I meant to write this like right after it happened but then life caught up with me and I had other things to deal with. It is, however, one of my better Chile stories I think.
So I’ve been going to services every Friday I can (and at least the last four in a row) at this amazing house that is also a synagogue. I won’t try to explain this synagogue itself on this blog because it is an absolutely amazing place and I could never do it justice here. What you need to know though are a few basic important facts. 1) there’s a central group of families who started this synagogue within the past year, and my friends and I are connected to the community through one of them, so the people we know best are all part of that chavurah. 2) for the past three Fridays before the blessed week I’m about to speak of, we had been invited to stay at the house in which services are held, for Shabbat dinner afterwards. 3)the week in question, services were not being held at the synogoguehousething but rather at a hotel, to accomodate more people, because a daughter of the central chavurah was getting married, so we weren’t expecting dinner at all. 4) that week, we brought Jordan. Jordan is African American, so he stands out in Chile. He stands out even more in a Chilean synagogue.
So we went to services in the hotel and it was wonderful. In the middle of services the rabbi got the whole family of the bride to get up and dance, and more and more people joined the circle. There was dancing, singing, clapping, and stomping. It was loud. I wonder what the hotel people thought. It was awesome. We wondered where the groom was.
After services we were munching our challah with some Chilean boys and staring in awe at how many people were there (still kind of wondering where the groom was), when the mother of the bride came up to us. She asked (in English, which is weird because we always speak Spanish there) what we were doing for dinner. We said we had no plans. She said we needed to come to her house because she was already expecting that we would come. We were not about to turn down a nice Shabbat meal. Plus we figured all our friends (aka the people who usually talk to us) would be there. Que suerte! How lucky! We live such a charmed life.
Just like that, two young Jewish Chilean men appeared, ready to drive us in two pairs to the house. Jordan and Joanna left a few minutes later, and Simona and I stayed to help clean up a little with Matias, who was driving us.
Eventually we arrived at the house. We had in mind a table with a few families around it, some Shabbat candles, some warm food. You know, standard stuff. We were wrong. The first thing we saw when we walked in was the photographer, who flashed his flash at the three of us. Suddenly I was making appearances in the wedding albums of people I’d never spoken to. The next thing I saw was a woman carrying butlered hors d’vours, then another, then another. As I stepped forward, recovering from the shock of the fanciness and light from the camera, and more of the house came into focus, I realized the backyard was covered in a huge white tent, and set with a whoooole lot of tables. We found Joanna and Jordan and promptly joined them in the corner where we were served mini empanada thingies and pisco sours. Delicious.
Obviously we were all thinking the same thing. What are we doing here? Somehow, inadvertantly, we had found ourselves at what looked like the equivalent of a rehearsal dinner, of a stranger. Yeah we’d seen the bride’s parents at services, but we’d never talked to them, much less her, and we STILL didn’t know where the groom was, only that his name (like all other Jewish men in Chile) was Alan.
Matias saved us from our awkward corner by motioning us over to a table. Each place had three glasses, two or three forks, the other necessary utensils, and a mini challah. A waiter offered us wine. We looked for Alan.
Throughout the night, toasts were made, songs were sung, amazing dairy filled food was consumed, and we just let ourselves be carried along as part of the festivities. Many references were made to how nice it was to be amongst so many close friends and family members. We tried not to look too bemused about that.
Finally I asked someone where the groom was. Everything got cleared up when it was explained to us that there exists (in Judaism apparently, who knew) a tradition of having the bride and groom be completely out of contact for the week before the wedding. This serves two purposes. It keeps them apart for that most stressful last stretch so they won’t fight over things like number of forks at the table and then change their minds about the whole marriage thing. And, it gives them more ganas to be together once they’re finally reunited under the choopah…and after. Even if you don’t speak Spanish you can probably guess what that sentence meant. Anyway, mystery solved. Alan was surrounded by his own family, friends, and perhaps one or four wedding crashers as well. He should be so lucky.
We did birkat and everything. The whole shebang. Jordan got the complete Shabbat package for his first ever experience with Jewish prayer and ritual. At the end, the bride came over and told us how glad she was that we’d come. Really? We thought. Cool. I don’t think we left until at least 2 or 2:30. Luckily we were also offered rides home, as we had no idea where we were, and I’m guessing we weren’t close to much public transportation. It was quite an enjoyable evening, and I ate well too.
And that is how I accidentally crashed part of a wedding. Perhaps you were expecting something a little bit more racy. If so, many apologies. I am not, it turns out, Vince Vaughn. I am, however, in Chile, and in Chile you never really know where you’ll end up next.