Arts & Culture
The Not-So-Best Man
It wouldn’t have been intentional, but I almost ruined my brother’s wedding last week. I had no idea when he asked me to be his best man that I would have any responsibilities other than making a speech before dinner. … Read More
It wouldn’t have been intentional, but I almost ruined my brother’s wedding last week. I had no idea when he asked me to be his best man that I would have any responsibilities other than making a speech before dinner. Had I known that I’d have to stand with him at the Chuppa, I would’ve had to decline the best-manship.
As I stood in front of all the wedding guests alongside my brother, I became very light-headed. The room started to spin and my heart began to palpitate so I gripped the wooden Chuppa poles with my hands for support. Seconds later, I fainted. As my wife, Nancy, my sister and several others rushed to my aid with water, juices and handkerchiefs to wipe my brow, everyone assumed it had to do with low-blood sugar or the heat. Only Nancy knew it had nothing to do with either. It was my aversion to religion that had caused yet another meltdown.
It all started shortly after my Bar Mitzvah, in 1977. Two months after I had officially become a man, my Long Island rabbi ditched Judaism to become an Episcopalian minister in Rhode Island. Ever since then I have freaked out when being exposed to organized religion. It’s not limited to Judaism, either. When I go to a Catholic wedding I need to sit in the back row, so I can periodically take breaks from the sermon. When I was in Bangkok, I was unable to last more than three minutes in a Buddhist Temple, despite not understanding one word of Thai. Even weeks before my own wedding, when Nancy and I first met the rabbi in his office, I needed to leave the room to get into the fetal position on the cold bathroom floor. Thankfully, at our actual wedding I was able to stay upright, but only because I’d instructed Nancy to keep pinching my finger as we held hands, so I could concentrate on physical pain rather than emotional pain while simultaneously counting the pinches.
I don’t want to be like this. For years I met with a religion therapist to try to conquer my problems. I even went on Zoloft to combat the anxiety attacks that plagued me in houses of worship. Both have helped improve my religious stamina, but obviously not enough.
The religion therapist thinks it has something to do with my mother having M.S. for the past thirty plus years and, combined with my rabbi’s exodus, I had lost my faith in God. I’m not sure that’s the case. I think between the aforementioned events and the sad fact that most of my relatives were killed during the Holocaust, the entire concept of God has me confused. The problem is that it’s hard to find the answer when the questions make you pass out. So for the time being, if you see me at a wedding, I’ll be outside pacing during the ceremony, which beats turning white and having a rabbi pat down my sweaty head with his yarmulke and then lying that I have low blood sugar to mask my issues. But I will be at the reception where I will help myself to some of those tiny zucchini things.