The Discus Thrower and his Dream Factory
Chapter 19. You Can’t Have One Without the Other
Life in Coto de Caza continued for our companies, our two continually evolving products, and ourselves. After all of the anxieties with the Coto Research Center and the debacle in La Jolla, Ann and I were enjoying the positive atmosphere of productivity and a pleasant staff of hard-working individuals. It seemed that we could concentrate on the positive aspects of our work and our lives.
In the previous chapters, I described our mode of operation. We were a small corporation and tightly controlled the details of product development, manufacturing, marketing, and sales. To that end, it seemed as though I was the best person to explain to potential customers the attributes and numerous options that the two products, the CES, and the APAS, could provide. This meant that I was the one who traveled to customers and trade shows for presentations.
I was thrilled when our old friend, Tony Payne, from Johannesburg, South Africa contacted me to come for a sales and training clinic. Tony had sold several of the CES to a university located in the center of the country. He wanted me to help train the university personnel as well as Tony’s sales staff on all of the options available with this computerized system. Needless to say, I was more than willing and I saw that this was an opportunity to take Ann with me. Ann and I had traveled to South Africa several times in the past and I knew how much she loved Africa. She loved the wilderness bush experience as well as being obsessed with animals, in general, and African wildlife in particular. This seemed like a perfect opportunity for us to travel for business and also to add some fun experiences as well. Since I did not believe that Ann would let me go to Africa without her, it was the perfect situation.
We planned with Tony for the sales and training clinics to be held in January 2014 and he was to let us know the schedule that worked the best for everyone. Shortly after that, Tony and his staff selected dates that worked for him and his customer. I told Tony that I wanted to plan at least one safari trip with Ann and that we would host Tony and his wife, Lorna, to accompany us. I told him to organize everything for his convenience and then let us know the details. Then we would make the necessary flight arrangements to and from South Africa.
We also decided that it would be a good addition to have our colleague and friend, Bob Wainwright, accompany us for the safari and to assist with the sales and training clinics. Bob, at that time, was excellent at demonstrating and training people on the details of the Computerized Exercise Machines. Two of Tony’s customers were in physical therapy departments at two of the universities so Bob would be especially helpful with those clients. Bob was planning a special surprise college graduation gift for his daughter, Jesse, who was to accompany him on the trip to Africa.
Ann and I flew to Johannesburg about ten days before Bob’s arrival. That gave us time to meet Tony and arrange the safaris as well as other business details. While Ann worked on one project, I went with Tony to see the exercise area of another potential customer of Tony’s who wanted to meet me before he committed to the purchase of the CES.
This gave Tony and I the opportunity to discuss the upcoming meeting as well as the details about the safari which was to a new destination for us located in the Kruger Park called “Singita.” Tony’s company had customized the fitness facility there since the corporate owners had learned that safari travelers also wanted the opportunity to exercise at the same time that they enjoyed being in the wilderness of the bush. While we were going over these details, we decided to have a quick lunch before the meeting.
During the few minutes that Tony and I were chatting and discussing what to eat, my mind drifted off and I had a mental video of the 35 years from the time Ann and I met in graduate school in Amherst, Massachusetts until now in South Africa.
Of course, Ann and I do not exactly look like this now, but these two infants seemed to have been destined to find each other for a lifetime. This is the girl who slammed the door in my face the first time I saw her. But I had discovered that she was always the best student in our graduate classes and, as time passed, we became friends. We have studied, loved, worked, traveled and had fun together for 35 non-stop years.
First, she had always impressed me with her intelligence and beauty. No matter how fast, wild or inventive I got, she was able to keep up with me. If I had a dream or idea, she knew how to make it reality or to tell me that my idea was great but not something we could realistically pursue. Whatever has transpired in the first 18 chapters of this book, Ann has been an integral and driving factor in most of it. There is nothing in my life that I have done since meeting Ann that she did not greatly influence. Whenever there was trouble, she would find a way to solve the problem. Whatever the situation, we were always able to think things through together.
There was no reason for Ann to be my girlfriend. Ever since my childhood and through my Army days in Israel, I was sort of a “playboy” who dated many girls and had even married one of them. When I met Ann in 1969 in graduate school, I was separated from my wife, Yael, and was dating other women. At that time, Ann and our friend, Jim Salidis, were the “three musketeers” in graduate school where we studied together, met in the computer center and biomechanics laboratory to work on projects, and sat together in the coffee shop to discuss our studies. We became best friends during these years. I guess the best way to describe our relationship was that we grew into loving each other. It was never the “love at first sight” fantasy of books and movies, but rather an incorporation of the mind and body that slowly matured into a totality of love.
One of the most amazing facts in our 35 years together is that we never had a fight. We never argued about anything and, with an Israeli, this is an amazing feat! We would discuss every detail of our business, home, travel, friends, and every other aspect but calmly and rationally. Sometimes the discussion might take days to complete because life is complex. But we could always discuss things and eventually arrive at a mutually agreed result.
For example, during elections for government officials and the referendums that we have here in California, I can be very outspoken in my opinions on how to run the country. Our discussion, however, usually ended with my asking her “Who are you voting for?” and then I would vote for that person or issue. I have complete trust in her and her judgment. Frequently, I expressed my opinion, but, in the end, I realized that her assessment of the situation was reasonable and suitable for the state or the country so I would vote the way she was voting. It reminds me of the famous joke where a man said, “In 50 years, I made the big decisions and my wife made the small decisions. I make the big decision such as whether we should declare war on China or build new submarines. My wife makes the small decision such as where we live or how we spend our money”.
How Ann was able to do all these things was beyond my comprehension. No matter how strange and complicated I made my own personal life --women, stress at work, or business – nothing affected my love for Ann or Ann’s love for me. We traveled around the world and did what we like to do. Some of our travel pictures show a few of our experiences over the years:
Ann had remained my girlfriend in spite of watching a parade of other women pass through my life. For some reason that I will never understand, she stayed with me and the other women eventually left. Somehow, she recognized that those other women fulfilled some need I had to conceal my perceived shortcomings. Sitting in the restaurant with Tony in Johannesburg, South Africa, I finally recognized what should have been obvious to me for all of the years we had shared. Our hearts and souls connected us. She had stood behind me and been my rock of comfort and dependability. Her focus and love had always been me. As this all became more and more clear, I felt like the biggest idiot in the world. What could I do about it?
Suddenly, out of the blue, I blurted out loud to Tony, “What if I ask Ann to marry me in Singita?” Tony was initially as shocked and surprised as I was to have this thought suddenly pop into my consciousness. Tony thought it a fabulous idea. As we discussed the idea and became more excited and enthusiastic, we realized that this would have to be a closely guarded secret. This was a secret that we could not share with anyone except Tony’s wife, Lorna, since we would need her to divert Ann’s attention periodically. I was not even going to reveal the exciting idea to my good friend, Bob Wainwright. Keeping a secret can be a challenge and this event would be an enormous shock to everyone. The most difficult task would be to make sure that Ann did not have even a hint that there was something going on in the background.
At this point, we realized that we had to have an engagement ring before we left for Singita. Tony told me about his good friend, Michael Solomon, whom he had met in a yoga class. He assured me that Michael would be a perfect jeweler, so we left the restaurant and drove to see his friend. Michael came from a long, convoluted family of jewelers. One of his ancestors had been a jeweler in France but who had fled from there many, many years before. In fact, Michael suspected that his family was forced to flee from prosecution as he believed that his forbearers had been Jewish and, hence, his family name of “Solomon.” No one knew for sure and after so many years had passed, by the time he had been born and raised in South Africa, the family were Christians.
I wanted to design a special ring for Ann. Before we had left California bound for South Africa, she told me that she would love to have some piece of jewelry with a beautiful blue stone called “tanzanite.” We had seen these lovely blue gemstones on previous trips to Africa and she had talked about them for years after we had first seen them. Tanzanite was discovered in the Mererani Hills in northern Tanzania in 1967. The gemstone is noted for its remarkably strong trichroism which means that a substance appears to have different colors when observed at different angles, especially with polarized light changes. In other words, tanzanite can appear as sapphire blue, violet, and burgundy depending on the crystal orientation. Tanzanite can also appear differently when viewed under alternate lighting conditions. The blues appear more evident when subjected to fluorescent light and the violet hues can be seen readily when viewed under incandescent illumination. Tanzanite is usually a reddish brown in its rough state, requiring artificial heat treatment to bring out the blue violet of the stone. The mineral was named by Tiffany & Co. after Tanzania, the country in which it was discovered. With all of the variations available, I knew that Ann, however, was obsessed with the blue ones.
