Thursday, October 28, 2010

Post Wedding Report - Part 2

In case you missed part one, you can find it here.

One of the people who kept poking his head into my dressing room was, of course, our photographer. Unsurprisingly, he kept inquiring when I’d be ready so we could start taking pictures. He always seemed to catch me right after another interruption, and thus I was never ready when he asked. This made me feel kind of bad for him, as I imagined him trying to placate my parents and future in-laws while he dashed back and forth in his attempt to retrieve me. The last time he popped in, I was basically dressed with the exception of my white chosson’s tie, since I don’t yet know how to do a full Windsor tie knot (yeah, yeah whatever - I'm trying to learn). He quickly offered to tie the full Windsor knot (which I preferred for the occasion since it just looks nicer than the standard half-Windsor), and I was finally ready to go.

Of course, we had to do the whole shticky bit of photographing the moment ASoG and I saw each other for the first time. One problem I had with this was that I had read an idea in the sefer Yom Chupa L’Chatan that it is important to try and say a shehechiyanu on the day of the wedding. While it is a very appropriate shevach to HaShem and would seemingly fit the occasion, for some reason the bracha was not built into the ceremony at all. Hence, it is worthwhile to have a new suit or something else that requires a shehechiyanu for the chosson to say in the presence of the kallah and have her answer amein, having in mind the significance of reaching the day of marriage as well.

I did, indeed, have a brand-new suit for the occasion, but the tricky part was figuring out how to put it on then say the shehechiyanu without creating a significant delay between donning the suit for the first time and reciting the bracha. So, the answer I figured out on the spot was to simply not wear my suit jacket during this first meeting picture sequence, and subsequently put it on after the cameramen left us alone, then said the shehechiyanu. My reasoning was that it isn’t worthwhile to say shehechiyanu on a new pair of pants, which isn’t so chashuv, since it should be said on the complete suit, which I wasn’t technically wearing without the jacket. I was very happy receive confirmation from Rav Simon (who, as I mentioned in the last post, is currently doing topics on Shehechiyanu in his weekly Sunday halacha shiur) that this course of action was a good thing to do.

The picture taking process itself, as you might imagine – or have heard from any married person, or sibling of a married person – is heck, simply put. The feeling of standing there, doing pose after awkward pose, straining the limits of your ability to focus, smile and re-smile, and maintain a good sense of patience through the whole thing is very draining. And don’t forget that all this is on top of the fact that I was fasting. ASoG had had a bit to drink earlier and was a slightly better off than I. Before any unmarried or uninformed readers jump all over my wife, after asking a she’ayla about this, my rav informed me that even the biggest poskim are very maykil (lenient) on women fasting on the day of their wedding, since they are often nervous wrecks as it is without the additional strain of fasting to burden them. However, she had to contend with the rather binding fit of her dress, which restricted her breathing and movement a bit, so perhaps she really was worse off than I was.

One good thing that our photographer did – which I recommend to all readers for their own wedding – is to kick out everyone else when we did our couple pictures, both before and after the chuppah. Pictures are of this sort are generally awkward enough as it is, all the more so when it’s just you and your soon-to-be/brand-new spouse. No one wants their crazy Aunt Faygel, let alone annoying little siblings or even beaming, proud parents sit there on the sidelines making comments, faces, and other distractions. Of course, all the onlookers were extremely disappointed when the head photographer announced that everyone other than ASoG and I had to leave. Despite this precaution, a few anxious, camera-happy relatives still tried taking pictures through the little window of the door at the back of the room, or attempted to follow us when we changed locations for different scenery in the pictures.

As a side note, it would appear to me that hands are a photographer’s worst enemy. I’ve noticed from my own picture taking experiences, both formal and informal, that hand positioning is always difficult. I’ve seen pictures I’ve been in where everything is perfect, except my hands are awkwardly or strangely positioned. In this instance, I don’t think I’ve ever thrust my hands into my pockets so many times in my life. Wedding photographers constantly make the guys stick their hands in their pockets to get them out of sight and out of mind. They kept telling me that it’s the fashion model thing to do; standing there with one leg up on a step-stool, and my hand facing the camera pulling my jacket aside while carefully inserted into my pants pocket.

