About 10 days ago we went to a lovely wedding in Glasgow – the son of members of our shul, who are also close friends and neighbours of ours, married a Glaswegian girl. The wedding was lovely – happy, elegant and fun. Highlights included a piper in full regalia piping the guests into the shul before the chupa and one of our congregants bringing with him the wrong size dinner suit, so that he had to have an emergency dash to the shops before the dinner, reappearing in a rather smart kilt! The dancing was lively, the band not too loud and the evening ended with the remaining guests serenading the young couple in an impromptu kumzitz.
A few guests for Shabbos and an unremarkable Sunday, until in the middle of the evening I received an email informing me of the death of our dear friend, Aba Dunner. We knew he was ill, even desperately ill, but news like this always comes as a shock. The levaya took place on Monday – several hundred people gathered outside his house, round the corner from us, to hear eulogies from his brother, sons, son in law and colleague. Given the choice of writing an obituary, or a report of a dinner to mark the 30th anniversary of a yeshiva, I volunteered to write the obituary – it made much more sense: I knew him, I know the family and I live 2 minutes away, whereas the other writer lives in Manchester. What I forgot was that we were making sheva brachos from the wedding, on Tuesday night, and that most of the obituary would have to be written on Tuesday!
On Monday evening, we attended our son’s graduation from primary school, then I met with the director of the Conference of European Rabbis, who told me about their work and the impact that Aba had on the organisation. On Tuesday morning, I went to the shiva in a business capacity and sat for an hour with his daughter and one of his sons, to hear more about him. It says a lot about a person, when even at the shiva, people are laughing as they remember him. Then I sat down and started writing.
It was one of the few times ever that I have been glad that 17th Tammuz finishes so late in England. We weren’t going to eat till 10:02 – I worked on the obituary till early afternoon, made icecream, wrote more, made chilli and soup, and wrote more till eventually, by around 4:30, the obituary was finished and I could concentrate on the sheva brachos. Baruch Hashem, everything worked out fine – the family liked what I had written, the food and the atmosphere were great and I made it through the fast, but I never want to have a day like that again. Writing an obituary for someone you knew is never easy, but trying to do two days’ work in one, while fasting, was not an experience I would like to repeat.
The chosson and kalloh sent us a beautiful bunch of flowers, which arrived during the afternoon, so we were able to match the serviettes to that – my husband and children laid up the tables while I was cooking.
Here’s the menu:
Vegetable soup (based on a recipe in Harriet Roth’s Healthy Jewish Cooking)
Chile con carne
Rice, roast sweet potatoes, guacamole, Tofutti sour cream, tortilla chips, lettuce, cruditees
Chocolate brownies, mango icecream, watermelon
For a completely different approach to making sheva brachos, see here!