Hyatt Hotel was also available that weekend, and so we booked a large block of rooms for my family. We made arrangements with our rabbi from the Institute for Humanistic Secular Judaism to officiate.
The news of our impending commitment ceremony was, as expected, a major shock to both our families, but much less so to David's family than we had expected. My family would of course be flying in en masse for the affair. My parents, brothers and sisters would all arrive the day before the start of Pesach and stay for the entire holiday week, flying back after the holiday concluded. My siblings would miss a little school as a result, but spending the holiday in Israel would be more than ample compensation.
My other relatives would be flying in right after the second day of Pesach and staying just for the wedding, flying out on Monday. Counting aunts, uncles and cousins, there would be close to two hundred family members from my side attending our special ceremony. This was amazing, considering that most of these were Orthodox Jews, and that the Orthodoxy did not consider homosexuality to be legitimate.
The big surprise, however, was David's mother, who was flying in with his five sisters for the entire week of Pesach. Never in a million years did we expect that. We didn't expect anyone from David's family to attend. It was certainly understandable that no one else from his family would be there, but to have his mother and his sisters there would be awesome.
In the meantime, we moved into married student housing. The apartment was nothing special, but it was ours. We had our own kitchen, and a bathroom that we shared with no one else. We still had to do our laundry in a communal facility that we shared with the entire building, but with very few exceptions, no one gave us any trouble. For one thing, most of the couples were much older than we were, and much more mature than the imbeciles in freshman student housing. For another thing, there were two other gay couples and a lesbian couple in our building, so we didn't feel we were on our own when it came to who we were.
It was on a day in early March when we had nothing better to do that David asked, "Remember when I told you I can play my guitar and skate at the same time?"
"Yeah," I answered, "that was just after we met, but I didn't believe you. I always figured you were pulling my leg."
"I wasn't pulling your leg, Danny. I really used to do things like that. You already know I can do anything on my skateboard. Why should it be difficult to believe I can skate, play guitar and sing at the same time?"
Seeing the cute, but serious expression on his face, I knew he was telling the truth, but it just seemed so crazy, like skating in his good Hasidic clothes had been.
"You're crazy, you know," I told him, "but that's just one of many things I love about you."
"Would you like to give it a try right now?" he asked me. "You could play your recorder and I could play my guitar while we skate?"
"I'm willing to give it a try," I said, "but I'd hate to see you wipe out and wreck your guitar, and I don't want you to hurt yourself so close to the wedding."
"That's not gonna happen," he assured me. "And it'll be great for working on my coordination . . . as part of my rehab, you know? I just don't want you to fall and knock out your teeth."
"Not gonna happen, either," I assured my fiance as I gave him a quick peck on the lips. "If this is a challenge, you're on," I agreed as I donned my elbow and kneepads, "but I'm still wearing a helmet," I said as I donned that, too. I was already in board shorts, and added socks and sneakers. I didn't bother with a shirt, knowing I'd quickly work up a sweat, even in the cool, sixty-degree temperatures. Neither did David.
On the way out the door, I grabbed my recorder and he grabbed his prosthetic hand, and his guitar.
We started out just doing some level skating while holding our instruments, getting the feel for maneuvering without being able to use our arms to balance ourselves. By itself, that took some doing, but after a while, I got the hang of it. I generally let my body do most of the work, anyway, as any skater did - I just had to get used to the idea that I couldn't fall back on my arms to correct for subtle variations. Soon, David and I were skating while holding our instruments against our bodies, maneuvering around obstacles and managing an occasional jump. This was sooo sick - it was sweet.
Once we felt comfortable with our basic skating skills, we started doing some common Jewish Folk songs - songs we knew well that took little effort on our part. David sang and played his guitar while I accompanied him on my recorder. It took a little more lungpower than usual to be heard above the sound of our skateboards and out in the open, but our youth and enthusiasm were more than a match to the task.
