The bride emerged from a yurt, accompanied by her father. The groom and his
mother came out of a greenhouse.
The four walked to a circular area
delineated by a red string. In the center stood a huppah; beneath the wedding
canopy, a copper tin with a small fire.
Micha’el and Aumatma BedarShah
were married June 30 at Urban Adamah, a small Jewish educational farm in
Berkeley, Calif. The couple chose the farm for their interfaith wedding,
believing, as Micha’el put it, that “we understand our traditions so much more
clearly when we directly experience the wonder of nature.”
each carried a candle to the circular area “so they could both simultaneously
light our candles and we could accept both of their heritages,” Micha’el
Micha’el, 35, and Aumatma, 32 — whose new surname is a merger of
his Jewish last name first followed by her Hindu one — worked with officiant
Rabbi Gabriel Cousens, who runs the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in
Patagonia, Ariz., to plan what the rabbi calls a modern Essene ceremony. The
Essenes were a Second Temple period Jewish sect who some scholars believe wrote
what came to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Some aspects of the
BedarShahs’ wedding were drawn from the Temple period, with the bride and groom
washing each other’s feet and hands, as well as anointing one another with a few
drops of oil “to purify each other,” Micha’el said. Frankincense and myrrh
incense, used in Temple rituals, burned during the ceremony.
their rituals, the couple were surprised to realize how many elements turned out
to be similar to both Judaism and Hinduism. The huppah — in this case,
Micha’el’s 100-year-old tattered tallit that had belonged to his grandfather —
reminded Aumatma’s father and uncle of a mandap, the ornate covered structure
used at Hindu weddings. “The Indian one is usually more stable, but open on all
four sides,” she says.
When Micha’el smashed a glass, it was reminiscent
of Hindu grooms breaking a clay pot. Both religions have circling rituals: At a
traditional Jewish wedding, the bride circles the groom seven times; Hindu
couples circle a fire seven times. The BedarShahs did both. And, when they
exchanged vows, they did so, Micha’el says, in accordance with “the Torah of
Moses and Israel the Vaishnav lineage of Gujurat,” a state in India.
ceremony began with the sounding of a shofar in four directions, “activating the
sacred space” and opening it up to the “Holy One of blessing in its most
experientially felt form on the earth plane,” he says. Indian ceremonies use a
conch shell to make a similar sound.
While the ceremony merged aspects of
Judaism and Hinduism, the menu — other than a challah — lacked traditional
staples, though the dietary restrictions of both faiths were observed. With the
exception of one lentil-cooked dish, the organic buffet consisted of raw foods,
including a “rawsagna” that featured a ricotta-like macadamia-nut cheese
substitute, thinly sliced zucchini rather than pasta and raw marinara sauce, and
the challah (made from sprouted grains, nuts and seeds).
Urban Adamah’s program manager, describes the wedding, the first to be held at
the educational farm, as “a converging of worlds.”
“Here we are on a
Jewish farm, with elements of Hindu in the ceremony and in the background, we
have this big church next door and they of course were having their Sunday
services. You could go past and you can hear the gospel music,” she says. “It
was just a converging of worlds in a very spiritual way.”