Friday, August 21, 2015

Hiding at your wedding

So someone actually wrote some advice for introverts getting married under the title,
Can I hide at my wedding? It includes this paragraph:
Wherever you decide to have the wedding, there’s nothing wrong with scoping out a place in the venue where you can escape for a breather when you need to (the bathroom may or may not work, depending on the likelihood of running into doting friends or relatives in there). Halfway through their wedding, one couple I spoke to for Introverts in Love slipped off to the kitchen for a break while the catering staff, too busy to pay them any mind, bustled around them. (I assume they weren’t in anyone’s way. Or maybe they were, but it was their wedding, so that’s the way it goes.)
It struck me as very amusing, for Jewish weddings actually fit the couple hiding away into the ritual. 

The Ashkenazic custom is for the couple to enter into a private room by themselves for yichud [seclusion] right after the chuppah. It is not merely to give them a few (usually 10 -15) quiet minutes together and to break their fast before joining their guests. The seclusion of the couple is necessary to complete chuppah, and, according to some views, is even the definition of chuppah. Prior to marriage, a single man and woman avoid situations of intimacy in which they will be closeted together out of view of anyone else. Their seclusion for a time period that would suffice for intimacy is a sign of their married state. Some people even designate witnesses for this step; they make sure the room is free of all other occupants before the bride and groom enter.

While the yichud part of the wedding is a very special time for the bride and groom, they are usually summoned out all-too-soon for their liking. That is because the photographers want them present for pictures, and they also have to bear in mind that their guests await their return to the hall to begin dancing in front of them in fulfillment of the mitzvah of being mesameach chasson vekallah, [gladdening the groom and bride].

The convention of staying away from guests for long periods of time for the sake of photography can also be used as an excuse for the introverted bride or groom who wants to get away from the crowd. You can always claim you need to be in the picture or to freshen up for the picture.

Related posts:

Friday, July 31, 2015

What is Shabbos Nachamu?

Today is the Tu B'Av. As it falls out in this year's calendar, it is immediately followed by Shabbos Nachamu. Even those who know it by name don't always understand what it is really about.
What is Shabbos Nachamu? A teacher at a post high school Jewish study program for young women related the answer one girl wrote to that question on an entrance exam: "It's the Shabbos when everyone goes to the country." Obviously, this student was a New Yorker.
While some New Yorkers seem to consider it a mitzvah to spend the whole summer in the country, there are those who have jobs or other obligations in their hometowns and cannot get away that long, though they do like to go up to the mountains for weekends, particularly this weekend. The reason this student associated this particular weekend so strongly with going away is that it is the first one after the the 9th of Av. Some people curtail their travels during the 3 Week and 9 Days period, so this would be their first weekend free of such restrictions.
However, the teacher was not pleased with the student's answer because it described what people but did not explain why this Shabbos, like a few others, is distinguished by name. Like the Sabbath described in that posts, this one is named for the Haftorah, which is also drawn from Yeshayahu [The Book of Isaiah]. While last week's reading foretold destruction, this week's reading promises consolation for the suffering of exile. It is signifcant that the ultimate vision of devastation and the ultimate vision of consolation both come from the same source -as Rabbi Akiva indicates in his reaction to the vision of the churban described in A Sabbath of Vision.

Here's some more insight into what this weekend is about. It is is adapted from a piece written by Rabbi Chaim Brown that appeared in his blog:

Nachamu Nachamu Ami… The Midrash tells us that the Jewish people are doubly-consoled (hence the repetition “nachamu nachamu…”) because they sinned doubly and were doubly punished. Why do we say that they sinned doubly? The 600,000 paradigmatic Jewish souls of the people of Israel correspond to the 600,000 letters of a Torah scroll. Just as if one single letter is missing or defective, the entire sefer Torah becomes pasul [invalidated] so too, if one Jew is defective in his observance, the nation as a whole is deficient. Each sin is doubled -- becoming “kiflayim” -- because each sin affects both the soul of the individual who has acted and the the soul of the Jewish nation.