By now, we had attracted a bit of a crowd and people were singing along with us and applauding between songs. We were pumped! As our confidence grew, we started singing more popular songs, beginning with Coldplay's Don't Panic (EMI Records, Ltd). It was a technically easy song for David to play, even with his disability, and it was a fun song that we still enjoyed immensely although it had been more than nine years since it's original release. Next, we did Keane's Your Eye's Open (Universal-Island Records, Ltd), and followed this up with U2's Window in the Skies (Mercury Records Ltd), for which I sang as well as played some of the harmony.
As we sang song after song, our skating became more and more adventurous and although we couldn't do anything close to the kinds of stunts we did when we simply skated to music from my boom box, the crowd was going absolutely wild, and we were loving it! Eventually, David and I began to poop out. We were both hot and sweaty beyond belief, but I knew we had to finish with something big. I could tell he was tired, but perhaps he needed some encouragement to bring things to a close, and so I snuck my arm around his waist and whispered into his ear, "How about we finish up with Snow Patrol's Disaster Button (Polydor Ltd. (UK))?"
David gave me a huge grin and a big thumb's up. We both loved that song - it was one of our favorites - a hard-driving, irreverent rock song with so much energy. I could only imagine the moves we'd make as we skated in time to the music. This was just a great song.
David started strumming his guitar with an energy I hadn't seen him have since before he'd left New York. We both started moving in synchrony on our skateboards at top speed before he began to sing.
A little after twelve
The function suite was full
Of people I had never seen before . . .
We picked up the tempo as we continued to skate, executing a perfectly timed simultaneous jump. It was as if we'd planned to do it in advance.
Cool your beans my son
You look a fucking mess
No one's getting out of here tonight . . .
The crowd was actually clapping in time to the music as we executed another perfect jump together. We were just so stoked. We were in perfect harmony with each other. It was as if we could read each other's thoughts and anticipate each other's moves. We moved as one. It was amazing. And then we came to the chorus and I joined in, singing with David.
It lifts the roof off the place
It puts a vault in my step
And a grin on my face
It can't contain me
But you'll need an army
To get me back in my box
Or snap the branches off me . . .
When the song came to an end, we did simultaneous back-flips and dismounted from our boards, landing perfectly on our feet to the sound of thunderous applause. We slipped our arms around each other and took a bow. The sweat was pouring down our bodies as if we'd just stepped out of a shower, and our throats were raw, but the crowd's response made us feel magnificent.
Looking at my David, with his red curls plastered to his forehead, I couldn't help but think how sexy he looked, and notice the raw desire I saw reflected in his own eyes. As if drawn by magic, even though we were far from in private, our lips came together for a brief, but passionate kiss to the sounds of hoots and hollers from the crowd and, yes, more than a few boos. We still didn't live in a perfect world, after all.
"Let's head back to the apartment and finish this," David suggested with the cutest, sly expression on his face.
"There's nothing I'd rather do at the moment," I agreed.
Of course the crowd had other ideas, and with everyone stopping us to tell us how awesome we were, it took more than an hour for us to actually get back to our place. Horny didn't even begin to describe the way we felt by the time we were finally able to attend to our pent-up desire.
It was some time later, after we were both exhausted and spent, that I said, "Between the sweat, the grime and I don't know how many loads of cum, I think maybe we need to burn these sheets, rather than try to launder them."
Wrinkling his nose in the cutest way, David asked, "You may be right, but it was worth it, wasn't it?"
Kissing him on that cute nose, I agreed wholeheartedly. "It keeps getting better and better." Cuddling up with him, I continued, "That was really fun today."
"Definitely," he concurred, "and you know something, Danny . . . you've gotten to be as good a skater as I am. We're quite a team, don't you think?"
I hadn't thought of it that way, but we really had skated well together. We were in sync with each other, anticipating each other's moves, on our boards and in song. We really were a team.
Grabbing a hot shower and then changing the sheets, we settled in for one of the most restful nights of sleep we'd had in a long time.
As our commitment day approach, my apprehensiveness grew with each passing day. Not that I was the least bit worried about committing myself to David - that was the one thing I was certain was the right thing to do. It was just that there were so many things that could go wrong.