Family pictures were fun, crazy, and a bit of a hassle at the same time. Despite the fact that our immediate family was (hopefully) on time, the abundance of extended relatives were not even close. Several of ASoG’s uncles and cousins came rather late to the wedding, my father forgot to tell his younger brother what time pictures were so that he and my aunt were “busy” relaxing at the hotel when we did my side’s pictures, and a cousin of mine had to fly in from a business trip - from Europe – but only after making a connecting flight upon reaching the States (he arrived in time for the tisch). We ended up having to round up my extended family a second time, which was a hoot in-and-of-itself, following our post-yichud room pictures just to make sure these temporarily absent relatives got their chance to appear in the wedding album.

Once pictures were finally over, Mom and ASoG’s Mom whisked her away with other assorted female relatives squealing in tow to her throne by the shmorg for the Kabbolas Panim.

As a side point - another thing I noticed during the course of my wedding was how much of a difference of attention is given to the kallah versus the chosson. ASoG had a whole entourage take her to the kabbolas panim, whereas all the male relatives simply dispersed, either running to the bathroom and/or to grab food at the shmorg. So there I was, all alone with the ring, kesubah, and tana’im, just waiting around by myself for guests in the tisch room (my shomer had stepped out during pictures, since I wasn't alone and I didn't have my phone with me to call him back). The same thing happened at the badeken and after we made our grand entrance, but I’ll talk more about that later.

Thankfully, one of my rabbeim, along with my friend who drove him in showed up a few minutes later and kept me company until everyone else starting filing in after they stopped by the shmorg on their way in. I didn’t really sit at the head table so much as I had seen many friends do at their own weddings. Instead, I spent most of my time walking about and schmoozing with friends, family, and rabbeim.

The two most frequently asked questions were “Wow, can you believe you’re getting married?” and “Wow, I can’t believe you’re up and about. You’re fasting, right? Are you okay?” Generally, I am a pretty good fast-er, especially on days unlike Yom Kippur where I can ride around in cars and enjoy air conditioning instead of making the long walk to shul from my house. I was perhaps a little weak, but the excitement of the moment and the accompanying adrenaline were keeping me pretty buoyant.

I was also regularly accosted by soon-to-be distant relatives I had never met before who would simply say "Mazal tov! I'm going to be your cousin/great-uncle/some relation so far removed that even your kallah doesn't know me!" then omit actually telling me what their name was. I guess it was nice of them to realize that I would have about 0% chance of remembering who they were, even if one or two of them were somewhat significant figures that I had been briefed about/heard about many times during our engagement. Despite that courtesy, what was the real point of actually saying that to my face? Particularly if this was one of the few chances I'd ever have to interact with them, why not make it memorable and give me a name to feebly attempt to store in my mind?

Anyway, the kabbolas panim was a big deal for me (as was the rest of the wedding), because it was the first time the two halves of my life, namely the YU side and my hometown side, have ever interacted. I’ve sort of lived two distinct lives, one when I'm here in New York and the other when I'm back home. I have two totally different sets of friends and rabbeim, each quite different from the other, but for me the variety has really benefitted me and given me the ability to grow into the person I am today. Very few people from there have ever gone to YU, with several notable exceptions, and I’m probably the most pro-YU person in the community. It was wonderful for me to feel such a sense of shelaymus/completeness when my rabbeim from home and YU were all together, some even acting together as pairs of eidim for different kibbudim. Seeing Rabbi Blau together with my middle school rebbe/former NCSY advisor or Rabbi Carmy with a close family friend who half-adopted me when I became shomer shabbos, put a huge smile on my face.

Finally, things got underway when my Mesader Kiddushin (henceforth referred to as MK) arrived and I was called to my seat at the head of the table. My YU friends, who were sitting nearby, began singing very enthusiastically as we began with me doing the kinyan for the tan’aim, which was signed by the witnesses, the kesubah was similarly signed, and read aloud by a friend of ASoG’s family. After I did the kinyan, and my MK was busy making sure the eidim were signing correctly, the photographer had me take several cheesy pictures holding up the ring and looking intently at the kesubah, etc.

There have been so many times where I've sat at a chosson's tisch, munching on food, singing and enjoying the festivities. It was a somewhat surreal experience to suddenly be the center of attention rather than simply a guest. I would venture to say that most of the day's proceedings had at least some tinge of that out-of-body feeling, as though the significance of the moment wasn't quite hitting me just yet.