Tony and I watched with amazement as Michael sketched several suggested ring styles. We were watching an artist at work, to be sure. Eventually, we decided that the most beautiful design consisted of three small bands of white gold inlaid with diamonds with the bands joined at the bottom. I wanted 35 diamonds since that was the number of years that we had been together. Across the three bands was a large rectangle of tanzanite. The design was beautiful and quite unique. The three of us agreed that this ring design was the best and would be perfect for Ann. Tony explained to Michael that we had to have the ring before we left for our safari. He promised us that he would have it by the time we had to leave on our trip.
Now Tony and I discussed the proposal and the setting. Tony described how Singita was arranged about the lodge, restaurants, rooms, and lounge areas. His thinking was that we could have the staff set up something out in the bush perhaps when we stopped in the morning for the coffee break or in the afternoon when the Land Rover stopped for Sundowners. Another option was the large lounge area which would have the sound systems for our music, a bar for after dinner beverages, and comfortable furniture for relaxation after dinner. Tony assured me that any of these locations were perfect for a marriage proposal. However, once we got there, I could make my final decision.
The day arrived for our departure from Johannesburg to Singita. All of us were so excited about the safari. Tony, Lorna, Ann, and I were accompanied by our friend, Bob Wainwright, and his daughter, Jesse. This trip to South Africa was her college graduation gift and she had been enjoying the experience so far.
The flight was in a small plane for 15 people and, after an hour of flying over the amazing terrain of South Africa, we arrived at Singita’s private airstrip. Waiting for us was one of their rangers with a land rover to transport us to the main lodge. To everyone’s joy, we passed a herd of zebra and some giraffe on the drive. The staff at the Lebombo Lodge met us with warm hand towels, scented with lemons, and a cool fruit drink to refresh us from our dusty ride.
The setting of the Lebombo Lodge was inspired by the eagles’ nests built into the cliff face of the river bank. Each of the 15 loft-style suites is glass-walled as romantic hideaways leading outdoors onto elevated wooden viewing decks. There is a swimming pool in the main lodge area, spa and gym facilities, boutique and gallery for African art. The restaurant is a covered area with open sides for interaction with the outside scenery. The long lounge area is open on all sides where the game could be viewed from dawn until dusk.
The most important aspect of Singita is its location within the Kruger National Park. The Kruger National Park is larger than the country of Switzerland and stretches across three countries, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa. The Singita concession has a unique advantage in the Kruger Park since it is located in an area which is quite a distance from the normal tourist roads. This affords game-viewing only from the vehicles belonging to Singita. Normal traffic through the Kruger Park is restricted to their roads only. Therefore, none of the Kruger Park vehicles can leave the road to drive closer to the game. Within the Singita concession, however, their vehicles can approach as close to the wildlife as can be done safely and without disturbing the animals. Kruger Park wildlife includes elephants, lions, leopards, wildebeests, giraffes, hyenas, impalas, and many different types of other antelopes. Monkeys, gorillas, hippopotamus, and crocodiles are prevalent in and around the river that traverses the property. Birds are everywhere as well. With the vegetation and animals, it is truly a magnificent opportunity to experience African wilderness.
Each couple was shown to their individual “room” which was, in fact, an entire bungalow overlooking the river below and the hill opposite. From our balcony, we could see two crocodiles sunning themselves on the river’s edge while a small herd of impala were munching on the greenery around the trees on the hill. Our room had a bedroom, living area, and two showers with one outside under the canopy of the tree and the other one inside in the bathroom. We were provided with a well-stocked refrigerator filled with wine and snacks. The one rule was to be vigilant in locking our doors when we are inside the room or left to go anywhere on the property. The reason was to keep our room safe from the inquisitiveness and thievery of the baboons! They are notorious for “visiting” a room, opening the refrigerator and enjoying all of the snacks and food. Unfortunately, they are very messy guests.
Since this was our first visit to Singita, Ann and I were enamored with its uniqueness, beauty, and serenity. Our bungalow was on the side of the hill overlooking the river, so the first thing we did was to sit outside on our porch and listen to the sounds of the bush. We could hear the most interesting sounds which were so unlike anything you would ever hear in California!
We changed clothes for the evening game drive, gathered our photographic equipment, and then strolled up to the restaurant to meet our friends for a quick snack before departing on the Land Rovers. The restaurant was unique with what seemed to be an outdoor environment but with an overhead roof open on three sides and the fourth wall was nearly transparent. “Walls” on all four sides, however, could be opened or closed depending on the weather at any given moment. The sensation was that you were outside and inside at the same time. In addition to the beautiful environment, the food was delicious. Afterward, we collected our photo equipment, jackets for the cool African evening, and headed to the Land Rovers.
Although this was not our first evening safari, the one thing that we had learned about the African bush is that every game drive is unique. You can never plan for what you will see. The expression “expect the unexpected” is a perfect way to prepare. That evening was no exception. We drove around watching the herds of impalas settling down for the night, the crocodiles sliding back into the river as the sun faded, and the hippopotamus beginning to peek out of the water in anticipation of their night of foraging on the grasses near the river. We stopped the Land Rover to stretch our legs and enjoy the traditional “Sundowner” which meant having a drink of coffee, tea, or more potent beverages. Then we drove back to the main lodge for dinner.
The next morning began at 4:30 am! I know how much Ann loves these morning safaris because she is definitely not a morning person. Normally she goes to bed at two o’clock in the morning and gets up between 9 and 10 the next morning. But if Africa, she is a changed person. She is ready to go as early as possible and wants to have the game drive last for as long as possible.
All of the people going on the game drive met at the lodge for tea, coffee, and early morning snacks. Everything was delicious as we had discovered all of the food at Singita was. Then we went out to the Land Rovers, climbed aboard the open-air vehicle, and drove off in search of wildlife just as the sun was peeking up over the hill.
The day preceded as a normal safari day. The morning snack before the game drive, hours of enjoyable bush experiences, followed by a big breakfast upon our return. Then the day was relatively open with options including relaxing around the swimming pool, exercising in the well-equipped training facility, selecting one of the many massage choices at the Spa, shopping in the extensive shop of African fare, partaking of a delicious lunch, or napping in the bungalow.
Ann and I normally skip lunch, so we went to the gym for a workout. Because the Lodge is situating in the home of the animals, with no fences to protect it, we were required to have staff members accompany us from the main lodge down a small hill to the gym. (One day, the staff was unable to take us since there were four lions sleeping in front of the Spa). Since Tony’s company had designed and furnished the fitness facility, it was a wonderfully complete. We worked out together for about one and a half hours and then returned to our bungalow to get ready for the afternoon game drive.
The afternoon game drive usually leaves the lodge about four o’clock. Again, there was a quick snack and then off into the bush in search of more wildlife. After the Sundowner, we watched for the game that is usually seen only at night. For example, the adorable little bush babies, with their bright red reflective eyes, are usually found only in the evening. Then we drove back to the lodge for dinner.
By dinner time, my emotions were building and my pulse was racing. I had never felt like this but Tony patted me on the back telling me to calm down and everything would go well and be fantastic. After another delicious meal, we all adjourned to the lovely lounge to enjoy the African evening. The evening sounds included bird calls and infrequent animal sounds. There is no way to describe the conversations between hippos in the river below the lounge! The weather was delightful and our friends were sitting on the sofas enjoying after-dinner beverages.
I had arranged for the Singita staff to play an ABBA disk which I provided. Ann and I had become obsessed with ABBA in London in 1998 when we saw the musical “Momma Mia.” We had never heard of ABBA before that since their popularity as a musical group had been during our years in graduate school. We had barely been aware of even earth-shaking news during those years, so musical groups had been well outside our knowledge.
We were all sitting and enjoying the ambiance. Bob and his daughter, Jesse, as well as Tony and wife, Lorna, were there. Tony and I made eye contact after some time and Tony went to tell the staff to start the music. The ABBA music began and just as some beautiful, graceful giraffe sauntered by on the hill, I turned to Ann and invited her to come dance with me.
