These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Random musings about celebrations

Posted on February 8, 2010 by Lauren

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Celebration #1:  Tu B’shvat

For me, it feels like Tu B’shvat in Israel all year round because of the multitude of dried fruits all over the place, but during January, they really hit their peak.  It’s time to go back to the fresh fruits, in my opinion… I’m ready for springtime.  Nonetheless, I attended two different Tu B’shvat seders and had a chance to reflect on my community, what it means to live in the Israeli environmental fabric, and what our connection is to the larger world.

Does Tu b’Shvat have the same place in the Israeli psyche as Groundhog Day?  As in… can the weather now tell us how soon spring is going to arrive?  This past Shabbat was dreadfully cold and rainy – probably the coldest it’s been since I’ve been here – and I’ve been piling blankets upon blankets on top of my bed in an effort to stay warm.  I refuse to cave in and buy a space heather, because by golly, spring is just around the corner!  Maybe by Purim…

Celebration #2:  Mea Shearim Wedding

I’m now volunteering in Mea Shearim on Tuesday afternoons at a place called Ezrat Avot that offers different kind of programming and services for senior citizens, and I’m involved in chopping vegetables for their healthy meals on wheels program.  It’s the kind of work that is really satisfying after a long day of sitting in class – you chop for two hours, and you can see the concrete effects of your labor.  That usually doesn’t happen in Gemara class…

Anyway, as I was leaving Ezrat Avot last week and walking toward the center of town with friends, we heard loud music just up the street.  It sounded like a recording – we joked that in Mea Shearim, they do their Shabbat cleaning on Tuesdays – and as we walked up the hill, the music got louder and louder.  We could tell that it was drifting to our ears from over a high wall, and we saw some kids looking down onto whatever was behind the wall from their balconies.

Suddenly, a random woman approached us and said to us in Hebrew, ” The chuppah’s that way – it’s very beautiful if you want to see!”  We had nowhere to be, so it was time for an adventure.  We found a small archway where Hasidic kids and teens were crowded, watching the wedding below, and we stood as close as we could to peer down into what looked like a parking lot.  The chuppah was the only symbol that I noticed that marked the day as different from any other day, although the 15 or so young girls in attendance were all wearing the same matching gold dress with colored polka dots.

The entire ceremony was in Yiddish, of course, so we couldn’t really follow exactly what was going on, but we knew the anticipation was building before the kallah (bride) arrived, and she sparkled in the crowd in her bright white dress, in contrast with the dark tones of the rest of the men and women.  The kallah was covered from head to toe – her veil probably reached down to her stomach and was entirely opaque – so two women, presumably her mother and mother-in-law to be, led her in her seven circuits around the hatan (groom).  We remarked at how scared she must have been – an entire ceremony focusing on her, and she can’t even see what’s happening around her!  In a few short minutes they were wed, and the hatan led the kallah out from under the chuppah as we remarked how that was the first time either of them was touching a member of the opposite sex outside of their immediate families.

Now I’m preparing for the next celebration – Purim! – by learning Megillat Esther trope from a very Ashkenazi-sounding recording.  I DESPERATELY need costume suggestions – got any?