My First (Chassidic) Wedding

4 years ago Shayna Solkowitz 0

It’s crazy to think that I haven’t even know Chaya for a full six months. It’s even crazier to think that I only met her once in person before attending her wedding. On Sunday night, I attended my first wedding of my CTeen Torah Buddy, Chaya.

Tuesdays are my favorite days because we learn together. I remember the first day she called me. Chaya doesn’t know this yet, but the first time she called, I thought she was a spam caller. I ignored her call! It took awhile for her voicemail to come in and for me to realize that she wasn’t a spam caller after all! The rest was history. We learn… a lot. It’s not just textual learning from Tanya, which is one of the things we learn. I’ve also learned a lot about the Rebbe, Chabad life in Crown Heights, and so many other things. I had met Chaya once before, at the Tri-state TGIS shabbaton.

My chaperones and roommates and I were all chillin’. Then, my chaperone was like “oh Chaya’s here.” I was like, “hold on wait a minute, I’m going to meet my torah buddy?” I had no clue she was coming. I low-key wish we talked more that weekend, but it was so cool to meet my teacher. I remember the day Chaya got engaged. I had a snow day, so didn’t get out of bed until 1pm. I got a text from my friend—she’s also one of my CTeen chaperones and a close friend of Chaya’s.When she told me Chaya was getting married, I was so happy for her. Then, I realized I had never been to a wedding before, let alone a Chabad one…

Not going to lie, I was really nervous. Not only had I never been to a wedding—let alone a Chabad wedding—but I only knew a few people going. Honestly I was expecting to hang out on the outskirts. I was worried about getting lost in the crowd. What was I thinking? I walked in just as they started playing a niggun or melody called Arba Bavot. This melody was written by the 1st Chabad Rebbe, The Alter Rebbe, and can only be played at very special occasions. I’m not going to lie, it kind of made me stop in my tracks. This melody plays as the groom approaches to cover the brides face. For anyone who has never seen a Chassidic wedding before, allow me to explain: The bride (Kallah) and groom (Chatan) are not allowed to see or speak to each other the week before the wedding. When the Chatan arrives to cover the Kallah’s face, it is the first time in a week—and the last time before they become husband and wife—that they will see each other. The groom then covers the bride’s face with a veil. Now, if you’re like me, you’d probably expect a thin, see through veil, maybe with holes in it or sheer. Nope. It was completely solid; she couldn’t see a thing. The groom walked away. Her face remained covered until after the chuppah.

770 Eastern Parkway

The chuppah (wedding ceremony) took place in front of 770, a few minutes drive away from the wedding hall. Weddings are held in front of 770 because it was the location of the Rebbe’s office and shul. It had been raining earlier in the day, but now the skies were sunny.

The groom entered the chuppah first. I could tell how serious and focused he was. The wedding day  isn’t just about dancing and having a good time, it’s also about the fact that two souls are reuniting. The groom was escorted by his father and father in law, who  were both holding candles, as well as the mother and mother in law of the kallah. The Kallah arrived to the chuppah, escorted by her mother and soon to be mother in law. The only other people allowed under the chuppah are those who will be involved in the ceremony, and the photographers, who are more like paparazzi. She walked past me, and there was a vibe she brought with her, it was incredible. I stopped thinking about my struggles at home and school, and focused on the beautiful moment. I watched as she walks to her groom. She circled him seven times. Prayers, the wedding contract, and a letter from the Rebbe were all read in hebrew. The kallah and Chatan  drink some wine, and the chatan put a ring on the Kallah’s finger… Finally, the chuppah ended with the smashing of a glass.

Now it was time to celebrate! We made our way back to the hall, and shortly thereafter, the kallah and chatan arrive as husband and wife. It was now time to dance.  At Jewish weddings, men and women dance separately. We all lined up at the door, and we created a bridge over head with our hands. To the start of the music, in she ran. Traditionally, the bride and groom fast on the day of their wedding. Can you imagine fasting all day, and then dancing? I was surprised to see that she didn’t look tired, hungry, dehydrated or nervous.  All I saw on my torah buddy’s face was pure joy and happiness. The dancing starts with the family, and then it goes to friends. There were a lot of girls at this wedding. I’d technically met Chaya once. I was not expecting to talk or even make eye contact let alone dance with her. Now, I’m no dancer, but a bride is likened to a queen, and if she asks you to dance, you dance! There was an unexplainable energy in the room. So I danced, in front of everyone, and had a blast. There was something about dancing with the kallah. I… it was just incredible. Dancing was followed by dinner, and then more dancing. The happiness on everyone’s face for their friend was beautiful. We put the kallah onto a table, and her and her sisters danced while everyone held her up. Her husband was on the other side, the same thing happening, so they could make eye contact over the mechitza.

One thing that amazed me was the inclusion. Girls grab each others hands without even looking at who’s hand they were grabbing. If someone sees you starting to separate, they pull you right back in. Anytime I started to fall back, one of Chaya’s classmates was there to make me feel included. I honestly don’t think I could have had a better wedding experience. If I had any questions, I had a plethora of people there to ask. I realized that a wedding is like Rosh Hashanah, Yom kippur, and Simchat Torah all wrapped up into one night. This is like the head of a new chapter in their lives. They fasted all day like on Yom Kippur, also it’s a day that they have a clean slate and especially during the actual ceremony it’s very serious. Then there’s the dancing, Simchat Torah and weddings are both very associated with dancing.  I’m so thankful for this experience, and to experience it with the people I did, especially the CTeen Chaperones :). Chaya, I’m so happy for you, thanks for letting your wedding be my first!