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 Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater 10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    Last month, my one-man show Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran ran in the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an Overall Excellence Award. The play has now been selected to run in the Fringe Encores Series at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center, for four performances which started on Thursday, September 11. Getting the play to the stage was not easy, however. Here are [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Phenomenon: Tel Aviv-based musician and “sampler” extraordinaire, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) has hit another one out of the park with “Give It Up,” a fully-functioning song in its own right, assembled from hundreds of ameteur and instructional music videos. The Jerusalem-born musical prodigy is best know for his diverse online musical projects. In the latest video, uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 12th, Kutiel thanked most of the musicians and individuals he chose to include in the meticulously-edited clip, which opens with [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    A recently released behind-the-scenes reel of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings shows just how far the director has gone to portray one of the Bible’s most famous narratives. In the clip, which shows scenes involving up to 4,000 extras, the visionary director discusses what drew him to the biblical tale of Moses. “The Moses story was a massive challenge, which I really love. I wanted to explore the complexity of his character and I was stunned by [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    JNS.org – Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable and satellite TV network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film,” whose first segment aired Sept. 2, runs [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.