Thursday, June 18, 2009

Guest Post: Rak Smachot

B”H, this time of year – coming, as it does, between Sefirat HaOmer and the Three Weeks and coinciding with the last month of school – tends to be full of smachot (festive occasions), ken yirbu (may they only increase).

Our Shiputzim commenter (and real life friend) Malke graciously agreed to share some thoughts on the subject:


Israeli Smachot

A Guest Post by Malke

Now that I find myself in that in-between stage: after bar/bat mitzvahs and before weddings (b'ezrat Hashem), my simcha-making lull allows me to reflect on the whole topic of making a simcha in Israel. Quite different from the Old Country.

Let's address each in turn:

Brit: I still have not figured out why the American standard of making a brit first thing in the morning, according to the principle of "zrizim makdimim l'mitzvah"- or in other words, “do the mitzvah at the earliest opportunity you can” - does not hold true, for the most part, in Israel. Here the reigning principle seems to be "b'rov am hadrat melech"- or in other words, “the more the merrier” - and the brit takes place later in the day. It's true that it does spare one from having to get up at the crack of dawn, but it also means missing half a day's work to attend a 2 PM brit.

Bar/bat mitzvah: On the whole, much more toned down than in America. I recall a friend in America telling me she was having trouble coming up with a "theme" for her son's bar mitzvah. Here, luckily, the theme does tend much more towards "kabbalat ol mitzvot." I realize I am generalizing, and I'm sure things vary by community. But when the same friend told me a girl in her daughter's class was taking the entire class of 23 to Disney World for her bat mitzvah, I must admit I wondered if something wasn't getting lost here…

Here in Israel, the major question seems to be whether to have the almost mandatory matzeget (PowerPoint presentation) or not. I am personally not a big fan, figuring no one really wants to see cute baby pictures of my children other than me, their father and their grandparents. But YMMV.

Graduations: Not technically a simcha, perhaps, but still worth mentioning because… HA HA HA HA. Nothing like what I remember. When my oldest niece graduated high school, my father wanted to fly in from America, envisioning caps and gowns, pomp and circumstance, cantatas, valedictorians. My sister quickly dissuaded him from wasting his well-earned money. Maybe there are schools here who do something more akin to what we had in the US, but my children certainly don't attend them.

Wedding: I am still searching for that happy medium between the over-the-top formality of some American weddings and the complete chaos of some Israeli ones. The more informal atmosphere of Israeli weddings definitely adds to the joyous atmosphere. However, I have been to too many chuppot where you can barely hear the proceedings, because the guests are all milling around and talking… That seems to me to lessen what is, after all, a very holy and solemn occasion.

This is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter. In addition, I have only referred to affairs in the circles in which I travel, which naturally does not cover all segments of society.

Which brings me to one final issue: work affairs. I find that at my workplace EVERYONE gets invited to EVERYTHING. Now apart from those people for whom their work friends constitute their entire social circle, I am assuming that, like me, most of the inviters don't really want to fill up their simcha with work colleagues, and almost certainly most of said colleagues don't want to come. And yet this dance continues…


Thank you, Malke, for a great post!

!שנדע רק שמחות


  1. Malke - As you know from our many discussions on the subject, I completely agree with you about the matzeget.

    But at least the baalei hasimcha can minimize the unpleasantness, by:
    (a) keeping the matzeget short;
    (b) making it funny/entertaining/amusing;
    (c) ensuring that all the technical aspects work beforehand (so that the guests don't have to sit there watching the host fiddle aimlessly and endlessly with the computer, speakers, and projector).

    However, when it comes to no assigned seating, there's nothing the host can do to make it better...

    Shabbat Shalom!

  2. Interesting post.
    My crowd is now celebrating something that is probably rather distant for you, Sixty Birthday Parties!

    Over the years I've been to all sorts of Israeli weddings; some very well-behaved.

    And about brittot and l'havdil funerals, it's much more accepted to take off from work for smachot and funerals here, even when "just" friends or neighbors. I've been to brittot which rival Bar Mitzvah celebrations.

  3. Batya - I've been to brittot which rival Bar Mitzvah celebrations./
    Me too. We've even received printed invitations to a number of brittot, and at one or two of them, there was live music and dancing!

  4. (c) ensuring that all the technical aspects work beforehand (so that the guests don't have to sit there watching the host fiddle aimlessly and endlessly with the computer, speakers, and projector).

    I hope you dont refer to events in your house

  5. Anonymous - I hope you dont refer to events in your house/
    Of course not!
    Our A/V team always ensures that the technical aspects work ahead of time...


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