I’m Getting Married in the Morning…

By Charnie

Many of you might recall that line from the song “Get Me to the Church on Time” from the show and movie “My Fair Lady”. Allow me to clarify what’s going on here. I’m not getting married, B”H I’ve been married for over 20 years. But two good friends of mine from way before I became frum have daughters whose weddings are on Shabbos. Finally, I had thought I’d be able to celebrate simchas with some of my pre-BT friends children marrying Jews, B”H, but Shabbos weddings seems to be the newest way that the secular community is disengaging themselves from Judaism.

This is about one of those couples, who are getting married at 11:30 on a Shabbos morning. We’ll call them “Jane and John”.

When I went to her engagement party, Jane asked me if “I’d help her with the Jewish part of her wedding”, which was a prospect that delighted me. One of the things she asked for was a book, and after much hesitation, I sent her what I consider to be the best book on what a Jewish marriage represents, “Made In Heaven” by Rabbi Areyeh Kaplan zt”l. Although it clearly speaks from the viewpoint of observance, ultimately I felt it got across the point of how significant a Jewish wedding is better than any other book I’d seen. I also included Herman Wouk’s “This is My G-d”, since I think that’s a nice, easy to read introduction to Judaism.

Jane’s background is basically to the left of Reform. But she did go on Birthright while in college, and after that had a Bat Mitzvah and made a firm decision to only date Jewish men. B”H, John is Jewish. They’d already selected a venue where they wanted their wedding to be, and I was able to track down a Rabbi who might be willing to marry them at that place. Since I’d been told originally they were going to get married in June, I went on that premise.

Now I’ve learned that, yes, they are getting married on a morning. At 11:30 on a Shabbos morning, right after Tisha B’av. Jane’s dad (who could care less about religion) tells me that it was the only date that the venue was available.

I’m trying to decide how, if at all, I should pursue things from here, since I did take helping her seriously. My gut feeling is leaning towards trying to communicate to her why someone who calls him or herself a “rabbi”, and yet performs a wedding on a Shabbos morning is probably a charlatan, and they therefore, may not have a “real” Jewish wedding. Perhaps, since they’ve already booked the place, they should go ahead and have a party, to be followed shortly thereafter by a small Jewish marriage ceremony?

She’s a school teacher, doing a masters degree, so she’s quite busy. Of course, as is the norm these days, they’re living together. They were supposed to join us for Purim Seudah, but never showed up. Jane tells me she’s too tired to do anything on the weekend (when I tried to invite her for a Shabbos) and the community they live in has virtually nothing to offer vis a vis Orthodox synagogues or outreach, so I can’t work that angle either.

Just last week I received an invitation for another couple, this time the wedding is a 7 PM on a Saturday night in June. It’s in Manhattan, and by the time I would get there, it would probably be over. It’s very sad because at my daughter’s wedding, the mom asked me to have this daughter in mind under the Chuppah, and called me up enthusiastically some months later to tell me “my blessing had worked”.

The good news is that both of these couples are “marrying in”. The bad news is that these pseudo rabbis will probably perform a ceremony that isn’t even remotely kosher.

I’d love some feedback from the Beyond BT community.

48 comments on “I’m Getting Married in the Morning…

  1. In the best case scenerio, someday Jane will actually read the books I sent her, and also answer her phone when she sees it’s my number in the caller ID. Someone at Project Inspire suggested offering to make them Cheva Brochos, which would be lovely. However, it’s hard to make the offer when the communication is so difficult, whether by phone, email, text or FB.

  2. #45 & #46
    You both nailed it. Most Jews just don’t have a clue b/c they have had very little exposure to authentic Judaism.

    I’ve been asked many times to help someone with the “Jewish part” whether it’s a wedding, bris, etc. Pure information w/o opinions from an authentic sourse is appreciated by the asker and one can only hope the asker comes to a more authentic conclusion as a result. Worst case is that you’ve exposed them to Yiddishkeit and it’s left them with a positvie impression. Who knows how this will affect their nesahmas or their future kids’ neshamas? One can hope and at least you’ve made a kiddush H in the process. It all has an effect, even if we don’t see it immediately (or at all).

