Thursday, March 23, 2006

The parties

Monday, I was exhausted and didn't do much. I couldn't sleep late and went out for a short walk and coffee with Dad. I can't remember much more about what we did, but it certainly involved watching movies on tv.

That evening, we attended the first of several late dinner parties given in honor of the newlyweds. These parties are like work. The Hebrew name for them is "Shevas Bruchas" which, to my ear, translates as "Seven Blessings." I might be right because there are seven blessings said for the couple as part of the wedding ceremony. (Please enlighten me in the comments.)

The dinners are held by friends of the family. The party on Monday night was held by a couple who are good friends of my brother's and his wife's. I actually met them both, and remembered them, from my first visit to Israel. They now have a married daughter (or two?) and a grandchild. They are about 40 years old. Yowsa. About 20-30 people attended this dinner.

The Tuesday night party was held by a daughter of the family Tikvah (my sister-in-law) lived with after her adoptive parents could no longer take care of her. It's a large family and many of the siblings attended. There were about 40 people there.

On Wednesday night, the party was held by the women who work with Tikvah. About 30 people attended. Susan and I went, Dad skipped.

The party on Thursday night was held by the men in the "Kollel" (Talmudic graduate school--not exactly, that's my description of it) that my brother runs with a partner. All of us Americans skipped.

The men and women sit in the same room but at separate tables. The men occasionally give speeches praising the groom and bride and including some kind of Talmudic or religious interpretation. Most of these speeches were in Hebrew, but I would sometimes get a translation. The men would also break into song or prayer and the woman would be hushed. Women were also hushed during the speeches. The men would always stand up and hold hands at some point and dance/walk around their table.

The women did not make speeches or sing. They are not allowed to sing in front of unrelated men. Men are not allowed to hear women sing.

The meals do not start until late--maybe 9pm or later--because the men have to go to evening prayers first.

When you arrive, the tables are set with plastic plates and plastic utensils, paper napkins and plastic cups and plastic tablecloths. It's the way to do it if you are having 40 people to dinner. Usually, the hosting family does not do all the cooking. Family and friends bring some of the food.

The meals have a certain sameness to them. The table is set and a first course or communal salads are set out. Someone arrives with fresh rolls and people sit down and start to eat. There is a blessing, but it is not communal. Each person says a blessing over their roll in their own time and start eating any time they like after that. For those of us who don't pray (me) we just watch and eat when we see others eating. After the salads, some kind of vegetable, stewed, is served. Then soup. Then a main course, chicken and chicken or pot roast and cold cuts--we've had all of these. More salads--tomato and cucumber, hummus, roasted vegetables, pickled cabbage, coleslaw, carrot salad--may be served, or are continually refreshed. After the meat course, there is a dessert. And, of course, bottles of water, regular soda, diet soda, soda water and fruit drink are placed on the tables. Plenty of food is available, but it is possible to limit oneself. I try most everything, but don't have seconds of anything. I haven't felt stuffed yet.

That accounts for all of my evenings except Thursday (tonight). Thursday, I did a lot of walking, had lunch with Dad and Susan, walked some more and came home, uploaded photos and wrote. Dad and Susan returned around 6pm and Susan apologized for being late--she'd said they'd be back around 5pm. I didn't care. Dad asked if I minded eating in and watching a DVD. Not at all. We walked out and got falafel and schwarma to eat at "home." It's been a good relaxing night--and great for the blog too. No one really watched the DVD. Susan went to sleep at 9pm, after dinner. Dad snoozed as the movie started and I was writing, but it was fine. We needed a t good non-religious night.

And, yes, there are many more stories to tell. It's just a question of finding the time to tell them.

Grateful for: time.
Drop me a line.

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