It would seem fanciful to make such an assertion if not for the fact that the Midrash explicitly says so. The miraculous level of sensory perception that the Jews achieved at the giving of the Torah will be repeated at the end of days. So, for example, just as when the Jews were receiving the Torah they could “see” sounds: וְכָל־הָעָם֩ רֹאִ֨ים אֶת־הַקּוֹלֹ֜ת “All the people saw the sounds…” (Shemot, 20:15). At the end of days, the Jewish People will once again experience miraculous sounds. The sounds of a wedding.
But not any wedding. A wedding in Jerusalem
ק֣וֹל שָׂשׂ֞וֹן וְק֣וֹל שִׂמְחָ֗ה ק֣וֹל חָתָן֮ וְק֣וֹל כַּלָּה֒
“.. the sounds of joy and gladness, the sound of bridegroom and bride,” (Yirmiyahu, 33:11) (Midrash Tanchuma parshat Devarim 1:1).
A consolation just in time for Tisha B’av
To appreciate the uplifting nature of this message, consider the fact that this Parsha is always read before Tisha B’av. We must also consider how remote it was for Jews to imagine, over our long, dark exile, that there will once again be a wedding in Jerusalem. Let me paraphrase the words of Rabbi Binyamin Epstein of Zhitomir (Ukraine), who commented on this piece in Midrash Tanchuma. His commentary, Nachalat Bimyamin, was published in 1898.
“This Midrash strengthens our resolve and repairs our broken spirit. It prevents us from being in despair about our redemption when we see that our land has been desolate for thousands of years. We are reminded that the miracles we experienced in the desert – will occur once again in Zion – which (right now) appears to be a desert.”
Rabb Epstein could never have imagined that 50 years after his Sefer was published, there would be multiple weddings in Jerusalem – every day except Shabbat and Holidays.
Every wedding can attest to the growing love between God and the Jewish People.
Even if we don’t take the Midrash literally, the message is inspiring. A primary commentator to Midrash Tanchuma, Be-er Ha-amorim, sees this Midrash as a metaphor for a rekindling of the love between God and the Jewish People. It will be as intense at the end of days as it was at the giving of the Torah.
On the other hand, the Talmud says that making a bride and groom happy at their wedding is like restoring a destroyed dwelling in Jerusalem:
רַב נַחְמָן בַּר יִצְחָק אָמַר: כְּאִילּוּ בָּנָה אַחַת מֵחוּרְבוֹת יְרוּשָׁלַיִם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר ״כִּי אָשִׁיב אֶת שְׁבוּת הָאָרֶץ כְּבָרִאשׁוֹנָה אָמַר ה׳״ “Rabbi Nachman the son of Yitzchak said that gladdening the heart of the bride and groom is like rebuilding one of the destroyed buildings of Jerusalem as it says: ‘For I will restore the land from captivity – as it was in the beginning.—said God’” (Yirmiyahu 33:11: Talmud Brachot 6b).
So next time you sing “Kol Chatan Vekol Kallah” ק֣וֹל חָתָן֮ וְק֣וֹל כַּלָּה֒ at a wedding anywhere in the world, you should feel like you’re rebuilding Jerusalem. However, next time you are at a wedding in Jerusalem, you should feel like you’re also rebuilding the relationship between God and the Jewish people.
The Three Oaths
Now we know the power of attending a Jerusalem wedding but how do we know if we have the right to return to Zion? This relates to the mysterious notion of “The Three Oaths” – the conditions upon which we can return to Israel at the end of days. The fact that there exists such restrictions is derived from a most unusual verse in the Song of Songs. God made us swear not to try to awaken love before its time.
הִשְׁבַּ֨עְתִּי אֶתְכֶ֜ם בְּנ֤וֹת יְרוּשָׁלִַ֙ם֙ .. וְֽאִם־תְּעֽוֹרְר֛וּ אֶת־הָאַהֲבָ֖ה עַ֥ד שֶׁתֶּחְפָּֽץ׃
“I have held you to an oath, maidens of Jerusalem, … Do not awaken love until it is desired” (Shir Hashirim: 2:7 – Midrash Tanchuma Parshat Devarim 4:1).
These are the 3 oaths listed in the Midrash:
.. שֶׁלֹּא יְגַלּוּ אֶת הַקֵּץ. וְאַחַת, שֶׁלֹּא יִדְחֲקוּ אֶת הַקֵּץ. וְאַחַת, שֶׁלֹּא יִמְרְדוּ עַל הַמַּלְכֻיּוֹת
“…not to reveal the end time of the exile, (Secondly) not to forcibly end the exile, (Lastly) not to rebel against the ruling nations of the world” (Ibid).
The Three Oaths are also discussed in the Talmud concerning the same verse from Shir Hahirim (The Song of Songs). However the description of the Oaths are somewhat different:
לכדרבי יוסי ברבי חנינא… אחת שלא יעלו ישראל בחומה ואחת .. שלא ימרדו באומות העולם ואחת ש.. העובדי כוכבים שלא ישתעבדו בהן בישראל יותר מדאי
“Rabbi Yosei, son of Rabbi Ḥanina said: … One, that the Jews should not ascend (to the land of Israel) as a wall (en masse) , that the Jews should not rebel against (the rule of) the nations of the world. And that the nations of the world should not subjugate the Jews excessively” (Ketubot 111A).
The nations of the world most certainly broke their side of the bargain.
These three oaths, and specifically the oath that the nations of the world shall not persecute Jews excessively, helped give rise to Religious Zionism. The Holocaust, along with the Inquisition, the Crusades, and an abundance of massacres and pogroms, most certainly abrogated the oaths. Furthermore, the Balfour declaration and the subsequent United Nations resolutions declaring Israel a State, signified that we had the world’s consent and we were not attempting to force the end of the exile.
Our return has been gradual but significant
Midrash Tanchuma states that messianic times cannot unfold all at once. (Ibid) It derives this from a very unlikely place – the story of Yoseph and his brothers. According to the Torah, when Yoseph finally revealed himself to his brothers, they were so shocked they couldn’t even respond. However, the Midrash says Yoseph’s brothers actually died of fright and had to be resurrected. Apparently the sudden arrival of Messianic times would be equally overwhelming and impossible for people to process. The commentator “Nachalat Binyamin” quoted from the Jerusalem Talmud Brachot (1:1) that messianic times will gradually increase in intensity like the first rays of light at dawn.
How far along are we in this great, unfolding drama of Jewish destiny.
No one can answer that precisely, and it is surely a matter that is hotly debated. However, let us point to one seemingly obvious indication that we are at a critical juncture in the messianic process. For the first time in two thousand years, we are dancing at a wedding in the capital of an independent Jewish country, – home to the largest single population of Jews in the world.
God has never forgotten our wedding at Mount Sinai and God’s love of the Jewish People has indeed been awakened.