  3. Charnie,

    First off – Mazal Tov! Two Jews marrying each other is nowadays a big deal. Many good things can yet come of this in the future, as well. Just look at the participants here. ;-)

    Second – do whatever you can to legitimately help and encourage this couple. Be gentle and loving. Only loving. They truly don’t have a clue, and won’t be able to learn or understand very much, very fast. If you need to consult with your rav, be sure he realizes the importance and sensitivity of the situation. Don’t try to do too much in any sense. But do stay in touch, and from time to time reinvite them for Shabbat or Yom Tov. Don’t have any expectations of them, but do provide them with every opportunity to experience the light of Torah and joy of Jewish occasions.

    Never leave Hashem out of the picture. You may be the only Jew they know who has a deep belief in Him and His Torah. Just love them along the way, and don’t stress over any particular detail.

    As our Arab cousins say, ‘shwaya, shwaya’. Slowly, slowly. Even leaving Egypt and receiving the Torah and arriving in the land of Israel took time. The sages say the final redemption comes slowly, slowly (kimah,kimah). Why should this be different?

  4. I would recommend against any suggestion that the bride’s rabbi is a charlatan or that her wedding isn’t “real”. I suspect that would annoy the bride and she may react defensively.

    You could try providing information: she asked you for help with the Jewish part. So you can tell her that traditionally Jews don’t make weddings on Shabbat, and that is considered quite basic. If she asks you why, you explain why.

    Information is generally more helpful in these cases, than judgment. She can *use* information. Your judgments are easily dismissed as “just your opinion”.

  5. To Yosh #9 and Bob #15: Without violating the stringent laws of G-d against forbidden speech, or the ironclad rules of the Administrator about posting onto this blog, am I permitted to say (with as much Ahavas Yisroel as I can muster) that Yosh is driving me crazy?

    Or will I get hit by a thunderbolt from Heaven and (worse) kicked out on my sheitel and told never to show up in cyberspace again?

  6. I don’t mind hearing a band play Hava Nagila or Havenu Sholom Aleichem. It’s almost like a musical in-joke for us “members of the tribe,” sort of like wearing a “Chai” necklace.

    What I do mind is when someone says that an Orthodox Jewish ceremony is “exactly like Fiddler on the Roof,” since in “Fiddler on the Roof” the wedding scene ends with the Cossacks bursting in and smashing everything. However, since the movie was nearly forty years ago, it seems to have passed out of the cultural Zeitgeist as a standard reference for frumkeit.

  7. I don’t make a habit going around saying these things. In fact, I only expressed it in reference to this post. Having any type of cynical or sarcastic side in general is definately not good.

  8. what’s wrong with bow ties? I would think that a bow tie is an appropriate thing to wear when getting dressed up for shabbos or yom tov!

    On a more serious note, I can say from experience that when I first became observant from time to time I would make remark about how ridiculous this or that non-orthodox practice was (they served lobster at the bar mitzva!, people don’t know the difference between shavuos, lag ba’omer and yom ha’atzamaut because they’re all just “obscure holidays”! etc) to others who were like-minded about these things. I was careful not to say such things to those whom they might offend. However, as time passed, I realized that this practice wasn’t helpful to my character development and I cut it out of my behavior.

    Does anyone else have any perspective on this from their experience?

  9. “And why do they play Hava Nagila and Havenu Sholom Alecheim at every secular Jewish wedding and Bar or Bat Mitzvah I’ve ever attended for the obligatory hora and chair lifting?”

    Traditioooon, tradition!
    It feels Jewish. Having a bar mitzvah kid read Japanese in a bow tie from a pusul Torah scroll at Yankee stadium feels Jewish. Continuing Jewish education? That already doesn’t feel Jewish.

    Im NOT riduculing…I was there! (Well, not at Yankee stadium.)

  10. Its no wonder that secular authorities want no part of deciding which Jewish clergy are the real thing or not.

    We, however, don’t have to accommodate the fakers.

  11. And why do they play Hava Nagila and Havenu Sholom Alecheim at every secular Jewish wedding and Bar or Bat Mitzvah I’ve ever attended for the obligatory hora and chair lifting?

