I attended a secular wedding last night; if it wasn’t my first Israeli secular wedding, then I have only been to one or two before this. The secular Israeli wedding is something I don’t fully grasp.
A Jewish wedding is so chock full of beautiful, wacky and wild traditions, why not have that be a part of your experience? It just seems that aside from the chuppah part, the wedding is just a dance party. What’s that wedding video like? A night out in Tel Aviv?
Well, obviously, to each their own, and I’m only really talking about Israeli Jews who are already somewhat traditional enough to have a Jewish wedding at all. It’s just my opinion; I like a good solid Jewish wedding with character.
Anyway, because of the marriage laws in Israel, put forth by the religious authorities in the government, a Jew can only marry a Jew on Israeli soil and to be considered acceptable, the chuppah ceremony must follow the rules set out by Judaism according to the Rabbanut.
This structure does not go over well with the mainly secular/lightly traditional Jewish population of Israel. Fortunately, there are organizations that exist to try and ease the process – whether you decide to get married Jewishly or not.
If a couple does decide to marry the Jewish (“legal”) way, צהר (tzohar) is an absolutely wonderful organization dedicated to making the wedding ceremony process as smooth, understandable and comfortable as possible. Secular couples can have a צהר rabbi officiate the chuppah (since most people don’t have a rabbi they call their own). The (Orthodox) rabbi comes with experience, a nice voice, jokes to please the crowd, and above all, the acceptance of the Rabbanut.
“צהר” means opportunity, opening or “small window.” Tzohar’s tagline is “a window between worlds.” This makes me so incredibly happy: A constructive organization of religious rabbis who are bridging their worlds with the worlds of the secular population in order to give a positive outlook and helpful experience.
We didn’t get married through Tzohar necessarily, but our rabbi was a Tzohar rabbi. He had the gig down and so did the guy who officiated the chuppah last night. It was really awesome to watch the crowd sing along with the rav and laugh at his jokes about the Maccabi Tel Aviv game. It was awesome to watch the rav respect the taste of the couple, as the bride presented her chatan with a ring and the couple kissed after the breaking of the glass.
The organization does not seek to ‘kiruv’ couples actively. I think the best thing it does is to start a new couple off in the world of marriage with a bit of appreciation for Jewish marriage as well as a good aftertaste towards the religious process.