Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Taking it for a spin

Start here.

Getting there was half the fun. When I got off the subway after a surprisingly short ride, I checked my surroundings and decided against waiting for a cab. So I asked someone how to get where I wanted to go. He told me that the street I was looking for was behind me. I pointed out that the street toward which he was pointing was not the street I was looking for. Big mistake. He sent me in the opposite direction, and I ended up walking for at least 20 minutes in a giant horse-shoe, crossing over the same highway (probably the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) twice. I've been through Williamsburg on the BQE many times, but I'd never actually been to Williamsburg. Next time I'm going somewhere where I've never been, I'll print out a map.

When I finally got to the catering hall, I was a bit surprised to discover that there was no coat room, which meant that all the women were dumping their garment bags, etc., on the "ladies' lounge" floor. I was downright taken aback that the "ladies' lounge" leading to the "stalls" had neither a discreet turn nor a wall nor a door hiding the "stalls." There were men walking in and out of the lounge, helping their wives. Such an immodest arrangement was most certainly not what I would have expected in a chassidic catering hall.

Since the stalls had floor-to-ceiling doors, I had no place to hang my garment bag, and had quite a time of it, changing from my office attire into my simcha outfit. But I somehow managed to get the outfit on, stuff a scarve into the slightly-too-low neckline, park my new hat on my head, and exit just as the bride was entering the room. The bride turns out to be Satmar, not Lubavitch. Speaking of stereotype-busting, I'm honestly suprised--I didn't think the Satmar allowed even their men, much less their women, to get a college education, but the bride has a master's, and is rumored to be studying for a doctorate. (It's also possible that the bride isn't Satmar, but that her family just chose that catering hall.)

After taking photos during the Kabbalat Panim (pre-wedding reception), I sat with a co-worker's wife, and, having gotten there too late for the meatballs, nibbled on fruit and a yummy pastry or two that she recommended. Then everyone moved outdoors for the actual wedding ceremony, it being traditional, especially in chassidic circles, to hold a wedding ceremony outdoors when possible. We waited forever--nu, you wouldn't expect a Jewish wedding to run "Jewish time"?--but I finally filled my camera's memory card with videos of the wedding. (I always remember extra batteries, but I keep forgetting to buy an extra memory card.) Having little boys sing for the processional was a sweet idea, though they didn't all have the best voices. :)

Cynic that I am, I think I finally figured out why it's traditional, in an Orthodox Jewish wedding ceremony, for the bride to circle the groom seven times. Yes, there are "standard" reason(s) given. But here's my quite unorthodox opinion: Circling your chattan (groom) is the only active thing that a bride (and her mother and the groom's mother, who escort her) get(s) to do during the entire ceremony. After that, the kallah (bride) just stands there schtum (silently) while a man or men recite blessings and read the ketubah/wedding contract. The chattan fares only slightly better, since he gets to give the kallah (bride) the wedding ring and recite the traditional words while doing so, and he also gets to stomp on a glass at the end of the ceremony, in memory of the Bet HaMikdash/Holy Temple.

There was a yummy dinner after the chuppah (a word meaning both "wedding canopy" and "wedding ceremony"). Then, when the newlyweds returned from their yichud (isolation, for the first time, alone together in a room with the door closed--originally, this was when the marriage was consummated), there was plenty of dancing. What fun for all!

I was planning to leave around 10. Famous last words. Dessert wasn't even served until around 11. So I noshed, bentched (said Birkat HaMazon/Grace after Meals) and was about to leave when another round of dancing started. Naturally, I ended up staying for another half hour. Altogether, 'twas a happy night for the bride, groom, family and guests. Just don't ask when I got home. I was so tired this morning that I forgot to take the head tefillin out of its box, and put it on still in the box, not realizing until I took it off!

Note: This post was actually published on Friday, September 3, 2010.


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