Recent twitter entries...

And so begins the rest

And I mean that both in this is the "rest" of my blog and on Shabbis, we "rest." Before I get started, since I tend to explain why certain things are while in the context of the experience, I will indent these informative sections, to make it easier to read.

So we left off with the sirens going off and Shabbis starting. What is done, is done at that point and you can't start cooking anything or put on makeup or clean the house. A sense of calm falls over this small section of Brooklyn.

We went to shul at 770 Eastern Parkway... known as just 770. This was the Rebbe's home and shul. The weekend that I happened to be there was Chof Beis Shvat.

Chof Beis Shvat is the yartzeit of the Rebbe's wife - the Rebbetzin. On her yartzeit, all the rabbi's wives, the rebbetzins from around the world, come to Crown Heights for a convention. There are literally thousands of women in town for that weekend. It's called the Kinus for short. So when these women, who come from places like India, China, Russia, Key West, Alaska, etc, come to town, they all want to davven in the Rebbe's shul. The last time I was in CH for Chof Beis Shvat, I was literally jostled out the door of the women's section. I was still a "newbie" to the CH seen and wasn't so confident... and well... I grew up in a non-pushing house... so I let myself be jostled out the door.

This year was different.

I was staying with a (new but very dear) friend whom we shall call RL and her sister CB. We went to shul and we pushed our way right in. We smushed into the small women's area, above where the men were praying.

Why were the men and women separated, you ask? Well there are lots of laws and reasoning behind using a mechitza and many different ways they can look. Essentially, it is a separation of men and women but don't get the wrong idea, it isn't because there is a fault in the women. The fact is, women are not required to do any time-bound commandments. Why? Because they are the primary caretakers of the home and children. (Don't balk, you know it's true! Husband and wife both work, both come home tired, 9 times out of 10 who makes dinner and gives the kids a bath? It's in our nature, ladies! Embrace it!) So women shouldn't feel rushed or pushed to do the mitzvot or commandments that have a certain time frame. Now there is the issue with men being distracted. You know it's true. A pretty lady walks in, the men look up... well they HAVE TO do the time-bound mitzvot so we let them focus. Frankly, it's more a statement that men are easily distracted than that women are lesser. So mechitza's come in different fashions... pretty (and tall) flowers, a movable wall, etched glass, or the separate section completely. In 770, the main hall is where the men davven and there is a gallery upstairs where the women sit and there is a separate entrance. I borrowed this pic from - on the left side of the image, in the back where the Hebrew writing is one of the women's sections. There are windows down to the floor.

SO, we found a couple of seats, sorta, and a couple of siddurs, sorta, and began to davven. One thing I love about Chabad davvening is you can catch up if you need to and sorta go at your own pace. When we finished davvening, we chatted for a bit but we were getting pushed to and fro by people leaving and new people coming to get in their evening shabbis prayers. We fought our way out (it was like being a sardine!) and heading to our host for shabbis dinner. I didn't know the couple who we were eating by (yes, in CH you say "Who are you eating BY?" Who are you staying BY?" instead of with) but they were friends of my friends. One thing you will notice is that everyone is very friendly and welcoming. Their homes are very open to you. We arrived at S & T's home for shabbis dinner and began the climb. Just like you can't cook or clean on shabbis, you also can't use an elevator. So their apartment becomes a 6th floor walk-up on shabbis. 6 flights of stairs (with banisters with wet paint on them, thanks Super!) later, we walked in to a beautiful NYC apartment and wonderful hosts. We made the blessings over the wine, washing our hands, and the bread and then we dug in.

Now you should understand that there are courses here. First comes the fish and salads. Oh you could fill up on that alone! Gefilte fish, two kinds of salad, babganush, and challah. Then we move on to soup. Next, is the main course, usually meat and sides. And finally tea and desert.

It was such good company and delicious food. We chatted and ate until 1am! Some people falling asleep for a few minutes on the couch here and there. Finally, we went home and fell into bed. We work up on shabbis morning after letting ourselves sleep in a bit. We drank some tea (from water that was kept hot all night) and had breakfast. RL and I walked to another shul to find a woman she wanted to chat with. When the woman wasn't there, we stopped by another friend's house and chatted. It was all so easy going. No purse, no phone, nothin! Then we made our way to our shabbis lunch. The hosts were a very kind couple and their children. Their row house was incredibly beautiful (it's amazing what people do with little space and less yard in NYC!) and the meal was delicious. We had just an incredible chat with our host and hostess and then headed home for our shabbis shluff (Yiddish for nap).