Ann’s response was confusion. “Dance? We haven’t danced for years since I am so good and stepping on your toes. Let’s just sit and enjoy the music.”
Of course, I insisted that we go dancing and promised to keep my toes out of her way. “Ann please, one dance. Look at the animals. They would love to see us dance” was my special plea that I hoped would work. That did it. Ann could never say no to animals and sure enough, she agreed. We began a nice slow dance.
The ABBA music continued playing. I had hidden the ring in my pants pocket in a small box. I was worried that Ann would notice I had something in my pocket and want to know what it was. My heart was pounding and I remembered having experienced a similar crescendo of emotions before I walked into the stadium at the Rome Olympics carrying the Israeli flag. Ann and I continued dancing while I waited for the song “I do I do” to begin. There were a few other guests sitting in the lounge where we were dancing and they all seemed to enjoy watching us. I suppose people enjoy seeing an older couple sharing a romantic moment.
Finally, ABBA launched into “I Do I Do” and when they sang that phrase of the song, I went down on my knee, took the box from my pocket, and, as I opened it, held up the ring and said:
“Ann, will you marry me?”
“What are you doing?” she said, turning around looking at the people sitting nearby. “You are embarrassing me, stop it!”
“Ann, I mean it. Will you marry me?” I insisted.
“Gideon please, stop with the jokes.” she pleaded. Of course, by this point, she was correct that everyone was watching this scene of me on my knee holding up the ring.
“Ann, please say ’yes’ because my knees are killing me…” I said.
“Okay I will marry you. Now get up.” Ann replied with a shocked smile and utter disbelief on her face.
I got up and kissed her on the cheek. Tony had dutifully photographed the entire tableau as it unfolded.
In addition to Ann’s shock, my words and images finally penetrated the jetlag-induced fog of our friend, Bob Wainwright. He lurched into a sitting position on the comfortable sofa amid a swarm of pillows and in a loud voice announced “Holy Shit!!!” I guess he finally understood that the scene was real and not a crazy dream.
Some of the other guests, who were in Singita for their safari experiences, were also crying and joined the group to congratulate us. Bob and Ann were both in shock for the rest of the time we spent in Singita.
In addition to the fun of the wedding proposal, the entire trip to South Africa was a wonderful experience with viewings of many different animals. We thoroughly enjoyed the time together amid the wildlife. Now, however, we had to travel home and plan the wedding.
After we had returned to California at the end of January, the first determination we made was that we were fat, with a capital “F”, and that we would have to lose weight before any marriage could take place. Our travels had included delicious food and lots of it so we had eaten like pigs and each of us gained weight in addition to what we had when we arrived in South Africa. Regardless of your measurement system, we were quite porky and would have to lose the weight.
Following this important, yet necessary, decision, Ann began to research for the best date and place for the wedding. We had decided that October would probably be a good time, in addition to allowing ample time to lose weight and arrange for wedding attire to fit. Now we needed to select the appropriate date. Ann searched several databases for the best date for an outdoor, ocean-front setting. The Department of the Navy had the most comprehensive schedule for days and forecasts and we found that between Oct. 5 and 20th the average, historical rainfall was .01 inches at Dana Point, CA. There had been no rain on these dates for 30 consecutive years, so we decided to take our chance. We agreed that it is always best to apply science to any situation. We were closing in on our exact date. Next, we needed the place.
We looked at several locations near Laguna Beach but none of them were beautiful or provided the ambiance for which we were searching. We did not know exactly what we wanted but at each place we looked, we knew that was not the place for us. Then we visited the Ritz Carlton in South Laguna Beach and discovered the perfect location for our wedding. It is, for sure, one of the most beautiful hotels both inside and outside. We could have an outdoor ocean-bluff wedding and the indoors settings, with the lovely interior rooms, were perfect for all the other wedding activities. After conversations with the hotel staff, however, the only date that they could accommodate for our wedding was October 17th, so we agreed. After all, it was within the window we had selected.
Now we had to have the most important member of the wedding itself, the Rabbi. Without the Rabbi, we would not be having a wedding! Ann visited our Rabbi, Stephen Einstein, whom we had known for about thirty years.
He was happy to officiate at our wedding which he smilingly assured her was an event that he had been waiting for many years to celebrate. Unfortunately, he explained there was a problem. Rabbi Einstein told her that he would be leaving to begin his Sabbatical year on Oct. 15. We wanted to marry at the Ritz Carlton but they could not accommodate us before October 17th. With a mismatch of two days, Ann held her breath while thoughts raced through her mind about alternatives. We had to have Rabbi Einstein, so she was trying to make other modifications in her head. Fortunately, she need not have worried so much. Rabbi Einstein was so happy to participate with us that he willingly and happily delayed the beginning of his Sabbatical until Oct. 18th. Now we had established the three most critical components that we needed for our wedding: the date was October 17, the place was the Ritz Carlton in South Laguna, CA, and our Rabbi Einstein would officiate.
The next step was for us to travel to Israel and one of the main reasons was to see my dear friend and mentor, Yariv Oren. Yariv had given me purpose in life when I was 16 and traveled to Holon to learn how to be an assistant physical education instructor. At that time, I was extremely shy and had absolutely no confidence in myself. Yariv recognized something in me and, like a shriveled and dying scraggly plant, he did everything that he could to nourish, cultivate, and create the athlete, student, and scientist that I became. Everything I am today and all that I have become is because of Yariv. Yariv offered me an opportunity to train at his athletic camp and suggested that I try throwing the discus since I seemed quite strong for my age. From that moment forward, I tried everything he recommended and one day I timidly inquired whether he thought I could ever make the Israeli Olympic team. “If you try, anything is possible” was his answer. For me and everything I have accomplished in my life grew from this man and his belief in my potential.
We traveled to Israel to announce to Yariv our plans and to make sure that he and his wife, Aviva, would come to our wedding. It was a long, fourteen-hour flight but we were excited about sharing the good news with him. We arranged to visit him the next day and I was nervous but confident that he would say “yes” since I knew how much he loved both of us. We met him at his lovely home and, as expected, he was very excited about our news. His wife, Aviva, was as enthusiastic as Yariv since she had known both of us for many years. He was pleased about our wedding and immediately and eagerly agreed that he and Aviva would travel to California to share our wedding joy. We told him the date in October and decided that in the future we would work out the timing and flight details for him and Aviva to come to California. After all, they would need time to see us and to recover from jetlag.
We also asked Yariv to help us find a particular weaver in Jerusalem who could make a handwoven tallit for us. A “tallit” is a prayer shawl worn by Jews during weekday morning services, on the Sabbath, and on holidays.
The tallit was developed as an outer garment on which fringes could be worn in obedience to a Biblical command. The original tallit probably resembled the “abayah,” or blanket, worn by the Bedouins for protection from sun and rain, and which had black stripes at the ends. The tallit is normally made of wool and has special twined and knotted fringes, “tzitziot”, attached to each of its four corners and, thus, is sometimes called the “arba kanfot” or “four corners.”
The term “tallit, for some people, can be a little confusing. One reference is to the “tallit katan” (small tallit) which is an item that can be worn over or under clothing and commonly referred to as “tzitzit”. A second reference is to the “tallit gadol” (large tallit) which is a Jewish prayer shawl worn over the outer clothes during the morning prayers and worn during all prayers on Yom Kippur. The term “tallit” alone usually refers to the “tallit gadol”.
Traditionally, the tallit is made of wool or linen based on an understanding that the reference to a “garment” in the Bible is connected with a commandant that refers specifically to wool and linen garments. The “tallit gadol” is traditionally draped over the shoulders but, during prayer, some cover their head with it, notably during specific parts of the service such as the Amidah and when called to the Torah for an aliyah.
The “tallit gadol” is usually woven of wool. “Tallitot,” which is the plural form, may be of any color but are usually white with black, blue, or white stripes along the edge or white with twelve colored stripes. The all-white and black-and-white varieties have traditionally been the most common, with the blue-and-white variety, in the past said to be in remembrance of the blue thread of the sea or sky.
Sizes of tallitot vary and are a matter of custom and preference. Some are large enough to cover the whole body while others hang around the shoulders. It must be long enough to be considered a garment (defined by the Code of Jewish Law as that which is large enough to cover “a small child able to walk”). The neckband of the tallit, sometimes woven with silver or gold thread, is called the “atarah” which literally means “crown” but is often referred to as the “collar.” The “tallit gadol” is often kept in a dedicated pouch or cloth bag, often of velvet, which can be quite simple or ornately decorated.