Although an outdoor ceremony would be a sure thing from May through October, the possibility of rain in Jerusalem during April made us both a little apprehensive. Still, on average just over an inch of rain would fall during the entire month of April, and it seemed highly unlikely that it would all fall on our special day. At most we might expect a little drizzle, but more than likely, no rain at all.
School of course went on without interruption and we could only hope that we'd covered all our bases. By the time our families' flight arrived, we were excited beyond belief. It had been months since either of us had seen them, and we were more than overjoyed.
While my parents looked pretty much the same as they had when I left New York in September, nothing could have prepared me for how much my siblings had changed in the intervening months. Izzy was just shy of his sixteenth birthday, and he looked it. He looked so much like me - it was almost like looking into a mirror. I was over six feet tall now, and it looked like Izzy was exactly the same height. Shit, he was prolly gonna end up being taller than I was.
The bigger surprise was Shimmy, however. Shimmy must have grown a good six inches since the last time I'd seen him. In September, he still looked like a little kid. Now he really looked like a teenager. Sarah was nearly an adult now, and would be turning eighteen before the end of the school year. Leah had matured quite a bit, too. Shoshanah was approaching thirteen and was already nearly as tall as Shimmy. When did that happen? Even Rachel had grown quite a bit since I'd last seen her. She'd be turning twelve in the fall.
"Look at the two of you," Dad said when he saw David and me standing side-by-side, hand in hand. "I can't get over how much you've both grown, and matured. I was going to ask you if you're absolutely sure you're ready for commitment, but looking at the two of you . . . you're not the boys you were when you left New York. You're two young men, and the love you share is so evident in your eyes."
"He's the one for me, Dad," I said. "I couldn't be more sure."
Pulling my fiance into a hug, Dad continued, "David, I can't get over the change in you. You look so different without your side curls, with longish hair and with a clean-shaven face."
"I'm not a Lubavitcher anymore, Dr. Weiss . . ."
"Please, don't call me Dr. Weiss, David," my father interrupted. "Either call me 'Dad', or if you're not comfortable with that, call me 'Sid', but don't call me Dr. Weiss. That's just too formal. You're going to be my son-in-law, after all."
"OK . . . Dad," David said with a hint of unease. "Anyway, we're Humanistic Jews, now. Both David and I are, that is. Humanistic Judaism suits us well. It brings us back to Judaism, rather than driving us away."
"What I can't get over, Danny," Dad said as he turned back to me, "is the idea that you of all people, want to be a rabbi."
Beaming back at my father, I answered, "It's what I want to do more than anything . . . next to marrying David. Before we discovered Humanistic Judaism, I'd have never considered it, but Humanistic Judaism allows me a way to be a rabbi without being a hypocrite. Even an atheist like me can be a rabbi. I like that the focus is on humanity. Even if there really is a god, I like that the emphasis is on humankind. The way to serve God is to serve humankind."
"That's actually a lesson all religions would do well to learn, I think," David added. "When you get down to it, it's the core philosophy inherent in the Golden Rule. It was the great rabbi, Hillel, who is reported to have said, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you . . . all the rest is commentary . . . now go study it.' If only everyone would live their lives that way. Serve people, and you will be serving God, but if you strive to punish others, even if you think it's on God's behalf, you're only hurting God in the end."
"Well put, David," my father agreed.
Just then, David's mother and sisters came out through customs, and we went through another round of hugs and kisses.
After getting everyone settled into the hotel, we went out for dinner together - all sixteen of us. It was pretty clear our families were suffering from jetlag throughout the meal, so we kept the conversation to a minimum and didn't kid our siblings when they kept drifting off to sleep, right in the middle of eating.
We figured everyone would want to turn in early for the night, and therefore didn't make any special plans. David and I made it a point to go to bed early, so we could get an early start in the morning sightseeing with our families.
Everyone was looking a lot better the next day, having had a good night of sleep. After a large brunch of lox and bagels and the usual accompaniments - the last bagels any of us would be eating for more than a week, thanks to Pesach - we headed out on the short walk to campus, wherein David and I showed everyone around. It was nice to show them where we lived and studied, as well as some of the more famous sites. We showed them the parks and gardens, too, and the site of the upcoming ceremony.
