web analytics
April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Is This Simcha Really a Simcha?

Share Button

You glance through your mail, and there it is – an invitation to a simcha. It could be a chasuna ora Bar Mitzvah. Your phone rings and you are invited to a bris, sheva brochos or a pidyon haben. No matter, these events are all simchas (s’mochos, technically) and the baal simcha wants you to attend. After all, we often hear people say, “We should meet only at simchas!” What greater joy than to participate in an event marking an important milestone in the life of a relative or friend?

 

However, for some, the idea of attending yet another simcha is not met with unqualified anticipation. After all, some of the things that have become “standard” of present day simchas do not add to the joy of the event. Indeed, there are those who come away from a simcha almost regretting that they attended. Why is this? Let us look at some of the negative aspects of our “joyous” events.

 

Time

 

Simchas are notorious for neither starting nor ending on time. There are, of course, a variety of reasons as to why people do not arrive on time to a simcha. Those with small children have to feed and put their children to bed; older children also require time in the evening; many men do not get home from work until relatively late; baby sitters sometimes show up late; one gets an important phone call that must be dealt with right away; and who knows what else can come up at the last minute.  However, the main reason for people coming late is that since they know that the simcha will start late, it makes no sense to get there on time. Of course, the simcha starts late, because the guests do not come on time. This has led to the vicious cycle that we now are living with.

 

An acquaintance once related the following concerning his first encounter with Rav Avigdor Miller, ZT”L. In the 1950′s this fellow was told that he really should hear Rav Miller speak. Since Rav Miller was scheduled to speak at a Melava Malka, he decided to attend. Well, the evening dragged on and on with speech after speech. Finally, when it was time for Rav Miller to speak, he got up, looked at his watch and said, “Rabosai, it is late and time for us all to go home and sleep. A Gutta Voch!” and sat down.

 

Rav Miller spoke more than once against the practice of having simchas that require people to stay up late. He felt that this could be injurious to one’s health, not to mention that eating at a late hour is not a good practice.

 

Sometimes an invitation states such and such a time “B’dyuk.”  Even this is often meaningless. Indeed, it was once pointed out to me, tongue in cheek, that “B’dyuk” stands for “Biz de Yidden Vellen Kummen!”

 

Pictures or a Chasuna

 

I know a mashgiach in the bais medrash of a Brooklyn yeshiva who attends many chasunas. Heonce told me, “People have a choice between pictures and a chasuna, and they invariably choose pictures!” He was referring to the common practice of the chosson and kallah and their families and relatives taking pictures after the chupah while their guests are kept waiting for an hour or more. The reason for this is because the chosson and kallah are supposedly not “allowed” to see each other for a week before the chasuna. The result is that when the chosson and kallah finally appear for the first dance, it is quite late. Many people who have to get up early the next day are anxiously waiting to be served their meal so they can leave.  Those guests who find it necessary to leave without eating are unable to participate in the mitzvah of being m’sameach the chosson and kallah. Those who do stay go to sleep at an unreasonable hour and may not be able to properly function the next day.

 

My acquaintance, the bais medrash mashgiach, told me that when asked, his rosh hayeshiva has said that there is no problem with taking pictures of the chosson and kallah together before the chupah. However, there are authorities who advise otherwise, insisting that the custom of the chosson and kallah not seeing each other be maintained.This may indeed heighten the emotional dimension to the chasuna for the chosson and kallah. However, adherence to a custom and/or the feelings of two people must be balanced with the inconvenience of so many others. Kovod habrios must be a concern. Therefore, in cases where pictures are taken after the chupah, every effort should be made to limit the time spent on picture taking. Rav Yisroel Salanter is famous for his dictum that, “The other person’s gashmius is your ruchnius.” Doesn’t keeping hundreds of guests waiting for an extensive amount of time fly in the face of this?

 

Music

 

I have been at chasunas where the music was so loud that I could not talk to the person sitting next to me without shouting. We simply could not hear each other over the music. Indeed, there are times when guests leave the hall to find peace and quiet. Why is louder considered better? Why can’t the decibel level be such that one can hear the music and carry on a conversation? Why does one have to risk damaging one’s eardrums to participate in some chasunas? Today it is the custom for young couples to bring infants to a            chasuna. I can only wonder at the irreparable damage that may be done to the hearing of these young children. Given this and other considerations, I simply do not understand why young couples think that it is appropriate to bring infants to simchas. Years ago this was almost never done. Has something changed that I am not aware of?

 

Where is the D’var Torah?