  12. To Bob #30: The question of being able to sue when watered-down Reform Jewish standards replace authentic Torah Judaism is most relevant to Kashruth. Years ago, Kosher inspectors in New York State protected Kosher consumers by enforcing Orthodox Jewish standards of Kashruth. Then a butcher shop in Nassau County sued the state, claiming that it was favoring the “domination” of Orthodoxy over Conservative Judaism. Unfortunately, the state’s highest appeals court ruled in favor of the butcher shop, holding that it was unconstitutional under the “establishment of religion” clause for New York State to uphold Orthodox Jewish kashruth standards. So the kosher inspector unit was disbanded and now New York State simply requires that any shop or restaurant which claims to be kosher post a notice explaining what its standards are, leaving it to the kosher consumer to choose accordingly. Caveat emptor….

  13. Re: #16 & 17
    “The boldest line in that 1976 responsum that sums up the committee’s objection to Shabbat weddings is that “we prefer to give allegiance to a hallowed tradition rather than to honor mere convenience.”

    Reform in 1976? Compared to Reform today, you may as well have said 1876. Try and find a Reform rabbi today who will stand by that 1976 responsum. Good luck.

    The thing I don’t get is why so may bother with a “mikvah ceremony”, “ketubah” and dancing the hora.

    Sunrise, Sunset…….

  14. When I was a teenager, my mom enrolled me in a confirmation class at our local reform temple because she liked the rabbi’s voice. Classic Vincent Price! Especially the modulation and theatrics.

  15. “I have found that many Reform rabbis talk like William Shatner.”

    I think of Vincent Price.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    … and I’m wiping off my computer screen.

    Thanks! Hopefully I won’t think of these comments during the Dvar Torah this Shabbos…

  16. Tesyaa, what if they routinely engage in a consumer fraud, touting their alien theology as Jewish?

  17. ross 9:18, there’s no need to ridicule a segment of the Jewish (or any other) community because you disagree with them theologically.

  18. “I have found that many Reform rabbis talk like William Shatner.”

    I think of Vincent Price.

  19. Wow.

    This type of situation (which many of us have faced in some manner) is what I call a “darned if you do, darned if you don’t.” I try to speak and act in as positive a manner as possible, considering my comportment towards my fellow Jews (and how my words and deeds may be judged by them) more important than chumros (because we’re at least talking Qiddush vs. Chillul H’), and I try to [re]educate myself on basic halachah vs. chumrah to ensure I don’t cross “red line”s and can explain why I’m not crossing them.

    Thankfully, I’ve never been (or at least never recall being) invited to a wedding scheduled for Shabbos. The first wedding I attended which involved non-O atmosphere was of the headhunter [lady] who found me my first job, and I was one of the eidei k’suvah (and eidei yichud); I was not prepared for the drunken scenes which followed what was a lovely wedding (and I sure hope she obtained a proper get when she got divorced some years later, as I doubt even a knowledgable Rav would have found a way to declare her nisuin invalid…). The last one was some years ago, when a longtime AishNY chavrusa of mine got married — it was very traditional, very Conservative (and I managed to get into a halachic discussion with one of the officiating rabbis!), and my wife and I simply left the room while the mixed dancing was occurring (heck, we were recently married ourselves and enjoyed having a legitimate excuse to be “together alone” during an afternoon being in public). I’y’H’, the next one is next month, when the older of my two first cousins on my father a’h’s side marries his longtime girlfriend — I’m still awaiting a callback from the caterer re the Kashrus supervision, but if it checks out, I suspect my wife and I will be doing what we did at the wedding of that chavrusa….

  20. To Ross #25,

    I have found that many Reform rabbis talk like William Shatner.
    I think also, because they associate, like the Puritan Protestants they model, religious services with being long boring and drawn out and a sort of punishment they often assume that Orthodox weddings are automatically going to be long affairs with non-stop ceremony, speaking, ritual and fasting.

  21. I’ve noticed (because I was there myself) that non-frum Jews tend to get very serious when you say words like “solemn” or “hallowed” or “sacred”, or talk like a reform rabbi–very slowly using vocabulary from the middle ages (thou, thee, thy…) and mention G-d every once in a while. It’s an art…you have to know when to use inflection. Timing is everything.

    I remember in the synagogue the three times in five years I would go…the serious looks, the bowed heads. Repent, O Sinner, death is at thy doorstep. Sunriiiise, sunset…(organ blaring)

    Maybe try it, and it’ll get somewhere.

