| Voice in the Crowd |

Seeking Simchah

Though I sometimes kvetched about going to simchahs, now I miss it. I miss it a lot



Chodesh Adar is here and it feels like…. yeah, you know what I mean.

I guess some years it’s easier than others. But it was never about easy, not for us, not for our fathers and not for their fathers either. It’s just not how we roll, and this year too, im yirtzeh Hashem, we will reach deep inside ourselves and find a way to feel Adar.

In anticipation of the month of joy and in the hope that Hashem will see my humble efforts at teshuvah and bless us with simchah, I’m sharing my personal kabbalah in this realm.

(Note: I’m not a big fan of people sharing kabbalos publicly, being a strong believer that the writer’s yetzer hara isn’t the reader’s problem. Also, I don’t have many successfully kept kabbalos to date, so it’s awkward. But.)

Many people in Montreal have not attended a wedding in over a year.

Yes, for real. There are no more weddings here, by law.

Baruch Hashem, people are still getting married, but all weddings are held in Lakewood — and the thing is, it’s near impossible to go. Crossing the border into the United States is difficult and getting back in even harder. It used to mean a 14-day quarantine at home, which has now been switched to a forced hotel quarantine, at the traveler’s expense. (The Canadian government has invested tremendous resources into their “add RCMP officers to enforce quarantine” program, seeing that as a wiser investment than… I don’t know, maybe trying to get some of those vaccines all the other countries keep talking about?)

So the parents and siblings of the chassan and kallah go, along with maybe the closest family and friends, and that’s pretty much it for a Montreal presence.

It’s not geshmak for parents marrying off a child to do so without close friends, the happy faces of those who share in your joy around you. It’s not geshmak that they can’t celebrate a single sheva brachos in their hometown, if only to show the new mechutanim that they also have friends and belong somewhere.

And here goes my kabbalah.

I’m realizing that, even though I sometimes kvetched about going to simchahs — not having time or koach or a clean shirt — now I miss it. I miss it a lot. I miss sitting at a simchah with nowhere else to go, and so my kabbalah involves being a better simchah attendee.

If the Ribbono shel Olam sees fit to restore normalcy and allow us to rejoice at simchahs once again, I will drop all my bad simchah habits.

L’mashal, I will start answering the return cards that come with the invitation, not relying on the phone call the night before the chasunah from a well-meaning helpful teenage daughter of the baal simchah’s friend who politely points out that I haven’t answered if I’m coming — to which I pretend to be surprised, as if it’s an issue with the post office and not me.

I will start respecting the place-card system. No longer will I sit at the table that appears most interesting and leave my cream-colored place card waiting, sitting there lonely as the box of Splenda by the coffee urn in a heimeshe shtibel.

I will respect the coat-check process. No longer will I grow impatient and simply stretch my arm into the small coat room and take my own coat without waiting for the hard-working coat-check professional to deal with the people ahead of me on line.

I will follow instructions and go to the right place at the right time. I won’t schmooze in the lobby a whole night, standing there like a fixture as the chasunah swirls around me and passes me by.

It used to be that we would be on the way home from a chasunah and my wife would ask me if I had meaningfully interacted with the mechutan. “Did you dance with him?”

I would look at her oddly, because it’s not that type. Men don’t dance with each other like that. Of course I had said mazel tov, maybe fist bumped or even embraced, but danced? Relax.

But now, I will dance too.

I will no longer join the minyanim that casually form at weddings simply to make my own life easier and be done with having to worry about Minchah or Maariv. If there’s any chance that the minyan will interfere with the simchah of the chassan, kallah, or mechutanim — i.e. a minyan made during the dancing or as the meal is being served — I will not take part.

When the video guy comes around and thrusts the camera in my face to say mazel tov, I will not pretend I don’t notice and continue the conversation I’m in the middle of and try to wait him out. (It doesn’t ever work anyhow.)

If someone corners me to tell me that a) Mishpacha used to be much better, b) Mishpacha was never much better, or c) Mishpacha is okay but could be much better if “you guys would send a writer to interview my wife’s grandfather who has amazing stories from before the war, from the heim, either Poland or Hungary, one of them, but amazing stuff, you’ll for sure sell out the magazine that week, guaranteed,” I will listen patiently and not fake an incoming phone call. (Bli neder on this one.)

If I am ready to leave and my wife is talking to someone, I will not stand behind that person and do a little dance of impatience.

I will genuinely work on feeling happiness for the baalei simchah during the simchah and try to make sure my presence adds to their simchah. I will wish mazel tov to the grandparents too.

And I will try to remember that no simchah is complete as long as He is not rejoicing with His children, in His home — and try to internalize that fact. Im lo a’aleh es Yerushalayim al rosh simchasi.

Ribbono shel Olam, look at how hard we’re trying.

A Father always knows. You see what’s going inside of us. Can we ask You, then, to help us be marbim b’simchah?

Give us another chance.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 848)

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