I recently attended an Orthodox wedding where the reception consisted of a buffet of baked ziti and eggplant parmigiana, along with some salads and bakery cakes. The entire wedding was kept simple- no floral arrangements, no alcohol, no elaborate decorations.The wedding was simpler than the average bris. And even simpler than the Israeli weddings of 20 years ago. It was a joyous celebration. The groom was connected to Uri L’Tzedek so I assumed that this wedding was only an exception. But as I waited outside for my ride, I asked the singles:What was their reaction to the wedding. I received a unanimous answer that they wanted their wedding to be the same way: Simple, Modest, Inexpensive and Thoughtful. They said that this way the love and the simcha shine though. We may be watching the start of a new trend. This wedding may serve as the exemplar. Wedding trends travel quickly and this one will be supported both by idealism and by the financial downturn. This wedding was based on high ideals, and the guests were all idealists but some might embrace the simplicity out of need.
The follow place card was set up on each table- I removed names.
Our Ethical Food Decisions for this Wedding
1. Why did we choose to have a modest buffet meal?
We wanted to embrace the core Jewish value of Histapkut ba’muat (being content with less) and Ben Zoma’s teaching that a wealthy individual is one who is content with one’s lot (Pirkei Avot 4:1). Rav Bachya Ibn Pakuda, an 11th century Spanish philosopher, shared this view and taught that a lifestyle of materialism and overindulgence leads one away from G-d. In fact, throughout various time periods, the Jewish community embraced sumptuary laws (laws limiting personal expenses on religious grounds) as a way of showing “deference to the poor” (Moed Kattan 27). Every simcha (religious celebration) affects the communal standard, and we would like to strive for the virtues of modesty and moderation. We are striving to have a creative and holy celebration that fosters inclusiveness and community building. A wedding, birth, bar/bat mitzvah, funeral, and the like are all great spiritual and ethical opportunities and are a time for families to engage in cheshbon ha’kis (financial introspection). We worry about the effect of consumerism on our celebrations. We struggled with whether or not to use dishes (more environmentally friendly) or disposables (lower in cost), and decided upon the latter.
2. Why did we choose to make the meal dairy?
[The birde] has been a vegetarian for about 14 years and [the groom ] has been for about eight years. One of [groom’s ] rabbis in Israel, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, once wrote that “the dietary laws are intended to teach us compassion and lead us gently to vegetarianism.” We believe that in an age where it has become apparent that the new age of mass production done in factory farms immensely violates tza’ar ba’alei chaim (the Torah prohibition against inflicting pain upon animals), we must reconsider our consumer habits. In addition to the cruelty of how these animals are caged, fed, and slaughtered, many studies have shown the detrimental effect that meat consumption has upon human health. In a recession where our charity is needed more than ever, and as meat prices increase, the purchase of meat seems even more problematic. However, this is not an ascetic ideal. Alternative meat options are now more accessible, affordable, and similar in taste to meat than ever. In an age where vegetarianism must be viewed as a Jewish ethical ideal, we hope that more will consider this path in the pursuit of striving for truth, justice, peace, and holiness.
After the wedding, we intend to embrace a fully vegan diet as we have learned that many parts of the dairy industry have serious moral and health concerns as well.
3. Why did we choose food certified by the Tav HaYosher?
Launched by Uri L’Tzedek, the Tav HaYosher is a local, grassroots initiative to bring workers, restaurant owners and community members together to create just workplaces in kosher restaurants. Rav Yosef Breuer, one of the leading figures of 20th century Orthodoxy, famously stated that “Kosher” is intimately related to “Yoshor.” “G-d’s Torah not only demands the observance of kashrut and the sanctification of our physical enjoyment; it also insists on the sanctification of our social relationships. This requires the strict application of the tenets of justice and righteousness, which avoid even the slightest trace of dishonesty in our business dealings and personal life.” Recent studies have revealed widespread abuse and exploitation of workers in the New York food industry. Thousands of workers are paid below minimum wage. Even more are denied their legal rights to overtime pay and time off. Workers are often subjected to unsafe and abusive working conditions. Given recent events in the kashrut industry, we believe it is imperative that we implement a system that will prevent abuse and exploitation and that we must ensure these abuses are not taking place in kosher restaurants. The Tav HaYosher is an opportunity to harness some of the power and influence we have as an observant community to strengthen tzedek in our world and create a true kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s name).