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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

The Season of our Joy – All the Wedding News that I can recall – part two

Posted by rabbiart on July 15, 2008

Check out the Hupah – Continued

So I get upstairs to check out the hupah; it is beautiful beyond belief. In addition to having sentimental and symbolic presence because it was lovingly made, printed and signed by Walter’s relatives who live in Taiwan.  They are, unfortunately, too elderly too travel to the U.S. for the wedding, and due to timezone differences, Walter turned down my suggestion to webcast the wedding.

I immediately see that we can get the bridesmaids and groomsmen much closer to the hupah than what we had rehearsed the night before.  I find the table, collect the 2nd kiddush cup (supplied by Hillel), grab Walter’s kiddush cup and the bottle of kosher wine he selected for the ceremony, take it all upstairs and set it up under the huppah.  Fortunately, at some point I realized that the wine had to be de-corked, otherwise I would have been trying to pour wine during the ceremony from an unopened bottle.  That would probably be considered a rabbinic faux pas (sorry, don’t know the Talmudic term for that, but I’m sure there is an equivalent).

Go back downstairs where I am informed that it is time to get the ketubah signing underway so that the photographs can be completed before guests star arriving. At this point it is probably close to 10:30, and we have encouraged guests to arrive early because of the parking situation.  Next order of business, find a good location in the Hillel lobby (glass walls open to the outside view) where the photographer can shoot the ketubah signing (as opposed to shooting the signers) without capturing the trucks parked outside.  Lots of table and chair moving ensues, nephew Seth is very helpful in this regard.  Herbert and I locate the Ketubah (picture coming, please be patient) which is wrapped in cellophane or something.  We slit open one end, after which Hubert realizes that the other end was designed to be opened and then resealed.  Oh well.  We gather Emmanuel (best man), Denise (maid of honor) Walter (groom, you knew that), and Miriam (bride beautiful beyond belief) and commence signing.  Everyone has diligently practiced signing their Hebrew names, or at least has a cheat sheet to copy from.  I am of course reminded of when Carol and I were signing our Ketubah lo these many moons ago, and the photographer shot Merle Feld from an angle that basically was, shall we say, a bit revealing (significant understatement).  (note to self, should scan picture and post, or, maybe not).

After significant urging to hurry things along, the signing is completed.  Bride and bridesmaids go outside to the patio, where the temperature is 100+ in the shade.  Of course there is no shade, and the patio is all concrete, so the effective temperature is probably, well, let’s not worry about it.  I take the groomsmen upstairs and show them their new positions, lined up along side the outer edge of the huppah, stage left. Proceed downstairs, find out that brother-in-law Bob has safely returned from his iPod-fetching mission with success. Take possession of Miriam’s precious iPod, or, her iPod with its precious mix tape for post-band dancing.   Bridesmaids and bride come inside, groom and groomsmen go outside to be tortured by Jessica (photographer) in the increasingly hot sun.

Meanwhile back at the ranch (Hillel lobby) guests are arriving in significant numbers.  Lots of hugging, kissing, and “it’s so good to see you again” ensue.  I think at some point the parental units are ushered outside for pictures; then it is decided that wedding time (11:30) is fast approaching, and additional pictures can be taken later.  Sorry, its a little blurry.

Where’s the pants!

Sorry, cousin Aaron, but, as I told you, there is no way this does not become part of handed-down-thru-the-generations family story telling.  Carol’s first cousin Mark (brother she never had) arrives with wife and younger son Aaron.  As we found out then, or maybe it was later (see ain mukdam v’ain m’uchar batorah), at 11:10 as the Weksler family was ready to leave the hotel, Aaron discovered and then had to confess, that he had forgotten to bring the trousers of his suit.  A pair of “waiter pants” is borrowed and Aaron is dressed for the wedding.  For some reason his father decides that he should bring the track shorts (that Aaron threw on when he discovered he was sans pants) into the wedding venue.  I know this because I remember seeing Mark holding the aforementioned track shorts.

Time to get this party started!

