So, say what you like about Ultra-Orthodox Black-Hatter Judaism, they know how to throw a party. But first, my weekend.
On Friday, I packed, and then at around ten we hopped in the car and headed towards Pittsburgh. The last time we were in Pittsburgh, Adrian was far too busy organizing her son's Bar Mitzvah, so it was nice that we got to spend time with her and her very cute three ear old son, Noah. And I got to know
Adam, as opposed to just watch him do beautifully at his Bar Mitzvah. Etc.
Friday night dreams. I had three, but I don't very well remember the first one, so we'll skip over it and go straight to the second. It was about this man, thing, that decided to change the world into porcelain statues. Because this was a dream, of course, this worked, and so it was his world with his rules and everyone and everything was made of porcelain. Fragile, beautiful stuff, all the women dressed in fantastic costumes that tinkled as they walked. I was too, of course, and I think the man did it to me, but he seemed to have missed the memo that I wouldn't stop fighting for that. So I fought him by smashing his china people and whenever I could, catching and repairing
his people, which was the one thing he could not do. It involved chewing the broken pieces to make a kind of paste, which when placed in the pits and chips dried to make a patch. And that was pretty much it, apart from me listening to one of his porcelain doll-children tell me a story I'd read in a book once, and decided to find a way to undo it.
The second part rewinds to right around the time he was turning the world all porcelain, and involves Batgirl and Lazarus Pits and zombies. As it was happening, Batgirl (there are two of her, Batman Beyond's
Max in Cassandra Cain's Batsuit) discovered a Lazarus Pit, which had the power to restore her. Max was very angry and Cass kind of . . . surrendered herself to make a new and more powerful Batgirl. She decided right then that, a. she would lead all the secret societies among the porcelain-people and b. she would find a way to undo i, somehow by summoning Batman. There was some running across a large field and through a some trees and the building up of her group. Eventually, her people figured out that she was using a Lazarus Pit because it caused cancer in cats. Giving them Pit water would have cured them but reduced the time the Pit had, and she knew she needed it all. That one called the cats who died for the secret "the innocents" and Batgirl agreed and mourned them, but didn't stop. Near the end, the cabal-people were rebelling, because while porcelain people don't age they can't fix themselves and she wasn't going into the same kind of danger to bring back the clues that they were. They eventually shot at Batgirl, who dodged and showed them the grave of the cats, which she'd made to remember those whose deaths would not be in vain, including her operatives who were lost. And then, hidden in her little shed, she figured out how to rewind time to undo the damages, so she did. And the power of the Pit was mostly drained on the return journey and they still didn't make it back far enough in time, but Batgirl figured out something about a species of moth that had been used to turn the world into porcelain, and rewound time of her own will enough to catch and kill the moth. And thus, no one was ever turned to porcelain and the world was saved.
Then I woke up and had toast for breakfast. And, some hours of Intarwebz later, further sleeps.
Then we went out for dinners at a vegetarian Chinese place that also did sushi. So I shared a non-meat General Tso's Chicken with MW. Also, there were spicy tuna rolls and tuna and avocado rolls. And tea. Mmmm :9 Afterwards, we walked to this Rita's Ice Cream place and got Italian Ices with frozen custard. Yummy. And then we went back and I took a shower. That was Saturday. IT was just as uneventful as it sounds.
Yesterday, which was Sunday, we got up hella early and were washed and dried and packed and on the road at seven in the morning, and we drove straight through to New YorK by way of New Jersey. We arrived at the hotel around two in the afternoon, having not eaten since six thirty that morning, and this was a Good Thing. So we had a couple hours to get ready before the Wedding bits started at four. JJ and Dad took showers. I got MW to braid my hair, which she hardly ever does anymore unless I need a Really Nice Braid. Then we took a short nap.
A Jewish wedding is not, in any way, like a Christian wedding. There is no exchange of vows, or rings, or 'I do's. In the very simplest form, a Jewish wedding doesn't even need a rabbi; it needs the two persons being married and two witnesses. And this is because the essence of a Jewish wedding is the part where the bride and groom and witnesses sign the Ketubah (keh-tuba), which is a marriage contract, and someone recites the seven blessings. And that's it.