After the tana'im were read, Our mothers broke the plate over the back of a chair, and the band struck up the usual “Od Yishoma.” My Father and ASoG’s each grabbed a hand to lead me to greet my bride amidst the cheers, singing, and antics of my friends.

Look For Part 3 Soon!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Shehechiyanu On An Engagement Ring?

This past Sunday I attended Rav Simon's weekly halacha shiur where he is currently giving a series of shiurim on different aspects of saying the bracha shehechiyanu.

The topic of this particular shiur was saying shehechiyanu on acquiring/purchasing or receiving a new house or keilim (loosely defined here as vessels, but referring to certain items clothing, and other possessions of significance).

He mentioned an interesting point, one of many that he has heard during his many conversations with Rav Yitzchak Abadi. Rav Abadi felt that a woman receiving an engagement ring could, in fact say shehechiyanu on accepting the ring. The significance of that particular gift certainly brings the woman great simcha. In addition, from the standpoint of the wording of the bracha itself, certainly she is quite b'simcha to have finally reached the momentous day of receiving and accepting a marriage proposal (not to mention the ring)!

While ASoG didn't say a shehechiyanu when I popped the question (Rav Simon also wasn't clear if this was entirely lema'aseh or not), I hope others out there will get the opportunity to ponder this question as a practical application soon enough!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Post Wedding Report - Part 1

Man, weddings sure do come and go in the blink of an eye. After all those months of dating, finally making the decision to pop the question, creating an elaborate proposal set-up, planning until you’re sick of planning, the big day is over before you know it. A then-very-soon-to-be cousin-in-law told me during picture taking that it is very important to mentally take a step back and capture a picture of the scenes in front of you during the course of the whole wedding shindig. He was definitely right in offering his advice. Particularly after looking through all the official pictures, with the occasional oo-ing and ah-ing at the beautiful, yet awkwardly arranged family or couple pictures, the photo documentation of the amazing shtick my friends and family pulled off pales in comparison to the mental record I have in my head.

At any rate, sheva brachos have also flown by, with their own beauty, friendship, and deliciousness beginning to fade into memory. It was very heartwarming to see so many friends and family members put in the extra effort to celebrate with us again, especially after many (at least on my side) schlepped so far just to be present at part of, or hopefully all of, the wedding itself. I can imagine how tiresome it can get for those in the northern parts of this country who frequently get wedding invitations and must make an obligatory appearance to keep the peace, despite the utter exhaustion of preparing for yet another all-too-brief dressed-up outing.

Nevertheless, the wedding turned out almost exactly as I had been dreaming of these past few months of engagement. Thank G-d, next to nothing went wrong, despite the warnings of more experienced married friends and parents of friends who have married off several children. The only things that come to mind are forgetting to ask the band if we could record the performance (which wasn’t done at any rate), a shortage of one of the specifically chosen colored ties for the wedding party (which was semi-easily replaced), and the odd occurrence that someone’s expensive new suit jacket seemingly vanished into thin air (thankfully, it was recovered a few days later).

I arose early-ish that morning to go to the mikvah and daven shacharis, after which my shomer and I raced back to my apartment so I could shave and re-shower (men’s mikvah water is notoriously not the cleanest) before we started heading to the wedding hall. In the mad dash across the Heights, my shomer proved to be worth his appointment when he saved me from stepping in dog droppings, which would have put a damper on the start of the day’s proceedings. After leaving the Heights, we managed to find a yeshiva (a yeshivish yeshiva, and here I was wearing my YU fleece, and my shomer his kipa sruga) near the hall where they conveniently davened mincha right when I needed it, and I spent a good half hour pouring my heart out in words of teshuva for my past misdeeds and asking HaShem for bracha and hatzlacha in my relationship with ASoG, as well as that I should be the best possible husband that she so rightly deserves.

One contradiction I faced during davening that day was the practice of omitting tachanun in the presence of a chosson (IE: yours truly). At Shacharis, we didn’t say tachanun. At mincha, a rebbe at the yeshiva wished my mazal tov, after which he inquired exactly when the wedding was. When I replied that it was actually after shekia (sun set) he announced that we would indeed be saying tachanun. While all the disappointed yeshiva bochrim begrudgingly went about saying tachanun after chazaras hashatz (the out-loud repetition of the shemonah esrei), sufficed to say neither I nor my shomer said tachanun. One friend who had the same issue earlier this year later told me that the congregation omitted tachanun the day of his wedding, despite the fact that his chupah also took place after dark. Another person told me the whole thing is a machlokes. Anyone heard anything about this?