The Bible does not command the wearing of a unique prayer shawl or tallit. There are no religious specifications for the tallit itself and it can be made in a variety of sizes, materials (wool, silk or rayon) and decorated with a range of artistic patterns. The tallit is simply the garment that displays the divinely-ordained fringes and is not sacred in itself. Instead, it presumes that people wore a garment of some type to cover themselves and instructs the Children of Israel to attach fringes (tzitzit) to the corners of these shawls or garments (Numbers 15:38), repeating the commandment in terms that they should “make thee twisted cords upon the four corners of thy covering, wherewith thou coverest thyself” (Deuteronomy 22:12). These passages do not specify tying particular types or numbers of knots in the fringes. Nor do they specify a gender division between men and women or between native Israelite/Hebrew people and those assimilated by them. The exact customs regarding the tying of the tzitzit and the format of the tallit are of post-biblical, rabbinic origin and, though the Talmud discusses these matters, slightly different traditions have developed in different communities. However, the Bible is specific as to the purpose of these tzitzit, stating that “it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye go not about after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go astray; that ye may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy unto your God” (Numbers 15:39-40).
In some Jewish communities, a “tallit gadol” is given as a gift by a father to a son, a father-in-law to a son-in-law, or a teacher to a student. It might be purchased to mark a special occasion such as a wedding or a bar mitzvah. At Jewish wedding ceremonies, a “tallit gadol” is often used as a “chuppah” or wedding canopy.
In our case, we wanted to have a tallit made especially for me and which we could use as the chuppah for our wedding. A “chuppah” is a canopy under which a Jewish couple stands during their wedding ceremony. Our Rabbi’s wife, Robin, is a gifted and creative individual who had sown a tallit for each of her children during her pregnancies. She had discovered a woman living in Jerusalem who weaves the cloth following the Biblical requirements and who was able to accommodate the specifications that Robin had for each of her children. She gave the name and address of this weaver to us and, with Yariv’s help, I was confident that we could find her.
Yariv was not completely surprised that we were going to be married since he had secretly hoped for this event for many years. He was a slightly taken aback about going to all of the extra efforts to make a tallit. However, since we were making it especially for our wedding, he was happy to assist us in our quest. He called the weaver from his home in Hod Hasharon and we set an appointment for the next afternoon.
The following day was warm and beautifully sunny. We drove with Yariv to Jerusalem and, of course, managed to get lost in the warrens of shops and streets near the Old City. It was actually quite enjoyable driving through the small streets, peering into the small, recessed shops whose storefronts presented the type of goods sold there. Finally, after many turns and retracing of our steps, we found the small shop, Shizre Kodes.
The weaver, Carine Kleiman, was working at her loom which we could see in the rear section of the shop. It looked like a lovely setting for her work with lots of natural light and open on the side for the breezes. Her husband, Robert Kleiman, attended to the business aspects such as prices, taxes, insurance, and shipping.
After the introductions, we explained what we wanted. They showed us several tallitot which had been previously woven. However, none of these, although beautiful, were quite what we had envisioned, so we sat with the weaver herself to design my tallit. Carine was very creative and we quickly decided on the size, colors and material, the style of the crown, and, most importantly, would she be able to finish the task in time for a wedding date. She assured us that there was sufficient time. We concluded our business there and, with smiles all around, drove away.
We spent the rest of the afternoon at an Arabic restaurant where Yariv had spent many hours during his time as Minister of Sport for Israel. In fact, he and the proprietor had known each other for more than 40 years. Needless to say, the food was delicious and, of course, we stuffed ourselves on hummus, pita, tahini, falafels, eggplant dishes, olives, and many other traditional Middle Eastern foods. So much for our diets! Ann and I laughed and, as each of us ate another falafel, promised ourselves that we would be better behaved tomorrow.
Our last meeting was on the afternoon of our flight. We went to visit Yariv and Aviva at their home in Hod-Hasharon. We had a lovely time sharing Aviva’s homemade cake and cookies with coffee and tea. We discussed some of the memories of my exploits as Yariv’s athlete and of the memorable competitions we had experienced together. He was almost as happy that afternoon in Hod-Hasharon when we talked about the time in Greece as he had been in Athens in the ancient marble stadium when I broke the Israeli record which qualified me to go to the Rome Olympic Games. We reminded each other about various track meets or cities, countries, or athletes that were part of our background of Coach and athlete.
The four of us laughed about some of the things we had experienced on our trips together. We recalled the scene in Fairbanks, Alaska when a moose moseyed down the street towards us apparently without a care in the world. Each of us had been flabbergasted at this unusual sight which, at least for us with no previous experiences in the wilds of Alaska, was astonishing. Since Yariv and Aviva had been traveling from Israel for about 36 hours, they were sure they were either in a trance or a dream. Most assuredly there are no moose in Israel!
Two days later, we had zipped over the edge of a glacier in a helicopter, rose up over the clouds to see the sun-drenched peak of Mount Denali, and flew over a grizzly bear with two cubs. Another day, we sailed up to the edge of the glacier and watched it “calf” some huge blocks of ice. We flew over the Brooks Range, where we were as high as some of the mountain-climbing Dall sheep. The ones we saw, at nearly eye-level, looked back at us with disinterest. We landed beyond the Arctic Circle and were “awarded” our certificate for crossing this boundary.
From the miracles of the land near the Arctic Circle, we transported our memories to the southernmost state, Hawaii. We remembered our trip to Hawaii with its warm, beautiful beaches and delicious fruits. One of our adventures was to the national park on the big island of Hawaii which, at that time, was experiencing a lava flow from one of the active erupting volcanos. In those day, the park service carefully monitored visitors near the coastal area where the lava flowed to the ocean. We walked on the black, newly-cooled hardened lava and, where it was possible to look down into the cracks in the lava, we watched, in fascination, as hot molten lava flowed two feet below. It was an amazing experience to be at a place where the Earth was being changed and recreated before our eyes and under our feet.
On the last morning, Aviva, Ann, and I waited in the lobby for Yariv only to discovered that he was still in his bathing suit swinging in a hammock. None of that high-pressure suit and tie experience in Hawaii for him! It was with sincere regret that we had to leave that tropical paradise.
Although we were enjoying sharing these memorable moments of times and trips, eventually, the time came for Ann and I to leave for the airport for our flight to America. We said our “goodbyes” and Yariv walked out to our rental car with us. As we drove up the small hill away from him, Yariv stood on the sidewalk and waved to us. We waved our hands out of the car windows and blew kisses to him in return.
After we had returned to California, we began to learn that everything up until now had been the easy part! The real adventure of the “Wedding” was just beginning. The first thing we discovered was that the Ritz Carlton required all weddings to be administered by a “wedding coordinator.” None of the bride and her mother running the show. I guess the Ritz Carlton must have had some horror stories in the past for them to require a professional wedding coordinator. We were quite puzzled since we had never been in this situation. What is a wedding coordinator and where do you find such a person, we wondered?
We asked the hotel if they could recommend anyone on their list who they felt would be the best person for them and us to work with on our wedding. They suggested Ms. Barbara Wallace who had an office in Corona del Mar which was not far from where we lived. We contacted her and agreed to meet at her office.
At our first meeting with Barbara, she showed us some examples of weddings that she had coordinated. We told her that we had already decided on the Ritz Carlton and had selected a 5:00 pm time. We needed her for everything else including, invitations, flowers, and all of the other details. We decided that she would work with Ann on the details about food, flowers, invitations, etc. and that I would be in charge of the entertainment and photography including video. At that time, Ann and I were completely oblivious to the amount of work and the details that went into a wedding. In hindsight, we exemplified the concept that “ignorance is bliss”.
At the end of the meeting, Barbara asked me if I had any more questions. So, I said, “Yes, I have one request. “Could we change the glorious view of the Pacific Ocean in the background to a cemetery instead?” For a moment, she was quiet and you could imagine the thoughts whirling in her brain as to how to handle this crazy request. Then, we all burst into laughter.
