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Everywhere I go I find a pal

Everywhere I go  I find a pal Everywhere I go  I find a pal

Peter Weinschenk, Editor, The Record-Review

The happy news in the Weinschenk home is that my son, Guthrie, 32, has announced he is engaged to be married.

My wife, Susan, and I are thrilled. Guthrie’s fiance, Alyse, is a peach.

Our home is now frothy with developing conversations about a Jewish wedding in June in Mosinee. There is ongoing, bubbly conversation about invitations, dinners, hotel accomodations, shuttles and all things matrimonial.

I have been given two jobs to prepare for the wedding. The first is to buy a new suit. The second is to make the chuppah.

A chuppah is the cloth-covered wooden structure under which the marriage couple stands during their ceremony. This bridal canopy is rich with symbolism. It recalls the tent of the biblical Abraham, famed for his hospitality. The tent is open on all sides, signalling a welcome to all. The chuppah also messages God’s presence at the wedding. It is said the divine Name hovers above the chuppah at a wedding, sanctifying the space below.

I am resigned to buying a new suit. I am excited, however, about actually making the chuppah.

I don’t know the first thing about such a project. I have many questions, including basic ones. How big will this thing be? What should it be made of ? How sturdy does it need to be?

I have been looking at pictures of chuppot (plural for chuppah) on the internet. There is a dizzying array of kinds and varieties. Some are rustic and simple. Others are complex and ornate.

I don’t think going to Home Depot and buying a bunch of PVC pipe is going to cut it.

The general drift of what I am seeing and reading is that a chuppah that is hand made out of birch sticks is a mitzvah, that is, a priceless gift.

This is where my design process is headed.

My idea is to harvest eight, maybe nine, slender birch trees, cut them to eight foot lengths, and then connect the ends to form a canopy. Maybe a mortise and tenon approach might work. Or maybe just drywall screws or lag bolts.

The idea is that this contraption has to be like a bedouin tent. It has to be able to be loaded up into the family SUV and quickly assembled at the wedding place with a minimum of fuss. It has to faithfully stand erect in the event somebody knocks into it.

It’s kind of like camping. Except there is no fishing.

Some chuppot are stabilized on the ground with heavy pots of sand. The legs of the canopies are stuck in the sand. I’m not sold on that method. I think bracing the top corners of the canopy would be a better engineering solution. It would look better, perhaps.

So, I am happy about my son. And I’m happy I will get a new suit. But I’m thrilled to be able to continue a five-century tradition as a woodworker in the service of the institution of marriage and build a chuppah.

Let’s get to work!

Contact Peter Weinschenk at [email protected]