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Sam-I-Am Violin on the streets, fundamentalist Judaism, planting organic vegetables, and the like.

Gone to Give'at Moshe

ISRAEL | Tuesday, 1 January 2008 | Views [1134] | Comments [1]

This song was like an hour long.  Chasids like full-contact dancing, which is to say running into each other with reckless abandon.

This song was like an hour long. Chasids like full-contact dancing, which is to say running into each other with reckless abandon.

I'm standing there sheepishly with Yehoshua, munching on a pear, as the men finish their davening (prayer). Finally the procession starts, the men all fall in line behind the groom and rabbis guiding him, around the mechitzah (gender fence) to the bride. The groom unveils the bride, and Yehoshua looks at me and says, "that's not Kaila - are we at the wrong wedding?"

Yes. We were. ours was next door. I met my friend Kaila on a Birthright trip to Israel in 2004. She stayed, forever, and became an observant Jew. She got married last night, to another ba'al teshuvah (Someone "returning" to their Jewish faith), in a VERY traditional Chasidic wedding. I'm talkin' separation of genders, rubbing ashes on the chasan's (groom) forehead to remember the destruction of the Temple, and the bride and groom fasting the day of the wedding.

It was all pretty holy, at least the ceremony part. marching the groom to the outdoor chuppah singing niguns (traditional jewish tunes). watching as the groom rounded the bride 7-odd times before settling next to her. The kiddush over the wine was probably the most epic part, with the rabbi chanting in a seemingly extinct and timeless language (it was actually Hebrew but so traditional and ethnic that I couldn't tell). Seven blessings were uttered afterwards, boomed into a microphone and echoing across the valleys of North Jerusalem.

Hmmm. I could talk about this forever. Let me say this though. I didn't really get to see the bride, my friend. But the groom. The groom, he wasw so focused, seemingly so mindful of what was about to happen to him, he was crying, he was squinting his eyes, he was steeled, staring so solemnly. All of that. It was amazing, just watching his face. I hope that I can understand how amazing it is when I marry someone.

The dancing lasted forever, a jumble of leg kicking and hora-ing and running into each other. It's a mitzvah to make the groom laugh, so intermittently he'd sit in a chair in the center of a circle to take a break and everybody would take turns dancing to entertain him. I almost sissied out, but in the end I took out my violin, which I had specifically brought for this purpose, and rushed the circle, legs flailing and violin wailing. The music was way too loud to hear my violin, but the point was the silly showmanship, a dancing fiddler. I think he liked it.

Seeing this wedding was a serious privilege, and I can't help but rant about how fascinating it all was to anybody who asks. It was, though, just another, in what I think will be a long series of amazing traditional Jewish experiences. I don't even have the energy to detail this past Shabbat right now, but suffice to say it was a jumble of cozy apartments in North Jerusalem, wall-size Talmudic bookshelves, Jewish wives with their heads covered, black hats, niguns, blessings. I had no plans for Shabbat, but everything happened. Which is of course, exactly what I am looking for on this trip.

Tags: culture, israel, religion, weddings




Hi Samuel,

Loved your description of the Chassidic wedding.

I didn't have to go to Jerusalem to attend one. We had one at the Adams Street shul a couple years ago. The couple now have 2 children. The bride's parents are friends of mine.

Looking forward to more of your adventures.

Luv, grandma

  grandma Jan 2, 2008 8:23 AM

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