DANVERS – Orthodox Jewish tradition holds that a ring is an integral part of a marriage ceremony, so presenting one before a wedding is premature. But Moshe Wilhelm still wanted something to give his future bride, Adina Lipsker, when he proposed to her on a Florida beach, so he concocted a uniquely 21st-century solution just as romantic as any diamond. He took a screenshot of the text when Adina asked him out, blew it up, and superimposed it onto a coffee mug.
Moshe asked Adina if she would marry him by handing her that mug inscribed with the words, “Do you think there’s something here a bit more than friends?”
The answer to both questions was “Yes.”
Adina, a 22-year-old Swampscott native, had sent Moshe that text just a few months before, when they were both working as paraprofessionals for learning-disabled students in a yeshiva in Crown Heights, a Brooklyn neighborhood with a large Chabad-Lubavitch population that also hosts the Chabad movement’s international headquarters.
After Adina’s schedule at Brooklyn College changed, she was able to spend more time in Moshe’s classroom, and a friendship developed. Even though dating coworkers can get complicated, Adina said she appreciated being able to observe all aspects of Moshe’s personality.
“It was actually pretty great, because I saw how he was with kids, I saw how he handled things in a way that I wouldn’t be able to see if we were just dating,” she said.
In February, Adina decided she approved, and sent Moshe the text, an unusual practice in a community where boys usually ask girls out. Moshe, a 23-year-old Crown Heights native, texted back an answer that also can be found on the coffee mug: “I think there might be …”
According to both Moshe and Adina, Orthodox Jews tend not to date unless they intend to marry shortly after, so they did not enter into this more-than-friends relationship lightly. “When we’re dating, it’s a very clear intention – we’re dating to marry,” said Moshe. “The point of engagement is not just another step on the ladder, engagement solidifies the fact that we’re getting married.”
They introduced each other to their respective families in Swampscott and Crown Heights, which included formal Shabbat dinners spent with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. “I was very nervous,” said Adina about meeting Moshe’s extended family. “But honestly, they were so welcoming and warm, and it was amazing.”
In late March, after positive reviews had come in from the Wilhelm and Lipsker clans, Moshe asked permission from Adina’s father, Rabbi Yossi Lipsker of Chabad of the North Shore in Swampscott. Even though the engagement was hardly a secret, Moshe still wanted to find a way to surprise Adina with the proposal. In early April, Adina was visiting friends in South Florida, and one of them suggested to Moshe that he surprise Adina by flying down to pop the question. Adina’s friends brought her to the beach, and there was Moshe, mug in hand.
A waterfront proposal merits a waterfront wedding, and the Lipskers booked the Danversport Yacht Club for July 3, just three months after Moshe’s proposal. “In the Chabad community, that’s actually considered quite a bit of time,” said Moshe. “The whole process is generally so much shorter.”
Not only are Orthodox engagements typically much shorter than most secular ones, they are also less labor intensive, at least for the bride and groom. Generally, a wedding is held in the bride’s hometown, and her parents do most of the planning. Adina said she selected the location, chose a wedding dress, and not much else.
“When it came to the practical things, like the color schemes and this and that, I didn’t really care that much,” she said. “I was like, ‘Mom, you do you.’ I gave a little bit of help with the flowers, but that was it.”
Yossi and Layah Lipsker spent three months preparing for the wedding of the first of their six children to be married. On the morning of her wedding, Adina could do little more than recite prayers to herself. After she put on her dress, her brother played “Sunrise, Sunset,” the wedding song from “Fiddler on the Roof,” and the whole family began to cry.
The bride and groom are traditionally not supposed to see each other for seven days, until the Badeken (Yiddish for “covering”) ceremony, when the groom puts the veil over the bride’s face, and parents and grandparents recite blessings. Even though Adina had accidentally caught a glimpse of Moshe earlier that morning, she said it was still one of the most emotional parts of the entire wedding.
“I started crying so many tears of joy,” said Adina. “It was a very real and intense moment.”
Rabbi Lipsker officiated an emotional ceremony that consisted of the traditional Seven Blessings. After Moshe presented Adina with her first ring and smashed the traditional glass, the couple was officially married. Right after, they went into a private area called the Yichud room, where the newlyweds got to be alone with each other for the first time in seven days, if only for a few minutes. During that time, Moshe presented Adina with a second ring, and the two took some time just to breathe. “We were talking about what just happened,” said Adina. “Like, we’re married – what?”
The sun was going down, so they rushed outside to take pictures and take part in the first dance, which at an Orthodox wedding means that Adina danced with her mother and Moshe danced with his father. For the rest of the night, to the sounds of distant Fourth of July fireworks and songs sung by famous Jewish musicians from Adina’s mother’s family, over 500 people ate and danced to their heart’s content.
The next day, the couple took a breather at a Boston hotel and enjoyed more Fourth of July festivities. For the following seven nights, Adina and Moshe ate and prayed with different members of their extended families. They then embarked on a month-long honeymoon in Europe, traveling to Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, and Slovenia.
The couple now lives together in a Crown Heights apartment right across the street from the yeshiva where they met. They are enjoying navigating all the thrills and challenges of adulthood together. “Living together you learn, and you figure things out together, grow up together, we’re making grown-up decisions together,” said Moshe.
“When you’re single, you worry about yourself,” said Adina. “Now there’s someone else in the equation.”