By Larry Gordon
When is the last time you looked at a wedding album? The foray into our trove of pictures and photo albums was motivated largely by two things. One was my promise to the readers that I would, from time to time, excavate some photos from days gone by and explore that period of time, and the other factor is the upcoming nuptials of our son Nison to Shayna Stern.
None of us can stop the clock, freeze time, or make a moment last, well, longer than a moment. But a picture captures a moment, isolates it, and even separates it from a reality that never ceases to march forward naturally and without hesitation.
So just for the fun of it, if you can call it that, and the fact that the last time I did this we received rave reviews, here are some photos from the wedding of our children Yochanan and Chani, which took place in June 2006.
Obviously, we’re eleven years younger in the pictures than we are today, so bear with me. I’m not going to tell you everyone’s age because that is not important, except for the two youngest—the chassan, Nison, who was 13 then, and our youngest, Nachi, who was 11. You can do the rest of the math.
The children looked much younger than they do today. At this wedding in June 2006, they were just beginning to navigate their way through adolescence, so they experienced the most visible changes.
The biggest and most important change for us between that wedding and the one coming up is that of our parents. There are two sets of photos here, one of my mom and of my in-laws—may they continue to live and be well. I’m hoping that my mother can make it to the wedding; if she does, that will mean that four generations of our family will be represented. Both my mother-in-law and father-in-law are in their mid-nineties. My father-in-law is dealing with health issues that will not allow him to attend. My mother-in-law will, G-d willing, be walking down the aisle as part of the pre-chuppah processional.
The photos for this wedding were taken at the Atrium in Monsey. It was a warm and humid June day and night, the kind of day when you break out in a sweat on the short walk from your car to the wedding hall. It was a beautiful and lively wedding with a 12-piece Neshoma Orchestra band led by Shlomo Simcha doing the singing.
A Jewish wedding is a perfect combination of joy and solemnity. Those conceivably opposite emotions are precisely what are required to celebrate an occasion like this. So it is a combination of giddiness and seriousness as opposed to greater extremes—happiness and sadness.
A wedding is a supremely happy occasion on numerous levels. In a sense (and without being too presumptuous, I’ll say in our communities anyway), it is to an extent what we endeavor and live for. It is what you wish on your children, both males and females, from the moment they are born—that you have the privilege of bringing them to the chuppah. So the happiness and the giddiness, if you will, is about seeing your child move to the next anticipated level with ease, in style, and naturally.
I think the solemnity focuses on at least two things. The ceremony itself is punctuated by the absence of loved ones who have passed on or are just physically unable to attend. Which reminds me of an old traditional story told about my grandfather, R’ Yochanan Gordon, an ardent Lubavitcher chassid and the gabbai at the main shul at 770 Eastern Parkway for many years. The story hails back to their shtetl in White Russia, what is today known as Belarus.
My zaide was a shochet in the town of Dokshitz where R’ Aryeh Leib Shenin—the man whose name I carry—was the rav. My grandfather, R’ Yochanan, attended the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s wedding in Warsaw. Before the wedding, he hesitated and deliberated about going due to financial constraints. Upon hearing that he was considering not going, R’ Leib said to him, “How could you not go when the Baal Shem Tov, the Maggid, and all our rebbeim will be there?”
I believe I can safely assume that he and his wife, my Bubby and my other Bubby and Zaide Berger, along with my father and others, will be at my son’s wedding at the end of this month, and I am looking forward to that.
So for now here are some wedding photos from my oldest son’s wedding back in the olden days of 2006. The one that appears on the front page is a photo of my in-laws, Rabbi Hersh and Mrs. Chana Nudel. We know them a long time and they are a deep and close part of all our lives—children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. My mother in law will be at the wedding iy’H and might even walk down the aisle with my youngest son, Nachi.
My father-in-law is not going to be there because he is in the throes of some form of the modern-day malady of dementia and is presently in a nursing home because of problems he had with breathing a couple of months ago. We visit him regularly and sometimes his eyes are open, but there is no sign of recognition. I was just saying the other day that medical research comes up short when it comes to understanding what is going on inside the head of people who for whatever reason can no longer communicate.
The other day I leaned in close and told him that Nison is getting married and we would have loved to have him to celebrate at the wedding with us. I asked him for a berachah, to bless the chassan and the kallah. Who knows? Maybe he has done that or is doing that. A few days ago, as I spoke to him, he just stared straight ahead.
Here’s a picture of my mother from eleven years ago. I’m hoping she can make it to the chuppah though it’s kind of late at night. I want her to be there to join with us and celebrate, but I also don’t want to “mutcher” her too much. My motivations are selfish as well—I want my mom there. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.
The other photo displayed here is part of our wedding party of eleven years ago. The two ladies sitting are our daughters, Malkie Hirsch and Dini Franklin. Standing from left to right are my son-in-law Moshe Hirsch, Dovi Gordon, and me. On the other side are my wife, Esta, son-in-law Eliezer Franklin, Nison (the chassan this time around) and Nachi.
The chassan, Nison, as the reader is probably aware, is named for my father, a’h. I recall how a few months after he passed away I stood at his kever in Bet Shemesh and prayed to have a child we could name after him. We were granted that awesome wish, and next week he’s getting married. “Swiftly flow the years” are not just words to a song.
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