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In a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony as lovely as they come, Professor Manny Grossman and his smiling bride, Gloria, became man and wife under a chupah of grape vines and bananas, on the spacious back lawn of the Golden Gate Temple in Marin County, California, where statues of Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, and Moses are scattered around the beautiful gardens, and an award-winning fountain of drinkable Californian wine gushing forth from a boulder, and representing the well of Miriam, reminds congregants of their glorious Biblical past and Judaism’s brotherhood with the family of nations. With the Golden Gate Bridge symbolically in the background, the nuptial union between the pioneer Jewish anthropologist and the stunning, white wedding-gowned gorilla marked a historic bridge between mankind and the world of the primates, and another one of Judaism’s great contributions to human culture. Rabbi Christine Christy, dynamic leader of California’s popular PDLR (Progressive Democratic Liberal Reform) Jewish Movement, and pulpit rabbi at the Golden Gate Temple, officiated at the tear-filled ceremony.
“I hereby pronounce you man and wife according to the tradition of Moses,” she declared, her voice cracking with emotion.
“If I forget you, O Jerusalem, if I not set Jerusalem over my highest joy,” the tuxedoed groom affirmed, stepping on and shattering the traditional glass to the cheers and applaud of the overflowing crowd of university professors, doctors, scientists, and California legislators. At first, when the ecstatic bride let out a tremendous gorilla roar, a frightened hush fell over the crowd, but when the happy groom pounded his chest in a Tarzan-like call, everyone laughed. Hand-in-hand, husband and wife walked out to the center of the lawn where everyone joined in a festive hora, as the orchestra played a lively rendition of the famous song, “Tradition,” from “Fiddler on the Roof.”
“This is truly a historic occasion,” the proud rabbi exclaimed, saying she hopes to officiate at other inter-species marriages. “It puts an end to all racism, discrimination, and jingoistic talk of a ‘chosen nation,’ which has always separated the Jewish People from the brotherhood of man. Today, with their wedding, Manny and Gloria Grossman have proclaimed to the world that all the beings which God created are equal.”
Needless to say, the marriage ceremony was not without its share of controversy. In the middle of the dancing, a dozen gays crashed the festivities, holding signs which read, “We Want to Marry Gorillas Too!”
“I’d be happy to officiate at gay-gorilla weddings,” Rabbi Christy, herself a self-proclaimed lesbian, declared. “I don’t see any problem with it at all.”
“What about the rejection of non-Orthodox rabbis by the Chief Rabbinate in Israel?” a reporter asked her.
“Israel is a democracy, and in our enlightened day and age, democracy rules, not God,” Rabbi Christy answered. “Israel’s attorney general decided to equally recognize all religious congregational leaders, from whatever stream of Judaism, and grant them all the same standing and financial compensation from the State – and I am sure the Israel Supreme Court will agree.”
“What if Israel’s democracy should vote that Israel will no longer be a Jewish State?” another reporter queried.
“I would gladly accept that also,” the media-adored rabbi replied. “That would be an important step toward the universality of mankind and break down the myth of Jewish statehood which has too long been an obstacle to world peace. Judaism is a religion, not a nationality, and Jews don’t need a land of their own. Let all the Israelis come and live here in California. So many of them live here already. There’s plenty of room. And just as no person or peoples are holier than any other, neither is any land holier than the next.”
Of course, Orthodox Jews don’t agree with what they call “the circus wedding” and with the new-age opinions of the ultra-progressive woman rabbi, citing the Biblical verse, “Cursed be he who lies with any manner of beast” (Deut. 27:21), which classifies sexual relations with animals as a forbidden form of incest.
“What people do in their own bedrooms is their business,” Rabbi Christy maintains. “The Torah is out of date. Rabbis have always had the ability to enact new ordinances in keeping with the times. Besides, who says that Professor Grossman intends to have sexual relations with his wife? Today, as far as I am concerned, their platonic love for each other has been sanctified by the holy bonds of marriage, that’s all.”
“If they do have children, will they be Jewish?” the rabbi was asked.
“Of course. I presided over Gloria’s conversion myself,” she insisted. “She lights the Shabbat candles and loves to listen to the songs of Jewish cantors, especially Yossela Rosenblatt.” And then with a chuckle, she added, “If they have a child, we’ll call it a Jewilla!”
The whole affair started while Professor Grossman was conducting an anthropological research mission in the jungles of Africa on the mating habits of gorillas. “It was love at first sight,” he fondly recalls. “Gloria was different from all the other baboons and chimps. We had a special relationship right from the start. I arranged for her ocean voyage to America, divorced my wife, and today I am the happiest man in the world.”
But the path to the wedding chupah wasn’t without its share of hurdles. Some conservative streams of Judaism opposed the gorilla’s conversion. After a few weeks of vociferous debate, the different branches on non-Orthodox Judaism agreed to a simple test. Concurring that all Jews loved gefilta fish and bagels and lox, Gloria was brought before a panel of progressive, liberal, reform, and conservative rabbis, and presented with a plate of gefilta fish. With a disdainful swipe of her paw, she sent the small balls flying across the hall. Immediately, Professor Grossman stood up and protested, stating that gorillas were vegetarians and didn’t eat fish. One of the reform rabbis demanding the test be repeated, observing that no Jew really liked gefilta fish without horseradish, so a bowl of horseradish was quickly fetched and set before the gorilla with a new plate of gefilta fish. Once again, all the judges had to duck as the ape sent the little balls flying. But flashing her big white teeth in a winning smile, she scooped up the crimson horseradish in one of her giant paws and swallowed it down in a gulp.
“That proof enough for me!” one of the rabbis shouted.
“That only proves that she’s half Jewish,” a conservative rabbi countered.
So a platter of bagels and lox was set before the primate. Once again, holding its nose in a gesture of disdain, the vegetarian threw away the smelly strips of fish and started chomping on the bagels.
“That’s proof enough for me,” another conservative rabbi exclaimed. “If the ape likes bagels, that’s a sure sign that the conversion is valid and that the gorilla is a Jew in every regard!”
All in all, the Californian wedding was a lovely affair. Noticing a little old Jewish woman standing to the side of the dancing, this reporter went over to her and asked what she was doing at the wedding?
“I’m Manny’s grandmother,” she answered.
“How do you feel about the celebration?” I asked.
The old lady shrugged and let out a small sigh and said, “At least he had a Jewish wedding.”
About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. His recent movie "Stories of Rebbe Nachman" will be available soon as a DVD.The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.
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