I’ve posted in the past about my slightly contentious relationship with my father, but now that I’m planning a wedding (That’s right, we’re engaged! That’s why I haven’t been posting nearly as frequently as I’d like), the issues between us are coming out in full force.
The most recent, and harshest, conversation I had with him went, basically, like this:
Me: So, we were thinking that we’d like my cousin [female, in a conservative rabbinical school] to read the ketubah.
Mom: Well, you’d have to ask the rabbi about that one, but if the rabbi says it’s okay, I guess it’s okay.
Dad: No it’s not. I would be very offended if a woman read the ketubah. I don’t care what the rabbi says, it’s offensive to me.
Me: I’m sorry you feel that way, however, I personally feel offended when I am told that as a woman, I have to be excluded from many aspects of Judaism, so where there are places to legitimately and halachikly include women, I think that is ideal.
Dad: Well, I don’t. You can do what you want at your wedding, but just know that you are being incredibly disrespectful to me if you do this, and not only that, but if you do this, I will walk out of the wedding, if I attend at all, because this greatly offends me.
I have been crying for the past two days because of this conversation. My father told me that he would consider not attending his own daughters wedding because he disagreed with her religious practice. Let me put this in perspective. My father does not attend intermarriage weddings, but he does attend weddings between two Jews that take place in conservative synagogues, reform synagogues, and no synagogues. He attends weddings which take place on Saturday evening, even if it means staying in a hotel over shabbat and walking to the wedding because the wedding started before Shabbat was over. He attends weddings where he can’t eat any of the food because it is not Kosher. And yet, he would still consider not attending his own daughter’s wedding because she wanted to have a woman read the ketuba, a practice which, by the way, has no halachic significance whatsoever and to which R’ Hershel Shachter famously allowed women to do by noting that “even a monkey could read the ketubah”.
If a woman didn’t read the ketuba at our wedding, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. For that matter, I don’t know that many women that would be able to or feel comfortable reading the ketubah (it’s hard!). I don’t know if this rabbinic student would even want to do it. BUT, now that my dad made such statements to me, I want to press the issue. I want him to know how much his words make a difference, and the impact that he has on me. I also want him to know how much I DO value having a relationship with him, and how much having him at my wedding means to me, and how much it SHOULD mean to him (although I really feel like even having the discussion is silly, because of the fact that up until this point, he was schepping nachas at the fact that I was getting married, and he absolutely LOVES my fiance).
I know that in the end, my father would never actually walk out of or not attend my wedding over this issue. However, I want him to know that when he says stuff like that, even in jest, it hurts. Not only that, but it cheapens the value of his statements. My fiance doesn’t really understand when I tell him that half the time that my father speaks, he’s just talking nonsense and doesn’t really mean what he says. In fact, my fiance thinks that, if anything, it is me that doesn’t take my father’s statements seriously enough. But it’s not true. It’s statements like these that make me realize that either my father REALLY doesn’t value me, or he just doesn’t know the power that his words have. And personally, maybe this is just hopeful thinking, but I’d like to think it is the latter.