…and the Bride and the Groom shall dance in the streets of Jerusalem. These words written by the Prophets Ezekiel, Isaiah and others have resonated through the millennia for the Jewish people. They represent the hope, dreams and aspirations of what have been called “Judah’s tearful-eyed race.”
The dreams of a national Jewish homeland have been dashed again and again. Whether it was the Babylonians, Syrians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Ottoman Turks or Arabs, the Jewish people have never forgotten the promise that one day the Bride and the Groom would again dance in the streets of Jerusalem. Some believe this is simply a messianic vision for the future, but astoundingly the Jewish people through the rebuilding of the state of Israel have given us a glimpse of the dawn of the messianic age. As the Pirkei Avot states, it is not our job to complete the work but neither may we abandon it. It is written by the Rabbis that the Messiah will walk into Jerusalem on paving stones, each representing a good deed.
In making the wedding for my daughter Kaila Pauline and her beloved partner, Netanel Kimchi, my family believed that it was placing another paving stone on the road which will be the pathway for the Messiah.
The ceremony and marriage in Hadera, Israel was both a spiritual and material journey for Kaila, Netanel, and both of our families. Kaila, born at Divine Providence Hospital in Williamsport, Pennsylvania and educated in Williamsport schools right through to her last year in high school, has realized a dream that the Prophets themselves promised would come to pass. Netanel, born in Israel but raised in Montreal, has also returned to the dreams of his ancestors. This beautiful couple married, wed and celebrated in the traditional joyful way that most exemplifies the rebirth of the Jewish people and the third Jewish Commonwealth.
Every parent, presumably, achieves great joy at attending the wedding of one of their children. We certainly were no different in that way. However, making a wedding overseas and worrying about all the details was yet another story. Of course, all of the credit goes to Kaila, Netanel, my wife Kimberly Ann (known in Hebrew as Malka Hana) and now our new in-laws. All I really had to do was follow the good advice of my friend, Elliott Weinstein, which was to “show up, pay up, and shut up.” I did all three reasonably well and with little complaint.
Then there was the wedding itself. It was a mixture of Ashkenazi and Sephardic traditions. Eastern European and North African, Middle Eastern Jewish pathways met in the city where the small remnants of my mother’s family gathered after the destruction of her family in the European Holocaust. Hadera was one of those tough working-class towns which originally was a tense city for those Jews who were lucky enough to survive the ovens of Germany’s Europe. Now Hadera, still retaining some of the old ways, is a modern, thriving hub of central Israel.
The mixed Ashkenazi/Sephardic wedding was a remarkable experience for everyone who was present. The Bride was beautiful, the Groom handsome and the attendants all played their part with perfection. For me the outstanding moment was when I stood under the Chuppah across from my wife and watched Kaila walk down the aisle, resplendent in her modest white dress. I strongly felt the presence of my recently departed mother whose soul I know participated with great joy at the event. My period of saying Kaddish for my mother is not up until early January, making this year all the more meaningful for me. The sadness and joy of my mother’s life combined with the outstanding achievements and marriage of Kaila was emotional enough to cause tears even for me.
Confess I must that some of the traditions practiced in the ceremony at the wedding were unknown even to me. Others, were quite familiar. The women surrounded the bride prior to the ceremony and the men met with the groom, downing a few shots of scotch in preparation for the ceremony. Dancing and singing are as much a part of Judaism as Torah itself. Our Hasidic brothers and sisters teach us that there is no spiritual enlightenment without joyfulness.
In a Jewish wedding, especially one like this, each family accompanies their child to the Chupa. No one is given away but rather families combine. Under the Chuppah stood the Rieders family and the Kimchi family, in a union between our children that God himself has blessed. There is an old saying in the Jewish folklore asking what God did after creation of the world. The answer often given is that God does the hardest work there is which is make matches between husband and wife. Certainly, this was a match made in heaven.
The traditional Jewish ceremony and breaking of the glass led to a party. Breaking of the glass in a Jewish ceremony has become so widespread that there are even those doing it outside of the Jewish religion. Some say that it is to remind us of sadness in the world. Others say that the broken glass represents the destruction of the second temple. The origin of the glass breaking, according to the authoritative Talmud, is that during antiquity a wedding celebration became out of control due to excessive inebriation. The father of the bride took a goblet costing 400 zuzim and smashed it against the wall, “after which the celebrants became sober.” According to scholars, it was this unique way of causing sobriety that led to the breaking of glass at weddings and attribution of a more meaningful basis to the tradition.
The party initially began with dancing of men and women separately. Traditional Israeli, Moroccan and Haradie traditions prevailed. Eventually the mechitza gave way to men and women enjoying each other’s company at the celebration. Regardless, a fantastic time was had by all. Okay, so I was dared by Kaila’s new father-in-law into dancing on top of the bar. I was only following Kaila and Netanel who had danced there first. It was not the alcohol but rather the celebratory spirit that elevated me to that particular place at the wedding hall.
For me one of the most enjoyable components of the wedding week were the seven sheva brachot. These were seven parties each night for seven nights. They were hosted by different people and at each one there was a particular formula that was followed: stories told about the couple, some biblical verses explained, the ingestion of wonderful food, wine and scotch, all followed by seven people each saying a blessing followed by a little additional wine for prosperity and health.
A wedding represents the best that loved ones have to offer one another. We can think of a wedding as a microcosm of joy and good fellowship that the world needs a lot more of. Hopefully, the spirit of Kaila and Netanel’s wedding will infuse all those who attended with a positive outlook on life and a willingness to tackle life’s problems.