I have known Niv since he was a baby. Living in LA we had a group of Israeli friends with whom we celebrated the Jewish holidays as well as our families’ life cycles. Niv’s parents were part of this group. Being less than one year old when we first got to know him, he crawled like every other baby that age. But when our son, who was his age, and other children started to take their first steps, Niv still crawled, and he crawled all the way to first grade and after. There had been a severe complication at birth, and he had gone through an operation that paralyzed his legs and left them undeveloped. His parents went through many different treatments, both medical and alternative, hoping he would one day stand on his feet, But when their efforts did not lead to a breakthrough, they finally put him in a wheelchair.
I remember him playing “I have a little dreidel” on his tiny violin in first grade. As the years passed, the violin became his life’s project. He played beautifully and with all his soul, I was deeply moved every time I heard him play. He ended up going to the Juilliard School, where he met Leah in one of the master classes. Actually, she was the one who paid attention to him while he was completely busy perfecting his performance. It took her some time to finally approach him and ask him to go out. It took him some time to understand that she wasn’t inviting him to practice or study together, and they started dating. Last spring they approached me about their wedding. I immediately said yes, not thinking about the 15-hour flight to LA or the time of year, being so close to the High Holidays. I was so moved and happy by their choice of one other, by their deep and unrelenting love, with my appreciation and sense of wonder growing as I got to know them more and appreciate the way they related to each other in preparing for the big day.
On top of all the many details a couple needs to consider when planning their wedding, there were many more: where and how were we going to perform the ritual dipping in water? Would we need a ramp going on to the chuppah, the marriage canopy? would Niv be able to cover Leah’s head with the veil just before she entered under the chuppah? And lastly: how do you break a glass sitting in a wheelchair?
Carefully and gently Leah and Niv figured out the right way for them, which was very simple when I come to think about it: Niv was going to find a way to do everything that a groom would do, including the glass breaking, the first dance and all the rest. That’s how simple it was!
It was a magical wedding. Just watching Leah go down the aisle and Niv rolling his chair to greet her. Then watching her lean down so he could pull the veil over her. I was in tears, as were many of the friends and relatives in attendance. It wasn’t only for the strength of will, which Niv proved throughout his life by not giving up anything that his classmates and friends did; it was her wondrous ability to see beyond what the eye perceives, to acknowledge that the real deep meaning of things is veiled, as I had learned from a beautiful ‘children’s’ book that I read throughout my adolescence and adult life, The Little Prince, which taught me that ‘the real important things are hidden from the eye’, resonating in a quote from Rev. Adelaja: “The most precious things are always invisible; they are always kept hidden.”
These days in the Jewish year, the days just before the coming of the New Year, we are forever more aware of the veil that too often hides the essence from us. The most meaningful practice of this time of year is cheshbon nefesh, soul searching, which means to look through the veil and find out the truth about ourselves, about our own lives. This is what we need to do so we can welcome the new year in a deep and truthful way.
I wish you all a meaningful time of soul searching,
Rabbi Ayala Miron serves Kehillat Bavat Ayin in Rosh Ha’ayin, Israel.
2 replies on “Behind the Veil: Inclusion Under the Chuppah”
Ayala – Thank you for sharing this thoughtful, inspiring, and touching experience with all of us. L’shanah tovah u’metukah.
Beautiful. Thank you.