 

The “format” of our chasunas is also problematic. With rare exceptions there is no d’varTorah. Here we have a major religious event that is totally devoid of divrei Torah. I recall reading a story about how the Torah greatness of the Chazon Ish was “revealed.” While attending a chasuna, he sat at a table set aside for the poor. A famous and learned Rov began to speak and quoted a Mishna. He explained it in a certain way. The   Chazon Ish stood up and pointed out that this was not the correct way to explain this Mishna and offered an alternative explanation. The Rov was so impressed with the explanation of the Chazon Ish that he asked the Chazon Ish to come and sit next to him at the head table. Given his great humility, the Chazon Ish did not want to do this, so the Rov went and sat next to him. The point here is that there was a d’var Torah at this chasuna. Why don’t all of our chasunas feature at least one d’var Torah? Rav Dr. Yosef Breuer, ZT”L, wrote in the Aug./Sept. 1966 issue of the Mitteilungen, the congregational Bulletin of K’hal Adath Jeshurun, expressing his reservations about the “new” custom of Hasidic dancing: “While we are not used to the manner in which frequently also in our circles the joyous participation in weddings manifests itself, such ‘deviation,’ actually an imitation of other circles, is of no real significance. We are concerned with the custom that calls for vigorous ‘Mitzve dancing’ during the festive meal but does not provide an opportunity for a single D’var Torah (either under the Chuppa or during the meal). This practice directly contrasts with the admonition of our Sages which characterizes any meal, particularly a festive one, as a ‘meal of the dead’ that is not accompanied by words of Torah.”

 

Too Much of a Good Thing

 

Interesting enough, while divrei Torah are hardly ever given at chasunas, when it comes to sheva brochos and Bar Mitzvahs there is a plethora of speeches. Indeed, at some of these affairs one could come away with the idea that “The more speeches there are, and the longer each speech is, the better.” Even if the speakers are good, there is a point at which the audience loses interest and simply cannot absorb any more information, no matter how well presented. Furthermore, it seems that virtually everyone is considered to be a suitable speaker, despite the fact that it takes talent and training to speak well in front of a group. If a d’var Torah incorporates a considerable number of sophisticated Gemara concepts, then at least 50% of the audience (the women) will have no idea what the speaker is saying and be totally bored. This leads to talking during the d’var Torah, which leads to “shushing.” The net result is far from an edifying Torah experience.

 

The Bar Mitzvah Drasha should be a “golden” opportunity for a boy to learn how to make a verbal presentation before an audience. However, my experience has been that the presentation is made in a fashion that makes it either incomprehensible or unintelligible, or both. Sadly, this chance to teach a young person the skills needed to present material to others in a clear and logical manner is lost. While it may well be true that the average 13 year-old boy is not capable of delivering a polished talk, this does not mean that his Bar Mitzvah Drasha has to consist primarily of mumblings sprinkled with words like Rambam, t’phillin, Gemara, etc.  A 13 year-old can be prepared to give a Drasha that is comprehensible, interesting, and understood by all present. However, the boy must be properly prepared for this. Indeed, the baal simcha has to make sure that all those who  speak are capable of speaking well. Furthermore, the number of speeches and the length of each speech have to be carefully limited.

 

During the Fifties and Sixties, students in the Bais Medrash of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath had the opportunity to take a “course in homiletics”  from none other than Rabbi Moshe Sherer, Z”L.  The course met bi-weekly, and the assignment was to prepare a five-minute speech on a current event and tie it to the parsha of the week. Rabbi Sherer stressed what he called the “Three B’s of speaking:” Be prepared; be brief; be seated! This is surely good advice for anyone asked to speak at a simcha.

 

A Waste of Good Jewish Money

 

Last but not least is the lavishness of our present day simchas. At a talk given at the 55th National Convention of Agudath Israel entitled “Society’s Newest Pressures” and reprinted in Selected Writings, Rav Shimon Schwab, ZT”L,  said, “The ostentation that one sees, the flaunting of wealth, the big rings, the large stones, the colossal weddings, the tremendous bar mitzvahs – what has happened? Millions of dollars are wasted! Money with which we could feed all the hungry Yidden of Yerushalyem, with which we could maintain all the Yeshivos – all of it is wasted. There was once an inyin of t’memus, of pashtus, of simplicity. Where has that gone? Did this also perish in the flames of Auschwitz? One goes to a chasuna. Almost all chasunas look alike – except for the chosson and kallah. Each one represents thousands of dollars which could be used to support the young couple for years. Many a chosson could sit and learn day and night for the money which we spend on one chasuna. What a waste of good Jewish money.”

