“At one wedding where I officiated,” said Rabbi Dov Fisher, “a very prominent political person was among the assembled guests. At the bride and groom’s request, we called on him to come to the chupah and recite one of the seven blessings. I handed him the goblet, he recited the blessing and then, rather than give the goblet back to me, he started drinking from the goblet; the groom and I had to wrestle the goblet out of the guy’s hand.” The rest of the guests were at first embarrassed for the gentleman, and then started to giggle—quietly.
Humor sometimes happens at the most inopportune times. Like when you’re watching a serious play with your spouse or partner, in the middle of a serious service, or even during dinner at a quiet restaurant. Something triggers your giggles, and off you both go—after all, laughter is contagious! (I can’t help but think of an old Mary Tyler Moore episode when she couldn’t contain herself at the funeral of Chuckles the Clown). So while in some instances it may be embarrassing and a little unfortunate—laughter is beneficial to life and marriage.
“Whenever I meet with couples months before the wedding, and I really want to get to know them,” said Rabbi Arnie Rachlis, “one of the questions that I ask each couple is: ‘What is it that you love so much about each other?’” The answer that he gets most often is: “He/she makes me laugh. Over the years,” Rachlis continued, “I found that people want partners who can laugh at themselves and at life.”
It is pretty well accepted that there are several medical benefits to laughter. Our cardiovascular and respiratory systems, for example, benefit more from twenty seconds of robust laughter than from three minutes of exercise on a rowing machine. (And personally I’d rather laugh than row).
Humor brings more than just physiological benefits to a couple: it helps them cope. It relieves the tension that can build up between people as well as bond them together. Learning to laugh a little more just may save your life, not to mention your marriage. To paraphrase Henry Ward Beecher, “A marriage without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs—jolted by every pebble in the road.” Laughter can snap us out of melancholy, put things back into perspective, and provide the momentum to make the best of life.
Perhaps Joanne Woodward, widow of Paul Newman, was particularly apt when she said, “Sexiness wears thin after a while and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that’s a real treat.”
So with all the drama in the world and in our lives, it just may help if we lighten up. Α
Florence L. Dann, a fourth year rabbinical student at the Academy for Jewish Religion in LA has been a contributing writer to Jlife since 2004.