The wedding ceremony, that is.  I circulate in the crowd and ask the groomsmen to “encourage” everyone to go upstairs and take their seats.  Once the room is full I go into the room and assume the dual role of father-of-the-bride and rabbi-performing-the-ceremony.  I have previously explained to Jessica that she may take pictures at all times except while the ceremony is going on.  (By the way, Miriam had asked me to write an explanation of a Jewish wedding that they could print and put on all the seats.  Walter’s contribution was to tell me to keep it to a single page. I wrote it, they edited it and printed it).  I explain to the folks that they are part of a congregation, and not an audience, and rehearse them in saying the four traditional Hebrew words with which bride and groom are greeted once they are under the hupah.    (ברוכים הבאים בשם יי  or Blessed are they who come in the name of HaShem). I explain that they don’t have to actually learn the phrase; that we will be doing it on the – for those who took high school french – ecoute et repete system.  I will say two words, and they will repeat them.  We practice a couple of times.  I also explain that we have engaged a professional photographer and that people may take pictures, but only without using a flash.  I completely forget to tell them not to take pictures during the ceremony.  (Difficult to get G-d to sign a release form, and some things in life should be experienced and remembered, not video-ed or photographed, and yes, I know I am in a minority on this, but fortunately I’m the rabbi, but unfortunately, I forgot to mention this).


The final pre-wedding ceremony is the veiling of the bride. I find Miriam and Walter – and Jessica of course – on the landing where Jessica is taking pictures of bride and groom.  I interpose myself and say it is time for the bedeken.  Walter lifts the veil up and pulls it over Miriam’s face. I mention to the two of them that the rabbi’s manual says that the rabbi or a designated relative is to read the accompany text, and that as rabbi I have designated myself as the relative.  I read the five lines of the bedeken text as my heart swells to the point of breaking and my eyes glaze over with tears of joy.  (All of this might actually have taken place before the explanations described above, I can’t remember, and anyway אין מוקדם ואין מאוחר in my memory.

Let the wedding begin!!

I exit the room, check that the entire bridal party is present upstairs and ready, tell Yoli we are ready to start, go back, stand under the hupah, and somebody cues the band, probably both me and Yoli, but at the same time.  Lights (well, not really), camera, action!  The music begins.  Hubert(FoW) and Shirah (niece) come down the aisle arm in arm, more or less as rehearsed the night before.  They are followed by Peter and Nadine.  In turn they are followed by William (Walter’s brother) and Michalle (Miriam’s sister).  Finally, Emmanuel (FoW and best man) and Denise (FoM and maid of honor).  When they are halfway down the aisle, I exit through the side door stage right (which I have tried at least three times to make sure I don’t commit a Marx-brothers-movie-moment and find myself unable to get out of the room), so that I can join Carol so we can walk Miriam down the aisle.  One of my many vivid goofy-wedding-dreams earlier that week was that I am delayed getting to the back of the room, and Carol and Miriam walk down the aisle without me.  Fortunately, the door opens, and I go to outside the entry door and stand with Carol and Miriam as Walter’s parents walk him halfway down the aisle, where they are supposed to leave him as they proceed to stand under the huppah.  Finally Yoli lets us start down the aisle, and I see that Walter, rather than being halfway down the aisle, is standing in front of the hupah waiting for Miriam.  Oh. Miriam’s incredible bridal gown is so wide that the three of us can’t all go through the door at the same time, so I do have to wait, then catch up to Carol and Miriam (hmmm. that dream almost came true).  We stop halfway down the aisle, kiss Miriam (through the veil, of course). I motion Walter to come up the aisle to get Miriam, and Carol and I walk (float, actually) the remaining 10-15 feet to the hupah. Carol stands next to Denise, I assume the “rabbinical position” at the back of the hupah, and watch Miriam and Walter come down the aisle, enter the hupah, and stand facing each other as instructed (one final chance to exercise parental ?rabbinic? authority).

