2016-09-16

Research-cum-honeymoon trip to Moscow and Tbilisi

My wife, Lena, and I returned from a 20-day research-cum-honeymoon trip to Moscow and Tbilisi this Tuesday very tired but very satisfied. Two days before we went on this trip, I finally started something that I had always hesitated to - using Facebook, about which I'll probably prepare a separate blog entry as a collection of my first impressions in the near future.

Since I posted daily updates of my travelogue with pictures to my new Facebook page, and they are open to the public (but only if you have a Facebook account; even if you don't have one, you can open it for free immediately) as bellow, I won't repeat here the same stories that depend on specific time and space.

Instead, I'd like to concentrate and ponder upon the purposes of our honeymoon and how successful it was in their light. Now I've realized that unlike the research part of our trip, for which I've sent very clearly defined two purposes - checking Russian books on lexicography and onomastics at the Russian State Library in Moscow and participating in Euralex 2016 in Tbilisi - we haven't thought enough about the honeymoon part, taking it for granted.

Upon our return to Jerusalem I've also asked my haredi mentor about what classical and contemporary Jewish authorities say about this custom. First of all, "honeymoon" is not part of Jewish tradition though many newly wed Jewish couples also go on a honeymoon trip. What is probably the closest to it in Jewish tradition is what may be called "honeyyear" (the term I invent ad hoc), that is, the first year after the wedding. Just "by chance" this weekly portion of the Torah says, "When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business; but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer his wife whom he has taken." (Deuteronomy 24:5) [emphasis mine - TS]

Now I'm asking myself how successful I have been in these 20 days, which constitutes only a tiny part of our first year after marriage, in cheering my wife. The first thing that comes to my mind in reply to this question of my own is that I made her cry, even in public, at least once. We also had several quarrels. But we had a happy time together after all. We felt (and still feel) that we are bashert as we are so compatible with each other in so many areas.

I've just asked my wife what was the happiest moment for her was during our trip. Her answer is when we were invited to her friend's wedding in the suburbs of Moscow and I played with children of some of the guests. I recall that since I was a child myself, I've been very popular among children. I'm at my best either when I dance Ashkenazic folk dance or when I play with children as I can become natural. The most unforgettable person of all those I've met during this trip is a small girl who became so attached to me after playing with me for a while in Russian that she refused to say goodbye to me when the time came. Our last conversation in Russian was minimalistic, but her answer was so eloquent. I told her "Пока" ('Bye for now'), to which she replied "Не 'пока'" ('No 'goodby for now'')! My wife also says that I lookied happier when I played with these children than any other moment during this trip.

So what can I learn from this? The best way to make her happy seems to make myself happy first. I'll keep looking for various ways (except for one she desparately wants but I simply don't want to) to attain this goal in our first year of marriage (and beyond).