There were many things to do. Ann wanted a unique wedding design or logo combing a heart and a Jewish star. The plan was to use that logo on all our printed materials, such as the invitations, the wedding booklet, and any other materials that we needed. Fortunately, her brother-in-law, George Lentz, is an artist. So, Ann told him her idea and left it to his imagination to create it. He designed several different logos, but We used this simple but elegant design for nearly everything associated with our wedding.
Another issue which we had discussed with Barbara Wallace was wedding gifts. We were certainly not going to have gift bags filled with candy or other nonsense which has become the currently fashionable thing to do. Our guests were older, intelligent, and had no need for candy or silly things. We decided to give each attendee a gift bag with a book, chosen for them specifically, and a coffee mug with our wedding logo glazed on it. Our idea was that after the wedding, each guest could sip their beverage of choice while reading their book and remember us and the wedding.
The next step in the wedding adventure, then, was to create coffee mugs with this logo on them. Ann and her sister, Barbara, searched for a potter in North Carolina who would be willing to create coffee mugs with our logo on the side of each one.
The town of Seagrove is considered “The Handmade Pottery Capital of the United States”. Seagrove is located northwest of Pinehurst, N.C. and it is a beautiful drive going from shop to shop. The farmlands in the area are gorgeous and it is easy to slip back in time to imagine what rural central North Carolina looked like not that many years ago. The first immigrant potters were mostly English and German arriving in the late 18th century from Pennsylvania and Virginia. They found that the soil was good for both farming and pottery.
Ann and her sister located Kovack Pottery in Seagrove which advertised that all of their pottery was hand-made on site. The potter, Michelle Craig, was reluctant initially to take on the project. Her concern was what would she do with the rejected mugs which had flaws or imperfections. She would have to make more than the 50 we had requested since the nature of hand-made pottery included some errors. It would cost her money for these mistakes. She was a perfectionist and insisted that to have 50 perfect mugs, she would have to produce at least 75 and that we would have to buy the extra ones. After all, she explained, no stranger driving around the area looking at pottery by local artisans would come into her shop and buy a mug with our logo on it. Not only did her logic made complete sense but we did not want random people drinking out of our special wedding mugs. Ann told her that we would buy everything she made, including the mistakes. As long as we could have 50 good ones before the wedding date, we were happy.
Michelle finally agreed to “throw” coffee mugs with our logo painted on them. She promised to have the mugs completed in time for the wedding since she had a few months during which she would need to experiment with selecting the clay, throwing and molding the mug, replicating the design on the sides, glazing and baking them in the kiln. After Michelle had perfected the necessary steps, she could create them on a regular schedule for production. She was as good as her word and the finished production of all of our wedding mugs arrived three weeks before the wedding.
Another of Ann’s tasks was to select a book for each of the wedding guests based on their specific interests and personalities. It was quite a task since each of our friends had their individual interests and passions. The interests ranged from golf to history and from gardening to biographies. It turned into an enjoyable quest trying to find the perfect choice for each of our friends. The idea was that each person could spend time after the wedding, reading a book and enjoying a beverage with unique reminders of Gideon, Ann, and their wedding.
During the time that Ann was working on her tasks, I had my list of things that needed to be completed. One of these was a dual task: broadcast the wedding in real time and copy everything onto backup audio-visual disks. The second task was to combine a photo slide show with pictures of our lives and create a musical accompaniment of my favorite Israeli music.
Barbara Wallace located a professional videographer to record the entire wedding. Since I was interested in this area as an integral part of our software applications as well as a personal interest, I was aware that Microsoft had introduced the Multimedia Version 10. I explained to the videographer about this software and described to him how it was possible to stream video directly to the net if you had an IP address. All we needed was a T1 line and I could program the video to a specific IP.
The videographer was Adrian Collins who owned his company, Highland Pictures. We met and I described my idea that in addition to filming and recording the wedding, I wanted to broadcast it live so that all of our friends around the World could “participate” in our wedding even if they were unable to attend in person. Adrian was quite excited about this concept since he was young, enjoyed new technology, and could anticipate interesting future business possibilities for himself.
We requested a T1 line from the Ritz and were pleased to learn that they had quite recently had one installed. The technicians at the Ritz were very helpful although they were unfamiliar with the application that I intended on using. Hotels traditionally only needed to provide audio and/or visual aids at business meetings or loudspeakers for weddings and bar mitzvahs. Although they did not completely understand why I needed it, they were very helpful in working with me and the videographer.
Adrian and I spent time and effort to develop and perfect the application. Hardware and software people are more than familiar with the many difficulties that arise in spite of what the manufacturer describes as “simple and easy to use”. It usually requires time and ingenuity in large doses. It was fun to listen to Adrian talking to his mother in Quebec, Canada as we “tested” our wedding broadcast. His mother was excited to be included as one of our out-of-town wedding guests. Eventually, we were able to “debug” the systems and were able to broadcast our wedding, the first one ever, and share our happy events with friends in Israel, South Africa, Peru, Switzerland, Denmark, Japan, and one “adopted” mother in Quebec. It was amazing, in the days and weeks after our wedding, to receive e-mail messages from friends around the world who had watched on-line. Most of them were happy but astonished that we had finally done this! (In the fourteen years since our wedding, filming an event and projecting it to a world-wide audience has become common. In more amazing is that films can be sent from any smart phone or other devices. But in 2004, ours was the first wedding to be projected in real-time across this medium.)
Ann had frequent meetings with Barbara Wallace. Another early activity was with Ms. Zoe Bachelor who specialized in printing reception and wedding invitations. Zoe would need to incorporate the logo on the invitation, the reply card, the “Ufruf” announcement, and the envelopes. She would also need to print the “booklet” that the Rabbi and his wife, Robin, had suggested would be helpful for people attending their first Jewish wedding. Ann, Robin, and the Rabbi spent many hours accumulating interesting facts and descriptions so that our guests would be able to understand many of the customs within a Jewish wedding.
Another meeting involved a “sampling” and selecting the food choices at the Ritz Carlton. Ann, Robin, and our dear friend, Neani Johnson, were able to taste and decide which salad to have, what entrees would be the most appropriate, types of wine, table cloth and chair choices, and so on. By the time that we had reached these steps in the details of wedding planning and decisions, Ann and I were both on sensory overload. Neither of us I had ever imagined the minutiae that is involved with wedding planning.
Although Ann and I had known each other for many years, had traveled extensively for business and pleasure, had friends and acquaintances everywhere, we decided to have a relatively small wedding. We wanted the event to be fun for everyone and, if there are too many people, the event becomes unmanageable rather than enjoyable. We decided that the perfect number would be thirty-five.
In spite of having grown up in Israel and participating in many Jewish traditions at my school and with my friends, my father had not raised me with any synagogue-based practices or knowledge about them. I was a typical secular Israeli Jew. However, I wanted to demonstrate respect for my heritage and both of us wanted to have a traditional Jewish wedding.
In traditional Jewish literature, marriage is actually called “kiddushin” which translates as “sanctification” or “dedication”. “Sanctification” indicates that what is happening is not just a social arrangement or contractual agreement, but a spiritual bonding and the fulfillment of a “mitzvah” or a Divine commandment. “Dedication” indicates that the couple now has an exclusive relationship that involves total dedication of the bride and groom to each other to the extent of them becoming, as the Kabbalists state, “one soul in two bodies.”
To understand Jewish weddings, it helps to understand the differences among Jews and Jewish observances. Within the world’s Jewish population, which is considered a single self-identifying ethnicity, there are distinct ethnic divisions. Most of these ethnic divisions primarily result from the geographic branching of an originating Israelite population and subsequent independent evolutions. Jewish people divide themselves into Ashkenazi Jews (descended from Eastern Europeans), African Jews (Ethiopian, Nigerian, Ugandan), Sephardic Jews from Iberia (Spain and Portugal), Indian, Bukharan, Persian, Iraqi, Yemenite, and Mizrahi (Eastern or Middle Eastern Jews [not of Spanish/Portuguese or Sephardic origin]). Each group has very different customs which are evident in the celebration of holidays and life cycle events like weddings.
Another element of Judaism to understand is the division into three basic groups: Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform. Additionally, weddings within each group are influenced by whether the customs are Ashkenazi or Sephardic.
