Archive for the ‘Star Trek’ Category

Yesterday, I had the delight of fulfilling a couple’s wish of incorporating some quotes from Star Trek: The Next Generation into their wedding service.

Who says weddings should be all serious and no fun?

As someone who once had a life-sized cutout of Jean Luc Picard in my living room, this was one request I was all too happy to fulfill. After a few hours googling around the vast terrain of famous Star Trek quotes online, I settled on two that worked perfectly for their love story.

First, some background information: Rob and Lynn were married at a hotel ballroom in King of Prussia northwest of Philadelphia. It was a 25-minute marriage ceremony built around the traditions of an Irish Handfasting ceremony. After a variety of readings (by me and others), sharing from a cup of wine, and a homily sharing how they met and their love story, we ended with a ring exchange and fasting of hands. In the midst of all this were our two chances for a little laughter:


Jean Luc overlooks his home village in the episode “The Inner Light.”

1) While giving some brief advice for their newly married life, I offered this wisdom from Patrick Stewart’s character, Jean Luc Picard, who said: “Seize the time. Live now; make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again!”

It was a happy coincidence that this line comes from one of the best ST episodes EVER: Called “The Inner Light,” the story centers on Jean Luc who is knocked unconscious by some sort of space probe. When he wakes up, he is on another planet, living the life of an elderly grandfather and master flute-player. His home world is about to be destroyed by its own star, which is going super nova.

(To learn more about this episode, read here.)

While he lives this other virtual life, Picard becomes a literal time capsule for this dying planet’s entire culture — he is what survives. A beautiful folk melody he learns while living this alternate life was featured in a later ST episode; he plays the song with a fellow musician in a Jeffries Tube on the Enterprise. It is this later rendition clipped from YouTube at the start of this blog post.

This was way too much of an insider reference to explain in the wedding, but it was all the more cool that in this episode, Jean Luc learns what sounds to be like an Irish folk song. I chose the quote because of its content — it was the perfect sentiment to say at that moment in the ceremony. But it literally gave me goose bumps when I started looking into which episode the quote came from, and to find out it happened to be from the one single episode in 15+ years of ST episodes that had an Irish theme to it. The couple who got married found me to be their officiant because I was the one person they could find who had an understanding and love for the Irish handfasting ceremony.

It’s as if the stars all aligned in the universe to say: “Yes, these are the words meant for these special people at this special moment!”
I love it when the mysterious workings of the world reveal themselves!

2) The other ST quote I used in the Irish Handfasting wedding was this one, which required a little framing. In explaining how the groom, Rob, fell in love with Lynn, I said: “In other words, as our friend Lt. Commander Data would put it, ‘Your neural pathways had become accustomed to her sensory input patterns’ — and that is no small thing!”

~~ pause. wait for the chuckle. ~~

It was fun. While officiating a wedding, it is always fun to say something small, and silly, that nudges the audience a little bit out of their loop! 🙂


It has been several years since I had the invitation to get zany in a wedding ceremony. The last time I had this chance was for a lovely couple (who now has a beautiful baby!) to incorporate their super hero, Indiana Jones, into their traditional egalitarian Jewish wedding ceremony. Here is how I was able to do that during the “love story” portion of their ceremony:

“Jacob and Sarah, although you two have only known each other a few years, you have taken to heart the motto of your hero, Indiana Jones, which he shared in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark. “It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage!” From co-ed softball and kickball teams to hiking trips to canning eight batches of applesauce in one summer — you have become an integral and supportive part of each other’s lives. Your love story is a reminder of how ordinary, and yet how extraordinary, true love really is.

Going forward, you will, no doubt, face new challenges and lessons. As Indiana Jones said to his students in the Last Crusade, “We do not follow maps to buried treasure, and X never, ever marks the spot.” You will have to blaze your own trail into the wild unknowns of the future — be it career changes, health challenges, and the greatest challenge of all — parenthood.

But nurtured by the love you have cultivated for each other,  the patience, kindness and attention you have shown, you will no doubt be able to reach places in your own individual lives that you would never have reached on your own.


Read Full Post »

Ahhh, it’s that time of year again; time for me to struggle with that oh-so rabbinic of holidays, Shavuot.

I love the original Shavous — a holiday celebrating the first fruits and vegetables to appear in the season, and a reason to travel long distances to share one’s bounty with neighbors and priests. That’s what the holiday was all about in the Torah. It was a spring harvest holiday, the yin-yang twin of the other harvest holiday that takes place in the fall: Sukkot. On this day, the Torah tells us, people would pack up the First Fruits of their harvest and make the long pedestrian trek to Jerusalem.

Take a moment and picture what a rag-tag scene that must have been. Donkeys and babies. Food and water canteens made, I am imagining, from the bladders of animals.

Then the stodgy halachists of the rabbinic era (c 300 CE) got ahold of Shavuot. Now the holiday has become burdened with the (much later) story that Shavuot was the day that Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. It’s a nice story, a nice myth. The problem is that so many generations of Jews have turned this myth into “history.”

When a story like this becomes “history,” the inevitable question becomes who has the right (and power and authority) to interpret these Mosaic laws “given by God.” The rabbis of the rabbinic era made the holiday about the passing of law (and their right to interpret it) rather than the passing of rains and seasons. An entire system spanning 2,000 years of Jewish history has been built on the idea of rabbis declaring human laws as “coming from God.”

It’s not any different than the power-grab done by every other major world religion (and probably every minor religion too.) But as a post-Enlightenment human being blessed to live in a relatively free world, I’d love for my religion and my people to just speak honestly about why things are the way they are.

I wish to keep my myths restricted to the reading of JRR Tolkien. And the holodec on Star Trek.

Sigh. I could use a little Rabbi Rami Shapiro at a time like this, and indeed, a quick google search led me to one. Rabbi Shapiro can always be counted on for breathing fresh air, insight, spirit, and soul into every last creaky nook of our tradition. And on the topic of Shavuot, he does not disappoint. Here is a prayer R. Shapiro offers as an alternative aleiynu, for a Friday night Shavuot service. (The aleiynu is a standard prayer that appears in different versions throughout Jewish liturgy.)

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

It is up to us to hallow Creation, to respond to Life with the fullness of our lives. It is up to us to meet the World, to embrace the Whole even as we wrestle with its parts. It is up to us to repair the World and to bind our lives to Truth.

Therefore we bend the knee and shake off the stiffness that keeps us from the subtle graces of Life and the supple gestures of Love. With reverence and thanksgiving we accept our destiny and set for ourselves the task of redemption.

— Rami Shapiro

Read Full Post »