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You can’t hurry … fate
Categories: People, Utrinque Paratus

The story of Devorah and Daniel

By Leigh E. Rich

If there ever were a classic case of beshert, it would be the story of Daniel Bennett and Devorah Uriel. A classic case of fate taking its time, that is.

Married for a little less than nine months now and both in their 40s, Bennett and Uriel tell the tale of love at third sight, meeting first briefly at the Aleph Kalah Jewish Renewal event in Ft. Collins in 1995, where Uriel was living, and again at the Kalah in 1997. Both times, Bennett participated as a faculty member and Uriel as part of the planning committee.

“Neither of those meetings was very eventful,” Bennett says, with Uriel noting, “We met in passing.”

By 1999, however, with the Kalah in Corvallis, Ore., “It was different,” Uriel explains. “I guess there is something to be said about timing.”

And … perhaps … the frustrations of air travel. “It wasn’t until Shabbat at the end of the Kalah when I was trying to leave,” reports Bennett, executive director of the Colorado Agency for Jewish Education (CAJE) for the past four years. “I couldn’t get a flight out and I finally gave up.”

Sitting in the dorm room, frantically trying to return to Denver to plan CAJE’s first fundraising dinner honoring Max Frankel, Bennett remembers thinking, “G-d, I don’t know why, I don’t know what this is for, but I’m miserable.”

“I knew he was trying to leave,” admits psychotherapist Uriel, who told her future husband that she was glad he hadn’t gone yet. “He said, ‘Would you mind having Shabbos dinner with me?’”

A little over a year later they were married, in June, 2000.

Uriel, possibly the more assertive pursuer in the budding relationship, reminisces, “I was pretty certain early on that we could do some really amazing work together and growth together. If I hadn’t been persistent, the relationship could have faded away at several points.

“As focused as Daniel can be on work, if I hadn’t been there at that moment when he was open to hearing it,” things might have gone awry. “I initiated that.”

“The truth is, I am much more cautious. I was much less sure,” Bennett concedes.

“It was beshert and we just needed to walk through it.”

The couple, holding hands throughout their interview with the IJN, began dating in July, 1999, with Uriel in Ft. Collins and Bennett here in Denver. Bennett proposed the following March.

“Something just changed after a while,” Uriel says of the long-distance commitment. “It was difficult to be apart. It’s still difficult to be apart. He totally surprised me. I thought he’d probably propose in June.”

In what Bennett deems a “very traditional proposal with candlelight and a nice dinner” at a friend’s condo in Frisco, the proposal—like many other facets in their lives—was personal and meaningful. “I don’t really want to share a lot of this,” he says.

What the couple will share about that night’s events is the fact that Bennett proposed without a ring. Instead, he gave Uriel a loose diamond.

Bennett, one of three sons in a family of four children, was bequeathed the shiny stone. “My grandmother gave a ring to my mother. The ring had three diamonds in it”—one for each son when he became engaged.

The newly engaged couple then went to a jeweler together to choose a setting.

In two months time, Bennett and Uriel planned a summer wedding for “325 of our most dear friends” at Terrace Gardens in Englewood, with Rabbi Jack Gabriel, Uriel’s rebbe whom she says was “pivotal” in her move from Florida to Colorado 10 years ago.

The traditional Jewish ceremony included many “personal touches” of the bride and groom. They hand-painted the invitations with water colors; they recruited local musician Steve Brodsky, one of Bennett’s friends, as the cantor; and they used the chupah poles Bennett helped carve on Mt. Evans for Brodsky’s wedding as their own.

“We personalized the ceremony,” says Bennett. “The ritual objects were all very personal.”

Even the chupah itself had special significance. “This was Jack’s idea. We bought a beautiful tablecloth” to use as the chupah, explains Uriel. “Now it’s our Shabbos tablecloth. It was important to us that everything be meaningful and done intentionally. We weren’t willing to compromise.”

“On anything,” Bennett adds, finishing his wife’s thought as though they worked as one.

This uncompromising position on what’s important in the couple’s life could be the secret to their compatibility. “Both of us believe very strongly in working on ourselves” in terms of personal and spiritual growth, says Bennett.

“And neither of us believes that happens automatically. It’s a conscious choice of how you want to go through the world,” adds Uriel, who was trained at CSU and Boulder’s Naropa University. She now works for the Mental Health Corp. of Denver.

The couple says this commitment to their own lives and to Judaism was one of their main attractions to each other. “I was attracted to Devorah’s path and continue to be,” Bennett says. He also asks what it’s like to be a spiritual guru, sitting cross-legged at the mouth of a cave atop a mountain. “It’s pretty easy.”

The Jewish way, on the other hand, he says, asks how spiritual one can be when nothing seems to go right and even the daily chores are complicated and frustrating. “This is the true work. How can you live each day?”

“We both also have a basic belief that whatever happens in our life is spiritual work,” notes his wife. “Is there something out of balance in our life? It’s effortful and Daniel’s involved in that effort in his life.”

Taken from lessons in Judaism, Bennett says, “We’re going to do this and then understand it. What’s more important, my relationship with Devorah or my relationship with G-d? If I ever said Devorah, I’ve probably lost them both.”

As the first anniversary approaches for the never-been-married Bennett and the mother of two teenage boys Uriel, living together after years of singlehood, especially for Bennett, has been an adjustment.

“I think we’re still negotiating. Devorah’s much more easygoing than I am. She doesn’t need a specific system. I’m the one who has to have the specific system. I’m learning to let go a little bit.”

“It’s about melding lives,” Uriel states succinctly.

While getting married later in life has its own difficulties, the two note the benefits of coming together now.

“I feel like I know myself more,” she says. “I feel less threatened by the world and my partner’s needs and my desires. It’s much harder to throw me off balance.”

Bennett reports, “The advantage for me was that I wasn’t ready and Devorah wasn’t in front of me. Marriage has its own set of challenges and its own set of blessings. Sometimes the challenges are blessings.

“We believe that, number one, G-d guides us and we do our part to be proactive and make choices, and number two, that truth and honesty are at the center of it all.”

As for what’s next for the couple, they aren’t so certain. “We’re going to have our honeymoon first,” Bennett laughs. They leave for Belize today.

“I don’t know what’s next,” he admits. “I have to take a deep breath sometimes. That’s not so much the focus for us. The focus is less on what’s next than on what’s now. Who am I going to be? Who are we going to be together in this world? The question isn’t where or what, it’s who.

“We’re just beginning to untap the potential of what we can do together. It’s tough.”

“But it’s always tough,” Uriel acknowledges, no matter at what age two people marry and begin their lives together.

Bennett has no regrets about waiting so long. “It wasn’t time yet. I don’t think it’s coincidence that I didn’t notice Devorah in ‘95 or ‘97. I wasn’t ready. People say, ‘It’s about time.’ And I say, ‘No, no, it’s the perfect time.’” 

Rich, L. E. (2001, February 23). You can’t hurry … fate: The story of Devorah and Daniel. L’Chaim.

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