On the dangers of being a singer at weddings

I’m not sure if I could be insured for this type of situation, but it happens all to often. Maybe playing in a cage would be safer.

Hat tip to frusk

You can picture the scene. Benny Friedman was invited to do a guest spot by both Mechutonim/Chosson-Kalla. It’s not cheap. He starts, together with the existing singer, and all of a sudden an overweight “holy man” who can’t cope with the “modernishe” sound of the song, keeps approaching and eventually takes the microphones away.

מי שמך לראש?

Who gave him the right. No, he wasn’t a Mechutan. He was a guest from Israel who felt that, like many extremist Charedim he had the right to dictate what could or could not be played.

It is a very horrible situation to be in. In my case, it’s even worse, because my band are Nochrim and they see it as grossly unacceptable and unprofessional—read, חילול השם ברבים

I have had my share of these “situations”. The most infamous one was where I met with Chasan and Kallah and one Mechutan and went through what should/should not be played. I followed it to the letter. I have always done so. I proffer advice, but at the end of the day, it is the client who chooses. Suddenly, while playing a Shwekey Mizrachi style song, I was approached by a group of angry zealots, who turned out to be the Mechutan from overseas (a highly extreme and opinionated Rosh Yeshivah, and his Hefty holy sons). They tried to pull out the electrical chords. I asked them to confer with the other Mechutan and to come back, but he was having nothing of it.

I don’t know how I stayed cool, but I gracefully stopped the bracket, and tried to explain later that Shwekey was far from a Goy, but nothing helped.

Ah, for the old days. Holocaust survivors had another approach. They used to come up to the band stage waving $100 bills and asking whether we could play a particular song next. Suffice it to say that I never took the money, and always played within the rules provided to me. I told them to speak to the Mechutanim first.

Indeed, I played at a wedding last week, and someone wanted me to do something extra and brandished some $100 bills. I told him to give them to Tzedaka, but I’d do as I was professionally bound to do.

What should that Ferd (horse) who attacked Benny Friedman have done? If he was a mentch and didn’t like the song, he should have gone to the foyer, eaten a few more knishes and come back.

You might be giggling, but I can tell you, it’s a horrible scene. Everyone has an opinion. Only one opinion counts, however, and that is the Mechutanim in concert with Chosson Kallah.

One of my acquaintances in New York, has gone as far as specifying a contract which states that nobody is permitted to approach the band stage with their narishe requests except through the Mechutonim. I’m not sure if that helps, but it’s another approach.

One more Simcha peeve

In a previous blog post, I mentioned four simcha peeves. Unfortunately, I was reminded of another one recently: the intrepid minyan seekers (sic). Consider the two possible scenarios:

  1. The Ba’alei Simcha remembered to insert a specific time in the seder hasimcha specifically devoted to the davening of Ma’ariv.
  2. The Ba’alei Simcha either forgot or had not intended to insert a specific time slot for davening.

In both case 1 and case 2, the Mentshlich thing to do is to quietly approach the Ba’alei Simcha (or you could even come to the Band Leader) and ask if there is a preferred time for davening Ma’ariv. If there is a time, the case is closed, that’s when you daven. Ask whether an announcement will be made, of course. What do you do if you are one of the people who leave Simchas early because you have a difficult Tosfos that you just have to rush home for, or perhaps you have a sick child at home etc? I suggest that you do not disturb the Simcha. That means, do not make a minyan if it means that you will not be in the hall while someone is saying a Dvar Torah or giving a Hakoras HaTov speech. Sacrifice your own dinner. Eat it quickly. See if you can find another nine people who have also finished eating. Explain that you have to leave early, as above, and see if they will join you in the foyer while the rest of the guests continue eating their Dinner (or Dessert). Do not do this during a dance bracket. Why should the dance floor suddenly become barren and decrease the Simchas Choson V’Kallo because you preferred to choose your own time for davening?

