Posted 5 November 2008on:
– Baal Shem Tov
I can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted… I guess I should call it a semi-sabbatical, but I haven’t exactly been resting on my laurels and I have done a little lurking and a little commenting here and there, although on many occasion I really haven’t had anything to say for myself that was any different or any more original than what had already been said.
More or less as soon as we were back from Israel I was preparing for all the Jewish Festivals, lots and lots of them, four weeks in a row. As usual, good ol’ Ann had assorted houseguests and dinner guests. Then, because I was off work for all of them (actually the office was closed) I’m now working more days and longer hours to play catchup. I am also undergoing a course of weekly medical treatments (nothing sinister) which I hope will do me a lot of good healthwise, but I have to schlep to Notting Hill for them. Sadly the reason I am free this afternoon to post is because some poor soul caused the Central Line to be suspended and I couldn’t get there today. When I heard this news, my initial thought went to the people at Rachel’s work; seems today is redundancy day and I had horrendous thoughts of someone losing their job and hurling themselves under a train… echoes of the Great Depression.
I am reading voraciously. Amongst other good reads, someone recommended Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale… well it was different and compelling and evoked much discussion, which I would love to share with anyone who has read it. I seem to have been suffering from movie-mania lately too and chilling out in front of the box. I saw an ab brill film called The Illusionist; loved it loved it loved it. Also got to see the latest James Bond offering… boring boring boring.
Are you my friends across the Pond still debating the Presidency? I’m knackered… I found it all so fascinating I was up till 2.30 a.m. until exhaustion and a little common sense (yes I do have some sometimes) forced me to my bed. I’m wondering if the words on Obama’s lips is: “That’s another fine mess you got me into Stanley George!” Excuse me if I am being somewhat naive and okay, so he’s the first black American president, but have I lost the plot? Surely his colour is not an issue. Did he not win because he was 1) the better man for the job and 2) after 8 years of Bush/Republican rule… say no more! Good luck Obama… you will need tons of it and tons of support and I hope the honeymoon lasts for ever.
The wedding, and planning it, took on a life of its own and overtook mine. It was worth it; the whole trip was amazing, awesome, wicked, wonderful and many many more words I cannot begin to think of to describe it all. From the moment we arrived, not counting various meetings with the wedding planner, the venue, the band, the designer, etc, the rest was fun fun fun. Lots of cocktails and dinners out and parties as everyone arrived, then the Friday night saw 46 of us together for Shabbat dinner. The next morning was Daniel’s aufruf held at his late grandfather’s synagogue (near the British Embassy) followed by a beautiful meal in a hotel nearby. After Shabbat a girlfriend of Rachel’s took us to the mikveh; it was like a spa and enhanced this particular mitzvah. Sunday we were meant to chill out… yeah, some hope because the next day… drum roll, was THE DAY!
Okay, now the pics above are not the official ones and I’m sorry they are out of sequence; it’s the way I downloaded them. These were taken by my ex, Rachel’s daddy, so of course there’s none of yours truly 🙂 shame!!!
The first three pictures of Rachel are in the yichud room where she is waiting for Daniel to come and perform the bedeken ceremony following the tish (all explained in blue print below if you’re at all interested). The room was beautiful and these photos don’t do it justice. The official photos, when I do get hold of the disk from the young couple and download them on to this decrepit machine (or a new one if I ever get my act together) – has anyone got any suggestions for a good lightweight efficient effective laptop – not an apple? Where was I, oh yes, those pics will be much better but I’d better not hold my breath waiting for them.
Bedeken and Tish
The bedeken, which translates as “veiling,” is the groom’s veiling of his bride immediately before the ceremony. The custom is said to be based upon the Biblical story in which Jacob, intending to marry Rachel, accidentally marries her older sister Leah, who wore a veil. In addition to having the groom verify that he is marrying the right woman, the bedeken is often preceded by singing and dancing around the bride, who sits on a thronelike chair. Traditionally, the men gather around the groom for the tish, or groom’s “table.” At the tish, the nervous groom traditionally attempts to deliver some words about the Torah portion while his friends and family take the pressure off by constantly interrupting him with jokes, toasts, singing, and dancing. At the end of the tish, family and friends carry the groom into the bedeken for veiling and continue singing and dancing around the bride. Even if there are aspects of these customs that seem to be based on anachronistic values, such as the separation of men and women and the contrast of the bride sitting to be admired for her beauty, while the groom tries to teach, it is recommend that thinking about ways to incorporate the traditions that are comfortable and consistent with their values. They offer a way to start the celebration early and to get everyone in the right, festive frame of mind. If the gender separation is not something one feels comfortable with, the two ceremonies can be combined in one place. Some brides also try to teach something, an update that is quite popular. Finally, even if one doesn’t want a public bedeken, some couples do the veiling in a more private location, such as the rabbi’s study at the synagogue or in the yichud room.
