A Wedding and a Farbrengen


Yesterday I conducted the wedding of Krusha Patel and Ankur Agarwal at the Fennes estate near Braintree in Essex. About 150 guests were there, the majority of them doctors. The wedding took place under a white silk mandap decorated with red flowers. The ceiling of the hall had a starry night effect and windows along one side looked out onto gardens with a fountain.

I found that I was very focused in my delivery to the audience, and although many of them had never been to an Indian wedding before, they seemed to enjoy my short talks and commentaries, especially the inner meaning of marriage and my re-telling of the Vamana deva story. Ritualistically I have perhaps had better days, but everything went very smoothly and the families were pleased.

I was feeling quite tired after standing for two hours – although I had taken care not to lift anything – and slept for nine hours last night. This was good because my sleep has been interrupted four or five times every night since my operation last week.

Today has been the ’19th of Kislev’ apparently, the birth of the Chassidic movement, the restoration and revival of the inner, mystical tradition of the Jews. So I went and joined them in the celebrations down at the Jewish Free School in Kenton. If you can imagine a devotee of Krishna sitting in the middle of 200 men with long black coats, hats and beards then you’ll have a good image of me today.

To celebrate their special day they’d invited some of their best public speakers and organised a conference named: “Inspire – Real Soul Talk.” Although I had some difficulty with the talks which, although delivered in English, were liberally sprinkled with Yiddish and Hebrew, I was able to understand enough to appreciate the deep message.

I attended four talks in all, and spoke to several people on the stalls selling religious paraphernalia and books. The essence of their mystical tradition is that we are not the body, but the soul within. We are part of God and our existence is simply to serve Him by doing His will here in this world. This world is not the real world but simply serves as a place where, for a short time, we can reconcile ourselves with Hashem, who dwells in the spiritual world. The Kabbalah is a text dealing with these realities.

And a farbrengen? A gathering of Chassidic Jews with philosophy, food and song. I got the philosophy and excused myself from the food.

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