Crown Heights Wedding

“I walked into the wedding and was shocked to see a parade of couture.  The women were dressed gorgeously, their hair and makeup done to perfection.  I recognized designer gowns: Versace, Gucci, Vera Wang.  As they danced, holding hands and kicking up their feet in one large turning circle, I saw the red soles of a dozen Louboutins.  Half the noses in the room were identical ski slopes, with a straight bridge and small round nostrils –– certainly not the noses they were born with.  I was shocked!  I was mortified.  I looked down at my ridiculous homeless hipster outfit and felt the urge to run away.

“Before I could, the impeccably dressed women at the wedding grabbed my hands and pulled me into a large circle dancing around the bride.  I danced next to Danya, a student from Berkeley and, of all the students at Yeshivacation, the one closest to my age and disposition.  She wore jeans and some sort of knee-length hippie apron.  Chana, the bride, was dressed head to toe in white lace.  A high white fence separated her from Yitzhak, her new husband, and also kept the enormous men’s and women’s gatherings distinct.  The marriage had taken place at 770 earlier in the day, and the party was in a giant event space across the street, which hosted around five Hasidic weddings a week.  As the Yeshivacation girls fled past the men’s area, I peeked through the door and, for as long as they let me, watched the dense mass of formally dressed Hasids, wearing black top hats and black suits, dancing in a circle, hoisting the groom and his father and uncles up in chairs.  A Hasidic band played onstage.  A long cord traced along the back of the room and connected to one large speaker in the women’s section, which blasted the same music to a much different scene.

“As the night wen on, and we just kept spinning in circles, I began to forget how inappropriately I was dressed, forget even what weird old biddy I was to everyone there.  I locked arms with Danya and a middle-aged married Hasidic woman next to me, wearing a lavender dress and a smooth brown wig.  We kicked our legs and twisted side to side while the band on the men’s section pumped out chorus after chorus of Jewish wedding music.  Chana, the young bride, red-faced and beaming, stood in the middle, turning in small circles of her own.  Her hair –– it looked like it was still her own, not yet shorn or covered by a scarf –– fell in long brown ringlets, which bounced as she danced.  Her makeup was perfect, and her eyes were full of happy tears.  Periodically, on some prompting –– I couldn’t tell what –– all the women, arms linked, rushed in on her, closing ranks, cinching tight, and she waved her hands like a beauty queen.

“Hasidic Jews believe a woman is closer to God on her wedding day.  She has special prayers she get to say and these get more traction with the Divince.  At one point, Chana reached out and grabbed me from the circle.  I had no idea what was happening and dug in my heels, shaking my head, urging her to find someone else, but she insisted.  She held my hands in hers and we twirled around, just the two of us, while she spoke a prayer in Hebrew.  I looked in her eyes and searched my body for any feeling of holiness, for anything at all.  My thoughts immediately skipped forward a few hours, to the room where Chana and her betrothed would spend their first night together –– almost certainly the first time either would touch the bare flesh of a member of the opposite sex.  As she whispered in Hebrew, I looked at her closed eyes.  She opened her eyes and let go of my hands as the circle of women closed around her.

“Could this possibly be happiness?”

~Rebecca Dana, Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde

(You thought it must be me, no?)

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