Wedding of Miriam and Zev

Tzfat

Northern District

State of Israel

October 29, 2012

Larry Benowitz

Boston, Massachusetts.

USA

Dear Larry,

cc: Friends and Family

Thank you so much for inviting me to your daughter’s wedding.  I am sure that you and Brooke and all of your family are delighted that your daughter Miriam has chosen Zev Padway to be her husband.

I was happy to make a slight detour in my travels in the Caucasus and fly from Tbilisi, Georgia to Tel Aviv.  I rented a car for the beautiful drive north past Haifa and then east to Tzfat.  What could be more inspiring than the farmlands on the open plains and on the rolling hills of the Galilee?

I did a little research:

Safed (Hebrew: צְפַת‎‎, Tzfat; Arabic: صفد‎, Safed, Ashkenazi: Tzfas) at an elevation of 900 meters (2,953 ft) is the highest city in the Galilee and in Israel.  Since the sixteenth century, Safed has been considered one of Judaism’s Four Holy Cities along with Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias.  The city is a center of Kabbalah, also known as Jewish mysticism.

A sign on a wall of the Old City says, “World Capital of Spirituality and Jewish Culture.”

The history of Tzfat reaches back into the Biblical Book of Judges of Antiquity, the writings of Josephus in Roman Antiquity, the Knights of the Crusaders, the conquests of the Mamluks, the Ottomans and the British.  Since 1948, Tzfat has been an Israeli city with a current population of about 32,000.

Because of its appealing climate, Tzfat is a holiday destination for many Israelis and foreign tourists.   Restaurants, cafes and art galleries fill the narrow, hilly streets and alleys of the Old City.

Most of the population adheres to Jewish Orthodoxy.  When I arrived on Friday night, the beginning of the Sabbath, everything was closed.  The evening and early morning views from my hotel room were a blessing.

 On Saturday morning the synagogues were filled with enthusiastic congregations.  No synagogue could have been more animated than the one we attended with Zev.   I was honored to participate in the service.  All of Zev’s friends were gleefully anticipating the wedding on Sunday afternoon.

And what a wedding!  And what a location!! And what a day!!!  Only about three hundred of Miriam and Zev’s closest neighbors and friends showed up:  men and women of all ages, teenagers and children swarmed the sun drenched grounds of the Dobrovin Farm in the Hula Valley.  Your older brother Paul and his wife Sondra and their son Scott were there of course as well as your two handsome sons,     Dr. Isaac and Khun Daniel.  I was also pleased to meet your Newton neighbor Dr. Sam and other friends from California.

I have been to many Jewish weddings, from the Burnside Manor in the Bronx to Leonard’s of Great Neck to The Plaza in New York to any number of catering halls, synagogues and hotel ballrooms.  But in some ways, this one was a first for me.

How shall I describe such an event? 

Except for the reception and dinner, the men and women celebrated separately.  The Bride sat among her friends giving and receiving blessings while a chorus of women surrounded her with song.

Zev and his friends were off on their own since it would have been inappropriate for the Bride and Groom to see each other before the ceremony. 

The ceremony itself was familiar to me:  Under the Chuppah, the wedding canopy, the Rabbi and others recited several prayers.  Zev placed the wedding ring, and finally Zev breaks the glass followed by a boisterous “Mazel Tov!”

Although you had assigned your sons and two other men to hold the four poles that support the Chuppah, at one point during the ceremony I decided to climb up on to the platform, grasp one of the poles, and consider my thoughts:

I here at Miriam’s wedding because you and Brooke have been my devoted friends for many years.  I am delighted to be here to acknowledge our friendship and to join you in this important Simcha.   

But the history of our families goes beyond our own friendship.  Your mother Lillian Hurriash and my mother, Ruth Lifson, were classmates in Brooklyn when they were in junior high school.  Ninety years ago?  Later, as lifelong friends, Lil and Ben Benowitz, of blessed memory, and Ruth and Otto Polatschek, of blessed memory, shared joys and sorrows over more than seventy years I am here to honor our families.  I miss them.  As we like to quip, Larry, “We knew each other before we were born.” 

Hey Larry, you throw a great party! 

Great food! 

The Vegetarians in the crowd ate whatever vegetarians eat.  But the grilled chicken, steak and ribs of beef were tender and outstanding!   And thanks so much for the creamy chocolate custard 10,000 calorie desert!

Great music! 

Those boychiks in the band could really pound out a tune.  And the dancing?  Oy gevalt!  The women were off on their own but the men circled and stomped with each other in loud, spontaneous groups.  The religious men were joyous.  The Orthodox men were ecstatic.  The Ultra Orthodox men were absolutely wild! Kippot were bobbing.   Peyos flapping.  Tsitsis flying in every direction.

Thanks once again Larry.  Such a wonderful day!  I look forward to many more wonderful days and simchas together.

Please give my love to Brooke.

When you speak to Miriam and Zev, please give them my best wishes for a long and happy life together.

Baruch HaShem,

Jan

 

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