Boarding the flight to New York, I felt uncharacteristically calm. The schedule for the next six days was so tightly crafted, that my usual fears of not maximizing “visiting time” abated. All catching up and chit-chats would have to take place between Sabbath meals, songs, prayer sessions and loading and unloading car trunks. To make things even simpler (if less loving), I was traveling without the South African hubby who remains a relative newcomer on our family scene. As amicable as he is, I was free from worrying about whether he felt bored or neglected.
Waiting for me at the airport was my dearest friend who, ordinarily, does not drive after sunset. The ride back to her seaside home felt more treacherous than space travel, but I was touched by this display of love. Having warned her that my walking was bad in this month prior to long-awaited knee-replacement surgery, she made no mention of my Quasimodo strut. We spent the next 36 hours eating a lot, laughing more, sleeping a tad, and drinking more wine and beer than usual. Kathy is secular but, in my honor, she stocked her home with enough take-out food from the local kosher gourmet shop for a Chabad Shabbaton.
Now fatter than when I arrived, I appeared on the doorstep of my 86-year-old mother and awaited the arrival of my sister who drove down from Boston so we could continue driving to Silver Spring for the celebratory Shabbat (Ufruf) and wedding of my nephew. Before leaving, mom and sis inspected my dress and said, “You wore that for the last wedding.” (Apparently things that are acceptable in Israel don’t cut it in America.) We located a suitable black-number in the back of the walk-in and we took off.
Each aspect of the festivities that led up to the chuppah and subsequent celebrations mirrored Jewish practice for well-over 6,000 years. The shabbos was peppered with blessings and speeches that praised the bride, groom, their loving families and friends, and constantly referred to our holy mesorah (tradition) that has ensured Jewish continuity over the millennia. I looked about at the faces that are now included in my growing family circle and felt humbled by the bounty that G-d has bestowed on me and mine.
Dresses, catering, cosmetics, music and photography are surface-scratchers in the behemoth wedding industry. One promotion after another touts the occasion as the “most important day of your life.” Really? Am I the only one who believes that the day after is far more important? That if a fraction of wedding planning went toward synchronization of values and life-views, things might bode better for the future?
I feel at peace knowing that my gentle nephew and his loving bride have forged another powerful link in an eternal chain that stretches from Silver Spring to Sinai.
New York-born Andrea Simantov is a mother of six who moved to Jerusalem in 1995. She frequently lectures on the complexity and magic of life in Jerusalem and can be contacted at email@example.com.