Of course, this being Judaism, there's slightly more to it most of the time.
Part the first - Bedekin (pronounce it like 'bedecking' and you'll be close enough)
The Bedekin is an ancient ceremony that occurs just prior to the wedding. As I understand it, it is very unlucky in a Christian wedding for the groom to see the bride on the day of the wedding before the ceremony. In Judaism, he has to, because the Bedekin is the part where the groom and a couple of witnesses go into where the bride is holding court and lifts up her veil and announces that, yes, this is the woman he's agreed to marry and not her sister. This entire ceremony stems from the biblical story of Jacob marrying Leah rather than Rachel because he didn't check behind her veil, and we do it now to make sure that kind of thing does not happen again.
This being a Graff affair, the bridal court was accompanied by (lots of) food. Lots. Cuisine from around the world, including sushi, lamb chops, sweetbread (which is not a bread at all, it's the thymus gland or pancreas of a calf), barbecue beefy bits, kikhul (kih as in kick, khul with the ch of a Sctottish loch and the ul of ultimate), which is a very Jewish kind of thing, potato-filled pastries, mushroom-filled raviolis, duck, coconut chicken, Israeli couscous (it's bigger than the regular kind), grilled vegetables, Israeli salad, and fruits. Understand that this was not that actual meal, this was the appetizer.
Anyway, the groom, Adam, came in with about fifty of his closest friends, and they sang and danced and Bedek'd and pictures were taken and then they danced their way out. And then it was time for the wedding.
Part the Second - Circling the Groom
So we all went out and sat in the son, and unlike the kind of wedding where the bride's family sits on one side and the groom's on the other, we were partitioned by gender. Only the very smallest of toddler boys were allowed to sit with their mothers. Both the bride and groom came in accompanied by both parents, which is the Jewish way. Other people came too, including all five of Joy's siblings and (if they had one) their spouses and (if they had them) children. And then Joy did her seven circuits around the groom. This probably has some deep religious meaning or symbolism or something, but I think it has more to do with the fact that seven is a very important number in Judaism. This was pretty no-nonsense.
Part the Third - Reading of the Ketubah
Next, we listened to the Ketubah being read. The Ketubah is the formal marriage contract. In ancient times, one supposes it would have specified what the groom owed the father of the bride in return for his daughter, and also what he owes his wife. (Jewish wives are entitled under law to food, shelter, clothing, and sex. No joke. Not getting laid enough is grounds for a Jewish woman to divorce her husband.) It would also specify what if anything he owed/was owed in case a divorce should occur. Then the father of the bride and the groom would sign it. This is the actual betrothal ceremony, and used to happen years before the wedding, especially in the case of an arranged marriage.
In more modern times, since we don't do bride-pricing anymore, it just specifies what the groom owes the bride, including upon divorce. Each Ketubah is different, and the bride and groom have them written up. My parents keep their Ketubah in a special case and take it out sometimes to show me. Before the modern age, in which the government of the countries ignored Jews at best and persecuted them at worst, a Ketubah was a legal document since Jews had to live by their own laws. Now, they are much more for show and are written in beautiful calligraphy on illuminated parchment, made from real dead animal skins. We take these not-officially legal documents very srsly.
Part the Fourth - Rings
ring at any rate, although there is no prohibition against ring exchanges even in the Orthodox community. They just didn't this time around. The groom said a blessing and gave Joy the ring. She'd have reciprocated then if she were going to, but she did not.
A note of newish wedding rings: we are prohibited from buying huje fancy expensive rings. It's supposed to be a plain gold band, a thing of negligible value. The ring is, after all, only a symbol and not meant
for showing off how rich your spouse is, because that really is not supposed to be why you're marrying them. So most Jewish wedding bands are actually quite inexpensive, considering that they're pretty much the simplest gold rings imaginable.
Of course, no one ever said anything about the engagement
ring, which is why my mother also wears quite a large diamond.