When we are punished, the punishment is not borne singly, for the pain of each Jew has a doubled effect in creating suffering and weakness in the Jewish nation. “Nachamu nachamu AMI”, [Be consoled, be consoled MY NATION]. A single perfect letter is a pasul sefer Torah, for all its hiddur and beauty, is lacking in kedushas sefer Torah – only when the sefer as a whole is complete is that single letter also endowed with kedusha. And only to the extent that we view ourselves not as isolated individuals responsible only for our own religious fate, but as part of the greater nation of Am Yisrael, can we be receptive to the comfort of Nachamu.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

This year's thoughts on Tu B'Av

This year's thoughts on Tu B'Av. In the space of a less than a week -- 6 days to be exact _- we go from the day of deepest mourning to one of the most joyous days of the year. It really is a 180 degree shift. What's interesting is also the emotions that underlie the polar opposites of the 9 of Av and the 15th of the same month. 

On the 9th we mourn the continued state of destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, which reflects the state of a loss that we feel in our relationship with G-d. While the first Beis Hamikdash was destroyed for cardinal sins, the second was destroyed and remains so because of sinas chinam, baseless hatred (see Some like to say that the way to fix is is with ahavas chinam, baseless love. However, the actual term for love that demands nothing in return was already set by Chazal in Pirkei Avoth as ahava she'eyna tluya badavar love that does not depend on any thing.  

With that in mind, it's possible to take a new perspective on what the young women say to the men in the vineyards. The first two groups appeal to love on the basis of beauty or family connections. But the last group ask for love without an appeal to anything external at all. That is true love for the essence of the person and not the individual's physical, material, or social assets.  To see the citations and other interpretations I've written, see the links here.

 I've written a number ofposts on the accounts of Tu B'Av: The first one which gives the origins of the day with the 6 positive historical events is

I wrote another one the next year, in which I wrote:
This year I've been thinking about further ramification for the Talmud's account in Taanis 31a"

The most amazing is that the girls who have the least to offer -- the ones termed outright ugly in the description -- declare that they too have a right to marry. Furthermore, they place the onus of attractions on their husbands-to-be with the assurance that the right jewelery and clothes (as Rashi, I believe, says) would work wonders on their looks.
After seeing some discussions by singles, I have a new angle on what this means. So many people are quick to dump someone after a first date because they were less than impressed by the first impression. What the ugly girls' s argument really consists of is something like this: "So we are not striking beauties but we can grow attractive to you if you invest in the relationship." This truth can apply to traits beyond looks; just substitute whatever striking trait you identify as attractive, ie. sparkling wit, charm, etc. Some people grow on you, but they have to be given the chance, and that takes a willingness to invest the time to allow their positive traits to shine through. And they would prove worthy of the adornments given them.
The daughter of Israel go out and dance in the vineyards. Anyone who lacked a wife went there. . . . Our rabbis learned: The beautiful ones among them would say: "Raise your eyes to beauty, for a wife is only for beauty." The girls who had yichus[well established, reputable families] would say, "Raise your eyes to family, for a wife is only for children." The ugly ones among them would say, "Take what you take for the sake of Heaven, and adorn us in gold jewelry."

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Etiquette and nichum aveilim

I just came across this article with tips on shiva visits: They are definitely useful, especially remembering that the point is not to fill the air with idle chatter but to be there for the avel.  Earlier this year my husband sat shiva,  and among the visitors was one who spoke about the major faux pas people tend to make even when they mean well. So here are my additional notes.

Things not to do:
Don't try to comfort the person by saying "it was their time to go." Rabbi Yaffe said that some people say that even to parents who have lost children. It's not appropriate to make any such statement, nor to point out to parents that they still have surviving children.

Don't start criticizing the avel in any way, shape, or form. That extends to the situation of the niftar or even the setup for the shiva house. My husband's mother has a dog that she kept upstairs most of the time when people were dropping in. One visitor said she was being cruel to the dog, which hurt her feelings quite a bit.

Things to do:

Say it with food seems to be the motto of the members of the tribe. During shiva a lot of food is sent over by well wishers. Much of it is used and very much appreciated. But some really goes to waste. During the shiva, my husband's family threw out whole huge fruit platters that remained untouched after a few days. They happen to not be big on fruit and hardly made a dent in all the fruit sent. Yes, fruit platters are nice, but they don't keep fresh very long. So it's a good thing to check ahead about the family's food preferences and what they have. When in doubt, send something that keeps longer. Another nice thing to do is to find out about what foods they really shouldn't have, like deli meats that are high in salt for people with high blood pressure.