We also showed everyone Hadassah Hospital, where Danny had spent so much of his recovery, and where he still went for physiotherapy, even now. He finally had his permanent prosthesis, or rather prostheses. He still had a hook prosthesis that he used for everyday activities, since it gave him much better fine pinch than he could ever get with a cosmetic prosthesis, but he also had a myoelectric hand. The myoelectric hand looked like his natural hand, and he could control it using electrical impulses generated by the muscles in his forearm, so there was no ugly cable running up his arm to his shoulder. Unfortunately, about all the hand was good for was to grasp and hold things. He couldn't even pick up a coin or hold a pencil, whereas with the hook, he could, which is why it was the hook he wore to class. The myoelectric hand was more for going out in public, and to wear at our commitment ceremony.
That evening, we attended a Passover Seder at the home of our rabbi. She was very gracious to extend an invitation to all sixteen of us, for which we were very grateful. Ordinarily, she'd have led the Seder at the Institute for Humanistic Secular Judaism, but recognizing the needs of our out-of-town guests, she graciously served as host to our families instead.
I know that David's mother was at first surprised to be in the presence of a woman rabbi, but she quickly warmed to her, especially once it became clear that the Seder service and meal were going to adhere to Orthodox traditions.
In a ritual that dates back centuries if not more, we took turns reading from the Pesach Haggadah, the Passover prayer book, said the prayers and drank the wine, recalling the original exodus from Egypt and the escape from slavery.
The meal was simply amazing. Rather than the typical Eastern European dishes most of us were used to eating, the rabbi served Middle Eastern fare, including lamb and chicken, seasoned with curry, potato leek soup, baba ganoush, tabouleh and more, all served with matzo. It was a feast!
An interesting difference - whereas in the rest of the world, Jews celebrate all holidays except Yom Kippur for two days, Israelis do not. Therefore, there was no second Seder. Our families were flabbergasted by this, and thought the Israelis were nuts, but it's just a fact of life here. That just gave us a little more time for other things.
We spent the next few days showing our families around Jerusalem and the surrounding area. We were in tourist mode. It was nice, just spending time with them without a worry in the world - until the rest of my family showed up, and then pandemonium ensued. Suddenly, I had two hundred relatives in town.
We held a rehearsal dinner the evening before the ceremony, on Friday, finishing just before sunset. It was a Shabbat dinner, after which we held a traditional Shabbat prayer service in the hotel, followed by an Oneg Shabbat. Because of the holiday, we weren't allowed to eat any leavened foods, which meant we had to eat matzo instead of bread, and virtually all grains, such as rice, barley and corn, were forbidden. Even seemingly unrelated foods such as peas and peanuts weren't allowed, and pastries had to be made with yeast-free Passover flour, which doesn't rise during baking. I had to hand it to the chefs - even with these restrictions, the food at the rehearsal dinner was very tasty.
Dad got up and thanked everyone for coming, and then David and I both got up to speak. I started out by saying, "I want to echo my dad's comments in thanking everyone for flying halfway around the world to attend David's and my special day. Regardless of how you may feel about the legitimacy of gay relationships, I want to express my gratitude for your being here and showing your solidarity with the family, and for your support. The one thing I know is I did not choose to be gay. I did not choose to defy God. I did not wake up one day and say, 'I think I'd rather love a boy than a girl, and have everyone hate me for it.' No, that's not how it works.
"I did not choose to be gay . . . it chose me. I did not turn my back on God . . . God made me this way. If there is a god, I have absolutely no doubt that this is what she wanted me to be." That remark got a round of light laughter from my relatives.
I continued, "Growing up gay can be a very lonely experience. I didn't know there were others like me, and I certainly didn't think I'd ever find someone who could share my love. Being gay was a secret I kept to myself . . . until the day I met David. Suddenly there was someone who shared my interests, my likes, my dislikes, and my love. It didn't take us long to figure each other out, and to realize we would spend our lives together."
