August 16, 2013

A Chagall Wedding

In our daily morning prayers, we speak of important actions that we should strive to do. They are honoring one’s parents, performing acts of kindness, going to synagogue early, opening one’s home to guests, visiting the sick, providing for the bride, escorting the dead, absorption in prayer, bringing peace among people and studying Torah.

Today, despite the negative stories of Israel upon which the outside world continuously harps, this tiny country is a living testament to such kind acts. There are an abundance of real and current examples of how this country is filled with light and goodness like no other place on earth.

Last night, a special community in Tsfat 'provided for the bride' in a most meaningful, giving way. Here is how it happened.

One week ago, tourists from Holland were travelling around Israel and decided to visit Tsfat. They stopped in at the Tree of Life Cafe, the neighborhood health-food restaurant. The couple was with their two daughters, who were 11 and 13.

They sat sipping refreshingly cool juice under an umbrella and started chatting to Noam, a young 17-year-old waiter. Noam was dati, a religious Jew, and he was curious. They happened to mention that they were not married, which is not uncommon in Holland and in many other Western countries.

The waiter was astounded. He looked at them and at their beautiful daughters and asked, “Don’t you want to get married?”

The couple smiled and replied, “We never really thought about it. Sure, we do.”

“I’ll plan a wedding for you,” the young waiter shot back, beaming.

This was last Friday.  The waiter contacted a rabbi, then found a young couple who runs a Carlebach service at a local shul. Then he called his friends who called their friends. A young woman named Leah acted as the wedding coordinator. The date was set for the following Thursday night and the ceremony was to be performed at the old Ari Sefardi synagogue.

As the excitement mounted, the couple to be married invited everyone they met to the ceremony. They bought dresses for their daughters and waited for the anticipated day.

People in Tsfat, who had barely met this couple started shopping and cooking. Young girls on school vacation (my daughter included) decided to be waitresses and helped with all the food preparation. Professional photographer Jodi Sugar volunteered to take pictures and Meir Glaser, who performs in Carlebach-style concerts, was on hand with his guitar.

Finally Thursday arrived. The young waitresses, who were wearing matching black skirts and crisp white blouses, complete with matching jewelry specially bought for the occasion, helped set up. Their main job seemed to be guarding the candy as small children, whose prime motive was to fill their tiny palms with fistfuls of sugar, buzzed around like a swarm of bees.

“Wait for the chuppah,” they girls chided.

As the sun dipped behind Mount Meiron, blushing behind a soft pink and orange veil, the Dutch family left for synagogue.

The food was ready, the chairs were set out and the guests started to arrive. And as soon as the stars shone brightly above,  the couple stood together in the stone courtyard of the ancient synagogue. Four men, including the young waiter Noam, held a tallis over their heads. A young boy softly played the flute while his father strummed a guitar.  Shlomo Carlebach, if he could have been here, would have been touched. Everyone was smiling.

Stories of Torah sages, illustrating the importance of giving and sharing in marriage, were shared. The bride slowly walked around the groom seven times, their new friends recited the traditional sheva brachot and a glass was smashed.

“Mazal Tov,” everyone shouted and clapped. Guests erupted into song and dance, colorful confetti and candies swirled through the air and, on key, all the kids dove to the floor, mini submarines on a sweet-toothed mission.

Later in the evening, the chassan (groom) brought out his violin and played classical music with love and devotion. With the moon, the stars and the sweet sounds of violin, he could have stepped out of a dreamy Chagall painting. 

“This is the happiest day of my life,” the bride cried, hugging her daughters close.

Everyone laughed and everyone cried.  They danced and sang in true Tsfat style.
The wedding came about with spontaneity, and the speedy preparations were done with love. The ceremony was meaningful, heartfelt and filled with joy.

Chasnasat Kallah,’ escorting the bride, is a mitzvah that is alive and well in Tsfat. 

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