Do call if you can't come. The Kveller article said coming in person is what it's really about. That is true, but sometimes it really is not feasible. I can tell you that my husband who is really not a phone person still appreciated getting calls from people he feels connected with when they couldn't come in person, particularly as he was sitting away from his own home and was most often surrounded by people he didn't know.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Wedding planning streamlined

Keep focused and organized to check the items off your wedding planning list in the right order
Keep focused and organized to check the items off your wedding planning list in the right order

Pulling it all together in 4 months or less

How long should an engagement be? There is no set answer. In All Dressed in White: The Irresistible Rise of the American Wedding (New York: Penguin Books, 2004) Carol Wallace explains that the “planning time” needed for a wedding has changed according to bridal magazine directives. Bride’s includes a schedule for wedding planning. “As late as the 1960s, the lead time could be as little as three months, though six months was preferable; by 1973, the magazine instructed its reader that it took as long as year to plan a big formal reception” (233). It is not only a question of planning but of booking one’s preferred hall, caterer, and band, while they still have dates open. Indeed many bridal guides will begin the timetable a year or more in advance of the big day. The average American engagement period today has extended to 18 months.

In contrast, the average for Orthodox circles seems to be somewhere around three or four months with some engagements as short as six weeks. So, it is possible to pull everything together in a shorter space of time, though the shorter the time you have to work with, the less likely it is that you will be able to get your first choice of venue. Below is a general timeline for wedding planning that assumes about 3-4 months. Generally, the “as soon as possible” would take place 4 plus months before the wedding. Obviously, though, for a shorter engagement, there is less lead time, and the schedule directives must be adjusted accordingly.
As soon as possible:
  • Select a date for the wedding.
  • Discuss expectations and finance with both sets of parents to come up with how much you can spend and an estimate of number of guests that will attend.
  • Set a firm budget that should allow margin below the total you have to work with, as certain items will always creep up.
  • Reserve your slot at the hall and with the caterer; that may require a deposit.
  • Decide if you want a monogram and have it designed in time to print on invitations.
  • Order invitations and thank you notes.
  • Find a kallah class teacher who suits you and set up a schedule that works for you.
  • Schedule an ob/gyn exam (recommended for a number of reasons)
  • Review all your borrowing, renting, and buying options to find your perfect wedding dress within your budget.
  • Select a headpiece style to coordinate with your gown. You can buy, rent, borrow, or make one. 
  • Decide if you want a set color scheme and what it would be.
  • Find dresses for mothers, sisters, etc.
  • Select a photographer and videographer and book for your date after clarifying details of what particular package you want and how not to incur overtime charges.
  • Choose your florist; clarify that you can get what you need and want within your budget, and then and book for your date; be prepared for the deposit.
  • Book the band you want; a deposit may be required.
  • If you want to get a wig in time for the wedding, look into what is available and narrow down what you will look for and where. If you want one that is truly custom made for you, allow 8-12 weeks. You would need to put down a deposit.
  • If you intend to register for china, crystal, and china patterns, you should do so three months prior to the wedding, assuming time permits. Your registry should be set by the time the invitations go out.

About 2-3 months before:
  • Make menu choices with caterer to fit your budget and expected number of guests.
  • Make your selections for flowers. Bring in pictures or sketch of your wedding gown along with swatch to match your bouquet to the dress style and shade. Consider not only your color scheme but seasonal selections. Be clear on your first choice and what substitutions would be acceptable.
  • Shop for sheitels, hats, and other hair covering, as well as outfits for sheva brachos you may need.
  • For the groom, with his presence and input, buy tallis, as well as the atara decoration for it, tallis bag --- can be custom embroidered with name, buy kittel – it may need some adjustment. Bring him along to pick out gifts like watches and cuff links to be sure they are to his taste, and ask if he prefers a particular edition for a “chasson” shas.
  • The bride may pick out her choice of silver candlesticks if this traditional gift is offered by the groom's family. 
  • Address and mail invitations. 
  • Select a band.

One month before:
  • Track response cards to make up lists of guests to be accommodated at the wedding.
  • Order benchers
  • Consult with makeup artist and hairstylist.
  • Obtain the marriage license.
  • Buy the wedding ring.
  • Be sure to have a kethubah ready for the wedding. Discuss options for artistic or basic styles and consider getting a backup copy in case someone makes a mistake when filling it out.