Despite all these differences, Jewish weddings still have much in common. The Rabbis who wrote Jewish law, “Halakha”, made it easy for couples to marry with minimal requirements. A Kosher Jewish wedding may consist of the following: the bride accepts an object worth more than a dime from the groom, the groom recites a ritual formula of acquisition and consecration. These two acts are witnessed and that is it. Everything else is a custom including the canopy (“Chuppah”), the seven wedding blessings, the breaking of glass, and even the presence of a Rabbi.
The wedding invitation may be a two-sided text. The left side of the text will be in Hebrew and the right side in English. The Jewish invitation often does not “request the honor of your presence” but to “dance at” or to “share in the joy of.” The invitation reflects the celebration of marriage and the participation of the guests. In recalling the tradition of giving to the poor during times of personal joy, some couples may include a note indicating in lieu of a gift for themselves that a donation be made to a charity. Very often the wording includes biblical text.
The marriage document, “Ketubah,” is the contract written in Aramaic which outlines the bridegroom’s responsibility for and to the bride. In ancient Arabia, it was the custom of providing the wife with a dowry to protect the wife in the event of her becoming widowed or divorced. This written obligation entitled her to receive a certain sum from his estate in the case of his death or the case of divorce. At that time, a minimum obligation was two hundred silver denarii at the marriage of a virgin and one hundred at the marriage of a widow.
Despite its testimony that the groom has “acquired” the bride, the ketubah is all about the bride’s rights and her willingness to take part in the marriage. In fact, the ketubah belongs solely to the bride and is hers to keep as proof of her rights and the groom’s responsibilities to her under Jewish law. The ketubah is signed by the bridegroom and two witnesses. Although this custom continues, the document has little legal significance in many countries.
After the ketubah is signed, the Rabbi, the bridegroom, and guests participate in the “Badekan” (veiling) ceremony. This custom comes from the biblical story of Jacob who worked for seven years to marry Rachel only to discover her father had substituted the older, blind Leah, under heavy veiling, as the woman he actually married. Because of this ancient trickery, bridegrooms come to look at their bride before the ceremony and physically place the face veil over her. Once the bride is veiled, the ceremony is ready to begin.
The order of the procession is the Rabbi walks down the aisle followed by the groomsmen, one at a time, usually standing to the left of the chuppah (canopy). The “chuppah” is a decorated piece of cloth held aloft as a symbolic home for the new couple. Weddings are frequently held out of doors, under the stars, as a sign of the blessing given by G-d to the patriarch Abraham that his children shall be “as the stars of the heavens.” However, even wedding held indoors incorporate the chuppah for its symbolism.
The chuppah can be supported by four poles in stanchions or held by four men during the ceremony. The chuppah seems to have been derived from the canopied litter which in ancient time was occupied by the bride during the procession. It symbolically establishes a house in public to represent that their lives will be spent together.
Following the Rabbi, the best man walks down the aisle alone and goes under the chuppah on the left. The bridegroom follows and goes under the chuppah to the left of the best man.
The bride comes down the aisle next, escorted by her parents. They stop just before the chuppah and take their seats. The bride takes three steps on her own, symbolizing her decision to enter the marriage, and the bridegroom comes to escort her under the chuppah. The bridegroom turns as he joins her, so she is on his right.
When the couple first enters the chuppah, the bride circles the groom seven times. The seven circles represent the seven wedding blessings, the seven days of creation, demonstrating that the groom is the center of her world, and symbolizes the fact that the bride and groom are about to create their own “new world” together.
The kiddushin or betrothal ceremony takes place under the chuppah. It begins with greetings, a blessing over the wine, and a sip taken by the bride and groom. The next step is “something of value”. In ancient times, “something of value” often was a coin but today it usually is a ring. The ring must be solid with no stones or gems and it must, at the ceremony, be the bridegroom’s property. Only one item of value must be given to the bride by the groom as required by Jewish law. The ring represents the wholeness achieved through marriage and a hope for an unbroken union. The ring may be engraved inside.
The groom recites an ancient Aramaic phrase as he places the wedding band on his bride’s right index finger -- the finger believed to be directly connected to the heart. The bridegroom declares, “Behold, thou art consecrated to me with this ring, according to the law of Moses and Israel.” In a double-ring ceremony, the bride also places a ring on the groom’s index finger while repeating a feminine form of the Aramaic phrase, or a biblical verse from Hosea or Song of Songs. After the rings are given, the ketubah is then read aloud in English and Aramaic.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Rabbi will ask the best man to place a wine glass, wrapped in a white cloth under the bridegroom’s right foot. There are nearly as many interpretations of the meaning of the breaking of the glass as there are Rabbis. The breaking of the glass symbolizing, among other things: the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem; a representation of the fragility of human relationships; that even in the midst of the happy occasion, we should not forget that sorrow and death are also ahead; and a reminder that marriage changes the lives of individuals forever.
After the glass is broken, the guests shout “Mazel Tov,” clap their hands, embrace and sing as the couple departs. The shattered glass may then be kept as a keepsake. The bride and bridegroom will kiss immediately after being declared “man and wife” and then run up the aisle into a “Yichud.”
The Yichud is a brief seclusion where the couple can spend a few moments together before joining their guests. For couples who have fasted until the ceremony, this would be their opportunity to break the fast with a small meal of their favorite food. Even couples who have not fasted appreciate the few moments along in what is usually a hectic and emotionally packed day.
Because of this brief seclusion, Jewish weddings usually do not have receiving lines. After the Yichud, the bridal couple is introduced as husband and wife. They may be greeted with a toast or a shower of rice.
These Jewish wedding traditions were important to both Ann and me. We proceeded with the planning so that we could enjoy and fulfill each part of these traditions. As October came closer, we had successfully solved each task. Barbara Wallace was a fantastic organizer and had reduced the stress on us to include only important decisions. She kept us informed about the people who had replied that they would attend; she had the gift bags prepared and labeled; she continued to work with the staff at the Ritz-Carlton regarding the food, rooms, outdoor setting, the musicians, and the flower delivery.
Another Jewish tradition we observed occurred on the Shabbat before the wedding at the synagogue. The bridegroom is honored by being called to read from the Torah (called an “Aliyah”) in the synagogue. This ceremony is called an “Ufruf”. After the bridegroom completes the reading of the Torah portion, in keeping with a custom in the synagogue, members of the congregation throw candy and nuts at the bridegroom to wish the couple a sweet and fertile life. It is important to time the reading correctly so the bridegroom and the Rabbi can duck behind the podium as the candy bombardment is launched! Another part of the joy is when the Rabbi signals the children of the congregation to retrieve the candy.
Another of our tasks had been to find the perfect ketubah for us. This particular task had been an interesting activity. There were thousands of ketubah designs and most of the artwork was exquisite. After many days of searching, we eventually found a beautiful, colorful one that also incorporated directions for north, south, east, and west. Since we both love to travel, we felt that this ketubah not only represented our love for each other but also our connection to the parts of the world that we had shared together.
Finally, October 17th arrived. We woke in the morning to pouring rain! For the first time in 30 years and, contrary to all of our databases, we were looking out of the windows at precipitation and there were lots of it. However, as we drove to the Ritz Carlton shortly after noon, the sky was struggling to clear. By the time we arrived at the hotel, the sky was bright blue but with an abundance of clouds. Barbara suggested that we move the wedding inside since the weather looked so threatening. I resisted the idea and said, “If G_d wants to make us wet, we will all be wet.” Perhaps G_d must have been listening, since a few hours before the ceremony, the sky cleared at the hotel but provided a magnificent display of clouds and shafts of golden sunlight on the distant horizon.
Ann and I checked into hour hotel room so that we could prepare for the ceremony. One of our most important tasks had been to lose weight and both of us had accomplished it. I was able to wear my tuxedo in which, Ann assured me, that I looked “terrific. With her help, I was quickly into my tuxedo and off to meet Adrian, the videographer, and coordinate with Barbara Wallace any last details.
Ann had rejected the commercially available choices of wedding dresses which she declared were antebellum styles from “Gone with the Wind.” Instead, she had selected a pattern, found the best materials, and had her dress sewn by an accomplished dress maker. It was a smooth, straight line design which was quite fitting for her. I was really happy with her choice and it was a perfect fit for her.
