Chesler Chronicles

The Peaceable, Celestial Kingdom: Some Words About A Wedding Celebration

In the midst of my unshakable preoccupation with Hell, I suddenly found myself flung back into the Garden of Earthly Delights, where for six full hours I experienced holiness right here on earth. Time stood still, time no longer existed: a small, sure sign of eternity.

Ambassadors from many universes all came together to celebrate a peaceable, celestial, wedding. I felt as if we were participating in an episode of Star Wars–except we were not actors and the gathering was both real and yet beyond reality. So many different kinds of people were there. Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, pagans, and atheists, feminists and traditionalists, leftists, and rightists, gay and straight, and people with no overriding view of the events of the day whatsoever.

Very religious Jews rejoiced together with Jews whose practices are different than their own. This is uncommon, miraculous. The fiercest of atheists lovingly participated in the most traditional of religious rituals. People partied together whose ancestors hailed from Yemen, Israel, Italy, Turkey, Afghanistan, Russia, Romania, Poland, France, England, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, Spain–and that’s just off the top of my head.

If only all humanity could do likewise, what a lovely world it might be. At least there would be more heavenly oases amidst Hell.

Last night, my beloved son Ariel married his beloved soul-mate Shannon, (“Shanie”) a woman whom he has known and treasured for exactly nine years. They alone planned each detail of this celebration. They chose the rabbi, Dr. Judith Hauptman, who just happens to be the first woman professor of Talmud at the Jewish Theological Seminary. (Trust me: This is a Big Deal). They expanded the traditional seven blessings to be recited under the chuppah (or weddding canopy) into nine blessings. Cantor Sam Levine of the East Midwood Jewish Center chanted the blessings in Hebrew which were also said aloud in English by carefully chosen others. Ariel and Shannon chose the kosher caterer, (Fusion), the location, (Bridgewaters at the South Street Seaport with a view of the water and the ever-amazing Brooklyn Bridge), the music, photographer, flowers–and they created the most interesting invitation in the form of a video.

The Ring Ceremony

There he was, the tiny being whom I gave birth to only yesterday, standing tall in a tuxedo, suspenders, and scull-cap, every inch a man, a husband, and a loving son. There she stood, the love of his life, beautiful in a carefully structured “princess style” white strapless dress with an elaborate and graceful mermaid-back. The two of them glowed, they were incandescent, their joy radiated through all who assembled there. We responded, or rather we vibrated Love! Happiness! Pleasure!

The Bride and Groom’s First Dance

Many miracles took place. Family members who had only recently refused to break bread together danced with each other. Nine year old boys with whom Ariel used to play had become grown men who now towered over me. Both Ariel and Shannon became the archetypal Bride and Groom; they were larger or other than merely themselves and as such, managed to magically expand their love for each other to include us all. They were young and yet mature, wise beyond their days.

My ex-husband, Ariel’s father, has not spoken to me for at least fifteen years, maybe longer than that. Thus, as I stood there trying to figure out how I could greet him and his extended Israeli family–suddenly, as if they composed a delegation, they were upon me; all together, they had formally come to wish me Mazal Tov! I kissed each one: him, his wife, their two children, his mother, Ariel’s grandmother, his sister (Ariel’s aunt) and her husband, his wife’s sister and her husband.

Later, I walked Ariel’s eighty-seven year old grandmother, Sarah, (whom I have always adored) from table to table to introduce her to some of my friends. I knew she was related to my Rabbi’s wife, who is also my dear friend Chai Shmidman. They both trace their roots back to the Bal Shem Tov, the founder of Jewish mysticism. I stood and beamed as they worked it all out.

By the end of the evening, I had spoken to my ex-husband four times. Ariel has no memory of our ever having interacted with each other outside of a courtroom. Thus, Ariel smiled and grinned and finally pronounced that this was “crazy,” meaning “far out”, good, unbelievable. At the end, on his own, Ariel’s father came over and formally kissed me goodbye. I returned the kiss.

Together, finally, we were pronouncing that what we two had created with God’s help was really, really good.

It is traditional when Jewish parents marry off their youngest child (in my case, my youngest child is also my oldest child) that they sit in the center of a circle with a garland of flowers on their heads and receive flowers from all their dancing and singing guests. Pearl Berkowsky, Shannon’s sweet, kind, and beautiful mother, arranged this. The ritual is called “The Mazinka”. Therefore, together with Pearl and her husband, Shannon’s father Harvey, I sat in the center of just such a circle, beaming like a five-year old at her birthday party–or so a friend described me. I wore the wreath of baby’s breath until bed-time and was so reluctant to remove it. It was so fragrant, it smelled like eternal springtime and I was reluctant to return to life at a less elevated level.

The Mazinka

There is so much more to tell but I will stop now. I want to congratulate and thank the newlyweds. What a gift they gave to us all. It will sustain me forever.