They say, is fleeting. Unless you are in Cleveland after the first week of April, when it is sleeting. Or more precisely, snowing, I should say. It snowed an inch or so Thursday night, and then four inches or so Friday night into Shabbat morning. The Los Angeles contingent, here by the lake for the wedding of my nephew, couldn’t believe what was happening. It also snowed as the guests were arriving and the wedding began on Sunday. Even the crocuses and the daffodils poking through the white stuff were confused.

April in Cleveland,from my relatives' porch.
A snowy, wedding weekend in Cleveland – and in April. Taken from my relatives’ porch.

I was told by apologetic, and it seemed somewhat embarrassed, relatives and friends that this just doesn’t happen in April, and that there had been no snow at all the previous six weeks, and that the record cold the city was having is not the way things are. Just in case they thought I was considering I guess, even for a moment, to leave the sun and the palm trees of California and move to the city of those more sturdy than yours truly.

Now that I think about it, the Clevelanders might not have been 100% sincere with their apologies. Yes, yes, everyone with whom I spoke, some even before saying hello, immediately tried explaining away the weather. “Shia, this is very unusual.” Also, “It’s nothing personal.”

Ha! Don’t think I don’t know what you were all secretly thinking. “Good! To heck with all those pampered, soft LA sissies with their oh so, precisely manicured lawns, and their cappuccino, macchiato, melted mocha truffle, espresso latte shmattes by the beach, or whatever they call those wimpy drinks. Let them suffer a little. Let them see how real people live. We don’t shy away from a few snowflakes and polar temperatures. We say, ‘Bring it on!’ And ‘Thank you sir, may I have another!’”

Well, I have news for you Cleveland people; some of us had no problem with the weather. Really. In fact, my brother-in-law even prayed for snow, when I scoffed at the horrible idea. Snow in April. Yeah, right. Well, God listened to him and smacked me down. (I need to be nicer to my brother-in-law being he has such a direct line to The Almighty. And I carefully checked for lightning as I looked up at the dropping flakes these last few days.)

Oh, you know me, I did kvetch — it’s in my nature (no pun intended, really), but I also knew the weather made the weekend extra special. And historical. For many years, people will more uniquely remember the time my nephew and his bride pledged their love and devotion to each other. “Remember it was nearly mid-April and it snowed each day of the weekend?”

The walk to the synagogue on the crisp Shabbat morning for the “Ufruf” (when the groom is called up to the Torah on the Shabbat before the wedding), with almost no traffic to be seen, the yards, sidewalks and streets gleaming white, the tree branches and bushes proudly adorned with winter’s last hurrah, was so beautiful.

As was the wedding.

When I watched my nephew and new niece interacting with each other, from the picture-taking through the service under the “Chuppah” (wedding canopy) through the meal, I got it. These two were made for each other. It was right. They had this noticeable, easy-to-see, comfortable connection. Laughter and joy. Huge grins and joking remarks. No prim and proper stiffness — which I generally witness at such holy nuptials – with those two. And good! Life is short. Enjoy!

They were happy. Everyone was happy.

We are required, we Jews, to be happy for the bride and groom, to make them happy. The Talmud (books of Jewish legal discussions and commentary dating back over 1500 years) in Berachot 6b, even adds incentive, saying that one who gladdens the bride and groom receives a reward. But to this proud uncle and I know so many of the guests, we did not even think about celebrating to fulfill any obligation, or doing so in hopes of any remuneration. It was all natural.

I for one was so absolutely glad my nephew found his jewel, and I also fed off the new couple’s euphoria. Their happiness made me happy. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time I had been so happy. I actually let the elation in, not something I generally do.

I was honored to sing during the ceremony and I tried to do my absolute best, both physically and emotionally, for my dear nephew. And after the couple became official and the band brought everyone to their feet in the banquet hall, I found myself dancing and singing even when the music and dancing stopped – to the amusement of some and I believe, the annoyance of others, but too bad. I worry I may have terrified a few of the relatives on the bride’s side. (“Oy, this is what we got ourselves into?”) Sorry. I wasn’t drunk by the way; I don’t drink.

As many know, in our tradition, the wedding day for the bride and groom is similar to the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur, and not just because the couple fasts until the ceremony, in retrospection of their lives to that point and beyond. It is also because God forgives all of the new couple’s previous transgressions.

The falling snow and the accumulation on the ground added to the initial solemnity and to the theme of the day, as it says in Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 1:18, symbolizing the hope and belief in the promise of forgiveness on Yom Kippur, “If your sins are like scarlet, they will become white as snow.”

It has been raining pretty much most of last night and today, the day after the wedding, and the temperatures are now well above freezing, so looking out the window as I come to the end of this column, I see only slivers and traces of the weekend weather that was.

Soon I won’t be navigating through the cousins and the coats, through the peaceful streets of University Heights and Beachwood, and to the holiday-like decorated tables of my relatives, expert in the preparation of beef, beef and yikes, more beef, those relatives who grace the suburbs of Cleveland, where no cow is safe.

Thank you Cleveland, for your hospitality, and even your weather. Thank you relatives and friends, for taking care of us who came from all over the world to celebrate. You never cease to amaze me with your welcoming embrace each time I visit. Thank you those in the immediate families, who worked so hard to make the weekend special.

And thank you Ari and Sora. Stay fun and stay giddy. When some hard times break into the laughter, as they inevitably do – and I pray the tough days are very, very few, think back to this time.

In all times, my dear nephew and niece, remember the blowing cold, windswept snow as people went from home to synagogue to join you in your “Simcha” (happy occasion or happiness), and smile.

Remember all of those in your extended families who went before you, some of whom are no longer of this world, who did their very best to show the way. Our people and our traditions made you into the impressive individuals you have become, and know we will always be there for you when you need us.

Thank you for giving us “Nachas” (pride) and “Simcha,” and we look forward to more.

Be happy, nephew and niece!

Mazal Tov!

About the Author
Shia Altman who hails from Baltimore, MD, now lives in Los Angeles. His Jewish studies, aerospace, and business and marketing background includes a BA from the University of Maryland and an MBA from the University of Baltimore. When not dabbling in Internet Marketing, Shia tutors Bar and Bat Mitzvah, and Judaic and Biblical Studies to both young and old.
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