David Giora: family weddings

Who will count the celebrations, and especially the weddings I have attended with my parents. Weddings of those days are not at all like the weddings in our time. To begin with, most weddings were arranged marriages agreed between the parents of the groom and the bride, and only a few were the result of love. When a guy met a girl, there were no concept of “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”, but they were called courting or suitor. At the stage it was decided that “this is it” the “terms” would be agreed and an engagement party would follow. Sometimes it resembled a wedding, but at this stage the “Tnnaim” were written, meaning the engagement contract, and a wedding time was more or less determined.

In simpler cases, the ceremony stating the engagement, was breaking a plate by two mothers, which was used as evidence that both spouses are occupied, from now on until the wedding He was called “the groom” and she was already “the bride”, although they did not yet stand under the “Chuppa”.

On rare occasions a person could not afford to obtain a dowry or had not reached an agreement and the conditions have been canceled, and that was very shameful. There were cases when the walk to the “Chuppa” was delayed, until the amounts were handed over, as promised while promised in the “conditions”.

Usually the wedding was held at the bride’s home, or at relatives. That is to know – the Commandment of “Hachnasat Kala” was highly developed in Jewish communities in Poland. Relatives and remote acquaintances did everything to make the bride and groom happy. Like any community Siedlce also had  an institution called “Hachnasat Kala”.

Well, as I have already said, the wedding took place at the bride’s house. So where was the groom? And here I will tell you that the women went directly to the bride’s house. On the other hand, the men gathered at the bridegroom’s house where a feast was held and they also wrote the Ketubah. When the happy moment arrived, the carriage arrived at the groom’s house (If the groom had enough money) and all the baggage was taken to the bride’s house.

There a Klezmer Orchestra awaited, and if there was no lack of money even comedian. They played folk tunes and the comedian uttered praises to the bride and groom. Of course, the bride sat on a throne with the mothers and sisters standing around her weeping bitterly with the bride. Why did the bride cry? Some said she was leaving her parents’ home and especially her mother and starting a new life. In fact it was a Yom Kippur both for the bride and for the groom. On this day it was customary for both spouses to fast until after the Chuppa.

The Chuppa itself was held outdoors. The happy couple would then be shown to the conjugation room. This old custom has always existed to introduce the bride and groom to each other, as you have to understand that parents would marry their sons and daughters even though no one had seen the other before. Only during the wedding ceremony, when the groom gave wine to his new wife did he first see her. The young couples was served “gold soup” and even the poorest of the poor tried to create a positive impression on all the householders.

Ballroom dancing such as Waltz and Tango were in fashion, but for the older generation, Hasidic dances, such as Saralh, or Kardil were mandatory. If there was a joker among the guests or just a person who knew how to cheer up people, besides the comedian, he would climb the table and dance the Kozatz’ok.

The wedding did not end until the presentation of the presents given by relatives and friends to all. The concept of a Check as a present (monetary check) was not known at all. In general, household items were donated or given and these gifts were called in Yiddish “Drosika shank” (necessary gifts).

If anyone thinks that with the end of the wedding the celebration has ended – he is wrong! A wedding must take seven days. As is known, under the Chuppa the “seven blessings” are read and the meaning of the seven blessings was to continue the wedding celebrations for seven days. The bride was still a bride, and all would herald the groom saying  “groom like a king”.

During the period of the “Seven Blessings” all the guests would gather in the house of one of the relatives and drink beer from the barrel, they ate all sorts of refreshments prepared by the family, told stories and jokes at the expense of the young couple and sang plenty of Zemirot. The usual blessings “Mazal Tov”, where “may we celebrate in Brith soon”. Who even mentioned a daughter? After all, the Jews wanted the gift of a son that will say Kaddish after them.

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I will sin, if I do not add here, some customs and events that took place during the wedding.

First of all, the atmosphere around the bride’s throne. Tears spilled like water. And if you add the wailing of the violin and the comedian’s syllables, you could think that you had fallen into a tragic event.

Customarily, the groom was dressed grandly, but to give character to the event that constituted a major change in his life, and to show everyone he came clean handed – he would dress in white “Kittel” like the cantors on the High Holidays.

Why did they see in the holy ceremony of wedding a memory of the Day of Judgment? It is said – “business as usual”.

The bridegroom was the first to be led to the wedding Chuppa with both fathers at his sides, and if there were no fathers – other relatives of the bride and groom would escort him. The Bride’s leading to the Chuppah ceremony was preceded first by “bride coverage” ceremony, and followed by the mothers holding candles and a group of close women and weeping friends adding a certain touch to this event.

The dance of the mitzvah was something extraordinary. Every mother wanted to prove that her daughter had kept her virginity until the wedding night. Dancing with the blood-stained sheet of virginity was something like out of a legend.

At weddings of wealthy and capable people, poor people would appear and just idle to at least listen to songs.  A well known figure in all such joys was our known “Iantl Punch”. As a child I was told he was taking children and I was terrified of him.

Another colorful character, or perhaps it just was just a legend, was “Matka Oif Ian Bright” (Mordeci Haroked on One plank). As is known, the floors were made of planks and Mottke was always dancing on one board only, and that was his only livelihood.

Hebrew version Written by David Giora.
Translated from Hebrew by Mr. Yuval Romano.