Aside from being lonely, I was proud. I wasn't going to ask to be invited over to people's houses. Instead, I figured I would just hang out in the Stern Caf over Shabbat. Luckily for me, I met an amazing trio my second Shabbat at Stern. The trio asked me whether I wanted to get pizza that Saturday night. I agreed. They were my first real friends in New York.
I've been helped, cared for and had fun with all of them. But the friend to whom I've remained closest of that original group is Lightman.
Lightman is a brilliant violinist. He plays with all his heart and soul. He is also a linguist, a health nut and a master of biblical Hebrew. Lightman taught me Hebrew throughout my time in Stern. I owe him for ensuring that I didn't fail out of Dr. Steiner's class. But to me, he's more than his accomplishments. His talents are amazing and he ought to be lauded for them, but when I think of him, it's his soul that moves me. I love Lightman because he has a depth of spirit that is almost unsurpassed. Beauty touches him. Whether it's the thin sound of an operatic wail or the clash of cymbals as an orchestra reaches its crescendo, Lightman understands. He is there with you in the pit of the valley, in the horrors and the torture chambers that few visit, let alone comprehend. When I needed a light in the darkness, I found him, and what is more, he found me.
Lightman was the one who made me a surprise birthday party. I had never had one before. Lightman is also the one who videoed a different party of mine, one where I was extremely touched and moved to see what everyone present had to say about me. (It was a little like the Living Funeral described in Tuesdays with Morrie and I still count it as one of the most heartmelting moments of my life). Lightman is the one who would cheer me up when I was at my darkest, raising me up from the depths. Lightman would make sure that I would attend Broadway shows and operas and that my artistic side was always validated. He offered me strength and compassion and there are many times I would have fallen but for him.
When Lightman first discovered the Tent-Peg Wielder, I didn't react at my best. I was a bit like a displaced sibling in a family structure, one who didn't understand that transition and how to make it. But over time, I grew to know her and to trust her. I grew to see her as one of the best, kindest and most loving people I have ever met. She is so spirited, spunky, idealistic and scholarly that it blows me away. She is inspired, inspiring and glorious. She has dealt with so much and has managed to come out on top despite it all. She has dealt with all scenarios, even those that were not ideal, with aplomb. She is a fearless editor and is extremely loyal. She is incredibly creative. She is brave. Her courage is of the masked kind, the sort that doesn't reveal itself openly. She doesn't plunge into people's houses to rescue their dying children; no, her courage is of the internal sort. She takes her stands and she makes them heroically.
Her thoughts on Jewish History opened my eyes to an entirely new way of seeing Judaism. For me, Judaism is an incredibly personal religion. How I relate to God, how Judaism offers me a sense of structure that helps me to be at my most healthy - this is what is most important when it comes to my connection to the religion. But TPW is less selfish. For her, Judaism is about Jewish History, the incredible marvels, scandals and horrors that our people have survived. History to her is part of our heritage, something to learn about and to wear as a badge of honor. Our history defines and enlightens us.
She is also an amazing teacher. As a Hebrew School instructor, she married her creative talent to her love for Jewish texts in order to create innovative and engaging lessons. Her children wrote her kind and colorful missives expressing their love for her. And her creativity doesn't stop there. I had the honor of spending one very memorable Rosh Hashana with her- one where those in attendance ate a real lamb's head rather than a fish's head. She was the one who had the patience, initiative and sheer mischievous desire to track down a sheep's head, season it, cook it and finally, serve it.
I am amazed by TPW's diligence and precision. When she decided she was interested in learning a new language, she put all her effort, talent and mental agility into mastering it. When she prepares for classes at her graduate program, she makes sure to do all the readings in advance. She really commits herself to whatever is important to her. Her acuity and analysis, while impressive, are not all she has to offer. She is also incredibly artistic. I own pieces of artwork that she has made (whether in the form of greeting cards or snowglobes) and they are exquisite. I hope she fulfills her dream of reproducing her artwork commercially and selling it online.
I am extremely happy to share with you that tonight marks the engagement of Lightman to the Tent-Peg Wielder. It's been a long journey and they've come a long way. I am looking forward to seeing them join with one another in a shared dance of art, music, Tanakh, Hebrew, Jewish History and beyond. I hope that they are blessed.