To Wed a Daughter, to Sell a Kidney

August 1, 2011 1:32 am 1 comment

My eldest daughter, Mushki, is engaged and will be married in a few months, God willing. I’m surprised at how well I’m taking it given that all my friends had warned me that I would feel like a stranger was stealing her. Luckily, she’s marrying a really great guy who makes her happy. Happier than her father? Come on. Let’s not be ridiculous. But he’s a close second (I hope he’s not reading this).

The strange thing about a child getting married is that just as soon as it’s announced you have very little time to enjoy it. Immediately, the wedding thrusts more work on you than an Egyptian taskmaster. There is an engagement party to be organized in under fifteen minutes. And before the hangover has even passed, you’re identity is subsumed entirely under the rubric of wedding organizer. You are no longer a doctor, an accountant, or Rabbi. You better hone up on your impresario skills because you’re putting on a party. One big party. You quickly adapt and become conversant in the new language of wedding halls, invitations, and caterers. Like the culinary critic of the New York Times, you’re a wanderer, scouting locations, trekking from hotel ballroom to country club, tasting liver and borscht, deciding what you can afford and checking on Ebay to see what a kidney fetches on the open market.

I spent 22 years raising my daughter while my wife watched (I hope she’s not reading this either). I still remember carrying her, as a baby, up the innumerable steps of Tintagel Castle, the domicile of the legendary King Arthur whom you discover didn’t even exist but only once you lumber to the top. She was tiny then and I had to handle each step with extraordinary care, made much more difficult by my wife’s incessant hollering that I was crazy and what fool doesn’t know that King Arthur was a myth anyway. Now that my daughter is big enough to handle this and other challenges on her own, I thought, having invested considerable time in shepherding her through the dating process – that is, when she actually remembered I was a cognitive being to whom she could turn to for advice rather than just part of the furniture – I would be afforded an opportunity to enjoy the moment. She is a kallah, a bride. Free at last, thank God Almighty, I’m free at last. But no, the prophet Isaiah was right. There is no rest for the wicked. And clearly the sin of raising a child to maturity was to be punished by the gods with endless labour in ensuring that we hand her off to the man who will now be the centre of her life in an extraordinarily complicated right of passage known as a wedding.

I have written many columns lambasting the opulence and braggadocio of weddings and Bar Mitzvahs that lack spiritual content and seem designed primarily to impress parents’ friends. In our case, resources alone will prevent us from being guilty of that transgression. But even a budgeted wedding should be beautiful, at best, and respectable at least, and my wife and I, as well as the groom’s parents – really nice people whose stock has plummeted considerably as a result of this merger (a reference to me rather than my daughter) know enough people that at a minimum have to be invited so that this special occasion is shared with friends we dare not insult so that they continue to buy my books.

It turned out that we were extraordinarily lucky in finding loving and professional family businesses that are nursing us through the byzantine process of marriage and are taking over the yeomen’s labor of preparation. Main Event Caterers, caring and consummate people who did a stunning job at our children’s Bar and Bas Mitzvahs, and the Rockleigh Country Club – striking and elegant without being gaudy and run by a wonderful Italian family who seem to know more about orthodox Jewish weddings than most Rabbis (yes, another reference to myself, but it is my favourite subject) are lifesavers and God bless them.

Still, it seems to me that the Talmud had it right two millennia ago when it envisioned a wedding in a totally different light. A couple gets engaged. It’s their time, their celebration. So rather than having them spend all their time putting on a party for friends, the very reverse happened. Friends got together and found a venue, everyone cooked a dish, and they put on the party for the bride and groom. After all, it does seem somewhat odd that the bride and groom are suddenly hit with such incredible pressure to stage a celebration for their friends that they end up not enjoying the special time of their engagement as it is slowly taken over completely with guest lists, party preparation, and band selection. Who are the ones getting married anyway? It’s not the friends, right? It’s the bride and groom. So why are they doing all the work? And this paradox is one that affects every family, in every culture and every religion.

And while it’s too late for me and my ever-expanding impresario skills, perhaps it’s time to do things a little bit different.

At this point in this column, having alienated my wife, my future mechutanim, and by now, even my own daughter, let me say something inspiring. Would it that all of our problems revolved around the responsibilities and pressures of joyous family occasions and I am so grateful to God that my daughter has found a man of substance and caring to share her life with, even as he steals her from me and takes her thousands of miles away to live in a state far, far away where I can’t interfere in their lives (I know, I’ve now alienated my future son-in-law as well. But why not be thorough).

Still, there is a healthy middle ground. I know parents who borrow up the wazoo to put on a wedding that will make a lasting impression when, in reality, the only meaningful impact of a wedding is the one that will be made by a man and woman who find love in an age of endemic divorce, fidelity in an age of public scandal, and a soulful connection in an age where the material and the practical have come to dominate.

So thank you, Lord, for the blessing of my daughter’s engagement. And while I am truly grateful, would it offend some great celestial plan if I were to win the New York lottery?

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has eight children to marry off after his daughter, G-d willing. So would it kill you to buy his books? The author of “Renewal: A Guide to the Values Filled Life,” he is about to publish, “Ten Conversations You Need to Have with Yourself.” (Wiley) Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Sports Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    JNS.org – For Daphna Krupp, her daily workout (excluding Shabbat) at the Jewish Community Center (JCC or “J”) of Greater Baltimore has become somewhat of a ritual. She not only attends fitness classes but also engages with the instructors and plugs the J’s social programs on her personal Facebook page. “It’s the gym and the environment,” says Krupp. “It’s a great social network.” Krupp, who lives in Pikesville, Md., is one of an estimated 1 million American Jewish members of more [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated magazine featured an extensive profile on Orthodox-Jewish college basketball player Aaron Liberman on Wednesday.  The article details Liberman’s efforts to balance faith, academics and basketball at Tulane University, a challenge the young athlete calls “a triple major.” Sports Illustrated pointed out that Liberman is the second Orthodox student to play Division I college basketball. The other was Tamir Goodman, the so-called “Jewish Jordan.” As reported in The Algemeiner, Liberman started his NCAA career at Northwestern University. According to [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.