Picking up the story, David continued, "Of course the Hasidic community has an even worse attitude toward gays than Orthodox Judaism in general, and once my father realized I was gay, he sent me here, to Israel, to complete my education in a more restrictive environment away from the temptations I faced in New York. Unfortunately, it took a terrorist rocket to put things in perspective."
"When I heard that David had been injured," I continued, "I came here immediately, and we faced David's adversity together. Never again would we be separated. It was then that I realized just how deep my love for him had become."
"Yes, it was then I realized how deeply I was in love with Danny," David echoed. "I tried to push him away, now that I had a disability, but he wouldn't let me. We faced our challenges together. Through our love, we grew stronger. We've carved out a new future for both of us . . . a future that will meet both of our needs."
"And now we are one . . . one heart, one life, one love," I concluded. "A future rabbi, and a scientist. Tomorrow, the joining of our souls will be complete. Thank you all for coming to bear witness to the unification of our spirit."
That was supposed to be the end of the prepared remarks, but as the applause died down, David's mother got up to speak. "I just wanted to say something," she said. "First of all, I'm sorry your father couldn't be here, David, but he's a very stubborn man. There are principles, and there's love, and sometimes our principles can blind us to the love we hold dear.
"I've known you were gay for quite a while. I think I first noticed you had a crush on one of your friends when you were eight, and as much as I tried to deny it, over the years, I couldn't help but notice things. I had a lot of time to think about it and, like you, I concluded that what you are is what God expected you to be. You didn't choose to be gay . . . you just are.
"So how do we reconcile this with what is in the Torah? Who am I to say? I'm not a Talmudic scholar. But then, neither are those who would condemn you. It's not my place, or theirs, to do so. What I do know is that you're a good person . . . a wonderful person, David, and I don't think you could find a better husband to commit to if you searched another hundred years.
"Danny," she said as she turned to me, "I liked you from the moment I met you. You are a good, kind young man. You're going to be a rabbi, even though you don't believe in God!" I didn't know she knew.
Turning to the audience, she said, "He doesn't believe in God. How can a rabbi not believe in God? Well let me tell you, it's easy to be a rabbi when you believe in God. What Danny's doing takes extreme courage. He doesn't believe, and yet in spite of this, he thinks there is a higher calling, and he's willing to place his own interests aside to serve humanity. Isn't he an incredible young man? A true mensch?" After another round of applause, she concluded by saying, "You take good care of my David, Danny. I'm counting on that."
"You have my word," I said in reply, with tears in my eyes. I noticed that David was crying, too.
The day of our commitment ceremony dawned bright and sunny, but then it quickly clouded up and I feared the worst. Fortunately, the rain never came and by early afternoon, the sun was peeking through the overcast skies. Because it was Shabbat, we couldn't begin the wedding until after sunset, but we decided to treat our guests to a little concert in the Rothberg Amphitheater just before the Havdallah service that would formally conclude Shabbat.
We were dressed in formalwear - a first in our lives for both of us. The one concession we made was to wear black, dressy sneakers rather than shiny patent leather shoes - otherwise we might have had serious difficulty staying on our skateboards. Yes, we were going to skate, in formalwear, and sing and play our musical instruments. Technically, we weren't supposed to play musical instruments while it was still Shabbat, but there was nothing traditional about anything we were doing.
At least David had experience with riding a skateboard in dress clothes. This was totally new to me. I did practice it a bit, and the aerodynamics were definitely different, but not by that much. We could do this, but it would be strange compared to our usual skating attire of board shorts and no shirt. At one point, I'd suggested to David we dress that way for the ceremony, but he nixed the idea.
As he'd put it, "When we're old, do you want to look back at photo after photo of us wearing only board shorts at our commitment ceremony?"
"I suppose not," I'd answered, "but I bet those pictures would be hot, especially the ones of you."
"I can see you'll be a dirty old man," had been his reply.
