A single moment can make all the difference between chometz and matzah, between success and failure. They raced the clock — and beat it!
In my work as an event planner, timing was sacrosanct. It could define the success of any event — and play havoc if not adhered to.
One particular event stands out in my memory. It was a beautiful Jewish wedding that took place in the sprawling Cleveland Hotel and Conference Center. The bride was from a lovely, long-established Cleveland family, and the groom was from an equally prestigious family from Chicago, Illinois.
The law in Ohio (I believe it’s the same in other states as well) is that once food has been brought into a facility, if it isn’t served, it needs to be discarded. All uneaten food goes directly into the dumpster.
If a wedding is running (somewhat) on time, the main course is served promptly, and all’s well with the world. If not, well, family and friends have come to spend the evening with you, and if the main course doesn’t emerge on time, guests will simply leave without eating. (Sometimes the caterer is kind enough to wrap their meal so they can take it home….)
One of the first questions I used to ask my clients when planning a wedding was “Who is the mesader kiddushin, the officiating rabbi?” And if the officiating rabbi was from out of town, my next question was always, “And who is plan B?” As out-of-town guests are always at the mercy of air-traffic and weather conditions, I’d learned that a backup plan for the mesader kiddushin was an absolute necessity.
Which brings us back to the lovely hotel wedding I mentioned earlier. While, as always, I checked they had a plan B for the officiating rabbi, the family was adamant about their first choice, and I sensed that their insistence was going to leak all over our careful planning.
I knew how important it was to this family to have their rosh yeshivah there to officiate. But I also knew that I had over $35,000 worth of food alone at stake, and I’m not even talking about overtime for the band, photography, and hotel service.
The bride and her entourage, mothers, grandmothers, sisters and sisters-in-law, were about to enter the pre-wedding reception. With an eye on the clock, I was guardedly aware that the mesader kiddushin had not yet arrived.
I went to the powers that be to find out about the out-of-town rosh yeshivah’s travel itinerary, and asked who was waiting for the rosh yeshivah at the airport. I was told (surprise, surprise!) that the rabbi’s flight was running late, and that pick-up arrangements hadn’t been made yet. The chassan’s tish would have to take place without him.
Here’s what I calmly said: “That’s not a problem. Please tell me how we can make arrangements to have him paged so someone can meet him at Arrivals.” (This was, after all, in the days before cell phones.)
Here’s what I didn’t say: What! Are you kidding me? That is totally irresponsible! You were the one who insisted we have this rosh yeshivah as the mesader kiddushin, and you didn’t make arrangements to have a driver waiting for him at the airport? Exactly how important was it for you to have him here?
I sucked in my breath, and much to the chagrin of the groom’s side, decided to go ahead with the badeken, hoping we would make it.
Isn’t there something magical about the music for the badeken? It signals such excitement, anticipation, and joy. Yet before we knew it, the last notes had been played, and the rabbi was still a no-show. The guests headed from the reception area to the ceremony room, and it took time until they were comfortably seated.Twenty-three-and-counting —minutes later, there was still no sign of the officiating rabbi.
As we were lining up the processional, the mother of the groom came over to me, as if I didn’t realize that she was stalling, and said, rather loudly, that I was creating undue pressure and she was feeling stressed.
Here’s what I calmly said: “You ‘re absolutely right. Let’s both take a deep breath, relax, and I will get you some water. I want you to feel as comfortable as possible, and I apologize for causing any undue tension.”
Here’s what I didn’t say: Lady, exactly what time do you light your Shabbos candles?!
The minutes marched on and so did the wedding party as we ushered both regal sets of grandparents, then the groom, his parents, and then the radiant bride and her parents down the aisle, all the while hoping for the best. I kept looking around to see who else could be a candidate for marching down the aisle… and I told the musicians to play v e r y s l o w l y….
The procession was long, the aisle was longer, but ultimately Rabbi Plan B did end up as the perfect stand-in officiate. And because He is a benevolent G-d, the delayed rosh yeshivah arrived just as the ceremony was ending. I quickly directed him into the ceremony room, and as he hurried past, he stopped, looked at me with honest sincerity, and said, “Thank you for not waiting.” I knew he meant it.
And that is how Rav Shmuel Berenbaum ztz”l, the rosh yeshivah of Mir, got brachah acharisah, the last, prestigious brachah under the chuppah, blessing this wonderful young couple — who today are grandparents in their own right — and why all the guests at the wedding got fed on time.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 736)
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