Ann was equally quick at changing into her dress. None of those butterflies and nerves for her! Suddenly, she received a call from Barbara Wallace asking where the challah for the meal was. We had forgotten them in Coto. (Maybe she did have butterflies.) She quickly went downstairs and found our dear friends, John and Lanelle Probe. They had been to our home many times since John had worked with me since his days at NASA. Now he worked for us in our San Diego office. They were happy to help, so off they went to get the challah. They were perfect for this task since they were also good friends with our two German Shepherds! We would not have been able to send some strangers to our house unless they wanted to be eaten. Fortunately, they were able to drive to our house, retrieve the challah, and deliver it to the hotel in time for the dinner. (They missed the beginning of the wedding since we had to start on time in order to complete the ceremony before the sun set. However, their children in San Diego were watching the event on-line and described everything to them on their cell phone while they were driving back to the Ritz Carlton.)
While John and his wife were driving to retrieve the bread, Ann and I were greeting our other guests. What a treat it was for us to connect with each one of these dear and cherished friends. We met Tony and his brother, Kevin, from South Africa and then our two Japanese friends, Jin and Yuki Hisa. Jin and Yuki had worn traditional Japanese wedding attire which was quite unique. We had old friends from graduate school, friends from the synagogue, California friends, and even some lawyers…the good ones! Although we had invited only a small group, they were dearly loved and close to our hearts.
At this point, the Rabbi informed everyone that it was time to begin with the signing of the Ketubah. As Rabbi Einstein explained to our guests, we had two steps to complete. The first step was for the State of California which required that we have a license to marry in this state. Ann and I had gone to the Courthouse in Orange on August 3, 2004, to obtain our marriage license. We had waited for about fifteen minutes before we were called into the Clerk’s office. While we sat in front of the Clerk, we noticed music in the background. It was ABBA. This must be a uniquely special coincidence for that particular music to be playing in the Courthouse as we prepared to receive our license. The Clerk agreed as we explained our history with this musical group.
We gave Rabbi Einstein the California marriage license. He instructed our witnesses, John Soja, my best man, and Barbara Lentz, Ann’s sister, where to sign. After Rabbi Einstein had completed signing his portion, he informed the guests that we would now proceed with the Jewish portions of the wedding ceremony.
Rabbi Einstein explained to the group of wedding guests about the meaning and purpose of the Ketubah and what we were doing. First, Ann and I had to sign the document. Then our two witnesses, Marc Newmann and Bernard Kessler, signed it. The Rabbi verified that each step was correct and then he signed the Ketubah.
Following the signing of the Ketubah was the “badekan” ceremony. Our guests gathered to watch as the Rabbi described the purpose. Gideon was able to identify Ann as the woman he was planning to marry and then, with assistance from the Rabbi’s wife and her sister, the veil was brought forward over the bride. Now we were ready to proceed with the wedding.
The guests went outside and found seats under “our” tree. They waited patiently for the ceremony to begin while enjoying the music played by a harp and a flute. At the same time, the four men who were to hold the chuppah poles went out. These were our dear friends, Jim Weisz, Stan Simants, Jeremy Wise, and Bob Wainwright.
Barbara Wallace and the Rabbi prepared the wedding party in the proper order. First, the Rabbi walked to the chuppah, turned and waited for us. John Soja, my best man, and I then walked up together to the chuppah. Fortunately, John was holding the ring since I had no confidence in my nervous and shaky fingers.
Finally, it was time for Ann to walk to the chuppah escorted by her brother, Marshall, and her sister, Barbara. To my eyes, she looked beautiful and I was glad that I had finally proposed to this amazing person.
When Ann arrived at the chuppah, her siblings stepped aside and she walked under the chuppah with me. Then she walked around me seven times. Not surprisingly, a bride can easily lose count so there is usually someone, in Ann’s case, the Rabbi’s wife, who counts the number of circles. This assistant is especially helpful since the bride is frequently concentrating on not tripping on her dress instead of counting the circles. Fortunately, there were no mishaps with tripping and after she had completed the seven circles, we stood together under the chuppah facing the Rabbi.
The kiddushin began with the Rabbi reciting the prayers, blessing the wine which Ann and I both sipped. Then came the exchange of “something of value”. In our case, we had wedding rings made in South Africa by the jeweler, Michael Solomon, who had also made the engagement ring. Michael Solomon is quite the romantic and he made our rings from the same block of gold. They were yellow gold on the outside with white gold in the center. I placed her ring on Ann’s right index finger and repeated the Aramaic phrase that accompanies this task. Ann then placed my ring on my right index finger and repeated the Aramaic phrase which was similar to the one that I had said.
The Rabbi then read the Ketubah in both Hebrew and English. Following this reading, Rabbi Einstein includes an opportunity for the bride and groom to tell each other about their love for one another. Previously, he had each of us write these thoughts and share them with him. He had told us that rather than have us read these thoughts, that he would do the reading. He explained that, in his experience, the two people were rarely able to read them without crying so he read each of the statements on their behalf.
Rabbi Einstein began reading our documents. He read to me what Ann had written:
Adorable, loveable, funny, intelligent, fantastic, and charming. This is Gideon. This is the man I love. Why do I love you? I won’t count all the ways, but there are two important ones: you make me laugh and you make me think.
You are always thinking, which is admirable, but it’s the way that you consider things that makes you special. It’s not just the obvious method or the way everyone else approaches a problem; you consider many different alternatives and then conclude that logic always prevails. You’re intuitive, reasonable, and creative. Remember when you were flying on the KC 135, or the Vomit Comet as it’s frequently called? You concluded that the expensive device which NASA had purchased to determine when the plane speed equaled that of gravity was subject to extreme vibration problems. So you held a pencil until it floated and used that to begin the zero gravity experiments. Logic prevailed and the simplest technique worked. If you don’t know the mathematical solution to a problem, your intuition and experience will suggest a rationale. Invariably, there’s a mathematician or physicist who derives formulas that verify your idea as accurate. You always say that you are a talented integrator, but for that, you must be smart enough to know what you want integrated and who has the right talent.
You have always loved to study: biomechanics led you to computers which directed your thinking to software; physiology developed into the study of how the body moves; film cameras became digital cameras and that led to the complex integration of cameras, computers, printers, scanners, and finally digital photography. You have always been a student with depth. Now, you’re stretching your mind by adding history and the theater! After three years at Christ Church, Oxford University, you’re beginning to love history (‘I’m so excited about that!!). In addition, you’ve added London theater to your learning list!
Travel doesn’t necessarily require thinking, but we always study and learn where ever we go. Originally, we were working and added the fun, leisure parts to the business. In recent years, we have historical and geographical overlays to each place we go and expand our minds while we’re there.
There’s never a dull moment with you. I read that a person laughs at something that is unexpected. You are always doing and/or saying the unexpected! You make silly jokes, funny faces, tell stories about experiences, and say outrageous things. Your smile and the twinkle in your eyes are infectious. I never know what funny thing you’re going to do next or say so I’m surprised and amused every day. Just walking through the airport will be a trip of humor for you. You have that funny little walk that cracks me up every time. You have such a clever mind and a quick wit so that you can always make a joke any time, place or circumstance.
They say that a Sabra, a native Israeli, is hard on the outside and soft on the inside and this description fits you perfectly. You can be firm, confident, and determined. We started our biomechanical business when we were graduate students with only $5.00 and a great idea! With charm and charisma, you convinced many large, well-known companies to hire us to do their R&D testing. For example, in a study on sound, we had a world-renowned violinist playing his instrument in front of our office wearing only his concert shoes and underwear. During an experiment to ascertain if there was a product defect by the manufacturer, we had gymnastic teams doing stunts on force platforms to measure the landing forces. We even had an extensive project to test feminine hygiene products. Somehow you convinced even the most skeptical company executives that we could help them improve their products.
On the soft side, you are a very sensitive, emotional individual. You can cry at movies, events, places, and for people. You also have a special capacity to know the best thing to do in a difficult situation. I remember the time we were waiting in line at John Wayne Airport for a flight to the East Coast. In line ahead of us were a young Marine and his wife. When it was their turn to buy his ticket, the airline counter agent refused to accept the young soldier’s check. The Marine and his wife plead their case but the airlines assured them his check would not be accepted with his military ID. He was on his way home to see his mother before being deployed overseas. The plane was scheduled to depart before he could go to the bank for a cashier’s check. We listened to the discussion, until you turned to me and we knew exactly what to do. You told the airline agent that we would pay for the Marines ticket. The Marine, his wife, the airline agent, and the people in line behind us were astonished at your offer. The Marine was so thankful and appreciative and gave us the check for the ticket price. Then you purchased your own ticket and left for your trip. Subsequently, we called the bank, verified that the check was good, and then we tore it up.