So now we were dressed in black tuxedos and white shirts, with red ties and red cummerbunds that beautifully accented David's coppery eyes and red hair, and contrasted nicely with my black hair. I was practically quaking with raw energy and nervousness as the hour approached for us to begin. Because it was still Shabbat, we couldn't use an amplified sound system as we otherwise might have, but the acoustics of the amphitheater were nearly perfect.
When it was time, I began the program by shouting, "Hello, everyone!"
This got a rousing "Hello" from the audience, from friends and family alike, and from curious passers by, who were quickly filling the remaining seats.
"I want to thank everyone for coming, especially those of you who came from America to share this occasion with us. Today is a very important day for David and me as we formally commit ourselves to one another. It's hard to believe, but it has been nearly a year since we first met on the Lower East Side of New York City. I was just sitting there, minding my own business, when this boy with flaming red hair and dressed in formal Hasidic garb glided by on his skateboard. I couldn't help but stare . . ."
At that cue, David started to slowly glide by on his skateboard as he said, "And I saw this boy staring at me and wondered who in the world was that weirdo who was staring at me, but somehow I knew that my life had changed forever."
"Our lives had changed forever," I continued. "It was love at first sight. Just two days later, we stood side-by-side on his terrace, looking out at the East River."
"All my life, I'd been waiting for someone to share that view with me," David resumed, "and now he was by my side."
"Unfortunately," I continued, "we didn't yet live in the same city, and so we corresponded every day by e-mail, text message, and on our cell phones. David came to visit for my birthday, and then for my brother's bar mitzvah, and then he came down to help us paint our house in preparation for our upcoming move."
"We spent the Independence Day holiday together in Washington," David continued the story. "All-in-all, we spent much of our summer together, getting to know each other, deepening our love."
We both started to slowly glide on our skateboards as David strummed on his guitar and I played my recorder. The first tune we'd chosen was Fisher's I Will Love You (©2000, Jimmy and Doug's Farmclub.com). This was a gentle song with endearing lyrics that really spoke to us. Fisher was the first group to successfully market itself over the Internet, and one of the few that survived the collapse of mp3.com. After completing a complete verse in melody only, David started to sing in his stunningly beautiful falsetto.
Til my body is dust
til my soul is no more
I will love you, love you
Til the sun starts to cry
and the moon turns to rust
I will love you, love you . . .
Even though we'd hardly done anything more than sing, the applause was deafening.
David picked up the story. "Love knows no boundaries, but a love between two boys is not easy to understand in the context of our history. The Torah and the Talmud are unforgiving. While Danny and I knew in our hearts that the love we shared was not wrong and that it was what God intended for us, others did not see it that way. My father decided that I should make Aliyah to the Holy Land and complete my high school education here in Israel."
For our next song, we chose Blue Merle's Every Ship Must Sail Away (©2005, The Island Def Jam Music). Sadly, Blue Merle split up as a group not long after recording their first album, but their music remained among my favorites, and this song fit the mood perfectly. It was still a soft, somewhat slow song with some upbeat rhythms that worked well with a few skating stunts we injected at just the right points, helping to emphasize the feeling of despair.
Have you ever heard the sounds in the shadows of a song?
Have you ever felt the words blow right threw from beyond?
Years pass people change, Bluer skies could turn to grey
Though its gonna hurt for now every ship must sail away
Though its gonna hurt for now
Though its gonna hurt for now
Though its gonna hurt for now every ship must sail way . . .
"I had just found my David," I continued the story, "but he was taken away from me. I thought that his being taken from New York and moved to the land of our forefathers and mothers was the worst thing that could happen, but I was wrong. Our world came crashing down on us when I picked up the paper one day to discover that the kibbutz where David lived had been the target of a terrorist rocket attack."
"It all happened so fast," David shouted as he violently strummed a discordant note on his guitar and executed a perfect back-flip. "One moment, I was praying, and the next I was surrounded by death and destruction, and my right hand lay pinned underneath the rubble."
"I didn't know the extent of David's injuries," I said, "only that he'd been brought to Hadassah Hospital. Within a few days, I was sitting by his bedside, his injury no longer his alone. From that moment on, I vowed that it would take a lot more than bigotry, or terrorist rockets, or even David's own feelings of inadequacy to keep us apart, ever again."
