Magazine article The Spectator

Sticking Together

Magazine article The Spectator

Sticking Together

Article excerpt

There are many good reasons for becoming Jewish - it is one of the few religions which still attaches some importance to the family, for one - but the best perhaps is the extraordinary felicity of the Jewish wedding. Last week I attended my first, that of my friend Simon Sebag-Montefiore to Santa PalmerTomkinson.

For a start, the proportions and arrangements of the synagogue were far superior to those of most Christian churches. The seats or pews were arranged in a semi-circular fashion as in a Greek or Roman theatre. This meant, in effect, that all could see the bride. Whichever rabbi had that bright idea was a greater peace-maker than the UN.

Second, there was a simple prettiness about the ceremony altogether lacking in Roman Catholic and Protestant marriage services. The homely and the exotic were matched to a degree so that the couple stood beneath a canopy, only massed flowers interrupting the snowiness of its exterior; four tent poles swathed in blossoms.

The chuppah, as it is called, presented such a pastoral picture that the couple resembled a living tableau out of a poem by Marvell, while the parents of the bride and groom supplied a loving chorus on either side. A Christian church with its cold stone ceilings and `cheap seats' has not the tenth of the warmth of a synagogue. Nor can tambourines or guitars compete with its intimacy.

On the way to the reception, contemplating Abraham and Sarah and other Old Testament luminaries, I was dug in the ribs by a friend who hissed two words which appear to be the staple of people's vocabulary these days. These are: `your father'. And I don't mean that Father who art in Heaven. I mean my late diary-writing parent who is, as Stephen Fry remarked to me, `very much still with us'.

The friend continued in what gothick lady novelists would have called an anguished tone: `But why did your father think my face resembled a shrivelled prune?' or some such remark. I at once said gushingly, `Well, I don't think you have a face like a shrivelled prune - in fact, there is not the teeniest bit of resemblance between your face and any article of dried fruit.' She appeared, fortunately, reassured, adding, `Well, I suppose I shouldn't feel bad as he was nasty about absolutely everyone - including you. …

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