Friday, 25 February 2011

Scandal: Groom kisses bride

Stamford Hill has got itself into a lather once again. We're barely out of the last lather whatever that may have been, skirts have been lengthened by an eighth of an inch, Shabbos candles are being kindled 5 minutes earlier to atone for whatever it was that got us into that lather and to appease God to get us out of it, malicious talk is being avoided with ever greater intensity, psalms are being recited fervently everywhere from the doctors' surgery to the benefits advisor's waiting room, horses are being kept even further at bay and women have taken it upon themselves to recite the Song of Songs on the Sabbath eve. Not, heaven forefend, to get them going for the conjugal relations of the evening; that's what they wear their long flowing robes for. And it is precisely for this reason that Rebetzen Padwa has banned wearing them outdoors lest it incite in others what it's intended to arouse in its wearer's basherte.

The Song of Songs rotas may however have been a step too far. The Committee for Enhancement of Stringencies for the Release on Bail of Alleged Child Abusers is hastily reconsidering the guidelines for stringencies which may be adopted in such situations. One must be very careful in these precarious times when dangers lurk not just on the web and in an ipod but can make its way even into the Holy Scriptures and thus into the fragile minds of our dear innocent womenfolk.

For I'm afraid to relate that that is just what happened. A bride and groom who, we can only surmise, studied the book of Song of Songs too fervently and without the aid of the rabbinical commentariat came to believe that the words actually mean what they say. They read about eyes like 'doves by the water streams' without interposing the rabbinical interpretation of shuls and shtibels, they hummed about locks of hair 'wavy and black as a raven' without realising that it refers to hair-splitting halachah, and when they recited the passage about breasts compared to 'two fawns, twins of a gazelle' they ignorantly imagined them to be something other than the poles of the ark of the covenant. We're in Stamford Hill for goodness sake where blouses are shaped to avoid any hint of prancing gazelles.

It will come as no surprise that when reading about lips like a 'thread of scarlet' it didn't occur to our couple that King Solomon of a thousand wives fame was really referring to biblical spooks keeping their promise to a harlot. It was thus only a short mental jump that 'let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth' became, to our entire community's eternal shame, an actual smoochy.

And so I come to this, sordid to some, romantic to others, affair. At a local wedding several weeks ago after the ritual dance of the Mitzvah Tantz the groom, take a deep breath, kissed none other than the bride. I am afraid that it is difficult to dress up the words to make them sound prettier or more decent for the events were really as stark as they sound.

To appreciate the enormity of the transgression in a single simple peck and the scandal that erupted in its wake it would be helpful to provide some background and mise en scène to the grand institution of the Mitzve Tantz. Admittedly not of the like to be seen at a big fat gypsy wedding though a wedding dace nonetheless.

After the wedding meal, or banquet if that's what you call a menu of 'chicken or shnitzel, sir?', not to mention the roast potatoes, washed down with fizzy pineapple juice and cherryade and presided over by mumbling rabbis all but drowned out by chattering females voting with their mouths. 'Women, derech eretz!' This in turn is followed by an hour's dragging the feet in circles to lame tunes from a badly amplified keyboard after which is served ice cream and grace after meal is recited. No wedding however is a real wedding if does not culminate with a jester stroke troubadour that is the badchen getting up on a chair in the centre of the hall between rows of chairs on either side, one side for women the other for the men, and jesting and rhyming till pre dawn if the knot is being tied between rabbinical DNA and 2am for the riff raff. Even a punctilious Golders Greener wannabe with a thick gartl round his bursting short jacket wouldn't be over with it before one o'clock in the morning.

With a whole night to spare, the badchen can regurgitate his stock of flat jokes and worn out anecdotes, rhyme invocations to the dead grandparents, the patriarchs and matriarchs of the families freshly brought together, wax lyrical encomia of the parents who sacrificed their all to raise their children on the true path of tradition, and solemnly exhort the young couple how to build their new home and avoid the primrose path of dalliance. Mascara and foundation dissolve in rivulets of tears, tissues are scrunched, eyes are dabbed, noses are blown while the souls from paradise, who according to the badchen pay us a visit to bless the new young couple for their future life, yawn and pray to be released so they can return to where the jokes are funnier and the food tastier. One by one the men are called up to the honour of dancing with the bride which entails wagging a long belt held by the bride at the other end, until finally it is the turn of the groom to arise and take his newly wedded wife by the hands for a dance.

And what a sexually charged dance it is. A couple who have spent their lives segregated from the delights the opposite sex has to offer, spent less than 2 hours in each other's company prior to their betrothal a year or so earlier and celebrated the entire wedding meal and dancing separated from the person they are about to bed. A dance in full view of men and women who spend similarly segregated lives and who are charged with enforcing this segregation on others, men and women who never held hands in public since they danced this same dance, who never embrace other than behind the confines of the locked bedroom door. In the midst of this the dear groom takes his bride by the hands, no less, and dances. Yes, dances. True, no swaying hips and wiggling posteriors, no hands in the air, no foxtrot, tango or waltz, no closed or open embrace. It may be simply holding hands and shuffling along or for the very holy swaying as if glued to the dance floor, yet what a dance it is.