    (Although it’s not listed in the top 10 techinques of kiruv)

  22. Steve, I’d commented previously I never considered attending either wedding, not only because of geographical considerations, but also because what’s the point of standing around watching everyone violating Shabbos?

    Chana Leah, your comments aren’t only sweet, but helpful as well.

  23. charnie, in response to your question about whether or not they would require a get anyway were they to separate since they are already living together:
    the difference between a wedding and a chasunah is that a chasunah is a legal transaction. a get is required to break the legal obligations agreed upon between the husband and his wife. if they never committed to that, a get is meaningless. a get does not just end the “union” of these two people (such as it was), it also releases them from the legal ramifications of being joined.

  24. Charnie: You are so right to rejoice that your friends are marrying Jews. Today this is the biggest threat among non-orthdox Jews. At least if they marry a Jew there is hope for the future.

    You have offered so much help to your friends; I also agree, though, that your advice about their chosen Rabbi might be unwelcome–you would need to assess how willing they still are to hear more about how to do the wedding. Also, if their acceptance of all of your advice was based on an understanding that you would attend, and now that is impossible, I would get that fact out in the open right away

  25. I would suggest that you decline the invitation to the weddings on Shabbos. Although Charlie Hall cited a well known Rama, IIRC, that was a Shaas Hadchak Gadol Meod of a Shidduch otherwise being broken. Here, two couples are being led down the primrose path that it is proper to engage in all sorts of violations of Shabbos, both Biblical and Rabbinic, merely because they are both Jewish.

  26. To Charnie #19: I’ve heard of cases where prominent Rabbonim try to figure out ways in which a wedding held years ago was NOT kosher, so that there is no “mamzeirus” problem later on. This can occur in a situation where the the original marriage falls apart, wife remarries without a Get from husband #1, then has children from husband #2 who grow up and seek to marry observant Jews, only to discover a big problem. Rabbi XYZ was known for his hard work trying to resolve mamzeirus issues by declaring that the first marriage never was a real marriage.

    In these situations, if there were Orthodox Jewish men who were present at these weddings, it could make it more difficult later on to say that the ceremony lacked kosher eidim (witnesses).

  27. The reference to the 1976 responsum comes from the Reform movement, which is to say, you have to take it from where it comes. At least they’re acknowledging that there is a tradition. Which isn’t to say that they’re not promoting a type of observance that is clearly non-halachic in almost every aspect, but in this one instance at least, they’re closer to the target.

    Someone at Project Inspire suggested trying to offer “Jane & John” the opportunity to have a Sheva Brochos. I’d be happy to make them one if I can get a hold of them! I’m sure John knows several other Jewish males.

    Something I came across awhile back (and I don’t remember if it was on this website or somewhere else), is that in these cases, where it’s more than likely that it will not be a “Jewish” wedding with proper witnesses et al, it is better for the couple to just have a civil wedding incase down the line there is a divirce, lack of a Get – well, you get the picture. But if the couple are known to be living together as man and wife, wouldn’t they technically need a Get, whether they had a kosher wedding or not?

  28. What’s this “we prefer” Ross quoted above?

    Since when is their preference supposed to be a factor?

  29. This is a line from the article that Charnie referred to:

    “The boldest line in that 1976 responsum that sums up the committee’s objection to Shabbat weddings is that “we prefer to give allegiance to a hallowed tradition rather than to honor mere convenience.”

    So maybe they should tell their congregants not to drive to synogogues on Saturdays? But then, they wouldn’t have a quorum.

  30. One interesting outcome of all this is that one day, when I was just “googling around” about why Jews aren’t supposed to have their weddings on Shabbos, I came across an article from a rather surprising source, Rsbbi Leon Morris who is a Reform Rabbi is Sag Harbor http://www.thejewishweek.com/editorial_opinion/opinion/call_moratorium_shabbat_weddings. As I told him in an email, it might be of interest to these couples since it would seem less “threatening” to hear this from a Reform Rabbi.

    I never considered attending either wedding, not only because of geographical considerations, but also because what’s the point of standing around watching everyone violating Shabbos?

  31. “Bob, and I’m saying this with as much ahavas yisrael I can possibly muster up: you drive me crazy.’

    Join the club!