Part the Fifth - the Seven Blessings
The Seven Blessings are kind of well-wishes, hoping that God will bless the union with love and, being black hatters, lots and lots of little babies. A different person read each blessing, because it is quite an honor to be asked to read one. It isn't strictly necessary for a different person to read each one, though. It is just that in Orthodox Jewry, a wedding has more . . . call it "merit," for having well-known and respected rabbis, and more of them, perform these blessings. The wedding is not any less valid if you don't, of course. It's just a way of one-upping everyone else, saying I had such-and-such a rabbi perform at my wedding. And, because the Graffs are extremely wealthy, there were some Very Important Rabbis there.
Part the Fifth - Smashing of the Glass
This is more of a tradition than an actual requirement. However, it is
Tradition, so isn't never not done. What happens is that after the blessings, the bride and groom stomp on a glass. (It's wrapped up in a towel or something to keep the pieces from going everywhere.) The idea is that the love between the two is supposed to fade when someone pieces the glass back together. Some couples buy very nice glasses and then keep the pieces, but I never really saw the point, seeing as it's symbolic in any case.
And that's pretty much it for the actual wedding.
Then we went to the reception hall, which was Big. Because this was an Orthodox wedding, there was a mekhitza (meh-khee-tzah), a kind of folding screen separating the male half of the dance floor from the female half. The men did the Horah with the other men, the women with the women. Even during the chair dance, the bride and groom remained on their sides of the dance floor and held other ends of the same handkerchief. And, yes, we did the Horah. You can't go to a Jewish wedding and not
dance the Horah.
Two hours later, by which time everyone was hot and sweaty and kind of danced out and slightly less totally stuffed by the appetizer, dinner arrived. Dinner was plated, as JJ said several times, "like an Iron Chef competition." And it was, beautiful presentation. Egg rolls and fancy mango salad and duck bits. Then chikkin and
beef and spargel (which is a German word, and means white asparagus. The asparagus is white because while it is growing they keep piling dirt up around the stalk so the plant doesn't produce chlorophyll in that bit. It's mostly grown in Germany, and is Very Expensive) and potato and carrots and green beans. Just about the point where you were feeling totally stuffed again beyond any possibility of further consumption, the dessert came out.
There was cake. There was fruit. There was mousse. There were cookies, and chocolate fondue. There were brownies marshmallows and cordials. There were canolis made of cream stuffed in a chocolate shell. There was bananas foster
being made on the spot. There was a kind of parve ice cream called mocha mix that Jews eat because we can't have dairy right after a huje meal full of meat. The only thing thee wasn't, really, was a cake. Cakes are kin of optional extras.
Then there was more dancing.
And then we benched. Benching means doing the after-you-eat prayers, which are rather longer and more complex than the before-you-eat prayers, where I mean it takes fifteen minutes to get through benching. And then a different seven people, family members this time, recited the Seven Blessings again. They will be recited every day for the next week, just to make sure it takes. And then there was probably more dancing, but I waddled off like a penguin, overstuffed with good food and went to bed.
This morning, I got up although, admittedly, I was not happy about it. Then it dozed for a bit. Then I snoozed for a bit. Then I got dressed and went downstairs for some food. Food, in this case, involed bread rolls and tuna salad and egg salad, which I made into a sammich. It also involved further Israeli salad and noodle salad, and lots of sweet Danish-type things. So I had a tuna-and-egg-salad-sammich, plus Israeli salad tomatoes, plus orange juice, plus cheesecake, plus cookies. This was breakfast. The reason there was so much food was because it was a Jewish event, at which there is always more food
Then we got in the car and droooove. On the way, we listened to Terry Pratchett's Wee Free Men
, since the family liked A Hat Full of Sky
So well last time and wanted to see how it started. Then we listened to music and I fell asleep some. Then we started listening to Wintersmith
, the third and last of that series, but we got home a little over a third of the way through. After eleven hours. I mean, I don't mind
the Bluesmobile. Actually I rather like it, but not after eleven hours.
So now I am home and should probably be unpacking instead of being online, which is what I am doing, but unpacking can happen tomorrow provided it does not happen too much later tomorrow. It is my day to cook tomorrow too, which is not something I want to do very much. Still, life goes on, even after a wedding. Or maybe especially after one.
I still don't really wish to go to work tomorrow.