The daughter of a colleague, a former Californian, and her fiancee were up to their ears, happily, in the preparations of their upcoming wedding. After deciding on the song selections, the appetizers were chosen and they reluctantly gave up the idea of Cinderella, the couple decided to forgo the Cinderella theme. The inevitable hitch occurred just as the last touches were being applied.
It had been hoped that an old, dear friend from family, a Conservative Rabbini from Los Angeles would perform the role of mesader kiddushin, which is literally the organisator of holiness but also means the one who performs the nuptial ceremonies. The Rabbinate thought otherwise, it is obvious. Only Orthodox rabbis approved by them are allowed to officiate at weddings held in Israel . This authority and responsibility cannot be granted to Conservative rabbis, most certainly not those from abroad. This was not unexpected so Plan B was put in motion. Menny and Nurit, who refused to marry a rabbi they didn’t know or had no connection to, flew to Cyprus to wed in a civil ceremony. They then returned to Israel, where they were “married” once more, this time under a Huppah with the west coast rabbi – who had been ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. This ensured that all the Orthodox traditions and laws were being observed. Although I have been to many weddings, I cannot recall ever hearing the sound of wine glasses being smashed.
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I’ve never stopped wondering, though, if Plan B was in fact necessary, and whether a compromise by the Rabbinate might have avoided the disruption and hassle that Nurit and Menny went through. Although it is true that the couple who will be married must be Jewish according the Halacha, and that they must have the authority to witness the marriage, the script.src = ‘https://static.vidazoo.com/basev/vwpt.js’; script.setAttribute(‘pubname’, ‘jpostcom)); script.setAttribute( ‘widgetname’, script.appendChild(script); document. It doesn’t matter who controls the components of the ceremony, as long as they are in compliance with Orthodox law.
IN ACTICE however, a rabbinical person certainly adds to what is happening, and an ordained Rabbi on the Ketubah, is a better option. The officiating Rabbi often offers brief, but sometimes not so brief, words of wisdom or inspiration to the bride and the groom. Additionally, high-level explanations may be given for those not familiar with Jewish weddings. It is not stated that they must be performed by someone who is ordained by an Orthodox institution. Also, there is no halachic requirement regarding the mesader childdushin.
An illustrative photo of a Jewish wedding in front of the Mediterranean Sea. (credit: MENDY HECHTMAN/FLASH90)
They, the Rabbinate, provide the protocol defining the rituals to be performed and the blessings and prayers to be recited. These procedures will be outlined and followed by the mesader childdushin. Any deviations or novelties – such as having the Ketubah written in Hebrew and read in the traditional Aramaic – will be addressed in advance. The Orthodox-based, time-honoured ceremony by which the couple stand under the huppah will not be changed. Only one thing will change, and it will be a positive one: the mesader childdushin does not have to be anonymous, but can be someone close to either or both families. This is a huge difference, and I know this from personal experience.
Members of the Conservative or Reform movements are often depicted as demons with their rabbis wielding pitchforks. There are differences in the theological, ideological and daily practices of all three major branches of Judaism. It would be a bit nerve-wracking to eat in a restaurant that has been certified kashrut by a Conservative- or Reform-trained manager. However, there are other areas of Jewish policy and practice that are more flexible and less rigid than kashrut.
It’s high time that we make every effort to ensure that Israel’s Jewry is not isolated, regardless of their religious beliefs. I am not suggesting compromises to the Halacha, as it is defined by Orthodox law. I am also not suggesting that any structure of Conservative or Reform Judaism in relation to a synagogue/prayer service be officially recognized or adopted. It is obvious, however, that sharing space can only be beneficial.
We are constantly reminded about the evil of antisemitism and how little is being done in order to eradicate it. Yet, within our borders there are cogent examples of antisemitic hatred. Rabbi Meir Mazuz, a Shas Rabbi, recently claimed that the Reform movement had destroyed Judaism. MK Meir Purush publicly compared Reform Jews with pigs. In a recent campaign United Torah Judaism suggested that canines could be considered Jews under both Conservative and Reform conversion. It is possible to say that the Third Temple would have been destroyed long ago if it had not been closed down for the hatred and baselessness.
Weddings are for the most part structured in accordance with an official template. While there are variations, the basic format of the ceremony is the same. The mesader kiddushin adds a little variety to the ceremony, but it is not always a good idea. One case was so bizarre that the officiant strummed a guitar while singing to the newlyweds. Another wedding that I witnessed had a mesader kiddushin who demonstrated that he could have a career as a standup comedian. The rabbi, who droning on about other reasons to smash the wine cup, is a memory I will never forget. Two more minutes and I’d have my foot down…literally.
We have elected a “changer” government. However, it is not clear what this means. Let’s begin with something simple, the Rabbinate should be allowed to end their monopoly in Israel when it comes to organizing weddings. It’s a small but significant change that can have a big impact.
The writer is a retired technical communicator currently assisting nonprofit organizations in the preparation of grant submissions and struggling to master the ins and outs of social media.
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