A New Spin on an Old Tradition: Bringing in the Bride

The idea to fete Rachel on the eve of her wedding was not a radical one, because for many centuries Jews have celebrated hachnasat kallah or “bringing in the bride” to the wedding canopy. In fact, there is a rabbinic commandment to provide a dowry for brides and to rejoice at their wedding, and it is customary to dance before the bride and to praise her, which we did, adding our own style. Via phone, correspondence and with many additions, deletions and corrections, we created our “Bringing in the Bride” event.

Several hours before the chuppah we, Rachel’s mother, sisters and sister-in-law, gathered in the living room to read, sing, recite, tell stories and play guitar for the bride. Rachel sat on the “bride’s chair,” looking serene, anticipatory and beautiful in her simple white dress. The groom’s mother read from a book of poetry by Rahel (Bluestein) of Kibbutz Deganyah. “For her blood runs in my blood,” she began. Her sister-in-law read Marge Piercy’s poem “For Strong Women,” and I, her mother, talked about Rachel’s namesake, Bobba Rashel. After pogromniks had captured her husband, Bobba Rashel traveled from town to town until she had gathered enough money for the ransom. After telling the story I presented to Rachel a gold bracelet, the engagement gift Ephraim Pincus had given Bobba Rashel in Poland, 1889.

The men in our family, invited to watch the ceremony, sniffled in the background. An army friend saluted Rachel in beautiful prose, and Rachel read one of her own poems. For the closing act her sister planned a guitar solo. The string broke, but never mind; it was 6:30. and the rabbi and guests were waiting for the wedding procession to appear