Friday, June 25, 2004

Those who hear Hashem's voice in light streaming through clouds would have been deafened by last night's sunset over the Galil. Standing beside the fluttering chupah, they would have been knocked to the ground. The setting sun cut a cone of light that descended through the clouds into the valley below us, just as Mitch and Tali, two holy souls I had never met before, exchanged rings and received their first seven blessings together.
How grateful I am that two people connected to me only be a number of secondary associations welcomed me so wholly into their simcha. And it was that--the intensity of the Simcha--which made the experience. The catering, the music, the unmatched view from the ruins of an ancient for atop the Galil--all these were potent pleasures of the evening, but it was the simcha, so open and loving and raucously joyous and unashamed, that filled the evening.
This was only the third wedding that I can remember going to. The other two were long ago. This wedding was such an intense joy for me, that I don't know how I'll be able to handle it when my friends start getting married, and I get to start going to weddings of people I already know and love.
My cousin, who designs and makes bridal gowns and other custom clothing for women, has told me that weddings are an enormous institution in Israel. More than five hundred people is typical, making the crowd of under 200 last night intimate by comparison. Couples often take out loans and go into debt for their weddings. A wonderful Palestinian scientist in my lab, who studies epidemics spread by sandflies, confirmed that this phenomenon is not confined to Jewish circles, that every summer practically someone in his family gets married, and over 1000 people attend.
My new roomate Shir Yaakov and I sat and discussed our visions of great weddings, and found that we had a strikingly similar vision of many people coming out to camp in a large open space, maybe a farm, and bringing instruments with them. My recent education in Simcha has given me some clarity on why the many bar mitvahs I attended in seventh grade rang so hollow. No amount of crystal-chandeleir-guilded-china-inflatable guitar-15-piece electric-slideband--novelty photobooth bought arrangements can fill such an experience. All that is truly needed is Simcha, unrestrained communal celebration, carried with a spirit of awe and love and praise.
Oh, and a funny note on the connectedness of this great earth. Both bride and groom just graduated from Brown, and though I had managed to know neither of them, I did know Mir and Yaniv and Katrina, all recent graduates who came from the states just for the occasion. The last place I expected to encounter them was atop an ancient fort, overlooking the Kineret.


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