As we are always told where there is sanctity and holiness Satan is never far behind hatching up some devilish plot. And if Stamford Hill is the quintessence of all that is holy Satan must be working overtime to ensnare our pure innocent souls. So it came to pass that a travesty was committed in our midst and where there once was sanctity there now is profanity and where pure virginal white once reigned it is now besmirched by dark forces conspiring to draw us further into this promiscuous vortex of wickedness and iniquity.

For this is where our little story takes a slightly different ending. The adults were watching the first pigeon steps of these little kiddies starting out on the road of life to the traditional tune of 'A woman of valour' when the road suddenly veered to the left. The dance climaxed not in the groom’s father coming to the rescue but in a centrifugal motion of a kiss. He in his glistening new shtreimel, she in her barely worn sheitel, angelic faces sanctified by fasting and purified by immersion in ritual baths and yet the devil managed to seal this holy night with a kiss. One tiny movement for the lips; one giant retrograde leap for Stamford Hill.

And from a barely audible smooch there grew a tumult. Varicose-veined 80 year olds exclaimed that they had not heard or seen anything like it. 50-somethings recall a similar story in their days and add in a tremulous whisper 'the couple separated within 6 months. She was so embarrassed.' Only the youngsters wonder between themselves, 'what's the big deal', and are immediately shut up by their older sisters. 'Are you mad? What are you a yeed for? You think you're clever? Didn't you see there were children about? It's because of people like them that Shoshi almost died last week of swine flu'.

That too passes and the lid cannot remain fastened for long on our overflowing repository of kindness. 'It was a mistake', some say, 'it can't have been for real, he would have to be mad to do a thing like that.' Others while condemning this vile act committed in public express solicitude for the parents. 'Nebech, do you know what they must be going through?' How could a child be so selfish? How could he do something like that to his parents? Where's his hakoras hatov, his gratitude?' And while the youngsters are desperately trying to get hold of the clip, 'Her sister has it and her mother has begged her to delete it but she won't,’ the pious won't discuss it other than for the moral in the story. 'I remember she believed in showing the children DVDs when they were younger,’ and they nod incredulously at the naivety of some parents.

After which more theories abound than following a hold-up on the Hill. The brother in law, yes that one, put him up to it. The choson was ambushed that this is how things are done 'in our family and you cannot embarrass my sister and mother by doing things differently. Just be a man and not a chasidisher wimp and do what a man has got to do.'

To which the more shrewd retort, 'Don't be so naïve. It was for a lark. Of course it was. His friends bet him £100 and he went for it. And what do you think? She loved every bit of it showing off her newly kissed cheek to whoever cared to look.'

I am proud to report that the community did not sit idly by at this travesty committed in its midst. There are still some principled people about who feel compelled to protest and in due course a poster went up in town condemning this promiscuous act. Not so principled as to put their names to it but they did form a committee and did take time to draft and print the notice, translated below for the benefit of my dear readers, so you cannot write them off altogether.


The Committee of Rabbis for the Purity of Our Camp - London, may Zion and her provinces be built

Under the leadership of the rabbis of our town may they live to a ripe old age

With the help of the Name who is Blessed

The fourth day of the reading of the portion "And you shall be holy men unto me" 21 Shevat 5771 to the small count

Here London may Zion and her provinces be built.

Tidings were heard and our bellies rumbled over an impure incident, not on us, and over a travesty that was committed among Israel on the 5th day of the reading of the portion of "and they encamped in slackness" during the celebration of the wedding of the daughter of one of the upright members of our holy community ([initials]) that is a terrible and awesome desecration of the Name and a serious breach in the walls of the boundaries of sanctity and modesty in our town God forefend.

And so that the people should not say, ‘since the rabbis remained silent it is testimony to their approval’ God forbid, we therefore consider it a duty upon ourselves in accordance with the law of the holy Torah to emerge and protest with all severity against this vile act that has no justification whatsoever.

And we thus proclaim that no one should dare to shed the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven God forbid and repeat such shameful acts and we shall stand upon our watch with the help of the Name the Blessed with all means we are capable of to restrain against the destroyer.

And may God fence the breaches of His people with mercy amen so may it be the will.

And we thus come to sign

The Committee of Rabbis for the Purity of our Camp - London may Zion and her provinces be built"

And somewhere in a quiet room a draw is opened, a paper is withdrawn and carefully unfolded to reveal a list, and at the bottom of the list there is added a name.

Four years hence and another child will not have a school.


Stamford Hili said...

I wonder what they think of Genesis 29:11 And Jacob kissed Rachel, and that was even before they were married.

IfYouTickleUs said...

Yes, but that wasn't in the Decorium...

Zed said...

Thank you for making me laugh out loud on a Monday morning. Problem is, I feel so srry for that young couple who - had there not been a hoo haa - were probably about to embark on a great relationship. Now....

NishtaTalmid said...

Sorry, can't agree with your post. Showing affection with a kiss in public is Ossur, no matter how you dress it up. There would have been similar outrage in GG...

susan said...

great post, fantastic style.

Can I ask why a kiss on the cheek is so forbidden, so shocking, and at a wedding too??
[maybe i'm asking the wrong question?]

the shaigetz said...

Very good. I could hardly have put it better myself (the text that is, not the kiss).

Glyn said...

Amazing post. Fantastic.

fluffykneidle said...

You made my day with this post.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I'm enjoying reading your blog. Thanks.

Haddock said...

tsim gezint,