February is the month of love, largely because of Valentine’s Day, but also I think because cold weather means that we need something human to keep ourselves warm.
This month’s story is set in Chelm, the village of fools. I’ve written a lot of stories about Chelm, but this is one of my favorites. It was originally published in Hadassah Magazine.
In other news….
I’ve just begun to experiment with Apple’s new iBook technology, and am pleased to announce that my first iBook exclusive is available. “The Short Tale of Erika P. Spunk” is up and for sale (in 12 countries — click here to get it.). It tells the story of a young girl born with a vertical challenge who goes to great heights and becomes a hero. It only costs $.99 and includes the original audio story from the CD “Classic Stories for Boys and Girls.”
Also, In the coming months, I’m going to be sharing work from a book I’ve begun on the “Eureka! Writing Process” that tries to distill some of the techniques and tricks I’ve learned over 30 years writing and a dozen years teaching writing into a few short pages. In the meantime, if you’re interested in having me come to lead a writing workshop or give an author presentation, please contact us.
– Mark Binder
Why The Bride & Groom Are Put on Top of The Wedding Cake
by Mark Binder
Once upon a time, in the quiet village of Chelm, a man and a woman stood under the chupah to be married.
Jacob and Sara were very much in love. He was the handsomest young man in Chelm, and she was the most beautiful young woman. They were intelligent, kind, caring, thrifty, brave, and did I mention kind? They had courted for many many years, since they were children. In fact, they had grown up together, next-door neighbors. And now, Jacob and Sara were about to join with each other for the rest of their lives in marriage.
Surrounding the chupa, crammed into the packed-to-overflowing social hall were so many family and friends that it seemed as if the entire town had been invited.
“A wedding,” said Rabbi Kibbitz, as he stood before the couple, “a wedding is a mystical magical ceremony.
“With a few sacred words, pronounced by the rabbi, a spell is cast, and then, for the rest of eternity, the two participants fates and lives are no longer separate, but one.”
Beautiful Sara looked at handsome Jacob, and she smiled. Her husband-to-be smiled back.
Rabbi Kibbitz glanced at the couple. Such a happy pair, he too glowed inside.
Jacob gave Sara a golden band, and pronounced the words of the “Harey.”
A joyous cheer went up that nearly lifted the roof off of the social hall.
Sara’s mother managed to smile through her tears, and pointed at the ring on her daughter’s finger. Her father was glad that Jacob was such a wonderful boy, and of course Jacob’s parents were equally pleased with their new daughter. It seemed as if happiness would never be far from this newlywed couple.
“Wait a minute!” Jacob said over the din. “We have some vows we’d like to exchange.”
Vows? Exchanging vows? The people in the social hall quieted down, for this was something that they had never seen at a wedding before.
“Are you sure?” Rabbi Kibbitz said. “You know, a vow is a very dangerous thing to make, because once it is made, it should never ever be broken.”
“We know,” Sara said, quietly, as she held her new husband’s hand.
The Rabbi looked at the new family, and shrugged, giving his assent. “Do you want me to say anything, or…”
“No,” Jacob said, just like the authoritative businessman that his father-in-law hoped he would become.
“Thank you,” said the ever-courteous Sara.
They turned to each other, and with beautiful ceremony, they spoke the vows they had discussed.
They took turns, Jacob read, and Sara repeated.
“I vow to you, Sara,” he said
“I vow to you, Jacob,” she replied.
“Never to break my word, never to be unfaithful, never to be far from your side.
“I vow never to be angry, to always respect you, to care for you…”
These young people, the Rabbi thought, how sweet and considerate they are to each other. I think perhaps it is time for me to say some kind words to my beloved.
“I vow to always support you, to always make you happy,” Sara was saying.
“I vow to stay with you forever, to keep you healthy…” Jacob intoned.
On the other hand, Rabbi Kibbitz thought, they do seem to go on and on.
The list, in fact, seemed almost endless.
It took Sara and Jacob more than an hour to read it all. Their vows included health, wealth, travel, children, parents, gifts, jobs, food, funeral arrangements, thank-you notes, taking out the garbage, feeding the pets — an entire system of what they promised to do for each other and with each other for the rest of their lives together!
There was a pause, and Rabbi Kibbitz heard Mrs. Chaipul snore. In fact, by the time they had finished, it wasn’t just Mrs. Chaipul, but many of the older and younger members of the congregation were also dozing.
“All of these promises, I vow to you, Sara,” Jacob said, in what the Rabbi hoped were concluding tones.
“I vow to you also, Jacob,” Sara said quietly. “We’re done,” she added.
“Whew,” said Rabbi Kibbitz. “Why don’t you break the glass now?”
With a CRASH, Jacob stepped on the glass, symbolizing the destruction of the temple and the permanence of their marriage.
The sound of the shattering awoke all the relations, and again, the entire assembly cheered, shaking the roof and the walls as well.
Finally, after such a long and significant delay, the couple took each other’s hands, and, smiling, they turned as one to walk back down the aisle.
But, instead of parading proudly in front of their family and friends, the new husband and wife didn’t move. They stood, hand in hand, beneath the chupah, perfectly still.
“What’s the matter?” said Jacob’s mother.
“It’s your foolish son,” said Sara’s mother, “he seems to be paralyzed.”
“Well, so is your daughter,” snapped Jacob’s mother.
And indeed, neither Jacob nor Sara were moving a muscle.
“What is it, Rabbi?” asked the two mothers. “What has happened to our children?”
Rabbi Kibbitz shook his head and frowned. He walked around Jacob and Sara, nudged them a little, waved his hand in front of their open eyes, and frowned again.
“You both have two wonderful and virtuous children,” he said. “But this is something that I’m afraid I was afraid might happen.”
“What, Rabbi, what?”
The Rabbi shrugged, “They both made so many vows to each other that they can not move for fear of breaking their promises.”
Too many vows? A buzz went through the social hall. They can’t move?
“Is there anything that can be done?” wailed Sara’s mother.
The rabbi shook his head sadly, and shrugged again. “We can go on with the party, and allow them to enjoy their wedding day as we enjoy their wedding day.”
“So, why not?” said Sara’s father, “It’s already paid for.”
And so, all the friends and relatives and townspeople of Chelm celebrated. They ate, they drank, and they danced the hora.
When, at last, it was time to say goodbye and go home, one by one, they kissed Jacob and Sara on the cheek, and left them together alone.
From that day on, Sara and Jacob stood together in the social hall, beneath their chupah for the rest of their lives. Whether their marriage was happy or not, who could say. But for all those years, the relatives noted, they never once fought, and they always, always held hands.
So that, my friends, is why you sometimes see the figures of a bride and groom together on top of a wedding cake. They are a symbol of Jacob and Sara’s perfect unbroken marriage. But they are also a reminder to a new husband and wife to be forgiving in the promises they make to each other.
Copyright 2012 by Mark Binder
All Rights Reserved