Do You Find Safety In Formality and Rules? – I Got a New Look At This Issue & I’d Love To Get Your Thoughts About It.

Last weekend will always shine in my memory. I was blessed to partake in three unrelated events, each of which inspired me.

The event I attended last Sunday night got my brain chatting non-stop. It’s still babbling away. The thoughts I’m getting have nothing to do with things I’ve been afraid of in my life. Since the fear element isn’t playing a part, I’m taking them as being worthy of academic study. I can get academic. I know that. I’m often drawn to social psychology, which constituted a large part of my undergraduate education at the School of Industrial & Labor Relations at Cornell. I was surprised at and opened by some of the things my brain latched onto. Since the thoughts keep coming, I’ll write a couple of posts on the topic of ritual and formality.

Sunday evening’s event was the wedding of a wonderful young man I’ve known for a while through business and the spiritual center we’d both attended. We kept in touch so I’d known he had returned to Judaism, which I’d been raised in. As time passed, he obviously became more involved with a highly observant, orthodox group. While I was raised orthodox, I was blessed to have a family that looked at religion as a study. My father, whose dad was much more “bam bam” about following all regulations to the T, couldn’t care about it at all. My mom’s dad was a student, a great mind who’d accomplished a lot in the field of Labor Relations law. I knew wasn’t going to be “punished by an angry God if I missed temple.”

As soon as I entered the temple this past Sunday night, I realized that a high school lady friend had taken me to a wedding at this Temple before. I remembered the event being great, but last weekend I really allowed my heart to enter it.

The groom looked even more handsome than usual and his new wife couldn’t have been lovelier. It was the second marriage for both. His beautiful daughter from his first marriage is of Asian decent and she was beaming throughout the evening.  Most of the attendees were from the orthodox community. Many were Hasidic. Many appeared to be very well to do Hasidim and Orthodox Jews, as had been the group in the first wedding I’d attended there.  The neighborhood is extremely beautiful. The single-family houses in the community are gorgeous as are the trees and gardens surrounding them. Those of us who weren’t of the orthodox, Hasidic tradition took it all in with breathless interest.

The affair kept going on and on. I can hear the music blaring away! I would bet they’re still dancing a week later!  First there were cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. I thought that was going to be the feeding part of the evening.  Near the end of the cocktail hour the bride was carried in. She was lifted to a small stage and as she sat there a woman fully covered her face and eyes, cutting off her vision. I realized that early on the men who’d wandered in had been asked to join the rest of the men in a different room. During the service itself, when her veil was lifted, I realized she’d been unable to see for quite a long while.

The Orthodox women at the event (this means most of the women) wore wigs (in Yiddish they’re called sheitels) worn, by religious law, to cover a married woman’s head lest her hair be on view!  Everyone had been asked to attend in “modest dress”.  Some of the wigs were astoundingly beautiful as were some of the longish skirts and covered tops worn by the Orthodox ladies.

Throughout, I felt an abundance of good feeling and joy in the room. This surprised me. As a graduate of the ILR school seeing women not be allowed to show they’re hair irked me a little. Several of the women looked almost exactly alike, given the “uniform”. However,  as I watched the evening transpire I couldn’t say they seemed unhappy. Perhaps one or two were, but I didn’t notice sadness, if it existed.

Next we went off to the service itself, which took a full hour. The rabbi, cantor and other men danced wildly under the canopy. The music was loud and pulsing!   The men and women sat facing each other, as I expected they would. I’m quite sure that many of the people in that temple room were used living a life that included very rigid religious practices – but, I gotta tell ya – there was overflowing energy and joy in that wedding hall as well!

I thought I’d be leaving the affair after the wedding, given the formal hors d’oeuvres hour. Not so! We were led to the main dining hall for dinner. The women were on one side and the men on the other with a opaque partition seperating them. Did I say that there must have been over 250 people at this wedding?!  The band was stationed on the men’s side. Women danced in a circle and some took turns dancing with the bride. It felt even more energy coming from the men’s side. Some of the men danced singly, as well as in the circle, and – it was wild!  We could glance at the men, but I don’t think they were supposed to look at the women.

When I realized that they don’t include a “Bride Cuts the Cake” song and ceremony – although there was certainly cake – at about 10:30 PM I hugged whom I could find and walked back to the subway. There were only a few couples on Ocean Parkway and all of the men wore yarmulkes (caps) and the women sheitels, some with hats or scarves over them.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this affair for a week now. My analytical mind had been nourished! I always thought of that kind of orthodoxy as being wildly inhibiting. That night I realized that, although, that particular ritual might not be my choice, the people who followed it seemed to enjoy it. Then I got an AHA!  I’m now mulling the thought that they may well find comfort in knowing exactly what to do.

Then I thought: “OMG! There’s “ritual’ in most aspects of life. That’s what we were taught in our human resources courses. Employees need to (want to) know what’s expected of them. Business owners and entrepreneurs need to feel more secure and, therefore, behave in way that expresses they’re coming from a secure position. They do when they have a detailed business plan.  Then I thought – OMG! This is exactly what my “Find Your mini-Qs” concept is about.

I won’t keep you longer now. I will look into this more in my next few posts. I’m still looking at this with a new pair of eyes. I hope to even be able to remove some anxiety from your life. Please don’t hesitate to print your comments pro or con. I’d love different opinions on this topic. I can learn from different viewpoints.

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Published in: on June 18, 2012 at 3:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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