As someone recently engaged, I have begun reading Anita Diamant’s The New Jewish Wedding. Near the beginning of her thorough examination of all the factors that go into planning a 21st century Jewish wedding she discusses money, saying:
“Money is a potent symbol. For many people, giving money is an important way of expressing love. A parent’s refusal to pick up the tab for his child’s wedding celebration is a powerful statement of disapproval. Likewise, refusing a parent’s offer to pay can represent rejection. Money also determines control” (pg. 40)
While this is clearly crucial background information to the herculean task that is preparing a wedding with as few internecine conflicts as possible, it points to a deep problem in our society. Because while it is beautiful for parents to be able to express their love for their children by throwing a lavish wedding celebration, this truth that Diamant expresses implies that those will less money are somehow less capable of expressing their love. No one is claiming that paying for things is the way to express love, or the most important. But living in a culture in which, when family comes together to celebrate, the lack of a material present is felt more acutely than the lack of a hug or an evening of laughter and good cheer, one cannot be blamed for feeling the pressure to conform to such an ideal.
This is a truth so often and quickly disregarded that it literally cannot be stated enough times: when the dust settles, when the ground above our coffins has been patted down, it is the time we spent with those we loved, and not the material objects that we purchased for each other, that will be remembered. A wedding is the perfect reminder of this, as the money spent is simply a means to the end of gathering all of one’s closest friends and family together to share in the joy of two people publicly proclaiming their love for each other.
As we approach the holiest time of the Jewish year, let us try to remember to perceive and express the deepest love we have for those around us. Let us focus not on the gadgets or wrapping paper, but on the close emotional connections that we all yearn for and can create only through spending our most valuable resource of all — time — with each other.