By Shmuel Katz
A couple of my childhood friends married off children in the last week. Goldie and I have known Sam and Leah Novick and Moshe and Ronna Teren for our entire married lives. Both couples grew up in Chicago, so I knew the parents (on one side) for each of these weddings for practically my entire life. I was the presiding Kohein at Yoni Teren’s pidyon haben (my first) which made that simcha a bit more meaningful for me personally as well.
At the weddings, a couple of points jumped out at me. The first was that it was truly a pleasure to be seeing so many people I know from Chicago—at a simcha! One of the definite downers about living here is the multitude of burials we end up attending. There are many people who choose to be interred here in Israel (usually at Har Hamenuchot or at the Eretz Hachayim cemetery near Bet Shemesh). While it is a definite zechut to participate in giving a final kavod, there are many friends whom I see all too often at funerals.
It gets to the point when you feel funny going to a burial, because of all the people you end up seeing that you haven’t seen in a while (at least since the last funeral). I even tried to plan a special “Former Chicagoan non-funeral get together,” but without Sunday as an available “free day,” that event never came off.
So having a chance to see many of my old friends in a non-funereal setting was a real pleasure. Especially because I know that many of them were thinking the same thing as I was and were truly happy to be able to express a proper greeting and enthusiasm upon seeing each other.
The other thing that struck me was the difference in expectations from Israel to the U.S. I am not going to say that there is no such thing as a formal wedding in Israel, because they do exist. Yet, the general (non-yeshivish) wedding (or any other simcha) is really vastly different here. A suit (other than for the ba’alei simcha) is more the exception than the rule; white shirts and dress pants are the most common form of dress.
And when I say “for the ba’alei simcha,” I do not mean all of them. While the parents at the Novick wedding wore suits, the groom himself did not. The groom (a student in the Shavei Chevron Yeshiva) wore a white shirt (untucked) and a pair of khakis. Which is quite normal here. One of my old schoolmates was sitting with us at the table and commented how he “stood up” at the bride’s parents’ wedding, shelling out over $300 for a rented tux, while the groom at this wedding wore khakis!
This led to a discussion of our upcoming simcha, Mordechai’s bar mitzvah. The dress code has been a hot topic in our house. Mordechai likes the way he looks in a suit and decided that all the men have to wear suits for the bar mitzvah (at least for the party).
Chaim could not believe it. While he certainly wears one in the U.S., he never dreamed that he would have to bring one with him for the bar mitzvah. I myself usually wear a suit only for the Yamim Noraim and resisted strongly. Yet, in the end, it’s Mordechai’s simcha, so I am pretty resigned to it.
In contrast, I look at Chaim’s bar mitzvah photos and am stunned by the difference in our appearance from those days. Not just that we look older, but you can clearly see how much more formally we approached our lives and the simcha at the time. Living here truly is living at a different pace, and for us, at least, with a much more relaxed approach. v
Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (www.migdalhatorah.org), a new gap-year yeshiva. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at email@example.com.