My daughter is getting married and we are having a Jewish wedding. Her father and stepfather are not Jewish. I would like her to dance with her dads to “Butterfly Kisses” by Bob Carlisle, but some lyrics might not be appropriate at a Jewish wedding.
For example, one paragraph says “Butterfly Kisses after bedtime prayer.” My daughter’s future mother-in-law objects to this — she tells me that Jews don’t say bedtime prayers. I am not sure this is true because I feel that God doesn’t really care when you speak with Him. I am trying so hard to be respectful. This song means a lot, because when my daughter was young her dads always gave her butterfly kisses on her cheek. Can you help?
I honor your attempt to keep the peace. Weddings tend to bring out not necessarily the best in otherwise level-headed, well-meaning folks. Must be part of the magic of the day.
I see three issues here that need attention: first the issue of Jewish bedtime prayers; second, the matter of challenging in-laws; and finally, it may be helpful to link your question with larger notions apropos this time of the year — that slow but sure advance of the High Holidays.
Jews do say prayers at bedtime. Actually, when in doubt it would be safe to assume that given just about any situation, there is a fitting Jewish prayer. Recall that instructive scene in the indispensable classic of Jewish films, Fiddler on the Roof? The rabbi is approached with a sheilah, a question of Jewish law: “Is there a blessing for the Czar?”
Though it is not among the most critical questions posed to a rabbi, it surely has become the most well-known. In this slightly self-deprecating, albeit comical scene, a truth is hidden: Jews have lots of blessings for lots of occasions, including bedtime.
In fact, our tradition teaches that one should recite the most basic and perhaps most well-known of all prayers, the Sh’ma at bedtime. The core obligation of the Sh’ma, as it states in the words of the prayer itself, is that one should recite it when one lies down and when one rises. Hence, the time for the recitation of the Sh’ma is in the morning and in the evening.
Though the saying of the Sh’ma is incorporated into synagogue liturgy, there is a practice to recite the prayer again in private as one lies down to go to sleep.
This saying of the Sh’ma is combined with penitential paragraphs that reflect the precarious circumstances of lying down to sleep. Hamlet knew of these wobbly moments and himself declares: “To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: aye, there’s the rub; for in that sleep of death what dreams may come?”
The Jewish prayer evokes this primal fear. To paraphrase; Please, God and God of my ancestors, lay me to sleep in peace and awaken me in peace. May I sleep quietly, undisturbed by bad dreams or apprehensions. May I be whole before You; may You light up my eyes lest I sleep the sleep of death, for You bring light to the eyes of the living.
Jews do have bedtime prayers, though they are not of the kneel-before-the-bed-sort, we do have them.
Onto the in-laws. When Adam sees Eve for the first time, the Torah tells us that he remarks, “Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” That Eve was fashioned from Adam may cause pause to feminists — it does indeed lay the groundwork for an essential element crucial to marriage.
We ask a lot of a young couple. They stand under the chuppah, the marriage canopy, and there we join them in marriage. How peculiar, these two hitherto unrelated persons are now expected to behave as family! How can this happen? The groom’s family has its customs and idiosyncrasies and the bride’s family has its own charming eccentricities, yet we say to them, “You two are now family.”
The Torah wisely prefigures this astounding phenomenon and sets up an object lesson for eternity. Adam and Eve were one: “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” Husband and wife are now truly related in the most intimate way possible. That’s a miracle and perhaps a painful leap for in-laws. The sooner parents-in-law get this, the happier will their children be. A husband and wife’s first devotion must be to each other. Mom and Dad, move over.
The first place for in-laws to display this approach is in the wedding plans. Though it is never easy, taking into consideration your child’s in-laws and their opinions is critical, though easier said then done. Indeed, it may very well have been called Paradise, because of the very absence of in-laws. Humor aside, only we can make our lives paradise-like and that must be through our own actions. Wedding peace leads to marriage peace and that is certainly the ultimate goal for all.
In this day and age of so many battles worldwide, you and I may not be able to make peace in the world, but we can surely own the responsibility for peace in our homes, family and community. It might even be the first step to that larger peace out there waiting to happen.
Finally, I can’t help linking your question to this time of the year. The days are shortening, the summer is over and we Jews are thinking about t’shuvah, repentance.
The Mishna teaches us that though with Yom Kippur we can achieve forgiveness, that forgiveness is restricted to the God/human realm. For forgiveness to be realized between human beings it must be attended to before the lofty Day of Atonement.
Before one approaches God with feelings of regret and remorse, an individual is expected to repair the brokenness between one’s fellow persons. That usually involves some messiness.
Our Torah helps us navigate the world — being at odds with others is joyless. Let us rise to the occasion. This is the season for repair: in-laws, family and friends are a good place to start.