Sunday, May 26, 2013

25,000 Hasidim Attend Second Biggest Wedding Ever in Jerusalem


Photo: Reuters
Last week, the Jerusalem neighborhood of Kiryat Belz was the scene of the second biggest wedding ever held in Israel. On Tuesday evening, under a chuppah built for the occasion in the center of the sector, Shalom Rokeach, the 18-year-old grandson of the Belzer Rebbe, leader of the Belz Hasidic dynasty, married Hanna Batya Penet, his 19-year-old bride in the presence of 25,000 guests (no, that's not a misprint.)

In this video you can see the bride, completely veiled, escorted by two female relatives holding candles, circling the groom seven times. After the chuppah, the men adjourned for an all-night celebration at the Belz synagogue. The women had their own celebration a mile away at Binyanei Ha'Uma, Jerusalem's large convention center.

In the last half minute of the video, the camera pulls back from the chuppah so you can see the magnitude of the crowd and the setting.

(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS:  THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS.  YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)     
 


If you're wondering why 25,000 guests didn't make it the biggest wedding ever, The Times of Israel reported that the wedding of Rokeach’s parents in 1993 was the largest in the city’s modern history, drawing 30,000 people, who gobbled down 3.1 tons of potatoes, 1.5 tons of gefilte fish and 39,000 gallons of soda in celebration.

Members of various Hasidic sects, the national-religious world and Sephardi Judaism also attended the wedding.

The leader of the Gur Hasidic sect, the biggest in Israel, and the Lithuanian Ultra-Orthodox community each received a special welcome from the Belz Rabbi, as did Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

For a close-up view of all aspects of the wedding, click here to check out the photo album posted by the Haredi web site Vos iz Neias. 

The Belz Great Synagogue is the biggest synagogue in Jerusalem, with an ark that is so huge it has been included in the Guiness Book of World Records. This imposing monolith of a building is located in northern Jerusalem and was built by the Belz Hasidim, a Hasidic sect dating to the nineteenth century. The Belz Great Synagogue is also significant for its uncanny resemblance to the Holy Temple built by Herod thousands of years ago.

Like the original Belz synagogue in Europe that was destroyed by the Nazis, the Belz Great Synagogue in Jerusalem took 15 years to build. The building was dedicated in 2000 and now towers imposingly in the Jerusalem skyline, rising above the surrounding apartment complexes like a new incarnation of the Holy Temple. The project was financed by the Belz community as well as by philanthropic donations.

The main interior of the synagogue can house up to 6,000 worshipers—an unheard of number for most synagogues, which usually seat hundreds or less. The record-breaking ark is 12 meters high, weighs 18 tons, and can hold 70 Torah scrolls. (In contrast, most synagogue arks can hold about six or less.)

Nine chandeliers gracing the synagogue are each strung with 200,000 pieces of Czech crystal, lending the sanctuary a lofty ballroom splendor. Since it is so huge, the building is utilized not just for prayer, but also for weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and communal events. Smaller study halls and communal facilities are included in the building.


The original Belz synagogue, located in the Ukrainian town of Belz, was similar in size to the new Jerusalem version. The building was destroyed in 1939 by the Nazis, who first attempted to burn it down. When the synagogue proved too huge to be destroyed by such means, the Nazis forced the Jews of the community to dismantle the synagogue one stone at a time.


Now it has been rebuilt in Jerusalem and stands as the center of a thriving Belz community.

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