  32. This is one to talk to a sensitive rabbi. Weddings on Shabat may not be a strictly halachic issue; no less a figure than the Rama once personally served as mesader kidushin for a Shabat wedding under a very unusual circumstance. IIRC the bride was a poor orphan girl and the groom’s family kept backing out despite the Rama’s personal insistence that the girl was a good shidduch for the groom. (So much for following Daas Torah!) When they finally agreed it was very late Friday afternoon, and the Rama decided that under the circumstances it was better to go ahead with the wedding less the groom’s family change their mind again, permanently, even though the ceremony didn’t take place until Shabat itself.

  33. Charnie–

    You have already done a lot. You can just say “I would love to come to your wedding, but I am sorry I have to miss it because it’s on shabbos.”

    Why are you concerned about whether the wedding ceremony is “remotely kosher” as you described it (other than to lament the lack of knowledge/observance of the segment of the Jewish people that presumably you (and definitely I) came from?

    I think trying to educate them to your view of the clergyman performing the ceremony will do much harm and no good at all.

  34. Our first cousin got married Erev Shavous – actual Shavous at night. He married a Jew with a reform Rabbi. I understand that it didn’t matter to them but couldn’t the “Rabbi” say “look I have no problem doing this, but in case you have observant relatives who you might want to attend, this wouldn’t be the best day” We were just becoming observant at the time so we went, and then walked 5 miles the next day to the Chabad house (with a newborn! luckily we didn’t need an eruv) in the hot Florida sun!” BTW, the relatives passed us walking the next day and thought we were crazy for not accepting a ride.

  35. There was a time when most non Orthodox simchas were kosher out of respect for tradition.
    Then it transformed to “should we have it kosher or not?”
    Now for most the possibility of having it kosher doesn’t enter their mind for a second.
    I have heard very wealthy suburban “Conservative” Jews who spent a fortune on super treif Shabbos breaking bar mitzvahs say that they couldn’t have the affair kosher becuase of the higher price of kosher food. I think I have had better luck getting kosher meals at non-Jewish events than non-Orthodox Jewish ones.

  36. Ross, I think you express very much what I am realizing – ie, to the secular world, it’s just a Saturday. B”H, it’s been quite awhile since it was just a Saturday to me, and often it’s hard to realize that these secular folks don’t see it my way. That’s part of the pleasure of living in a frum community.

    I’ll write more later, am very busy at work right now, keep those comments coming…..

  37. Problems can arise when the rav is basically unfamiliar with the person asking the shaila and with that person’s family dynamics. This makes the rav’s balancing of pertinent factors in halacha less likely to fit the situation.

    Bob, and I’m saying this with as much ahavas yisrael I can possibly muster up: you drive me crazy.

  38. My bar mitzvah was on Shabbos. I wish I could stop with that one sentence. (I guess the checks and bonds were muktzah.)

    Time goes so fast, so I remember clearly when Saturday was just Saturday. A friend with a yalmuke refused to attend my pool party because it was on Saturday, and because he refused to eat cheese and deli ‘on the same plate’.

    It doesn’t answer the shailos, but leaves one with a more appreciative perspective. They just don’t know.

  39. I’ve been on both sides of this one!

    On one side, there were the relatives getting married on Shabbat Erev Tisha B’Av, miles from anywhere. (Yes, two Jews, getting married on Erev Tisha B’Av, by a Reform Rabbi). We sent our regrets as politely as we could, sent a nice gift, etc…and I still don’t think the bride has forgiven me.

    On the other side, there was the Orthodox (BT) relative who told us repeatedly that my Conservative wedding was not kosher. We were part of a Shabbat community led by our Conservative rabbi, with whom we had been studying, and who traveled a great distance to be at our wedding. This Orthodox relative never wasted an opportunity to tell us that we should ‘just find a Chabad rabbi so it would be kosher.’ I felt like telling this relative to to find a different bride, if this bride didn’t come with a kosher enough rabbi. The relative said that the most important thing we could do to accomodate him/her was to choose male shomer Shabbos eidim (we otherwise might have chosen closer friends who were shomeret Shabbos women)…and then nearly didn’t attend the wedding because one of the male witnesses we chose was a Conservative Rabbi. We spent the week before the wedding dealing with this, and I haven’t gotten over it yet.

