David Bruce: The Funniest People in Neighborhoods — Weddings, Work

Weddings

• Rabbi Aryeh Levine understood the feelings of other people. He once attended a wedding at which a hard-working but impoverished Jew of good character was asked to be a witness. The hard-working Jew gratefully agreed to be a witness, then a wealthy but proud Jew was asked to be a witness. The proud Jew was insulted at being asked to be a witness alongside another Jew of lesser wealth and status, so he declined the honor. This embarrassed the hard-working Jew. Rabbi Aryeh noticed that the hard-working Jew was embarrassed, so he immediately volunteered to be the other witness. Having such a renowned scholar as the second witness made both the hard-working Jew and the marrying couple very happy.

• At a Jewish wedding, the groom smashes a glass with his foot. Why? It’s a reminder that when the married couple argues — as all married couples do — they don’t need to break each other’s heart. Instead, they can break a glass. This is something that Rabbi Joseph H. Gelberman teaches each couple at weddings he performs. He once met a couple 10 years after he had married them, and he asked them how everything was. The husband replied, “Beautiful. We have three children, and everything is wonderful.” Then he smiled and added, “But we have no glasses left.”

• Before modern dance pioneer Isadora Duncan went to Russia, she visited a fortune teller, who told her that she would get married — something that Ms. Duncan, who was philosophically opposed to marriage, scoffed at. However, she met a handsome Russian poet and soon was shocking her elderly language tutor by saying to her, “You’d better teach me what I ought to say to a beautiful man when I want to kiss him.” And yes, she and the handsome poet were married.

• Rabbi Morris N. Kertzer once officiated at a wedding of elderly people. The 76-year-old groom, whose best man was his grandson, was hard of hearing, and in the middle of the ceremony he thought the blessing was over so he gave his 69-year-old bride a passionate kiss. The grandson whispered to Rabbi Kertzer that to people as old as the groom and bride, time was precious.

• At weddings of the hasidim, friends of the bridegroom used to steal the bridegroom’s tallit (prayer shawl). To get it back, the bridegroom would have to pay a ransom of drinks for everybody. On one occasion, however, the bridegroom’s tallit was given to a poor woman, and to get it back, the bridegroom, who could afford it, gave the poor woman a large sum of money.

• Rabbi Morris N. Kertzer takes seriously his pre-marriage counseling of hopefully soon-to-be-wedded couples. One would-be groom, a medical student, thought little of his fiance’s plain looks, but spoke enthusiastically of how her family’s money would help him establish a medical practice. Rabbi Kertzer would not marry him, suggesting instead that he find another rabbi to do the honors.

• In 1925, Chicago Bears football player Duke Hanny wanted to skip a game so he could get married; unfortunately, his coach, George Halas, declined to let him skip the game. Big problem. Mr. Hanny showed up for the kickoff, started a fight with an opposing player just after the kickoff, was thrown out of the game, and went to his wedding. Problem solved.

• Jascha Heifetz was a very popular violinist. When Josef Gingold (another excellent violinist) got married, the wedding guests disappeared quickly after the wedding ceremony. Why? That night, Heifetz was playing on the radio!

Work

• When Lindy Hop dancer Norma Miller was an infant, her recently widowed mother worried because she had two children to take care of. Her mother did not think that she could support herself and two children, so she went to an orphanage to have the people there take care of her children until she could take care of them. However, while she was at the orphanage, a little girl came up to her, tugged at her skirt, and asked, “Are you my mama?” Immediately, Norma’s mother decided not to leave her children at the orphanage. Instead, she worked very hard for many hours at menial jobs to support herself and her children. As Norma grew up, her mother told her that she was working so hard at menial jobs because she wanted Norma to have long fingernails. That is why Ms. Miller always had — and has — long fingernails.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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