Two Sylvias and a Wedding

By Robin Jacobson. 

The Jewish Wedding Now by Anita DiamantOn Simchat Torah, we reach the end of the Torah and begin reading it anew. The rabbis promise that each year’s reading offers new insights as our life experience broadens. Is it similarly true, I wonder, that remarks our parents made take on new meaning over time? And is there something a tad mystical about that?

Long ago, towards the end of my mother’s life, a visitor complimented her stunning bridal portrait hanging over a bureau. Mom glanced at it and said simply, “It was yesterday.” She meant, I understood at the time, that life passed quickly. But now, looking back, her comment feels unfinished. Did she perhaps pause and then say something else? As I replay the scene in my imagination, Mom adds a mystical, subliminal message for me to hear only now. I imagine (remember?) Mom saying not only, “It was yesterday” of the bridal portrait, but her beautiful wise smile as she added a prophecy: “But it’s also tomorrow.” This October 14, Mom’s granddaughter, Sylvia, named for her, will wear Mom’s wedding dress on her own wedding day.  Maybe Mom had a glimmer of the family’s future?

Moving from the mystical to the practical, preparing for Sylvia’s wedding has led me to several good guidebooks. If your family has an upcoming wedding, try The Jewish Wedding Now by Anita Diamant, which encompasses traditional weddings, LGBTQ weddings, multi-faith weddings, second weddings and more. Other worthwhile guides are Made in Heaven by Aryeh Kaplan, The Jewish Marriage Anthology by Philip and Hanna Goodman, and Mazal Tov! by Michael Shire; these guides explore the rich heritage of Jewish wedding rituals – ketubah, chuppah, Seven Blessings, stomping on a glass, etc. Here’s a sampling of notable quotes and legends on Jewish marriage.

Why Get Married?

In 2018, most Americans readily accept an unmarried couple living together. So, what “added value” does a wedding offer?  Consider these perspectives:

“A Jewish wedding is [about the couple], but it is also about family, and community, and tradition. A Jewish wedding connects [a] couple . . . to a language of holiness, to a living history, and to a diverse and vital culture . . . something much larger and more mysterious than two people.”

-Anita Diamant 

“The wedding ceremony is a ritual of transformation. You enter . . . seeing the world through the eyes of a single person, and you leave the ceremony as a couple . . . [A mystical tradition even] suggests that the souls of the bride and groom gradually become intertwined in [the] circling [that is part of the ceremony].”

-Rabbi Michael Shire

Made in Heaven?

In Jewish tradition, marriages are bashert, made in heaven, as the following selections illustrate:

A wealthy Roman woman asked a rabbi what God had been doing since Creation. The rabbi replied that God was busy arranging marriages. The woman scoffed, saying she could do that. She immediately arranged 1000 marriages among her slaves. Within a day, the newlywed couples, bruised and battered, declared that they could not abide their spouses. When the woman conceded that making a good match was harder than she had thought, the rabbi said that even for God it was as difficult as dividing the Red Sea.

-Genesis Rabbah 68:4

God creates new worlds constantly by bringing human couples together.

-Zohar 1:89a

“From every human being there rises a light that reaches straight to heaven. And when two souls that are destined to be together find each other, their streams of light flow together, and a single brighter light goes forth from their united being.”

-The Baal Shem Tov

Wishing you only simchas in 5779!