There is nothing better than the wedding of a best friend’s daughter to her betrothed. When my friend began planning her daughter’s wedding, she was amidst a windstorm of emotions. Both her daughter and her son had gotten engaged within weeks of each other. Both were planning weddings at the same time. It was a perfect storm of crazy and beautiful…full of emotions to boot.
I would stop by my friend for a cup of coffee and hear the latest…a visit to a hall, a dress fitting, a choice of colors for the bridal party. Doing this for two children who were getting married within two months of each other.
Of course, tension and tempers flared regarding hall choices, entree decisions, musical choices, and more. But, through it all…my friend and her husband kept their cool as their kids took the helm to create the wedding that they each wanted…unique and beautifully executed to a T.
The first wedding, of my friend’s son and daughter-in-law was a beautiful event. It was small and unique, The huppah was held on an outdoor patio with a beautiful view of Jerusalem behind the bride and groom. The bride wore a gown fit for a princess, which her mother had sewn. The groom wore a beautiful suit, accompanied by a green tie. The family wore gowns and suits that reflected the perfection and grace of the gorgeous couple.
The first wedding was in September…which feels like years ago. It is amazing how one month and a half later can feel like years. For, now we are after October 7th….that fateful day in our minds and hearts that changed everything forever.
And, so, now my friend’s daughter had to decide what to do about her wedding. It was supposed to be on November 19, 2023. It was supposed to be in a hall, filled with a live 6-piece band, food fit for kings, and 350 friends and family members from near and wide.
But, the war had changed everything. Her fiance was placed in miluim, Reserve IDF duty as of October 7th. She had only seen her fiance twice since that fateful day in Israeli history. Each time they discussed the wedding, but the outcome was the same….they just did not know what to do. They decided that the wedding would happen on November 19th, no matter what. And, they would keep the hall for a “Reception” after the war ends.
But, this week the plans came to a halt…the bride’s fiance got word that his unit would be deployed into Gaza several days before the wedding date, with no knowledge of when he would return. The bride got a call that the guys would be in a location outside of Gaza for Shabbat, and he would be able to have a visit from his bride, and his immediate family while there.
As my friend gave me the play-by-play of this new development, I asked her “So, will they get married on Saturday night, while she visits?” My friend said that her daughter was not even considering it an option. Her fiance was going to Gaza, and she did not want to jeopardize his clarity on his important mission by getting married immediately prior to the deployment.
And, then I got a call tonight. My friend frantically blurted “THEY CHANGED THEIR MINDS! They are getting married tonight!” And, I got the chills….only weeks before we had played out this scenario over a cup of coffee in her kitchen. I sat with my friend and her daughter, and said “Wouldn’t that be the most awesome wedding…an army wedding! So romantic and impromptu…so special!” My friend’s daughter smiled but was reticent. I then said “Didn’t your great-grandparents get married in a DP camp? This would be the ultimate full circle for your family!”
This beautiful young bride looked at me…and began to smile, and said “Woah, I did not even think of that!” She replied “Hmmmm….I will think about it!” and then she was off on her sprightly way to her exciting day, and I looked at my friend and we both just knew that we would remember this moment forever. A blessed moment over a cup of Joe.
Tonight, neighbors here scrambled to get a bouquet, bake cakes, prepare candy platters, and more. And, as we dropped off the goodies at our friend’s home, we could not stop smiling. This wedding was the happiest occasion to celebrate for all of us…it was a time to see the grace of God’s ultimate goodness. It was the ultimate fight against the fears and doubts that troubled our minds in the middle of the night. A wedding trumps everything. It is pure holy goodness.
The wedding itself was only attended by close family and friends. So, those of us at home got a play-by-play of pictures, videos, and Skype. It was magical, beautiful and perfect. Just like the gorgeous couple themselves.
And, as I downloaded the pics onto my phone, I could not stop crying.
The union of a young Jewish couple on an IDF base, in the middle of a random night in November. It was a marriage made in Heaven. It was the ultimate response to our enemies. Our people WILL survive. Our people WILL only get stronger. Our people of the Book have been through this rodeo before, and we always prevail. How do we do so? We believe in the sanctity of a union between a young couple. We believe that a Jewish home is one of love and dedication to traditions that are connected to a Higher Power.
We always bless a couple to be able to build a Bayit Neeman B’Yisroel . The simple translation: A home that is grounded in the beliefs and traditions of the Jewish People. Yet, I venture further, it is a home that is infused with a love of the fact that we believe that the Jewish people deserve to be grounded as one people, in one land…the land of Israel. And, each Jewish couple under the huppah is a testament that the traditions will continue for eternity.
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, in his book Made in Heaven, states that the word for “heart” in Hebrew is לב. It is noted by Rabbi Kaplan that the first letter of our Torah is the letter בת “beth” and the last letter of the Torah is a ל, “lamed”. Thus, when a groom recites the special sentence titled “Harei At” under the huppah, as he places the ring on the bride’s hand, it “alludes to the Torah as the subject of the marriage between God and Israel” (Kaplan, Aryeh, Made in Heaven, p.181, Moznaim Publishing Company, 1983). Therefore, the ring is the ultimate circle that symbolizes their true love of each other and of their history, their culture, and ultimately their belief system, of the Torah.
As I looked at the photos, and saw the true love shared between this beautiful couple, I was immediately reminded of the song by Frankie Valli, “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You.”
May this blessed couple be blessed with a life of love, laughter, and great pride in our traditions and culture.