The next photo is one of the first of the couple officially married after the chuppah… as I said when I get the official ones… blah blah blah, yeah yeah yeah
UNDER THE CHUPPAH
The “chuppah” is the most universally recognized symbol of a Jewish wedding, the structure under which the ceremony takes place, generally consisting of a cloth canopy, sometimes a tallit, beneath which the bride and groom stand. The wedding ceremony itself is sometimes referred to as the “chuppah,” often on invitations announcing the time for the ceremony. The ceremony itself is a conglomeration of legal recitations and customs. The wedding ceremony consists of two parts, erusin (also called kiddushin), which is the legal agreement by which the bride and groom are betrothed to each other, and nissuin, the nuptials and the active beginning of the new union between the bride and groom.
Circling is a great example of a custom with multiple variations that is attributed to different sources. The numbers of circuits is usually either seven or three. According to one variation, the bride circles the groom alone, while in another, she is escorted on either side by a bridesmaid with a candle. Sometimes, the bride is accompanied by the singing of a traditional hymn or with nigun, a wordless melody. The custom of circling is attributed to multiple sources and given multiple explanations. One source cited for the custom is a verse from Jeremiah: “for the Lord hath created a new thing in the Earth, a woman shall compass a man.” (Jeremiah 31: 21). One source for three circles is a verse from Hosea with three descriptions of God’s betrothal to Israel: “Thus says the Lord, I will betroth you to Me forever. I will betroth you with righteousness, with justice, with love, and with compassion. I will betroth you to Me with faithfulness, and you shall love the Lord.” (Hosea 2:21-22) The number seven is generally considered a number of good fortune in Judaism, and is attributed to various sources. One Kabbalistic explanation for the number seven is that it symbolizes the removal of seven shells of solitude encrusting the groom’s soul, so that it can be encompassed by the luminescence of his bride. As we mention above, many couples opt to update the custom by having the bride and groom walk around each other, or by having both walk around the chuppah together. No matter what variation feels most comfortable to the couple, they are encouraged to think about incorporating the custom of circling. It has endured as a custom for good reason; it can have a powerful effect on the bride and groom and everyone present.
The ceremony traditionally begins with greetings, customarily taken from Psalms (118:26), both to all present and to the bride and groom. The erusin ceremony then begins with the kiddush, the blessing over wine, followed by the birkat erusin, the betrothal blessings, after which the couple drinks the wine.
The Ring Ceremony
According to tradition, the central act of erusin is the groom’s giving and the bride’s acceptance of the ring, coupled with the recitation of the Hebrew formula known as haray aht, which translates as, “By this ring you are consecrated to me as my wife in accordance with the traditions of Moses and Israel.” The groom then completes the erusin ceremony by placing the ring on the bride’s hand, traditionally on her right index finger, which stems from the ancient belief that the index finger was directly connected to the heart. Today, many couples make the ring ceremony reciprocal by including the bride’s placement of a ring on the groom’s finger, accompanied by the bride’s recitation of either the same formula as the groom (haray atah) or with the recitation of another verse, such as the Hebrew verse that translates as, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Some Orthodox couples prefer to separate the bride’s placement of a ring on her groom’s finger by doing it later in the day, such as during yichud. Traditionally, in order to separate the erusin ceremony from the nissuin that follows, the ketubah (the written marriage contract) is read aloud and then handed by the groom to the bride. At some weddings, the groom hands the ketubah to the bride at the time of the bedeken.
Nissuin begins with a second kiddush, followed by the sheva berachot (the seven blessings) and yichud. The sheva berachot begin with the blessing over wine, then praise God for creation, for human life, for the bride and groom separately, for fertility and children, and finally in the sixth and seventh blessings, for the companionship and joy of the bride and groom together. The ceremony concluded, the groom then breaks a glass, and the bride and groom traditionally retreat to yichud, a moment of seclusion in which the bride and groom can share their first meal as newlyweds.
