• Connecting to Judaism under the Chuppa!

    by Rabbi David Brofsky
    In recent years, I felt a greater desire, and urgency, to contribute to the broader Israeli public. I registered for a course, offered by Tzohar, which trains rabbis to perform weddings for secular (“chiloni”) Israeli couples. These couples would like a Jewish, halakhic, and meaningful wedding ceremony, but are often afraid of, if not turned off to, the Rabbinic establishment. Tzohar trains rabbis not only in the intricacies of the chuppa ve-kiddushin, but also in the special needs, both halakhic and pastoral, of secular couples. I was impressed by the dedication, the professionalism, as well as the attention to halakhic detail, of the Tzohar rabbinic and support staff. This dedication, incidentally, continues after the wedding, and includes feedback, seminars, professional support and halackhic guidance.

    I recently performed a wedding of two non-religious Israelis, who both emigrated from the former Soviet Union over 25 years ago. When I met this couple, a lawyer and a doctor, I explained to them how meaningful it was to participate in their wedding, as the year in which they emigrated, I spent my vacation time from Yeshiva volunteering in Absorption Centers (Merkazei Kelita) which welcomed and helped the recent, and historic, Russian aliyah.

    I met with them, before the meeting, to discuss the details of the wedding, as well as to explain the meaning behind the various segments of the chuppa. They were polite and respectful, but were clearly not looking for too much as far as the ceremony. “Quick and simple”- they requested. As our meeting came to a close, the groom turned to me and explained that it it weren’t for Tzohar, they may not have even agreed to be married, or they might have traveled to Cyprus in order to perform a civil ceremony, as do many secular couples. He was appreciative of Tzohar, of the incredible efficiency and dedication of their rabbinic and office staff, and of their attempt to bridge of gaps between the secular and religious populations.

    As the wedding approached, I thought of simple, yet significant ways to make the ceremony meaningful for the couple, as well as for the guests. I spoke, briefly, about the foundations of a healthy relationship, which we learn from the Jewish people’s relationship with God as forged at Yetziat Mitzraim. Just as the Jewish people began their relationship with God without chametz, without ego and self-centerdness, but rather with sincerity and simplicity, so too their relationship should be built upon the bond between their true and authentic selves. The guests were quiet and attentive, and the couple was clearly moved.

    As I sat down with the groom and his parents, before the ceremony, to finalize the Ketuba, I noticed a tallit in the corner of the room. I had asked him, during our meeting, whether he was interested in wearing a tallit, and saying the Shechiyyanu blessing, during the ceremony, as is common at many Israeli weddings. He declined, without even giving it a thought. Upon noticing the tallit, I inquired whether he intended to wear the tallit at the wedding. His father then told me that his son decided, on his own, that he wanted to don the tallit during the ceremony. As I helped him try on the tallit, which he had clearly never worn, my eyes became teary, as I realized that the ceremony was no longer a technical, legal duty – he had connected, on some level, to the Jewish depth and meaning of the wedding.

    Each year Tzohar performs weddings for thousands of Israeli couples, offering them a meaningful, authentic, and halachic ceremony which they most likely would not have had. I am honored to have joined the ranks of Tzohar’s volunteer rabbis, who bring light, peace, and Torah, to the Israeli population, wedding after wedding.

    Rabbi David Brofsky is a senior faculty member at Midreshet Lindenbaum, the author of “Hilchot Tefilla: A Comprehensive Guide to the Laws of Daily Prayer” and “Hilchot Moadim”, and a member of Irgun Rabbanei Tzohar.