For our next song, we chose Dido's See the Sun (©2003, Arista Records, Inc.), a beautiful ballad about dealing with the loss of a close friend. We changed the words a little, however, to make it more relative to dealing with loss in general - the demons David faced during the early days of his recovery in many ways were his own. This time, I started singing the melody, and then switched to playing it on my recorder as he picked it up.
I'm comin' round
To open the blinds
You can't hide here any longer
My God, you need
To rinse those puffy eyes
You can't lie still any longer
And you probably don't want to hear "Tomorrow's another day"
But I promise you you'll see the sun again
And you're asking me why pain's the only way to happiness
And I promise you you'll see the sun again . . .
This time as the song progressed, our skating became progressively more daring and synchronized. By the time the song concluded, we were skating in perfect synchrony, executing jump after jump and flip after flip. The intended effect was to show the triumph of the human spirit. What we got was a friggin' standing ovation.
"Our love emerged stronger than ever," David continued. "I worked my ass off, and learned to use my left hand to do the work of three right hands in my previous life. But more than anything, we built a new life for ourselves . . . together."
"I rediscovered my religion in a way I never thought possible," I added. "David and I became involved with the International Institute for Humanistic Secular Judaism, and I realized that I truly wanted to become a rabbi. It was at this time that we learned that early university admission might be a possibility, and that possibility became a reality. And through it all, our love continued to grow."
For our next song, we chose a faster-paced love song by a lesser-known group, the Benjy Davis Project's I Love You (©2008, Rock Ridge Music, LLC). Right away, we skated with frenzy as David sang the melody with his beautiful voice. When we came to the chorus, we sang it together.
I love you deeper than I can swim
Feel my lungs caving in
Nobody's saving me now
I love you stronger than I can hold
Worth more than dying for
Nobody's saving me now
Oh, you're so much better than I deserve
More than these stupid words
Page after page scribbled down
I'm going crazy, so crazy and nobody's saving me now . . .
By the time we finished this song, we'd worked up quite a sweat, but we didn't care. We were having a blast, and so was the audience, our families and friends. This was like no wedding that had ever been, nor like any that was likely to ever be again.
As the sun slowly moved lower and lower in the sky and the shadows got longer and longer, we began to get a little nervous, but I suppose that was only natural. "Yes," I continued, "we've told you the story of our love . . . a love that will stand the test of time. David and I intend to take our vows tonight. We've already been together for better and for worse, and we're gonna be together ''till death do us part', and perhaps beyond. Our last song of the afternoon is, literally, about love that transcends the grave."
For our finale, we had chosen an incredibly beautiful, if not slightly morbid ballad by Keane, Bedshaped (©2004, Universal Island Records, Ltd). Again, David started singing in his hauntingly beautiful falsetto as I accompanied him on my recorder. When it came to the chorus, I sang while he played his guitar. The effect was magical.
Don't laugh at me
Don't look away
You'll follow me back
With the sun in your eyes
And on your own
Bedshaped and legs of stone
You'll knock on my door and up we'll go
In white light
I don't think so
But what do I know?
What do I know?
I know . . .
As the last chord died away, the audience rose to its feet and again gave us a thunderous standing ovation. David and I put our arms around each other and took a bow as a wedding canopy, a chuppah, materialized from out of nowhere and was assembled behind us. Izzy and Shimmy held up two of the poles supporting the structure, while two of our friends from the University, Ravi and Ben, held up the other two. Both of our mothers and our rabbi joined us under the canopy as first the Havdallah service, and then the commitment ceremony got underway.
By now, I was in a daze and honestly couldn't say if I was coming or going.
Suddenly, there was a commotion toward the back of the amphitheater. A man was rushing down the steps. It was David's father! Oh no! Was he trying to stop the ceremony?
"David!" he shouted as he reached the lower level, "I completely disagree with what you are doing, but you are my only son, and God willing, a son only gets married once in his lifetime. It was a mistake for me to think I could stay away from your wedding."
