Thursday, August 11, 2011

THE MOST TENDER MOMENT

For once I wished I was omnipresent so I did not have to miss a thing, not one thing!


The atmosphere was suddenly suffused with fervor, drama and solemn commotion.  Ari was entering our side of the hall arm-in-arm with his father Moshe on one side and Menuha's father Yoel on the other.  They processed towards Menuha accompanied by a congestion of guests and camera and video crew.  Intuitively I knew the following was very,very important. This is Badeken, when Ari assures himself that indeed the woman before him is Menuha, his intended bride to avoid suffering Jacob's fate in the Old Testament when Lavon engineered a bride-swap.  I simply had to witness this because today will be the first time that I will see them together in the same space since I arrived. They had not seen each other for two weeks prior to the wedding to accomplish with care albeit separately the pre-wedding cleansing rituals, davening and fasting.  I had to see with my own eyes how he looked when he looked at her.  It was quite a challenge to find a spot to get a full view of the two of them since everyone had the same goal.  After successfully insinuating myself up front I saw Ari's face with a wealth of tender emotions, his eyes gentling lovingly as he looked at her. And was his face blushing with his feelings?  I was so struck by the depth of this encounter between them that my tears welled unbidden and were flowing down my cheeks before I knew it.  As I raised my eyes my gaze collided with Tobiah's, one of Menuha's brothers, who remarked on my affection later.  Next thing I saw was her face was already covered with a thick antique-white cloth like a veil and her head was bent underneath it while she was praying from a text.


As I pondered on what just took place, the groom's and the bride's entourages were on the move again (Didn't I tell you, this is literally and by far the most movable festivity I've ever attended in my long life!)  and this time to go to the fifth floor for the Chupa which was set directly under the sky.  It was challenging for Menuha since she can't see with her veil over her face but she was escorted well by the mothers and the other ladies and arrived by elevator I presume, whole and composed.

THE BRIDE

Menuha is a rare sight.


Menuha is tall and slender with olive-toned complexion, black hair and dark eyes.  On this her wedding day, she wore an ankle-length antique-white gown with a round neck and long sleeves, both of which were edged with a modicum of lace, a waist that emphasized the narrowness of it, and a perfect fit that showcased her well-proportioned physique.  She wore white stockings and white shoes.  She wore a white veil over coifed up-done hair (a wig perhaps) highlighted with discreetly sparkling bead-like jewels - it was all oh! so romantic but in a barely there fashion. The length of the gown enabled her to move about easily which she did a lot of.  She was the most active bride I've ever seen - her movements were quiet, lithe and purposeful.  She was already on site when we arrived and small groups of women were intermittently clustering around her in greetings and well-wishings and something else which will become evident a little later.  She appeared, disappeared and re-appeared, always with either her sister or her mother or with a bunch of ladies.  Finally she re-entered the hall formally on the arms of her mother Sapir and Ari's mother Noya on either side of her and they processed towards the gilded white settee where she sat. Ladies followed and formed two receiving lines in front of the settee.  I observed that the ladies were not only offering salutations but by their body language seemed to be earnestly entreating her for something I-know-not-what-still and she obliged every one of them.  This went on many, many times throughout the night. Shortly her handsome family joined her on the dais and photographs were taken.





THE RECEPTION

On the arrival of Ari's car at the venue, the camera and the video team met him and his entourage which were us and films started rolling.  We proceeded to the fourth floor of the building where the beautifully laid out reception hall divided into the male side and the female side was located. Ari was spirited away to his side or somewhere-I-don't-know where he was not supposed to see his bride-to-be yet. The focal point of the female side was a beautifully upholstered Louis XV-style settee in white and gold on a white dais set against one wall of the room and marked by a white diaphanous hanging.  The dais was flanked by huge crystal vases with elegant flower arrangements within them and these were on stands. The effect was understated yet regal, dramatic and sentimental but not over-the-top.  The tables were formally set for dining with white tablecloths and napkins, with white place settings, silverware and crystal goblets, and completed with a formal flower arrangement.  There was a bunch of prayer cards in Hebrew, I assumed that was what they were, resting against the bottoms of the vases.  The seating arrangement was after-the-fact when a hostess came around asking if we who were already seated were family and labeled our table as such which I picked for its vantage point.  There was a bar on the other side of the room which was a small buffet of hot foods and non-alcoholic beverages to which the guests helped themselves promptly. To the left of the bar was another formally set table for four which was never occupied.  It might have been meant for the bridal entourage.  This was an adventure in and of itself for me since there was no program I could refer to for the sequence of events.  I saw a pile of interesting-looking booklets at an entrance round table but it was in Hebrew and I was not sure what they were.  No one else was carrying anything in their hands that could be construed as a program.  I should have googled "Jewish Weddings of the Chareidi Tradition" but I did not know until I was there that this was what I was specifically invited to attend.  It was proving to be the theme of this week, I learned as the days unfolded.  Back in the States Noya gave me a magazine article to read but was too busy getting my wardrobe together for the trip to read it completely.  I could have asked you'd say but I was so enthralled and caught up by the proceedings to ask.  So I prepared myself to be amazed and delightfully amazed I was.  I was rocked!  There is something to be said about being clueless - full enjoyment at face value, unfettered by expectations.  More significantly, I got to know Menuha's style by observing closely every detail of the event that reflected her choices.  I've concluded that her style is comfortable understated elegance.