Breaking the Glass
Few Jewish wedding traditions are as well known as the groom’s smashing of the glass at the conclusion of the ceremony. Different explanations for the act of breaking the glass abound: that it reminds us of the fragility of personal relationships so that the bride and groom take care to their intact; that it ushers in the outbreak of celebration that should immediately follow, that the breaking recalls the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, so that we remember sadness at the height of personal joy. Two older explanations are that the shattering scares off any demons attracted by the event; or that it symbolizes the consummation of the marriage.
Yichud is a time for the bride and groom to be alone together immediately after the ceremony. It is actually the final legal requirement of the wedding. (According to Jewish law, the requirements for a wedding are the birkat erusin, the recitation of the haray aht formula coupled with the groom’s placement of a ring on the bride’s finger, the sheva berachot, and yichud.)
AFTER THE WEDDING
With the ceremony completed, it is a mitzvah — a religious obligation — of the guests present to bring joy to the heart of a new bride and her new husband. You have to love that , a religious commandment to party. Sheva Berachot Dinners Sheva Berachot dinners are a way to keep the wedding celebration going even after the wedding day. In the Orthodox world, these dinners are held for seven nights after the wedding, after which blessings for the bride and groom are recited by someone present who was not at the wedding.
The next two pics are Daniel’s after dinner speech and Rachel lovingly lapping up every loving flattering word… aaaaaaaaaah! Then there’s a line up of my lot with their spouses and my two ab fab fav little people. The next five shots are of the venue, which was absolutely breathtaking and dazzling in the sunshine, but even more spectacular lit up at night… official photos will paint a truer picture, when I get them etc etc etc.
Totally out of order are Boaz and Moriah enjoying the pool and then there they are scrubbed up for the big event. They had an absolute ball. Following on are pics of the night after the day before. The first of the sheva brachot (see above in blue if you like). This particular one was hosted by Daniel’s parents and siblings and was lotsa fun and yummy. The next evening we were invited to another given by Daniel’s uncle and aunt and his many cousins. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and hospitable. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much… all absolutely scrumptious and delish. Well that was until the chagim (festivals) and I’m still struggling to lose weight; the story of my life. I had fewer trick or treaters this year and bought so much stuff just in case, so have been dipping into that naughty bag of goodies… too too many treats… all chocolate! I should’ve bought things I don’t like, but there’s not much; I’m not that discerning.
Talking of Halloween, I learnt something interesting recently. Here trick or treat means if you don’t give whoever comes-a-calling a treat, they can give you a nasty mean trick, e.g. throwing eggs at your door or windows or car, or putting something ghastly thru’ the letter box, which makes Halloween here pretty scary and threatening. However it seems that in America, trick or treat is much more family and friends orientated and a jolly affair and trick or treat means whoever comes-a-calling can be given either a treat (i.e. confectionary) or a trick (i.e. magic). Why does this country get it all so wrong?
Okay, back to the rogues gallery. The last two shots are Rachel’s bridesmaids and bestest friends since they were babies.
Believe it or not, I am actually here for the whole of November, but it’s gonna be a busy one. I’m on another learning course again this month (gotta use the grey cells) and I’m also learning Israeli dancing every week this month to raise money for a particular cause in memory of a dear late friend of mine. Then… I’m away in December… twice. In four weeks I’m going for a long weekend to Israel to see the little ones and then I’m going back to Florida to chill out and have some fun with Brian and Diane over Christmas and the New Year. I have another trip to Israel booked for February – something slightly different, more of which nearer the time – but after that, the way the economy, and my economy, is going I think I shall have to review my wanderlust. I got a tax rebate. I should be happy. I’m not. It was my money. It also meant a drop in income, a big drop. Before this awful business, I was doing my sums and thinking about an early retirement, now I hope the boss wants me even more days in the new year.
I shall finish with a few words that came to me one night after I returned from Israel and walked into my house alone and realised that was it, they were all gone and building their own homes and families
each one takes
that little piece
of you they need
then they’re gone
no more to you
now they belong
to someone new
no more whole
a hollow soul
of an empty nest