(JTA) — The rain lasted all night, forcing the dance party to a nearby barn. But the bride saw the unexpected downpour as a blessing.
“In earthly Judaism, there is so much emphasis on praying for rain,” said Adi Aboody, who married Ophir Haberer on June 4 in Green Valley Farm and Mill in Sebastopol, Northern California. “If you took the logistical craziness out of it, it was magic.”
Aboody, 32, and Haberer, 31, are strong supporters of Land Judaism, a grassroots movement that seeks to center Jewish religious practice on the land. They met in 2015 through Desert Toraha San Francisco Bay Area organization that hosts festivalscamps and education programs for this growing community of land-centered Jews.
They are at least the ninth couple to meet through Wilderness Torah, which was founded in 2007.
“Our immersive programs have the most unique community and village building technology, rituals and celebrations,” said Simcha Schwartz, director of development for Wilderness Torah, who met his wife during the Passover festival in the desert of the organization. “This recipe nurtures genuine connection and vulnerability, and therefore love.”
Aboody and Haberer imbued their marriage with Jewish and earthly values.
Next to the chuppah were two altars, one displaying pictures of their ancestors and the other laden with local fruit and flowers, challah and stalks of wheat in honor of the Shavuot harvest festival, which began the same day. As the groom prepared to meet the bride before the ceremony, several men sounded the shofars, a frequent Torah ritual in the desert. In tribute to Haberer’s early childhood at Kibbutz Tzora in Israel, the couple wore flower crowns and dressed in all white. During the ceremony, led by a rabbinical student and mindfulness coach named Rebecca Schisler, the couple were wrapped in a tallit as a friend sang the priestly blessing and guests raised their hands to bless them. The night before, a lamb from a nearby farm had been cooked over a fire.
For many guests, this was their first experience with earthly Judaism, and attention to detail – from the ketubah, or marriage contract, made from specially purchased animal skin (illustrated by an artist friend and written by another, both women), to the knowledge of the farm on which the lamb had been raised – stood out.
“It wasn’t just us watching their love,” said Maytal Orevi, a friend of the bride’s family. “Although different worlds collided, they brought everyone in and invited us to slow down. We all need to be part of their world.
In 2016, after their first meeting, Aboody and Haberer both started working for Wilderness Torah and quickly became close friends. In addition to their love of the land, the two share Mizrachi and Ashkenazi heritages: Haberer’s mother is Moroccan-Israeli while his father is South African, and his family moved from Kibbutz Tzora to St. Louis when he was 5. Aboody’s father is Iraqi-Israeli and her mother, Cindy Paley, is a Yiddish singer; she grew up in the Los Angeles area.
They remained close even when they moved on to other work. Aboody now works as a doula, herbalist and outdoor educator, and Haberer is a permaculture consultant, in addition to leading groups for men interested in unpacking masculinity, such as an initiative for Shalom Bayit, a domestic violence prevention organization. , called “MenschUp”.
In 2021, they both reunited at a Wilderness Torah festival for Rosh Hashanah, sharing hopes for the new year in the same prayer circle.
“I was very clear that I wanted love, partnership and family,” Aboody said.
Haberer, sitting in the same circle and watching various young families wandering the park, realized that he did too.
“There was already this palpable tension there,” Aboody said, “like we realized if we wanted the same things at the same time…”
Three months later, Aboody was pregnant. Love, partnership and now family: what everyone had prayed for.
They decided to marry on Shavuot, the Jewish harvest festival that celebrates the “firstfruits” of the season, a particularly fitting occasion as they are expecting their first child.
This year, Shavuot began immediately after Shabbat. They signed the prenup on Friday afternoon, to avoid signing it on the holiday, and held a Kabbalat Shabbat prayer service on Friday evening.
After the service there was a henna party with song and dance, where some the guests wore Moroccan caftans and grooms had thick dabs of henna applied to their palms, to protect them from the evil eye. A Moroccan feast, much of it cooked by Haberer’s mother and aunts, was served.
Susan North Gilboa, a friend of the bride’s family, said as a more traditional Jew, she wondered about attending a wedding on Shavuot when, as with other holidays, there including on Shabbat, weddings are prohibited by Jewish law. But the Shavuot themes were woven “with such spirituality and genuine attention to tradition while bringing newness, that it felt so right to him.”
Although their romantic relationship has progressed rapidly, the couple see it as building on their six years of friendship. Haberer compared it to shmita, the biblical edict to let the land rest, or leave it fallow, every seven years. This year happens to be a shmita year, which the couple considered particularly appropriate.
“We’ve had six years to get to know each other as friends and support each other in our different relationships,” Haberer said. “On the first day of the seventh year, the shmita year, we see ourselves resting in a romantic partnership. We love that we started the shmita year this way.
This story is part of JTA’s Mazels series, which features unique and remarkable events in Jewish life, from births to b’nai mitzvahs to weddings and everything in between.
Mazels: Tell us about the stages of your life