I couldn't believe it. The Rebbi had come halfway around the world to attend our commitment ceremony.
"Abba, you . . . you traveled on Shabbat?" David asked his father. I hadn't even realized it but, yes, David's father must have traveled on the Sabbath to have arrived just in time. The Orthodox would never travel on Shabbat except in an emergency.
"Squeezing his son's shoulder, he said, "David, I'm breaking more than a few rules by being here."
Pulling a document of some sort out of his breast pocket and opening it up, he continued, "This is an Israeli marriage license. I've already filled it out for you, and it will be perfectly legal to file it in the morning. I just have to affix my seal to it, and they will have to file it. You'll note that I crossed out the word 'bride' and inserted 'groom'.
"I've already signed as your parent to give my permission for you to marry at the age of sixteen, and I just need one of your parents, Danny," he said as he looked right at me, "to sign as well. And of course I need both of you to sign too."
This was all surreal. I understood what the Rebbi was saying, but I still wasn't getting it.
"Have the two of you signed your Ketubah?" he asked. The ketubah is the written marriage contract, largely symbolic, that is associated with all Jewish weddings. Often ornate and usually framed for display, ours was no exception.
"Yes," we both answered.
"Good, then if you'll sign this, we can get on with it."
"You . . . you're gonna marry us?" David asked. My eyes opened wide as saucers when my fiance stated what should have been obvious to me. That's exactly what David's father had come here to do - to perform the marriage ceremony himself. That's why he brought a marriage certificate. This was no longer a commitment ceremony. This was a Goddamn freakin' real wedding, and the Rebbi was gonna perform it.
"The man you love left everything he had behind . . . his family, his friends and all he knew, to come to Israel to be with you," David's father answered. "This life of yours . . . this gay . . . goes against everything we believe, but if you can only be with a man, you couldn't have found a better one than Danny," he added with a warm smile. "If you're going to live this life, David, the least I can do is make it legal.
"I am one of a select few American rabbis who is recognized by the religious authorities and can perform weddings in Israel. At least I am for now. That probably will no longer be the case come tomorrow morning, but it won't matter to me after that. I'm sure there will be those who will try to challenge the legality of your marriage in court, but they will fail. There is nothing in Israeli law that prevents two men from marrying one another. The only criterion is Jewish Law. Never before have I questioned the Law, but I cannot bear the thought of my son never getting married.
"The Orthodox rabbinate may try to invalidate your marriage. They'll almost certainly declare it null and void, and they may even try to remove me from the rabbinate, but none of that will matter. Tonight, all that matters is that I have the authority to certify this marriage, and once it's recorded, there won't be anything anyone else can do about it.
"So let us make history, boys, as you become the first gay couple to legally marry in the State of Israel."
David and I were both in tears by the time his father finished explaining what he was about to do. We really were getting married tonight, but that was only the half of it. Having David's father here with us, performing the ceremony even though he disagreed with our being gay, was an affirmation from him we'd never even dreamt was possible.
And so just as the last fringe of coral light disappeared from the western sky, David and I recited our vows and slipped gold rings onto each of our hands, and then we each took a sip of wine from a goblet that signified our union, and finally stomped on the glass, so that no other lips would take a sip from the goblet of our lives.
David and I kissed and, surrounded by our parents, we gave his father a tearful, long embrace. The words of love between David and his father had the rest of the family in tears as well. The celebration lasted long into the night. Yes, we knew our marriage would undoubtedly be challenged in court, but as David's father had said, we would ultimately prevail. However, for this night, here and now, in front of friends and family - even David's father - everything was perfect.
David and I were as one, beginning our lives - a couple of sixteen year olds thrust by circumstances into adulthood, and emerging as a married couple, embarking on a wondrous journey together. We were fish out of water no more.
The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of David of Hope in editing this story this story and Alastair in proofreading it, as well as the support of Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Nifty for hosting it. I would also like to thank Rigel for correcting some of my errors with respect to traditional Orthodox Judaism. This story was written as part of the Gay Authors 2009 Novella Writing Contest.