 

Years ago sheva brochos were a simple affair made in the home of a relative or a close friend of the chosson or kallah. A minyan of men and their spouses and perhaps a few more people gathered for these sheva brochos. This is often not the case today. A restaurant or hall must be rented to accommodate all the invited guests. At the Shabbos sheva brochos, three lavish meals are served to 80 or 90 or more people. Some even take guests to a hotel for Shabbos! Is this really necessary? I recall when an invitation to participate in Shabbos sheva brochos meant inviting people to come to one’s home after the seuda for desert. For some reason or other this is not good enough today. As Rav Schwab pointed out, “What a waste of good Jewish money.”

 

Conclusions

 

I am convinced that people can make simchas today that are truly joyous occasions for all who attend. It requires careful planning and the willingness (courage) to implement guidelines that avoid the pitfalls outlined above as well as others that I am sure the reader can think of. However, doing this is well worth the effort. Those who attend a simcha that is truly a joyous and meaningful experience will come away with a feeling of appreciation to the ba’alei simcha for his efforts and long remember the event with fondness and warmth.

 

 
Dr. Yitzchok Levine, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at www.llevine@stevens.edu.

Share Button

About the Author: Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008. He now teaches as an adjunct at Stevens. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “Is This Simcha Really a Simcha?”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Ukraine Shul Firebombed
Ukrainian Synagogue Firebombed (Video)
Latest Indepth Stories
Imam Suhail Webb who boasted his Muslim community persuaded Brandeis President Fred Lawrence to withdraw an invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

At Brandeis, much of what counts as Western civilization got cold feet and won’t stand with Hirsi Ali.

Text of anti-Semitic flyer distributed to Jews in Donetsk, Ukraine on Passover 2014.

But the lesson from this meditation is that hidden behind the anti-semitic act is the greatest light.

Yossi Klein HaLevi

As support of their messianic dream, Halevi and Antepli approve dishonoring Hirsi Ali as a ‘renegade.’

matza

If itis a mitzva to eat matza all Pesach, then why is there no berakha attached to it?

When we are united with unconditional love, no stone will be raised against us by our enemies.

The reporter simply reports the news, but it is greater to be inspired to better the situation.

The Big Bang theory marked the scientific community’s first sense of the universe having a beginning.

Freeing convicted murderers returns the status of Jewish existence to something less than sanctified.

“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.

We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

It’s finally happened. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan reported on her blog that “many readers…wrote to object to an [April 2] article…on the breakdown in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” claiming “[they] found the headline misleading and the article itself lacking in context.” Ms. Sullivan provided one such letter, quoted the […]

Nor did it seem relevant that according to widely circulated media reports, Rev. Sharpton was caught on an FBI surveillance video discussing possible drug sales with an FBI agent.

More Articles from Dr. Yitzchok Levine
Levine-Dr-Yitzchok-NEW

“Attuned to the ideal of establishing a new Zion in free America, they named their new colony Palestine.

Last month’s column outlined some efforts during the first half of the nineteenth century to establish Jewish agricultural colonies in America. In only one case was a colony actually established.

There were very few Jewish farmers in Europe during the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Indeed, in many parts of Europe Jews were forbidden to own land. Despite this there were some Jews who always felt they should return to the agrarian way of life their forefathers had pursued in ancient times, and that America was an ideal place to establish Jewish agricultural colonies.

The President having signed the Treaty of the Geneva Conference and the Senate having, on the 16th instant, ratified the President’s actions, the American Association of the Red Cross, organized under provisions of said treaty, purposes to send its agents at once among the sufferers by the recent floods, with a view to the ameliorating of their condition so far as can be done by human aid and the means at hand will permit. Contributions are urgently solicited.

Last month’s column sketched the myriad of social programs in which the Orthodox American communal worker and leader Adolphus S. Solomons (1826-1910) was involved. Adolphus married Rachel Seixas Phillips (1828-1881), a descendant of colonial patriot families and together they had eight daughters and a son.

There are many observant Jews who contributed much to secular and Jewish life in America and yet have, unfortunately, been essentially forgotten. One such man is Adolphus Simson Solomons (1826-1910).

Cholera was officially recognized to be of epidemic proportions in New York City on June 26, 1832. The epidemic was at its peak in July and 3,515 out of a population of about 250,000 died. (The equivalent death toll in today’s city of eight million would exceed 100,000.) Sadly, in 1832 there were no effective treatments available for those who contracted this disease.

As this is our third column on the Reverend Dr. Henry Pereira Mendes, we’ll begin with a summary of his life.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/is-this-simcha-really-a-simcha/2005/06/15/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: