Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bizarre frum wedding

A guest post by Philo

A recent article on a frum news website accompanied a photo essay of a last minute wedding. The article is meant to be an uplifting piece about two "older" frum singles that found each other. The only problem is that instead of feeling uplifted, I felt disturbed.

Because the couple may end up feeling very appropriate embarrassment over the article and ask the website to take it down, I've included the full article below (sans the photo essay.) At the same time, in case they DO feel that embarrassment, I've changed their names and of everyone else in the article and am not including a link, (but you can probably find it if you need to.)

Here's the article and my fisking. Yes, I'm a little mean here, but this article really pi**** me off. I'm sure that these 2 are lovely people and hopefully they'll be happy together.

My comments are in blue.


Some Frum News Website


Baltimore, MD-March 12 - We’ve all heard these things said before--perhaps those who devote time making shidduchim, more than others: ‘He will never get married!’ ‘She is being way too picky!’ ‘He’s sabotaging himself!’ ‘She is not being open-minded!’

This past Tuesday, I witnessed and partook in one of the most special and extraordinarily meaningful weddings ever--in my humble opinion. It blasted away such blanket statements made, in particular, about older singles who are often criticized for being finicky and inflexible.

It was an impromptu wedding ceremony; the chasan is 57 year old Arthur Levine, a native Baltimorean, and his kallah is 31 year old Rivka Talia McDonald--Arthur had never been married before. I, along with most all of the wedding “guests”, had never met the chasan and kallah until about fifteen minutes prior to the chupah. It was officiated by HaRav Chaim Geller, shlit”a, who has been Arthur’s posaik for 37 years.

> Yup - a perfect match, both older singles! TOTALLY appropriate match. After all, she's not just over 25, she's OVER 30, practically ancient! Basically the same age as her groom. What's a 26 year difference of age?

(I have no problem with May-December romances. Love has many paths. What I object to is the shadchanit's thinking this was a great idea.)

Arthur and Rivka’s shadchan was none other than the veteran crackerjack matchmaker, Chedvah Goldberg. She came up with the brainstorm---just 6 weeks ago.

> 6 weeks? Sure, that's more than enough time for them to get to know each other & get married! And after all, at 31 she had one foot in the grave - they couldn't afford to wait.

“I first saw Rivka at a party, shortly after she was megayer (converted to Judaism),” says Mrs. Goldberg. “She was a gorgeous, beautiful girl, but I was setting her up with all the wrong men. She wanted an older man. She has an ‘old soul’, and I only knew that about a year after I got to know her. Arthur, who had been dating for 32 years, didn’t want to go out with anyone over 35, and he wanted beauty. I sent Arthur a match suggestion on the Saw You at Sinai matchmaking website and then emailed him and wrote simply, ‘Accept her-marry her!’

> This gets better & better. She's a new convert, subject to brainwashing. Meanwhile, he's a delusional middle aged man who refuses to date anyone over 35. Most guys like that aren't subject to admiration but are rather viewed as creepy, and most women won't date them.

Arthur was rockclimbing and paragliding, in South Africa, at the time, when the email arrived. Mrs. Goldberg suggested that prior to her setting up a date with Rivka, Arthur should fly straight to Israel, where Rivka’s rav, Rabbi Schneider lives. The rav and Arthur met; Rabbi Schneider not only approved of Arthur, but was crazy about him.

> Then Arthur got down on one knee and proposed to Rabbi Schneider.... Oh, wait - that's not where this is going?

The engaged couple’s flexibility and easygoing natures were proven when the wedding, which was originally planned to take place in Florida, took place in Baltimore, with not more than five or six hours notice. To pull this off, an instant minyan was needed--and found--within an all-Orthodox workplace, in our community.

When that office received HaRav Geller’s request to host the chupah at about 10:40 a.m., about 20 minutes was all it had to get the 11 a.m. scheduled wedding preparations together. While some of the employees were quite skeptical of what was going on (some couldn‘t help but think that it was some very original and imaginative pre-Purim shtick!), others ran throughout the office looking for some sort of poles that would serve to hold up a makeshift chupah. Yet another employee was in charge of calling in the wedding feast order of Beef and Vegetables/Fried Rice/Egg Rolls (and, of course, Fortune Cookies!)

>Exactly why did they have to get married so quickly? The whole thing seems bizarre. Maybe they needed to get married ASAP to take advantage of the few childbearing years she has left. After all, they might only have 8 children at this rate! (And of course, I would never suggest that they got a jump-start already, hence the haste.)

Arthur and Rivka had to catch a 5 p.m. flight back to Florida, so while everyone in the office was scurrying around attending to all the other details needed for the instant post-chupah seudas mitzvah, Arthur presented Mrs. Goldberg with a shadchanus check. It was made out for a nice sum, which he had promised her, five years ago, if she were to find his besherte. As is this matchmaker’s custom, it will go entirely to tzedaka--that same day, it was sent to a yeshiva for baalei teshuva, in Israel, which one of her sons-in-law heads.

“He’s a man of his word; I never thought it would happen!”, said Mrs. Goldberg, after Arthur handed her the check, proudly posing for the wedding photographers with her reward in hand.

Prior to the chupah, HaRav Geller explained the terms of the ketuba to Arthur, during his non-conventional chasan’s tish. Subsequently, on cue, four of the male guests held the broomstick poles over which was draped the new tallis given to Arthur by Rivka; it served as their wedding canopy. Arthur took his place, under the chupah, while a friend, Yona Stern, sang ‘Mi Adir”. There was no long procession; the kallah was accompanied to the chupah, a few feet away, by Mrs. Goldberg, who guided her in circling the chasan. Both Arthur and Rivka were dressed as if they were going on a casual date---he, in a blue open neck shirt-sleeved button-down shirt, and she, in a camel colored cable knit pullover sweater, adorned by a silver floating heart necklace. It was a match made in heaven!

The chupah ceremony was light and joyous, with the chasan confirming that the wedding band was bought by him- and then joking that it was made in China. At the chupah’s conclusion--it ended with Mr. Stern’s rendition of the German ‘Shir Hamalos’--the elated guests, still in a state of shock, fervently sang and clapped to ‘Od Yashama’, unaccompanied by the usual band. The newlywed couple then retreated into their makeshift yichud room, which most probably was decorated with Inner Office Memos, and the like. Of course, with little time to spare, the employee-guests did not have the often extra-long wait time before eating the sumptuous Chinese wedding feast.

During the wedding meal, Arthur made a touching speech, in which he expressed his deep feelings for his kallah. By the third date, he related, he knew that Rivka was his besherte, but he had never proposed.

“We spent hours talking about our future, but I said to her, ‘Did you notice that I never proposed? Rivka answered 'Yes'. Arthur asked, 'Will you marry me?’ She answered, ‘Yes!’ It was very natural. ..We didn’t disagree about anything. We feel the same way about spiritual things, as well as things like healthy eating, and so many other things…It was G-d’s way of saying, ‘Arthur, put up or shut up!’ I felt like I’ve found my missing piece, after 57 years. I feel better about myself and my role in the world. I can't imagine what I did in this lifetime which was so good that I merited marrying Rivka.’

Arthur added, “When I called Rabbi Geller to tell him that I was engaged, I never heard him get so emotional. The rav asked : “Does she scuba dive?’ ‘Yes,’ I answered, ‘and she rock climbs, was a professional equestrienne, and many other things.’”

“This is the most unusual wedding I have ever officiated,” admits HaRav Geller. “Sometimes a person has to wait many years until he finds the right one.”

“I can‘t believe it; I‘m still pinching myself,” said Mrs. Goldberg, who has made nearly 200 shidduchim over the years, and four, this week, alone. “It was the fastest and most difficult shidduch I ever made. …For a long time I gave up on Arthur. I didn‘t think I‘d find anyone like Rivka.”

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