We we woke up, it was time for havdallah, which marks the end of the sabbath. We went to the girls' landlord's apartment to hear him do havdallah. Such a sweet, older couple. When it was finished we headed down to change and get ready for the evening events. You know how in the secular world we go out on Friday and Saturday nights? Well, Saturday night or motzi shabbis, is party time!

There were a million things going on in the neighborhood that night! Whispers of Moshe Hecht doing a concert somewhere nearby, someone saw Matisyahu and his wife going out to something else... such a buzz on the street where just minutes before, there was silence!

We ended up at a program that Nightlife was throwing. Nightlife is a great initiative in Crown Heights for single women. They host programs every week to get the women together and just have a place to hang out. That night Rebbetzin Nechama Eilfort was speaking. She and her husband are the leaders of the Chabad of La Costa California. She gave a great talk about going on Shlichus and how even the most unsuspecting woman could find her own way while giving back to other Jews. She was a great speaker. BUT now it was time for the whole reason I went to Crown Heights... My friend's l'chaim!

So let's explain the connection. I went to Bais Chana and met my dear friend E. I went to Bais Chana because a dear friend in Denver, DL, suggested it. Shortly after we got home, E got engaged to DL's brother! So fun when you know both sides involved! :) So I trek over to the l'chaim from Nightlife.

Technically, L'chaim means "to life" in Hebrew. Since there is a lot of celebrating and drinking of L'chaims at an engagement party, they have come to be called "a L'chaim."A L'chaim and a Vort are pretty much the same thing. A L'chaim tends to be more informal and a Vort, more formal but that word isn't used in all circles. (Vort means 'word' in Yiddish, referring to the words of Torah the groom shares.) At the formal engagement celebration, some communities have the groom sign a tenaim document which literally means conditions and is like his acceptance of his obligations to his future wife. Once the document is signed, the mothers of the bride and groom with smash a plate, reminding us that even in the happy times, we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Since the tenaim is a serious halachic document (Jewish law), some groups won't sign it until the wedding day to avoid having to break the agreement.

It is crazy and packed! E has tons of friends and for the first time, that I have witnessed, the women's side is bigger than the men's! :) We hug and laugh, dance and eat. We stayed until after 1am! It was such a joyous event!

One more note about Jewish engagements... well, especially in this Chassidic community. It is Chabad custom to NOT present the bride with a diamond engagement ring. I know this is very different than mainstream society. The reason is that a Jewish marriage can be established in a number of ways and presenting a ring of value to a women, in front of witnesses can constitute a marriage. To avoid concerns about when and if the marriage actually took place, the groom (in this community) will often present his kallah (bride) with a necklace or watch. There are also progressive gifts given. A bride might receive an engagement watch, then a necklace before the party, a plain gold band at the wedding and then earrings and a diamond ring to complete her jewelry set. Additionally, during the wedding, it is never (within the context of this group) a double ring ceremony. Not only do men not wear jewelry but there is a bigger concern here. The ring is a gift to the bride from the groom and the brides acceptance of the ring is an acceptance of the marriage proposal and terms in the Ketubah. If the rings are exchanged, the transaction is as if it did not occur or that the bride is returning the groom's gift.

In the marriage ceremony, they say "behold, you become holy unto me with this ring." The ring must be clear as to what it is... the diamond could be fake, the etching could have lessened the value and if that is the case, the marriage's legal status could be called into question. Better to not have a question. The groom must OWN the ring he gives his bride. Therefore, he has to finish paying on it or if it is an heirloom, it must be given as a gift to him to them pass on. Anyway, I know I have gone on a tangent here but I find these customs so facinating!

After a few short hours of sleep, I head to the airport on Sunday. My mom, a former New Yorker, called on mozti shabbis (after shabbis) to request that I bring her back some bialys. Turns out that NY Jewish tradition hadn't hit the Crown Heights neighborhood yet but I brought her a half dozen of the best NY bagels I could find.

Traveling to NY and Crown Heights is like stepping into another world. I enjoy myself every single time. This particular trip, I met so many wonderful people and made some great Jewish connections. I can't wait to go back for the wedding... which is March 7, by the way. Maybe you will get a blog (or 3) about the Chabad Jewish wedding! :)

Originally posted at - AshkanOrthoNewalForm-ish

Comments (2)

Hey, I was at that Lchaim too! In fact, you probably know my wife, or at least my mother. Wait, you're from Denver? You might just know my sister. Sheesh...

HAH! Are you going to the wedding? I will be flying in with the groom's sisters and mom.

Who are these people? I need names! If you want you can email me instead - taliashewrote @ gmail dot com

Why are they in Denver? Realized that it rocks so much more? How come you haven't realized it yet?

Post a Comment