I am a choson a few short weeks away from my chasunah. Being engaged brings about many new feelings and emotions in all that experience it, but very few have experienced an engagement like mine, considering that, as mentioned, I will iy’H be getting married in just a short time, but still do not know where or exactly when my chasunah will be.
What would have been utterly impossible and totally frightening for any choson or kallah to even imagine just a few short months ago, (who can even remember the world pre-corona?) is something that myself and many others now have to face as harsh reality.
When the reports began filtering in about the effect of Coronavirus on chasunas and other simchos in Eretz Yisroel, that were forced to take place in places and circumstances that defied ones imagination, my friends and I, as well as the community at large, regarded these reports with the same regard we have for much else; something humorous to read about and watch, and then we promptly forwarded it along to the next person, simultaneously forgetting about it entirely.
But as Corona drew ever nearer, and the stories were no longer six thousand miles away, but around our very block and in our own neighbors backyard, I was confronted with the undeniable truth. I would be going through this as well. As much as I tried to deny it, it became difficult to convince myself that I would have the wedding that was so firmly planted in my dreams for years, considering that the number of levayahs taking place per day in Lakewood outnumbered the number of minyanim being held.
The feeling of utter helplessness and depression overcame my entire being, as my weak shield of denial broke from the sharpness of actuality. For years I had dreamed and discussed, planned and imagined, designed and configured, the absolute picture – perfect chasuna, that would one day be my own. I had it all worked out, the singer, hall, songs, invitations and many other components that I had hand picked based on what I liked by the dozens of chasunahs I had been to throughout my bochur years. I planned on turning it into a memorable night, not only for me, but for all the guests as well.
I had never even considered the option of something of simpler tones, feeling that it was my right, at this stage in life, to receive what all my peers had got. Knowing that the financial burden on my parents was straining in the easiest of times, and desperate in the worst, did nothing to sway my opinion on what I deserved on my big day. If they love me, I reasoned, then this shouldn’t be out of their range, as long as I wasn’t expecting to much more then the norm. If everyone elses parents manage, mine will also.
How could it be then, that at long last, with the big day just around the corner, everything I had planned would not actually happen? Why is it fair that all my friends should get the chasuna of their dreams, but I had to suffer with less then standard Bar Mitzvah accommodations? Why? I attempted to draw chizuk from many years of schmuezzen I had heard throughout my years in yeshiva about hashgacha, and bitachon and to be mekabel ratzon Hashem, but it did next to nothing in assuaging my intense feelings of heartache and anxiety, likely due the fact that my imagined chasuna was deeper rooted in my subconscious then my bitachon was. Obviously, the fact that I would be getting married and starting a bayis ne’eman was always the real focus of my simcha, but the shock and suddenness of losing what I was always convinced, was the integral way to to start it all, left me unable to feel the true joy.
Until something happened that changed not only my perspective on chasunas, but on many aspects of life as well. I was invited to take part in my close friends chasunah, which was taking place in a backyard, with just more then a minyan present. Trust me, I arrived there feeling almost as bad for my friend as I felt for myself. But as the chasunah progressed, and the chupa began, followed by spirited dancing and the seudah with only immediate family and friends, I was feeling something that I just couldn’t put my finger on.
At some point in the night it hit me. THIS was the first chasuna I have ever been to. Never in my life have I been to an event more meaningful then this. With all the exterior coverings of the simcha missing, the true simcha and joy of the wedding shown through. Without the loud music and incessant talking everywhere, during the moments before the chupa you could actually feel the importance of what was about to take place. The breaking of the plate made us all remember and actually feel the churban. The chupa itself, with no microphone or singer or musical accompaniment, had a feeling of kedusha, you could feel a bayis ne’eman being built. For the first time I thought about what actually happens under the chupa, realizing how much of the real message is lost in outward extravagances that do nothing to add to the spirit of a yiddeshe chasuna. For the first time, I saw a chasuna that every single person there was entirely caught up with rejoicing with the choson and kallah.
The simcha of the guests radiated from every fiber of their being, and the choson was completely drawn into the emesdi’ke simcha, something rarely, if ever seen. The less there was from the outside, the more we, the mesamchim had to give from our inside, which made the atmosphere completely focused on the choson and kallah. Not once did I see someone checking their phone, and the socializing was really minimal.
For those few hours we gave it our all, and the balei simcha couldn’t have looked happier, ecstasy glowing from their faces. No doubt the financial benefit of a simcha in this style took away years of stress, allowing them to enjoy themselves completely. When it finally ended, on my way home the realization began to sink in that a smaller, more informal chasuna may not be such a terrible thing after all. How much of the real simcha gets lost because of the focus on the trivialities? Why are the pictures the longest part of the event? Why do I really need the singer and ear shattering music that all my friends have? Will that actually bring me to access the true simcha in a deeper way? Or will it distract me by making me pay attention to whether the singing and playing is perfect as I expected. Why do I need all those ‘friends’ at my wedding, knowing most of the time they’ll be outside, save for the few minutes they’ll show they’re face on the dance floor. Wouldn’t it be more enjoyable if the ones that were to come were there just to give their all to the simcha? And is it really so important for my parents to dig a pit of debt just so I can give people a few hour of non wholesome entertainment?
It was clear to me that all the worthless expensive additions that have been added unnecessarily over the years to the chasuna scene, were not there to enhance anyone’s simcha, but just to serve as social status confirmation, that we are with it and we won’t be outdone. We aren’t thinking how much pain and aggravation we’re causing by raising the standard for those who are lacking, besides for own simcha that we are diluting with total nonsense, making it less enjoyable for ourselves. As I thought all this, I began to appreciate the chasuna I myself would soon be having. I began to feel good that I would be saving my parents much pain and worry from money matters. As much as I might feel cheated that I didn’t receive what all my friends did, I’ll know I got something much bigger, something money can’t buy.
When I heard of the simcha initiative, where people are committing themselves to tone down their chasunas, I realized If only people would rethink what a chasunah is really about, and what true simcha really is, we would certainly join the simcha initiative, to cut out all the frills and unneeded accessories that just lead to debt and steal our attention from what a chasuna is truly about. And when Corona is but a distant memory, at least one thing will remain with us, The simcha initiative reminding us how to appreciate goodness from within.
Name withheld upon request
NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.
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