I’ve certainly been to some lavish simchas in the last 25 years. Weddings that have taken me to impressive marinas, sandy beaches, and spectacular hilltop panoramic views, and bar mitzvahs featuring the hottest boy-toy bands and dancing women without, umm…their hair covered, to say the least. No, I wasn’t at Sam Horowitz’s extravaganza in Dallas, but please feel free to check it out on YouTube if you haven’t yet seen or heard about it.
This past Monday night I attended a wedding for the ages in Teaneck. You won’t read about it in any other newspaper. I don’t believe anyone was tweeting live from the scene, and I am fairly certain that there’s no YouTube channel for it. Who needs any of that anyway when the memories are so indelibly etched in one’s mind?
Although I asked the groom’s father for permission to write about the wedding, and he acquiesced, I have chosen to withhold their family name so as to protect the holy. If you were there with me, you’d understand.
You see, for all the riches we as a community have, Monday’s wedding was by far the richest I have ever attended.
Let me explain. I am friends with the groom’s father, and know the young man a bit. I had no knowledge of the bride’s family or life story. All my fault; I never asked until that night. Shame on me.
When Rabbi Benjamin Yudin serves as the Mesader Kiddushin and Rabbi Yaakov Neuberger is called upon to read the Ketubah, I take notice. If you have paid any attention at all to my last two columns, you’ll understand why I immediately sat up and at rapt attention. Fifteen minutes later, I had tears in my eyes. I had learned the story of Sharone and Jonathan.
He from Bergen County, she from Leipzig, Germany via St. Petersburg, Russia—he with 250 family and friends, she with her mother and her rabbi. You read correctly—she with her mother and her rabbi. He from a well-rounded Jewish education all his years, she from a home where mother and daughter decided to recreate traditional Jewish life in the country where Hitler destroyed it all. He with a father, mother, siblings and two super-proud Bubbies, and she, again, with her mother and rabbi.
When Jonathan and Sharone stood together under the most modest of chuppot, it burst with life and love and flowers and color and Jewish pride. If you were there, did you see it? Did you? And then the music began, with Eitan Katz live and in-person channeling his deepest, most soulful Carlebach. A shofar from the audience sounded in middle of one of the songs. The bimah swayed with kavana.
Did I mention that each guest had a card on their seat asking them to help Jonathan and Sharone twin their wedding with a poor couple’s own unaffordable wedding in Israel? Are you kidding me??
And then came the kicker. No, it wasn’t the breaking of the glass. Just when you expected the events to descend into normal emotionality with the singing of “Im Eshcacheich,” an announcement was made that the Chatan and Kallah—from Bergen County and Germany—he with 250 friends and family and she with a mother and a rabbi were “moving after Sheva Brachot for a year to Israel—hopefully more,” and all those in attendance were then asked to join in a niggun about aliyah.
This was a Hollywood wedding, in God’s eyes, with God playing Spielberg himself. And I got to be one of Reb Shlomo’s “holy brothers” for the night. The proudest “extra” in the world.
Someone whispered to me “She must be living a dream, a girl from the fringes of Yiddishkeit here in Teaneck.” I whispered back, “How do you know it’s not him who’s living the dream; she’s got a mother and a rabbi to match his 250?!” It can be said with fair certainty though, that they were both dreaming together, under the wealthiest chuppah in the world.
Dear friends, moments like these are the antidote to the subjects of my last two columns. In this crazy world of ours, and especially in the year 5774, let’s all dance harder at simchas. Let’s all celebrate with greater passion, and let us cherish and recognize the precious moments that Hashem reveals to us. Let us remember Jonathan and Sharone’s chuppah, and the values it taught all of us.
Ve Ketivah V’chatimah Tova.
By Robert Katz