    My advice: if a couple tells you that they want you to attend their wedding, be VERY clear at the outset EXACTLY what they need to do in order for you to attend. Including food, scheduling, etc. Surprises a few days before a wedding do NOT bring joy to a bride.

    Also, attend the weddings you can. People really do appreciate it. If a wedding takes place on Shabbat in a place with a Jewish community (like Manhattan), ask whether you can could spend Shabbat in that community and walk to the wedding.

  40. We keep seeing new vistas in “how low can you go?” Clearly, “we gotta get out of this place”

  41. My brother married a Jew on Simchat Torah with a reform rabbi, blessings over treif wine, and bacon wrapped shrimp.

    When I got married on December 24, a lot of my relatives gave me a hard time about how insensitive it was to get married on a holiday. A lot of intermarried couples didn’t come becuase they were with non-Jewish family celebrating, including those who married non-Jews who “converted.”
    It seems like 20 years, not getting married on Shabbos was one of those sacred cows that people remotely interested in being Jewish didn’t violate. It was pretty unheard of to have a Jewish wedding (even Reform) on Shabbos.

  42. Problems can arise when the rav is basically unfamiliar with the person asking the shaila and with that person’s family dynamics. This makes the rav’s balancing of pertinent factors in halacha less likely to fit the situation.

  43. There’s so much to celebrate here. The beginnings of two new Jewish homes, which will God willing find their way to increased connection and growth. You have the merit of being a vehicle for that growth.

    So we don’t make a kinyan on Shabbat. What does that mean to someone from the background you’re describing? I would attend whatever segment of these smachot your rav says is appropriate, and do it with a full heart and gratitude that you can be an example of “mesameach hachatan vehakallah.”

    If it turns out you can’t participate, send a nice gift and a beautiful letter, and invite them over for Shabbat a lot.

  44. Charnie:
    I’m not quite sure how you can convince a “left of Reform” family that a Rabbi who won’t keep Shabbos like an Orthodox Jew is a “charlatan”.

    That sounds like a recipe for the standard blow-up and “pluralism” argument. The fact that they’ve accepted your books and help doesn’t mean they’re going to accept that – in fact it’s a real stretch to think so.

    You’ve already demonstrated your good will and concern by being involved. Now is the time to decline the invitation – with sincere regret and repeated statements that leave the door open to future connection (“hope you’ll come over for Shabbos when the effort of the wedding is over, and you’re a married couple”).

    If you want to avoid tension – and leave the lines of communication open – you will use the “I am Orthodox and this is my way” approach, rather than “I am Orthodox and my way is right/authentic” approach. Yes it is fudging, but it is also diplomatic – and there is no point in telling a truth others may not yet be ready to hear, if it will just drive them further from Judaism.

    Judy wrote:
    Given the ban on mixed dancing
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    … which is a ban on dancing. There is no halachic ban on women watching mixed dancing.

    The advice you were given is a very good example of why BTs must be careful who they choose as mentors and advisors – and why they have to push back at times.

    It seems that much strife and lasting ill-will was caused by a chumra – not halacha – that was enforced in the wrong situation.

  45. My rav years ago was very strict about not permitting me to attend any wedding with mixed dancing. That caused me a lot of heartache, inasmuch as some oldtime friends were getting married (Jews to Jews) and really wanted me to attend. It was also a problem at my non-observant sister’s wedding. There are a lot of hard feelings about that even more than thirty years later.

    I wish the Rav had been more understanding about possibly allowing more of a compromise. I did go to my sister’s wedding, but had to leave right after the chupah (an Orthodox Rav presided, it was a kosher ceremony). I’m not saying I would have participated in any mixed dancing, only wish that I had the option of me and my husband being allowed to sort of hide in a corner and look the other way during the dancing part (also, the food at my sister’s wedding was strictly kosher).

    I’m not saying the halacha should bend or compromise. Halacha is halacha. What I wish is that the Rav could have allowed let’s say us remaining there and clearly not watching or participating. Maybe the Rav didn’t understand this was my only sibling and not some distant cousin x times removed.

    Given the ban on mixed dancing, maybe you are lucky these two weddings fall on Shabbos. You therefore have a perfectly valid excuse not to go to two weddings that some very strict rabbonim might tell you are completely forbidden to attend.

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