Friday, May 28, 2010

Shavuot in Cleveland
By Judy Schiller
May 23rd, 2010

What’s a nervous bride to do when she’s got commitment issues and is getting cold feet on her wedding day? She turns to the Israelites standing at Sinai for advice, as they are about to make a commitment to last from generation to generation. And so our story began, erev Shavuot, at Temple Emanu El, in Cleveland Ohio. Cantor Laurel Barr, as the Wedding Officiant and I, as the nervous bride, wove our tale around Exodus 19:1-8, where God proposes to B’nai Yisrael at Mt. Sinai and they all respond in one voice, “We Do!”

We told our story in 2 aliyot, standing under the wedding chuppah, the Wedding Officiant narrating and translating, and the bride sharing her angst. In the stretch the bride asked the big question on her mind- How do you make such a big commitment, and really stick with it? What do you need to do? The Wedding Officiant invited the audience to share their thoughts about what it means to make a commitment to God, Torah and their fellow Jews, and if they all felt ready to take on this commitment (or forever hold their peace). This group was ready, and offered helpful advice to the bride, about making a lasting commitment- patience, forgiveness, communication, gratitude, acting on that promise every day. When the bride heard that everyone gathered accepted God’s offer of a very special relationship, she realized that she could do it too.

Candy was tossed, a hora was danced, and everyone rejoiced with mazal tov!

Some backstage maven notes- I am always amazed at how creating a maven script and performance is such a highly emergent process. Our initial text immersion brought us to many different places and we ended up in a very different place that where we first started. After raising our own questions about the text, we found commentary that spoke to many of our wonderings and curiosities, and paved the way for our own midrash. In my search for drash, I found inspiration in a 2008 blog post by Amichai Lau Lavie (thanks Amichai, it was beautiful). In this process, the chicken-egg question- of what comes first in the maven process- translation- character- or Bullseye- was ultimately led by the bullseye- what is our story about? We were drawn to verse 19:8, where all the people answered in one voice, accepting all that God had spoken. We questioned this unanimous commitment (really, now there are Jewish people) and used the vehicle of the bride character to push the question of commitment.

A special shout out to my maven in the wings, Jesse Freedman, for his mentoring on this script behind the scenes.

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