One of the things that is unique about the Jewish people is the way we hold onto our traditions. Although some slight aspects of styles change in different communities, Jews across the world manage to hold onto their traditions in ways that prevent them from simply blending into – and disappearing into – their host cultures.
I spent six months living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in a neighborhood called Once (pronounced ‘ohn-say’), which is the neighborhood in Argentina with the highest concentration of Jews. While there, I made new friends, went to new synagogues, and even attended lectures at a seminary (Majon Or Jaia). One of my favorite experiences there was to attend the traditional Jewish wedding of one of my new friends.
My friend, Paula, showed up to her wedding on Latino time – almost an hour late – but looked as pretty as a princess. Like some other major religions, women in Judaism wear white at their weddings to symbolize their spiritual purity, as all your sins are wiped away on your wedding day. During the first part of the wedding, Paula sat in a special chair and gave blessings to visitors and said prayers for people who need them. Because a bride (kallah) and groom (chattan) are on such a high spiritual level on their wedding day, their prayers go directly to G-d.
The next part of the wedding took place outside. The seasons in Argentina are the reverse of what they are in the USA, so even though it was September, it was still freezing! This part of the wedding takes place under a special marriage canopy called the chuppah. All Jewish weddings have some sort of chuppah, no matter whether they are reform, conservative, or orthodox, no matter where they are in the world. It’s a very special tradition representing the new home the couple will build together.
Finally, while Paula and her new husband went to a special room to spend their first time alone as husband and wife, the rest of us went to a hall to start the party. When Paula and her husband came in, we were all very excited! We cheered for them and then danced with them – men on one side of a divider and women on the other – according to orthodox Jewish tradition. It was a really fun party! The wedding started at noon and went on all day and all night!
Maybe you’ve attended a similar Jewish wedding at some point in your life. I’ve gone to Jewish weddings in the US, Canada, and Israel, in addition to this one in Argentina. Next time you get a chance, you should go – it’s a mitzvah to increase the joy of the bride and groom! Plus, it’s neat to see how similar the weddings are all over the world.