Today's Reading

PROLOGUE

The violin cries softly from the summer garden, weaving its notes among the gathered guests—a lament of the bride's passing youth and the leaving of her father's house.

Itzhak, his breath groom-tight, watches from the kitchen stoop, waiting for his Rosa. The door opens behind him, and he turns. A gasp escapes.

Overcome by her beauty, he whispers, "Do you hear, my Rosa, the singing of the violin for us?"

Rosa nestles close, and though her veil obscures her features, he can hear her smile. "Itzhak, my love, I hear only the beating of my heart."

He lifts her veil in this one private moment, revealing her beautiful face. He wants only to run his finger down her silken cheek, to touch her lips with his own, but steps back and quickly winks before lowering the lace once more.

"I saw that! Itzhak, don't make me laugh."

"I cannot help it. It's really you, my beautiful Rosa! Even your papa, who knows I'm not good enough for you—" he makes sure to whisper this—"has not played the trickster like that old Laban."

"Hush, now. Don't say such a thing. Pay attention, Itzhak. Your mama nears."

Itzhak presses her hands in hope and promise, then walks ahead to link arms with his father and mother. Heads high, they approach the chuppah.

Ducking beneath the fringes of the grandfathers' prayer shawls, Itzhak's parents step to his right.

The violin still sings, but Itzhak cannot focus on its notes. Instead, he turns and watches his Rosa as she links arms with her parents, though he's not meant to. He cannot breathe as she walks toward him, a white cloud in summer.

They enter the chuppah, and her parents step to her left, now one family beneath the families' prayer shawls. Rosa lifts the edge of her skirt from the ground and begins her ritual. For Itzhak's ears only she whispers, "I circle you seven times, my tall and handsome Jericho. Smile as I do this, but do not dare to laugh. Listen for the cantor."

Forcibly, Itzhak swallows his smile. If I laugh, I laugh for joy. You broke down every defense, each wall and barrier to my heart, long before today, my Rosa. I am a city captive, surrendered to your love. As she finishes her final circle, he reaches for her fingers.

Together, they face the rabbi, who prompts them in Hebrew, "Ani l'dodi v'dod li."

Itzhak repeats the words to his Rosa. "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine."

She responds, "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine."

The rabbi encourages, "Itzhak, speak to your bride the words that you've chosen."

"In the words of King Solomon, 'Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; the fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.'"

"Now, Rosa," the rabbi intones, "speak to Itzhak the words of our mother Ruth."

Clear and steady, like the deeper, surer strains of the violin, comes Rosa's vow. "'Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.'"

Itzhak holds her gaze for a moment, his throat too full to speak, then remembers what he is to do next. He takes the ring from his father and slips it on her finger. "I give you this ring, my wife, with no adornment, its symbol eternal. And I give you this medallion, for you and for our children's children—the best and greatest hope my heart and hands possess."

He places his hand on the small of her back and turns his new wife, gently, firmly, as he would in dance. He clasps the slender golden chain around her neck.

She turns to face him once more, taking the medallion in her hand to examine its intricate and delicate filigree. "The Tree of Life, Itzhak! I vow, my husband, to wear it always."

From the wedding of Itzhak and Rosa Dunovich
August 17, 1938
Warsaw, Poland
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