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Shabbos Frivolity: fun der Khuppe

Your Humble Blogger missed posting on this Tohu Bohu last week, because I was fulfilling one of the obligations without measure, that is, I was rejoicing with the bride and groom. Well, and actually on Shabbos I was traveling across the country, as the actual wedding took place when the sun went down. We began rejoicing in daylight, I should say, but the bride didn’t become a bride until it was no longer Shabbos and she signed the Ketubah. Before that, we were just rejoicing on spec. After that, we were fulfilling one of the obligations without measure.

In the Law, there are three conditions to show that a couple is married, each sufficient alone, but it's a good idea to do all three of them: a signed contract (the ketubah), cohabitation and sex. In the Old Days, the traditional Jewish wedding involved the public signing of the ketubah with attendant ceremony and ritual, then the procession by which the bride was transferred from her father's household (or wherever she was living) to the groom's household, and then, well, yichud, in which the bride and groom have some private time.

Actually yichud, or seclusion, is the rule under which any man and woman who are not married to each other are forbidden from being together without a chaperone; the tradition provides for the first moment when the man and woman are allowed to such privacy, and let them do with it what they will. In a modern wedding, of course, the bride and groom are assumed to have had some private time together during the engagement—but quite possibly not during the week heading in to the wedding itself. Everyone I have talked to that has arranged a yichud room for just after the ceremony has appreciated the opportunity, and thought it was a terrific idea. The ashkenazic version of the tradition where there must be food to eat in the room is also a plus.

Anyway, of course we no longer end the celebration by carrying the bride to her new home. The ceremony is considered complete, and the couple are man and wife, when the couple leave the wedding canopy, or in yiddish go fun der chuppe. So, of course, that moment is a great one, and since the klezmer tradition, perhaps even more than other folk music traditions, is all about the weddings, there are a variety of songs that are called Fun der Chuppe, and a variety of versions of those songs.

This is from the Smithsonian Folkways album Khevrisa, which one fellow described to me as “klezmer early music”. It’s music for sitting and listening to, rather than for dancing, but it’s also music my virtuosos and scholars, and well it’s worth sitting and listening to.

Those who want a little less virtuosity and a little more chutzpah may prefer The Bolting Brassicas. Or here’s an old recording by Israel J. Hochman’s orchestra.

And here’s the Forgotten Fish Memory Orchestra.

And the Quintetto Nautilus from Italy, and some little kids from Australia, and somebody doing a belly dance to Salaam’s version—wherever the tune came from, it wasn’t the Middle East, but it belongs with that oud time stuff now.

But that wasn’t my point. I was going to talk about what happens after the Bride and Groom go fun der chuppa in a modern ceremony, either directly after or following a little yichud time. They go to the dance floor with their guests. Here is my advice for those who have Jewish family at the wedding: have two good sturdy chairs nearby. See, now, you are thinking that you don’t want that, and I respect that, really I do, except that I don’t respect that at all and none of your guests will, either. And if you are thinking if I don’t set out the sturdy chairs, then there can’t be any of that, this is where the advice comes in. This sort of thinking is what the Rabbis call wishful. If there are no nearby sturdy chairs, you will be up on a folding chair. Submit with good grace, bride and groom, or you will submit with bad grace, and good grace is better. And at the end of the day, you will be married, which is the important thing.

Of course, this advice holds good even for those Brides and Grooms who are not jewish, or for Brides and Brides, or even for SCAdians. Now, you don’t need a special chair with a seatbelt. But my advice is to have two good sturdy chairs. You never know.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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