Under the hupah

Everyone is now under the chupah. I invite the congregation to repeat the traditional words of greeting with me.  They do.  Apparently, at this point Ruth (my older sister) begins weeping tears of joy (according to the report I got from my mother) and continues to weep tears of joy until the end of the ceremony.  it’s on with the (it’s not a) show!  Reading from ye olde (actually the new version) Rabbi’s Manual, I conduct the first part of the ceremony, known as the Arusin (betrothal). This involves reciting a borei pri hagafen and the blessing that thanks G-d for sanctifying his nation of Israel through the instruments of hupah (marriage canopy, if you haven’t figured that out and I haven’t explained it) and kiddushin.

I prompt Emanuel for the ring which Walter will place on Miriam’s forefinger.  I have previously (at rehearsal dinner) warned him that under the hupah is no place for ring?-I-forgot-the-ring-jokes.  He hands Walter the ring; Walter places it on Miriam’s forefinger and recites the traditional wedding formula.  I prompt Denise for the ring. She gives it to Miriam, who places it on Walter’s finger, and she recites the traditional (OK, not really traditional, since the traditional jewish concept of wedding is that the groom is acquiring the bride. Hah, try telling that to Miriam. Or Walter for that matter).

I now tear my eyes away from Walter and Miriam (especially Miriam, after all, I’ve known her for thirty years) and look out into the congregation.  I point out that the rabbi’s manual says the rabbi may make some remarks at this point, and that I will.  Chuckles ensue, and Nadine later tells me she loved my sense of humor under the hupah.  As near as I can recollect, it went something like this.

“Miriam’s cousin Shana asked me this morning if I had planned out what I would say under the hupah.  I told her that I planned to say whatever came out of my mouth.  We have an expression in Jewish tradition – devarim hayotzim min ha lev nichnasim lalev. Words which are spoken from the heart (literally “come out of the heart”) enter the heart.  Always remember this moment, when your hearts are open to each other.  In all of life’s moments, speak from the heart.  When life favors you with blessing, speak from the heart, and when life hits it’s inevitable more difficult moments, because no one goes through life unscathed, also speak from the heart, and you will be fine.  The Talmud has a story. Well, the Talmud has lots of stories (people in the congregation are chuckling at this point).  There is a particular story of a Roman maiden who comes to a rabbi; it does matter which rabbi, and challenges him.  I know you believe you G-d is great and created the world in six days, and rested on the seventh, but what has your G-d done since then? What does your G-d do all day?  The rabbi replies, G-d sits all day and arranges marriages for brides and grooms.  The Roman matron says, that’s doesn’t seem too difficult, I can do that!  She goes off to her estate and arranges marriages for all her slaves and servants.  After a few days she goes around checking on them, and finds them very unhappy, all battered and bruised.  She returns to the rabbi and confesses that arranging marriages is a lot more difficult than it appears.  Miriam’s friend Nadine arranged for Walter and Miriam to meet, but G-d arranged for them to find each other, to fall in love, and to marry”.  [there might have been more, and these might not be the exact words, but you get the gist].  Anybody who remembers more, please make a comment and report your recollection.”

I give Walter and Miriam their kiddush cup so they can hold it together during the final part of the ceremony.  Their eyes are locked on each other (and have been the entire time). I now read (in English) and chant (in Hebrew) the sheva brachot (seven blessings) which are the marriage part of the ceremony.  Pausing before the seventh bracha, I read the first part of the Ketubah and mention that it details Walter’s obligations to Miriam, and conclude by saying that we will stipulate to the reading of the remainder of the Ketubah.  The seventh bracha is read and chanted.  As I’m chanting the last brachah, I hand Emmanuel the smash glass (in it’s cloth container) so that he can place it on the ground for Walter to stamp on.  As the seventh brachah concludes, Walter takes a hop step on his left foot, raises his right foot to about knee-height, and drives it down through the glass. Good thing the floor is concrete (I’m guessing), or he would have driven the glass, and his foot straight through the floor.  Walter and Miriam embrace and kiss, the music starts up, and they proceed back down the aisle as husband and wife.  If there was dry eye in the house, I don’t want to hear about it.  I know there weren’t any in my family.


One Response to “The Season of our Joy – All the Wedding News that I can recall – part two”

  1. Shirah said

    What a glowing, wonderful report of the wedding. I was sorry not to be there, but the stories and pictures make me feel as if I were there. Blessings to you all. Love, Shirah Bell

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