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Weekly Chizuk

Behar - Bechukosai

Proud to be Jewish

Adapted from All for the Boss, p. 79.

The story of Ruchoma Shain, the daughter of Rav Yaakov Yosef Herman

Yom Tov Lipman attended New York University and majored in accounting. He, too, was well versed in the Talmud. His home was filled with an impressive library of religious books.

Papa sent a close friend to talk to the Sterns about their son, Yom Tov Lipman, as a possible suitor for Esther. They were pleased with the proposition, having heard of Papa's reputation.

After a few meetings, Esther was engaged to be married, the first in the Herman household. The wedding was scheduled for December 19, 1922, at the Beethoven Hall on East Fifth Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan.

Every day I rushed home eagerly from public school to be part of all the excitement. Mama busied herself shopping for clothes for the bride, setting up Esther's new apartment, buying the rest of the family new outfits for the wedding, and greeting all the relatives and friends who came to offer their congratulations.

Papa was occupied with the preparations for the wedding itself. The invitations he ordered were different from any Jewish invitations that had been printed before in those days in New York.

"Mr. Herman, are you absolutely sure you want this added to the invitation?" The printer's voice trembled as he read what Papa had written: "Ladies, please come dressed according to Jewish law."

"Print it just as it is. I want no change at all," Papa said decisively. "I also want separate cards printed with the following wording: 'Men and women are asked to dance separately.'"

The printer shook his head disapprovingly. "People will laugh at you."

"Let them laugh." Papa was unabashed. "I want to follow the Torah's commandments. And I also want to order a large cardboard sign," he went on, "with these words." Papa wrote the wording in bold capital letters: ALL THE FOOD BELONGS TO THE LORD; AFTER THE BERACHAH, TO YOU.

From the printer, Papa proceeded to the caterer. "I want to kasher all the pots and pans before my daughter's wedding. I also want all the dishes to be new."

"What's wrong with my pots and pans and dishes?" the caterer asked Papa in amazement. "AIl my religious customers have used them until now without any question."

Papa placed a large bill in the caterer's hand. "This is just a deposit," Papa assured him. "It's your money, Mr. Herman. Everything will be done as you wish."

A few days before the wedding, Papa contacted the caterer once again. "I want to be at the slaughterhouse when the chickens are being slaughtered." This time the caterer clucked his tongue with disapproval, without uttering a word.

And so, the wedding day arrived - a cold, clear wintry day in December. Esther, at seventeen, was a glowing bride. Mama looked lovely, but jittery. I was prettied up in my pink, ruffled dress and new black patent-leather pumps, and my older sisters Frieda and Bessie and my brother Davie were also dressed up in their new finery. Papa was most impressive in his Prince Albert suit and stovepipe hat.

As we rode to the wedding hall, Papa coached me on how to carry the large sign that would remind the guests to recite the proper blessings before the wedding dinner.

We entered the hall with Papa striding ahead, prepared for battle. One of our relatives was stationed at the entrance with the shawls Papa had prepared for any woman coming improp-erly attired. Another relative handed each guest the card which requested men and women to dance separately.

The invitations and cards caused an uproar among the hundreds of guests. The ladies stood in groups discussing the added requests, which were unheard of at that time. Some were openly hostile. "Where does he get the nerve to tell us what to wear?" one woman asked sarcastically.

"I had to buy a special jacket to wear over my evening gown," another complained. The men's discussions were no less scathing. "Can you imagine? I can't dance with whomever I want!"

Papa was not having an easy time of it. The soft music was inviting, and already some insolent couples were gliding on the polished floor. Papa marched over to each couple. "I must ask you to stop. The Torah prohibits men and women from dancing together."

The sign I proudly displayed also caused some caustic remarks: "I do not have to be told to wash my hands before meals or make the blessing," an elderly man exclaimed.

We came home from the wedding tired and sleepy, but Papa was elated. "You see, children, when one fulfills the commandments of the Torah, he must act proudly and without shame."

Papa set the precedent, and what he insisted on then has become accepted procedure at religious weddings nowadays.

Wishing everyone a Gut Shabbos!

Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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