Anyway, shortly before arriving at the hall, I sent a preemptive warning via text message so that ASoG would be spirited away to her dressing room and thus avoid seeing me earlier than necessary. Once that was arranged, my shomer and I were shown to my dressing room. Upon opening the door (which had a little number pad to provide a secure entry), we discovered – much to our surprise –a woman nursing her baby. We promptly slammed the door in shock, thankfully we didn’t see anything we shouldn’t have, and my soon-to-be sister-in-law took care of the intruder (who was attending the ongoing bar mitzvah).

Getting dressed was comical at best. Every few minutes someone would knock on the door, wanting to either: randomly take a picture, ask some inane question, give me a gift, or just say hi. As such, it took far longer than necessary to get ready. Putting in my contacts was ridiculous. I stood there with one contact in and the other on my fingertip awaiting application for about ten minutes, with multiple interruptions preventing me from inserting it. At one point, ASoG came running in looking for the Tena’im, which suddenly wasn't with the Kesubah or the marriage license (as it should have been). I remained locked in the bathroom while the search took place. As it turned out, the Tena'im ended up being found in another room entirely.

Parenthetically, one of the things I noticed that happens frequently at weddings is not that things go wrong per se, but awry – particularly in a humorous sense, if one has the ability to appreciate it.

Check out Part 2 here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Re: "Go Ahead and Laugh"

To Chana, the self-proclaimed "Queen of a Castle of Cardboard" at Curious Jew, I post this picture and declare myself your brother-in-arms as lord and protector of the majestic Junk-Castle Greyshade:

And this is AFTER removing a similar pile of packaging, bubble wrap, etc twice already. So perhaps this is actually Junk-Castle Greyshade III.

Thankfully, ASoG and I have an elevator to assist in our garbage removal - a fact which only raises my level of admiration for Lady Chana and the heroic task she must undertake.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


An issue that has been bothering me for a long time, well before I got engaged, is the near-universal minhag of the chosson breaking a glass under his right foot at the end of the chupah ceremony. As everyone knows, the moment that little crunch is heard, all the guests in attendance shout out "MAZAL TOV!!!" and the band starts up "Od Yishama" in preparation for the escort dance to the yichud room.

To me, it all seems wrong.

The source behind the custom of breaking the glass is a Gemara in Brachos 30B-31A (Soncino Translation found here - bold headers by me):

Introductory section: "What is meant by ‘rejoice with trembling’? — R. Adda b. Mattena said in the name of Rab: In the place where there is rejoicing there should also be trembling. Abaye was sitting before Rabbah, who observed that he seemed very merry. He said: It is written, And rejoice with trembling? — He replied: I am putting on tefillin. R. Jeremiah was sitting before R. Zera who saw that he seemed very merry. He said to him: It is written, In all sorrow there is profit? — He replied: I am wearing tefillin.

The part relevant to this post: Mar the son of Rabina made a marriage feast for his son. He saw that the Rabbis were growing very merry, so he brought a precious cup worth four hundred zuz and broke it before them, and they became serious. R. Ashi made a marriage feast for his son. He saw that the Rabbis were growing very merry, so he brought a cup of white crystal and broke it before them and they became serious."

So you see why I'm conflicted about this. The breaking of the glass is meant to be an appropriate spiritual imposition/reminder at the very height of the joy experienced by the chosson (the moment of marriage under the chupah) - and a sign to everyone else - that despite our great happiness, life isn't what it could be, since we don't have the Beis Hamikdash.

An additional point regarding the meaningfulness of what Rav Ashi (and seemingly Mar brei d'Ravina) did in smashing the white crystal (according to a Tosafos somewhere in Shabbos that I can't find) was that the white crystal was a plentiful resource during the time period when the Beis HaMikdash stood. After the destruction, it was no longer found and became a scarce commodity. Hence, smashing the white crystal goblet was like destroying a relic from the Beis HaMikdash itself, compounding the significance of performing such an attention-grabbing action.