Thirty-five years ago, I was surprised after being your graduate school friend for two years, when the proverbial light bulb came on over my head and I discovered that I loved my best friend and fellow student. Since then, I’ve loved you will all my heart, my mind, and my being. Each and every day I tell you that I love you more than yesterday. I don’t know how it’s possible to love you more each day, but I do. You make me a better person than I am without you, you give my world vast dimensions of joy, creativity, and happiness, and you let me love you. You are my love and my life.
Rabbi Einstein then read to Ann what I had written.
To my Darling and Life Partner: Ann
I wish words could be seen three-dimensionally. The third dimension is the unseen feeling that I wish I could express and do not have enough words in that dimension to say it.
From the first time I saw you working in the Motor Integration laboratory at the University of Massachusetts, I knew that there was something in your soul which was unexplainable. I was in awe when you were able to answer all the difficult questions by our Statistical Professor when the rest of the class looked at you with surprise. I remember approaching you, without ever knowing your name, and asked you how you knew the answers, and what did you do to know them. You answered me with an expression like “Go to the library and find out for yourself.” Wow, I thought! Who is that girl? The beautiful blonde with the great body, wearing a mini skirt, who blew me off like that?
I was so lucky to be officially introduced to you later at the University by our dear mutual friend, Jim Sallidas. I remember he told you: THIS is crazy Gideon. You responded with: Oh, this is the crazy Gideon that you have been telling me about for such a long time? I was so lucky to be crazy then and I continue to be crazy about you.
So, 35 years have passed and what a life we have had together. We studied together, we traveled together, we created together, we invented together, we laughed and cried together. So, in 35 years there is nothing that we haven’t done together. It would take books to describe all our experiences and we haven’t reached the end yet. We are just starting now.
Now 35 years later, I love you more than ever for all the reasons that made me fall in love with you in the first place and all the other fantastic qualities you had and still have. As I said before, I love you more than words can say because there are no words to describe all the wonderful things about you and the marvelous life we have together.
My darling, I am so lucky to have you and thank God that He blessed me with you to share my life.
I love you
Although Ann and I were teary eyed, it was Rabbi Einstein who had difficulty reading our texts without crying. It was very touching to us that our thoughts and our devotion were so meaningful to him as well.
The wedding continued with the last steps. The “sheva b’rachot”, or seven blessings, consist of praise for G_d, a prayer for peace in Jerusalem, and good wishes for the couple. Then John Soja gave me the “glass” in a white bag for me to step on to break. I smashed my foot down as hard as I could since I was nervous that I might miss the bag or not break the glass. Happily, there was a resounding “pop” and everyone shouted “mazel tov” or “good luck.”
Ann and I rushed down the aisle and into a nice quite room just inside the building for the Yichud. Neither one of us was hungry but it was nice to have a quiet moment. Ann immediately took off her shoes to massage her feet. When you are most frequently in sneakers, heels can be a rude awakening for the feet.
After a few moments, we emerged together to greet all our friends as husband and wife. We took lots of pictures with each of them amid the happiness surrounding this event.
Marshall and Barbara, Ann’s Brother and Sister, with us
Barbara Wallace announced that dinner was ready and for us to proceed into the room and locate our name tag on the plate in front of our seat. For our wedding, we made a break from the traditional setting. We had arranged one large table, forming a continuous rectangular rather than the traditional dais with the wedding party in front of round tables of wedding guests. In our previous experiences, there are numerous round tables for the guests and a raised dais for the wedding party. Usually, one of those guest tables has lots of fun and enjoys a hilariously good time while the rest are bored or falling asleep. To break from that arrangement, not only did we have everyone sitting at the same table, we separated the couples from each other. Wives and husbands were not seated next to each other but were placed with interesting new people to meet and share stories. Our reasoning was that after fifteen years or more of married life, on their way home that evening, they could each tell about the new people and exciting events that they had shared.
Our guests walked into the dining room, found their seats, and were soon opening their gift bag to discover their book and mug. I had assembled many of my favorite Israeli performances in a computer file which I had set to play as background music. The table was decorated with flowers arranged in small vases in front of most of the guest settings in addition to small votive candles. We had decided to have lots of flowers spread around the table rather than a few enormous arrangements. The idea was to have flowers everywhere and, at the end of the meal, guests could take the flowers home if they wished.
Shortly after we all sat down, the Rabbi began the prayers which precede the meal. First came the prayer over the challah which had finally arrived, thanks to John and Lanelle. After his concluding prayers, the Rabbi had a few kind words about Ann and I before he was able to sit and enjoy his meal. I am sure he was tired and hungry after such a long day and must have been looking forward to finally beginning his Sabbatical.
Ann stood to say a few words. She held up her notes and promised the group that she would not talk too much. She thanked everyone for coming, announced that the South Africans had traveled the farthest, 10, 355 miles and that our Japanese friends had flown 5,474 miles. In addition, she explained that there are friends and there is family and the best combination is when your family consists of all your friends. She said that we were so happy that our family of friends could share this important day with us. Also, she thanked Rabbi Einstein for delaying his Sabbatical because, otherwise, we would have had to delay our wedding.
Ann had contacted Michael Solomon, our jeweler, months before the wedding to make a few gifts. She had him make and engrave silver bracelets for her sister, Barbara, Neiani Johnson, who had helped her with so many things, and Robin Einstein, who had been invaluable with many of the Jewish details.
For me, she had designed a key chain which had yellow gold on the sides and white gold in the center. This was the same theme as our wedding rings with yellow gold on the edges and white gold in the center. Vertically arranged in the middle, were my initials “G,” “B”, and “A” in raised gold letters. On the reverse side, our wedding logo of the heart and Jewish star was engraved. Underneath the logo, engraved in Hebrew, was “I love you” and the Hebrew date of our wedding.
I stood to thank everyone for coming. I mentioned that we could have invited much more people but, since we had waited thirty-five years, many of them were no longer with us. But we appreciated those that came to share our joy on this special day. I explained about the musical choices and that I had arranged a large screen in the corner of the room which had photographs taken throughout our lives. Another feature I noted was that when you marry in your sixties, many of the pictures are in black and white.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal and wine. There was buzzing throughout the room as people met and shared ideas while chatting with new acquaintances. After dinner and dessert, our smiling guests thanked us for the lovely event and left to drive home.
Barbara Wallace, Ann, and I gathered to decide things such as what to do with the vases of flowers, the candles, and the gifts. We had her put everything in boxes and gave her the keys to our car so that the hotel staff, under her guidance, could take care of these remaining items.
At this point, the bride and groom normally go to their room. However, I informed Ann that we were going out drinking with our friends, Bob Wainwright and the South Africans! She said, “Oh goodie!” so the five of us when to our hotel room so we could wear street clothes instead of wedding attire.
We drove to a local bar for a celebratory drink. We agreed to meet in Coto de Caza the following day around noon since we needed to work with them before they had to return home. Since traveling from South Africa is quite a long trip, it seemed only fair that we accommodate them. Ann and I decided that we could enjoy our Honeymoon at a later time. The boys took us back to the Ritz Carlton and they drove off to enjoy the rest of the night.
Ann and I went to our beautiful hotel room which had a balcony and a view of the ocean. We stepped outside to see the view for a moment. I have absolutely no recollection of anything after standing on the balcony with my darling wife. Ann told me the next day about everything that transpired subsequently. We went inside and I sat down on the edge of the bed. I said: “Ann….. I…. am…. so…. tired”. Following this announcement, I sagged back onto the pillow sound asleep. She had to take off my clothes, put on my T-shirt pajama, and get me under the covers. I remember none of these activities. She also told me that for the first time in the thirty-five years she had known me, I did not brush my teeth before going to bed.
This is the story of our wedding and I am happier today than I was then. I am unable to explain why the feeling is different since we had lived together for so long. But somehow being married to the woman I loved made me very happy. I had to include this event in my book because there would be no book at all without Ann. To have a partner that you share every part of your life with, the good and the bad, your strengths and weaknesses, and to have love be so strong throughout----that is a blessing and miracle that outshines all else.