Two Weeks before
  • Schedule final fitting for gowns.
  • Get your new sheitel cut and styled.
  • Be sure to have shoes you need. 
  • Work on getting a final count of guest; you will probably have a number of calls to make to those who failed to RSVP.
  • Give the caterer as precise a guest count as you can.
  • Make a seating plan for the dinner.
  • Go over any relevant details, such as specific requests, selections, and stipulations you have with the hall, caterer, florist, photographer, musicians.

One Week before:
  • Schedule a kallah appointment at mikvah. You would be allowed in earlier than standard time.
  • Confirm that all those assigned kibbudim [the honors like reading the Kethuba, reciting the blessings, and arranging the wedding] will arrive in time for them.
  • Get final fitting of wedding gown.
  • Confirm your times and places with makeup artist and hairstylist.
  • Touch base on last minute details with hall, caterer, florist, musician, and photographer.
  • Write or get calligrapher to write place cards.
  • Of course, along the way, you also have to find a place to live after the wedding. You will also have to obtain the basic furnishings and linens; equip the kitchen with the dishes, silverware, pots, and appliances you will require; make changes need to assure insurance coverage you need. Seeing all that needs to be done, it is no wonder that some would consider even a half a year too short a time. But while it may seem at times like being caught in a whirlwind, it is certainly possible to pull off a wedding in a few months.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Frum warning signs

I suppose this is the kosher equivalent of warning labels printed on cigarette boxes. In front of the broccoli for sale in one of the local kosher grocery stores was a warning sign. Essentially, it said that the Vaad found that this year's broccoli crop is so infested that it is virtually impossible to rid the vegetable of all bugs. Therefore, it advised any customer considering the purchase to consult with a rabbinic authority first.

Interesting that they didn't go so far as prohibiting the sale but insisted on a "buyer beware" sign. Perhaps they figure some will cook the boccoli just for flavor in one of those bags that advertise they block bugs.

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Friday, March 06, 2015

Modeling behavior for a child

I saw this posted on a number of streams. I get it that it's a nice idea to make people - even random strangers - feel good by saying something nice to them. However,  that should not be  false flattery. The man who gives the compliment refers to the hat as ugly to the boy. That makes it clear that he doesn't really consider it awesome. He could have come up with another compliment that wouldn't be a blatant lie, perhaps complimenting the man on his bag or his tie. 

As it is, the example set for the boy is that you can make friends and influence people by lying about the most obvious thing rather than looking for something you can truthfully point to as positive. 

It's actually a very bad example to set for a child that lying is the way to achieve one's goals, for the end justifies the means. There's a famous Talmudic (Yevamos 63a) account of a clever child who figured out a solution to the problem of his mother always making the opposite of what his father, Rav, requested for dinner. He switched the dish when conveying the rewquest to his mother. His father noticed the change and rmarked on it to his son who then proudly revealed his strategy.

Rav ordered him to cease and desist.  "Do not do this," he said, "so you will not learn to lie." Not willing to compromise on the truth -- even for the sake enhanced harmony-- was a powerful lesson for a child. And that child grew up to be Rav Chisda.

Now to connect the point of the previous two paragraphs: let's look at what Aharon HaKohen was famous for. Chazal say that all the Jews mourned him -- even more than Moshe -- because he was an ohev shalom verodef shalom [a lover and pursuer and peace]. He excelled at reconciling people who had a falling out. How would he do it? He'd go over to each person and tell him/her that the other wanted to make up. But, here's the big difference between a great man and the one shown in the cartoon: he wasn't lying. He had the ability to recognize the part of the person that really did want to make up. That's what he brought out in people. And that's how he proved so successful in bringing about peace. 

PS A few weeks after I first posted this, I read R' Dr. Abraham Twersky's book, Life's Too Short! St Martin's Press, 1995). On p. 158, he addresses this exact point of building self-esteem without resorting to lies, particularly in a relationship with a child.  He recounts his thoughtful response to his 7-year-old grandson's violin playing:
Although the melody was grossly off tune, I was about to say, "That was beautiful. I'm really proud of you. I caught myself, because it was not beautiful, and to say so would have been a lie. Instead I said, "I know that tune. Let's have a concert. You play and I'll sing it." We did so, and that child beamed with pride. I had acknowledged his playing  a melody that I could recognize, and I had not lied to him.

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