If you are part of that life, and you make an effort to be there, it means something, and they won’t forget it
Shmuel said to Rav Yehuda, “Keen scholar, grab and eat, grab and drink, as the world from which we are departing is like a wedding feast” (Eiruvin 54).
The Chiddushei Harim explained: On the night he makes a wedding, even the simple tailor is royalty, his face aglow as he sits at the dais, receiving the good wishes of the people.
A week later, he is back in his shop, threading a needle through someone’s pair of old, faded pants.
And such is life, the Gemara is saying; every night, another baal simchah takes his turn. Sometimes you’re invited to the party, other times you’re left out. And once in a while, you are the person they are dancing around.
Remember the moment, soak in the feeling, because it goes fast.
Having been granted the joy of marrying off a child and now, after the week of sheva brachos — seven nights of choosing between cream of chicken or vegetable soup, then partaking of chicken and snow peas, serenaded by a one-man band who looks tired, and uncles saying, “Here’s my advice to chassan and kallah,” with a nervous laugh — it’s back to the shop.
With much gratitude, a bit of exhaustion, a bit of debt, and fresh insight.
From the perspective of a host, there is much I have learned.
- First of all, booking a wedding date is a kunst. There are two sides, and both have other siblings and children and parents with stuff going on. When you find a date that works, grab it. Ten minutes later, the calls will start coming in— how could you choose that date, don’t you know about this parlor meeting, that second cousin’s bas mitzvah, or the vacation planned months ago that will now be ruined?
That’s life. Don’t let it shter your simchah. There are too few dates and too few halls and you can’t let every person’s cheshbonos mess up the chassan and kallah and force them to wait another month to get married. They, their parents, and their grandparents are the ones whom the date has to work for: Don’t take your eye off the ball because of the inevitable complaints.
- Next. There are people who actually answer return cards. They pick up a pen and write on the lines, sharing their good wishes, their brachos, and their intentions, and then they find a mailbox to put the card into.
Once the invitations go out, each day’s mail brings a few of these responses, and suddenly, the simchah starts to feel real. It’s happening. Filling out a return card is not just an act of courtesy, but also of chesed. (Chap arein. We’re like six months away from every invitation having a bar code you scan and zehu, all done, and then you won’t have this mitzvah anymore.)
When I mentioned this newly gleaned observation to my wife, she gently pointed out that it would be strange for me to write about it when I myself am not especially proficient at sending back return cards, even as I rhapsodize about the practice. I told her that writing about a praiseworthy minhag doesn’t obligate the writer to practice it, and brought several proofs from past articles.
- Years ago, I interviewed a great frum diplomat. He shared some of what he had learned along the way, and among his tips was this: Show up to simchahs. This Yid, with global political connections and an open door in the halls of power, found time to go sit in Ateres Chaya (this was before the takanah that every single wedding in America has to be held in Lakewood), the Rose Castle, or the Atrium, and play with his vegetable blintz with mushroom sauce and, through that, convey kavod and appreciation to the baal simchah.
“People are sensitive then, their hearts are open, and they remember if you come,” he told me. “The relationship will be so much warmer once you’ve shown up to their simchah.”
He knew about the low-key anxiety every baal simchah harbors, the fear that they will be sitting and looking at an empty hall, everyone in the world having forgotten the correct date. But there is another element to this.
Mr. Julius Klugmann, the great Washington Heights askan, quoted Rav Mordechai Schwab who quoted his rebbi, Rav Yerucham Levovitz.
Rav Yerucham pointed out that people who are average baalei kishron — i.e., they have to write down a grocery list in order to remember to buy two milks, a carton of eggs, and a bag of flour — can recall who came to their simchah, who washed, who danced, and who left early.
How can that be? Veist oiss, it must be that it is dinei nefashos. That making the effort to show up and personally take part conveys the sort of respect that is equal to life itself.
Baalei simchah are vulnerable and emotional and something big is happening in their life. If you are part of that life, and you make an effort to be there, it means something, and they won’t forget it.
- Yet another pro tip. When you go hug the mechutan after the chuppah, it is optimal if you can convey your enthusiasm in a way that doesn’t send his hat flying or cause his glasses to bend. He’ll know you’re happy for him even if you go gentle.
- Finally, if you are at a chasunah and you took a picture or video, the baalei simchah will so appreciate every single one of those clips in the days following the chasunah, when they are trying to hold on to the magic for a bit longer.
Imagine, they are back at work, a mug of cold coffee next to them as they sell on Amazon or broker insurance or teach eighth grade, when in comes an image of that happy night, a little reminder of how the world works.
Life is made up of moments: Sometimes you’re in the circle, and other times, you’re not, but it’s always nice to remember the happiest ones.
Grab and eat, grab and drink, because it doesn’t last forever.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 947)
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