Tammuz 19, 5768
July 22, 2008
As we enter the three weeks, it just gets hotter and hotter. I’ve been tagging along in the heat with friends on vacation Israel as they are committed to learning while they are here. We’ve heard from a half a dozen teachers, all interesting and articulate, some pushing us through text and some dangling esoteric ideas above our heads, and some spoon feeding us practical information that we can use every day. On Monday in Rehavia, we were privileged to learn Shoftim with Aviva Feiner and Mrs. Shira Smiles, a surprise speaker on parsha hashavua. Two days later we went to Neve in Har Nof to hear their all-star lineup including Rabbi Brown and Rebbetzin Heller.
We learned Parsha, Navi, Chumash and Jewish thought. Every amazing teacher taught different topics. Yet in every class, each teacher worked in the same idea. What a privilege and a responsibility to be living in Eretz Yisrael at this time in history. We are witnessing pivotal changes, as many believe the end of one era and the beginning of a new one is happening right now on the world stage. All eyes are on Israel and the Jews.
This is a theme we live with every day, more and more, as we watch banks fail, natural disasters multiply, and anti-semitism rise.
Knowing this, we still have to go on with the business of every day life. And take in a simcha every now and again.
David and I have been privileged to witness several pivotal changes in the past few weeks. Weddings. Weddings are pivotal on a personal level; each new home created begins a new era in the history of these families. We have so much hope as our eyes turn to the bride and groom.
The first thing I noticed about a wedding invitation in Jerusalem is that it doesn’t have an RSVP card. Sometimes there’s an email address for reply, but that is rare. Often before we open the envelope there’s something unusual. No postage stamp. Hand delivered invitations are preferred whenever feasible. A simple map might be printed on the back of the envelope; invitations are often supplied by the catering hall. If we do show up at the wedding, we can stay for as long as we want and wear whatever we want.
There is an air of simple elegance whether the setting is a rustic kibbutz in the hills around Jerusalem or by the lighted swimming pool of a five star hotel. The ruchnius is palpable. We have danced in the heimeshe heart of Ezras Torah; gathered next to the kever of Dovid HaMelech on Har Tzion, shivered in December on the balcony of Aish HaTorah and stood in a strong breeze on the Hass Promenade overlooking the Old City walls, where Avraham Avinu is said to have stood with his son, Yitzchak before the akieda.
Summer weddings begin in the evening when the air is cool. Guests show up wearing anything from clean blue jeans to shimmering ball gowns, but most of us wear a simple Shabbos suit. Those in the know arrive just in time for the chuppa, which is usually well past the time printed on the invitation.….tell me, how do they know?
What I really like is the seamless way the wedding party moves from bedeken to ceremony. When the groom arrives to place the veil over his always beautiful bride’s shining face, the voices that accompany him from the swell of his family and friends are sweet, refined and calming. After the bride receives the blessings from her father and soon to be father in law, the chosson is escorted away by his parents and the entourage of men. Then, the parents of the bride take their daughter in their arms and regally exit to the chuppa, attended by the women.
By the time we arrive, she has just begun her seven circles. There are only a few chairs near the front. Since the chosson and kallah are king and queen, it is only natural that we stand during the chuppa, for when one is in the presence of royalty, one stands.
In an awesomely short amount of time, we have witnessed the establishment of another new bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael. We dance our hearts out. I have never seen such joy as the dancing at a wedding in Yerushalyim. In that hour of dancing passion bordering on mania, you’d think Moshiach had already come.
Weddings bring all sorts of people together. Being so new, we don’t know so many guests, but we’re often pleasantly surprised to see someone from another part of our lives who also know the host families. I danced with a woman from my ulpan at one wedding, shared a table with a woman from a class I took years ago at another, and our regular Friday tzedeka collector and David sat together at a simcha in Har Nof.
Every wedding is a miracle happening before our eyes-especially when we know the couple and all that transpired to bring them to this day. If we allow ourselves to see the unfolding of G-d’s plan in this union, our natural response is to sing and dance with all our heart. “Od yishama b’arei Yehudah u’vechutzos Yerushalayim... kol sasson vekol simcha, kol chosson vekol kallah…”
The thing is, every one of us has a hand delivered invitation to the ultimate unfolding of G-d’s plan in history. No RSVP required, just show up-you’ll know when the time is right. You won’t need a map, you’ll know where you are going. Wear your best blue jeans or sequined skirt. Our Father will bless us and the nations will escort us to our rightful place. You’ll see all your old friends and family. And boy, will we ever dance!
Love Renee & David