Just 24 hours before guests were set to arrive for the June 23 wedding of Nechama Mendlowitz and Dovid Yehoshua Friedman in Jerusalem, the bride’s parents received a vaguely ominous text message from their event coordinator, instructing them to call the wedding venue’s general manager.
The bride’s father, Dr. Abbe Mendlowitz, told Breaking Israel News about his call with the manager. “I sort of felt it was bad news from the beginning,” he said.
The family quickly learned that the chief of security for the hotel had just tested positive for the coronavirus and the entire managerial staff was immediately sent into isolation.
“It wasn’t a health risk. The hotel is closed. The event was to take place outdoors. The bathrooms we would be using were to be sanitized. The hotel’s staff wasn’t even being used. The staff was all coming from the outside caterer. Nevertheless,” Mendlowitz explained, “the manager felt he was at risk for being held criminally liable by Israel’s Health Ministry if the event were to take place as planned.”
The family responded to the news with humor. Aharon Mendlowitz, brother of the bride said, “It was a stressful moment, but everyone was kind of laughing it off.”
“Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht” is an old Yiddish saying that means, “Man plans and God laughs.”
The ability to react with humor to such a last-minute change is sourced in the family’s Torah values. “Whatever happens in this world is Hashem’s (God’s) doing and to get upset about it is to be upset with Hashem. When He shows us what His plan is, we need to accept it. It’s arrogant to expect that your ideas of how things should work out [will prevail],” Mendlowitz explained.
Hatch a plot—it shall be foiled; Agree on action—it shall not succeed. For with us is Hashem! Isaiah 8:10
This is the sixth wedding the Mendlowitz parents have planned, and, due to constantly changing COVID-19 regulations, by far the most stressful. Shoshana Zaslow, sister of the bride, laughingly commented, “This piece of news, after all we’ve been through, didn’t really affect us. It was a small thing in light of the rest of the planning.”
Mendlowitz shared that the bride herself, “was very calm and flowing with it. She understood there wasn’t anything she could do except take it as it was coming. Nechama’s biggest stress during the whole process was realizing that so much family from chu”l (Hebrew acronym meaning outside of Israel) would be absent.”
There is a Jewish custom that a bride and groom do not see one another, or in some cases, even speak to one another for a week before the ceremony. Mendlowitz was touched by his daughter’s sensitivity toward her future husband. “Nechama insisted that one of us call Dovid because she was very concerned that he would be upset.”
“One of the things that reduced our stress,” he emphasized, “is that we had significant trust in the integrity and sincerity in the hotel event planner from the very beginning. Because we so trusted them, even when they told us that they were cancelling, we knew they were going to make good and that it would work out.”
In fact, the hotel management quickly arranged for an alternate venue and agreed to absorb the additional costs. Using a digital invitation service, the family was immediately able to alert guests to the change.
Hours before the wedding, despite all the last minute arrangements, Mendlowitz was expecting, “At least the same level of simcha (joy), if not greater. Perhaps people will be more inclined to make us feel good,” he said laughingly.
In a related story, on the exact day of the wedding, the bride’s sister-in-law, singer and songwriter Sapir Mendlowitz released a COVID-19 wedding-related music video of her newest song “Kol Sason”. The video’s opening credits read, “To all the recent newlyweds affected by COVID-19 pandemic, forced to make small weddings in backyards, parking lots and city streets. This video is dedicated to you.”
Sapir’s vocals are matched with images of intimate Jewish weddings that were held in non-traditional locations during the COVID-19 restrictions. All but one of the weddings pictured took place in Israel.
The Hebrew words Sapir sings come from a dark prophecy in the Book of Jeremiah.
The words kol sason v’kol simcha mean “the sound of mirth and the sound of gladness”. In this prophecy, Jeremiah is warning the Jewish people that, throughout Judah and Jerusalem, God will silence the happy sounds associated with weddings.
Today, Jews have reclaimed Jeremiah’s words and reshaped them for the positive. They are recited, and often sung by all the guests, amidst great joy, during the wedding ceremony.
“Let there be speedily heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the sound of mirth and the sound of gladness, the sound of a groom and the sound of a bride, the sound of exultation of grooms from under their chuppah, and youths from their joyous banquets. Blessed are You Lord, who gladdens the groom with the bride.”
About the song, Sapir told Breaking Israel News, “I wrote the song when I got married four years ago, but it never felt complete to me.
“I was inspired by all the people who got married during this difficult time. This song was about finding your soulmate, [the] love of your life. And I felt that during this pandemic and dealing with all the challenges of regulations and restrictions and not being able to have the full list of guests at weddings – that was just a special thing to me. So I decided to finally release the song with that message.
“The song really depicts that yearning to be with that special someone. ‘Take my hand. Say you want me forever,’ and I feel this yearning is emphasized during this time because of corona.”
During the music video’s closing credits, Sapir posted the sentiment “Corona won’t stop us” in Hebrew.