The premarriage planning session was just coming to an end. I’d gone over all of the steps of the wedding with the couple, and the only point left to discuss was who would be walking the chassan and kallah to the chuppah.
There are various minhagim regarding who escorts the chassan and kallah to the chuppah. Some communities have the two mothers escort the kallah and the two fathers escorting the chassan. Other communities have the parents escorting their own child to the chuppah. Each minhag has its adherents and its sources.
The chassan says he’s sure his parents want to walk him down and we turned to the kallah for her approval. Chavaleh (name changed), in a very adamant voice totally out character for her, said, “I will not let my father walk me down to the chuppah.”
I was taken aback. I knew her parents had divorced when she was a little girl, but I was totally unprepared for her insistence that her father not “walk her down.”
I decided to contact her father to find out more. When he came to my office he presented himself as a concerned father. He confirmed for me that when Chavaleh was about five years old, he and his wife divorced and soon after he relocated to Eretz Yisrael and began a new family. He’d attempted to keep in touch as much as possible, he said, but admitted he was never able to visit as much as he would have liked. He realized he was guilty of being somewhat of an absentee father and that too often was simply not present to share in Chavaleh’s milestones.
He was ready to make amends, he stressed, and would even apologize to his daughter for his lack of presence as she was growing up. I was confident that things could be patched up between the two.
I arranged a meeting between Chavaleh and her father. As the three of us sat down in my office, however, I could feel the tension that filled the room. Nevertheless, we began to discuss the various options for her father’s participation in the wedding and more than once he commented how sorry he was that he hadn’t always been there for her in the past.
I offered various compromises but Chavaleh refused to budge. Finally, her father leaned toward Chavaleh and said in a voice choked with emotion and sadness, “Chavaleh, I know you harbor strong feelings about me. However, in two weeks you are getting married. I want to be there for you on your wedding day. Will you deny me the honor of being there for you at your chuppah?”
I was sure his sincere and heartfelt words had found their mark. But Chavaleh, who’d been quiet and tense throughout the meeting, looked at her father and stated emphatically, “You are not going to walk me down to my chuppah! You weren’t there for me when I needed you at my Chumash presentation in first grade. You weren’t there for me when I fell off my bike and broke my arm when I was nine. You weren’t there for me when I graduated high school. So even though now you want to be there for me, I don’t want you there.”
She burst into tears and ran out of the room.
“And Hashem said to Moshe ‘When I wanted (to reveal Myself to you) you did not want; now that you want to see Me, I do not want …’$$$separatequote$$$” (Brachos 7a).