If the B’aal Simcha forgot, try and minimise their already frazzled state of mind, and suggest a neutral time, at your expense, and your cheshbon, during eating time (when you are normally saying Mishnayos Baal Peh). Don’t choose speeches or dancing! I know this seems obvious, but I’m so frustrated seeing the arguably selfish and insensitive herding of the “cattle” davka during a speech or dance bracket.

At one Simcha, I was so embarrassed, I wanted to hide under a rock. One fellow organised a minyan, during a father’s speech of Hakoras HaTov. Not only were tables empty, but you could hear the bellowing of the “Borchu es Hashem HaMevoroch” reverberating inside the hall during the comparative silence of the speech. In my mind, יצא שכרו בהפסדו, and it was bordering on a חילול ה.

In summary, if you see this type of thing happening, approach the organiser of the minyan and ask if they have considered proper manners in executing their minyan for davening.

Four Simcha Peeves

I don’t know what the rest of you think, but these irritate me, in no particular order.

The “floating handshakers”

You are in Shule on Shabbos for a call-up or a Bar Mitzvah. Suddenly, usually during Krias HaTorah and thereafter, pockets of people come into shule and either walk straight up to the Bima and/or to the Ba’alei Simcha and extend their hands to say Mazel Tov. If you are lucky, they will finish their circumvolution of the Shule and then exit. Mostly, they or someone else who ought to be listening or davening, will find a reason to begin a new conversation. They have already davened. The Ba’al Simcha wasn’t special enough for them to actually daven in the Shule/Minyan where the simcha was taking place. A “Groise Toyve”, they perform and in the process they thoroughly disrupt any semblance of decorum that might have existed prior to their bold entry. I’ve seen people who object to Schnorrers disturbing the Davening. I reckon the “a bi yotze tzu zein” do-gooders who come for a hand shake are equally disturbing. What should you do? I suggest saying, “Good Shabbos, Oh, you must have had another Simcha to attend?”

The “never on timers”

People spend a lot of time, effort, not to mention money, on trying to create a good party for a Wedding or Bar/Bat Mitzvah. They often set cocktails+finger food for 6:30 with entry at 7:15 ish. Why is it that at frum functions, almost exclusively, people turn up just before the main course, between 8 and 8:30pm? Isn’t this rude? Is it nice when half the hall is empty because every shlepper and shlepperen can’t bring themselves to rock up on time? I’m not talking about some ludicrous functions where Chossen and Kallah turn up at 8:30pm because they have driven around Melbourne in a limousine for hours. I don’t know about you, but a Simcha starts when they enter. Before that, it is just weird to start washing and participating in Simchas Chossen V’Kallah (entree) with no Chossen or Kallah in sight! At non frum functions, people have good manners and come on time.

Shlomo Carlebach and band

The “incessant chatters”

This group of people, both men and women, talk and talk and talk. It doesn’t matter who is speaking or what they are saying, 99% of the time (and yes, I do know) they yap and display shocking manners at frum simchas. I hasten to add, that it’s also a big chillul hashem. Why? Because there is always someone at the Simcha who is not yet frum, or even a goy. They look at this behaviour and wonder why “these people” have no manners whatsoever. (Thanks to Bet Shemesh, they will now call them “Charedim”) By the way, this behaviour is almost exclusively at Simchas where there is a Mechitza for the seating. Why so? Some surmise it’s because if you place a pack of “boys only” or “girls only” around a table, that’s what happens. When they sit together, for some reason, they don’t behave that way. Perhaps the husband or wife kick their partner under the table, I don’t know.

The “entrance mob”

There are people who do the Ba’alei Simcha a great favour, even after they come late. No sooner have they had their meal and a drink or two, and they exit,  standing around in the entrance. It is literally teeming with the same people, who do so at every simcha. Are they so depressed that they cannot bring themselves to just be nice and dance the first 10 minutes of each bracket? And before you start telling me “it’s because the music is too loud”, get a life. These people hang out jn the entrance when there is no music. It makes absolutely no difference. Sure, some will step out for a fag, but it isn’t about that. This is about bad manners again. Oh, and if you are wondering, it doesn’t happen at non frum Simchas.

What gives?

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