Wednesday, February 11, 2004

(post) Nuptial Bread

By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread. Mmmm Do they overheat the Kollels?

I married on a sweltering hot day far away from home. The custom to get married and then to live in the place where the bride comes from is just one of the odd quirks of our match-making system. It makes the question as to whether you want to marry that stranger sitting awkwardly across the table from you so much more immediate. I mean getting married and growing old together seem such abstract concepts to a yeshiva boy or a sem.-girl meeting someone of the opposite sex for the first time, but going to live in Monsey or Zurich, that is so urgent and immediate…

Apart from the helpless feeling of being swept along, not against my will but certainly ignoring it, the thing I remember most distinctly about the day I got married was a prickly kiss from my grandfather whom I disliked intensely. I suppose he thought that on a day that the groom is forgiven all his sins he would be magnanimous enough to do likewise to all others. As it happens I might have if he hadn’t ruined my day by presuming to kiss me.

The wedding itself was stupendous. I know, I have watched the video so many times its almost as if I remember being there. It was expensive and extravagant and that massive big challa, that no wedding can be without, was a wondrous affair. The fact that to my critical eyes today the flowers arrangements are too loud, the music is too and the same could be said of many of the guests, did not seem to matter then. Although to be honest, when the sure and certain hope of losing your virginity looms only hours away, to a woman you have met only for a couple hours, many things fade into the background.

Seven days I got up early, to show my new family what a catch I am. Spending the day chatting up the woman I’ve just married and trying to figure out if I actually like her. All between heavy feasts with people I mostly don’t know and visits to the aunts whom I mostly don’t want to. I didn’t have the time to bring things into focus. On the eighth day however I awoke with a jolt. My parents gave me an envelope with a wad of money and assured me that I could rely on their support if I needed it but surely I wouldn’t. And then they left. And I was alone in a brand new city, with a brand new wife, a brand new life and enrolled in a kollel.

I don’t know if there is a goyish equivelant to a kollel. On paper they are called ‘institutions of higher learning.’What can be higher about a learning where the entrance exam is having sex? It’s not that I did not want to be there. I had nowhere else to go. In a country where I did not speak the language well enough to listen to the radio, there was little else I could do for a living.

The good thing about it was that it did not really matter what I did there. I knew the stuff well enough to get by with minimal study and thankfully my marriage was working out well. It was only a year and a miscarriage later and with buns in the oven that I suddenly realized that I was living in a fools paradise. That I was frittering away the prime of my life and that the child that would soon be eating away at my beauty sleep would also want feeding on some things more substantial.

I left back to London shortly after. Against my parents wishes I went to study some lower learning and have managed to make it, thank God. I have a 'fundraising' letter in my hand from one of the guys who sat next to me in Kollel after I got married. He was bright, and we spent some pretty intense hours discussing the finer points of the laws of Moses together. He should know most of them by now and we all know that the purpose of learning is to put the knowledge to action. So lets start at the beginning. Rirst is “be fruitful and multiply”. He has done that one proud. Lets see how many…. Yes 13, that’s good.

Now comes that other one “by the sweat of thy brow…”

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