One solution, which Rabbi Elyashiv Knohl presents in his book Ish V'Isha is to break the glass during the singing of Im Eshkocheich. The placement of the glass breaking during the song that reminds us (and the chosson specifically) to not be too joyous by remembering that we are still in galus and without the Beis Hamikdash, thereby reminds us just why we do it in the first place. Rabbi Knohl also remarks that by doing this the singer will hopefully drown out the one awkward guy who shouts "Mazal Tov" anyway when the glass is smashed.

I was discussing this topic with a married friend of mine recently, and I asked him what he did (I couldn't remember). To my surprise, he said he broke the glass at the end in the typical fashion seen at most weddings. He is certainly the personality/hashkafic type who I had presumed would break the glass during Im Eshkocheich, so I eagerly asked him to explain why he didn't do that. He answered that a friend of his told him an interesting reason why breaking the glass at the end, despite the immediate response of "Mazal Tov!" actually made some sense.

In short, it is true that we must acknowledge our lack of the Beis HaMikdash and truly express some degree of mourning at its absence during the wedding ceremony. However, once we have had that brief moment of aveilus, that's all there should be - and we jump right back into the simcha of the moment. It is appropriate to feel sorrow, but a person should not dwell on the aveilus longer than necessary, nor be consumed by it, especially at that time. So immediately after the few minutes of Im Eshkocheich (and for some, who don't have anyone sing it, an even shorter period of time) we immediately switch to a "Mazal Tov!" attitude, which does not negate the emotional tug of mourning we experienced mere seconds before.

It's a nice idea, but I don't think I'm chassidic-oriented enough to appreciate it at the same level he did. So my plan is to break the glass during Im Eshkocheich.

What do you guys thing? What practice have you seen the most?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

#11 On The List Of Things Told To A Soon-To-Be Chosson

To add another fun quote to the list I posted yesterday, I present this little gem courtesy of Rabbi Dani Rapp, head of BMP at YU, who is well known for his sharp sense of humor:

"Marriage is the one thing that takes the alter-bochur and turns him into a yunger-man!"

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Top Ten Things Told To A Soon-To-Be Chosson

I have been consumed by yom tov and wedding preparations, hence the lack of updates (seems like I preface every post with something of that sort). Worst of all - I missed writing my one year blogoversary post! I started this humble little venue for my musings on hashkafa and dating on September 23rd, 2009.

I DO intend to write that blogoversary post, as well as finish the half-dozen or so posts that remain unfinished drafts - and I have another handful of stories in various stages of development. I just need to get back into my usual schedule now that the 3-Day Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah/Shabbos extravaganza is over, and hopefully more content will start appearing in the not-too-distant future.

Anyway, onto the actual substance of this post.

When you're engaged, and especially when your wedding is only a handful of weeks away, married folks just love dispensing marital advice. The been-there-done-that attitude often produces some inspiring bits of wisdom truly worth hearing and taking into consideration.

Other times, the intent is more for laughs, or perhaps to humorously horrify the almost-married-man. Yet, there is often a kernal of truth hidden in the joke.

I present ten of the funnier things I've heard in recent days. The order is fairly arbitrary, with just a little thought given to the arrangement.

10. The reason why the chosson says so much under the chuppah and then smashes the cup is because this is the last time he gets to speak his mind and put his foot down.

9. You're going to discover that a woman's mind seems to compute math in a fashion very different from a man's. You'll come home to a pile of shopping bags and a cheery wife who greets your exasperated reaction with "Do you know how much I saved you!?"

8. Men have 3, maybe 4 pairs of shoes which they use for various specified activities. Women have lots of shoes, more than you can ever imagine owning, get used to it.

7. Marriage isn't as great as bochurim think, nor is it as bad as married men say it is.

6. The two most important words a married man should know are "Yes, dear."

5. Alternatively: For the first 10 years, it's "Yes ma'am," and then "Yes, dear."

4. Alternatively: Always make sure you get the last words in, namely "Yes, dear."

3. There is no such thing as "your" closet space.

2. Getting kids ready for shul is like herding cats. G-d willing, you'll know one day, too.

1. Well, are you ready to be institutionalized?*

*This is a take off of the famous quote from Groucho Marx (who was Jewish) - "Marriage is a wonderful institution... but who wants to live in an institution?"