Misplaced Guilt of Feeling Joy

If anyone has been following my blogs, the last thing I wrote about was my daughter’s impromptu wedding with her soldier-fiance-now-husband.

My other daughter told us in the car on our way back from the wedding (at close to 2 am) that her sister, the bride, had mentioned that she was feeling a little guilty throughout the wedding that there she was in a beautiful dress, dancing and rejoicing at a time that our country is in deep mourning. That there are kidnapped citizens of Israel being held in cruel captivity while she is partying in her white dress.

She’s not the first to feel that way, and she won’t be the last. We’ve all had those feelings: I heard from a mother of a bar mitzvah boy how torn she felt about having a bar mitzvah, but that her son had been learning his Torah portion for the better part of a year and this was legitimately a Jewish rite of passage. And I’ve heard – on a lesser scale – of women feeling bad that they met a good friend for a cup of coffee at a cafe.

My oldest daughter, the bride’s sister, disagreed. She said that the groom’s tzevet was inside Gaza for almost 2 weeks and had been in intense training since the start of the war. That they have probably seen things – terrible things – over these last few weeks – things they can never unsee. Coming back for less than 24 hours to rest and recover wasn’t just for their physical health and benefit, but for their mental health too. And that by giving them a wedding to dance at and rejoice in, we were giving them far more than what meets the eye.

We have to remember that we are going to be fighting this war for a while – this will unfortunately take time – and our soldiers don’t want to come back to a country that is completely covered in a thick black cloud.

Yes, there is devastation, pain, and horror. And we are desperately in need of healing. But there are also moments of joy. Some are huge, like celebrating the birth of a baby, or the wedding of your child, or the bar or bat mitzvah of your kids; and some are small, like spending time with a good friend over a cup of coffee. (And about that cup of coffee – it’s just another way to keep supporting our local businesses during this difficult time.)

Each act of celebration and joy is like lighting a match. Those small pinpricks of light continue to shine and stubbornly make their way through that darkness, and are constant reminders of who we are as a people.

We didn’t just give these soldiers good music and good booze and a couple hours to let loose. We gave them a purpose – a reason to fight, a fire in their blood, a steadfast determination to return to this nation that always looks ahead towards a brighter future. We are – if anything – a hopeful nation.

Our national anthem is called “The Hope” after all.

We don’t just celebrate life – we revel in it. We are a people that love to dance, to paint and draw. Expression through the arts is a serious business here. We are educators, writers, creators, inventors, and builders. We are discoverers of cures, dreamers of dreams, and all around problem solvers. We are pursuers of justice and lovers of peace. We seek to bring light to the world – even during the darkest of times. That’s the difference between US and THEM.

And while that might sound a bit simplistic, I think it really is that simple. Are you a person that wants to bring light into the world, or are you one looking to snuff it out?

All those uneducated public and closeted antisemites who are either ripping flyers of kidnapped children off of lampposts all over the world, or are quietly supporting Hamas – they are choosing the darkness over the light.

Shame on them.

But that’s not who we are.

Photo credit:
Yitz Woolf

We need to keep our country filled with light.

And we can mourn, cry, protest, and be filled with anguish at the same time as celebrating the important special moments of our lives.

It sounds impossible but it isn’t.

Want to know how I know?

Because we’re doing EXACTLY THAT right now.

About the Author
Chavi Feldman has a degree in graphic design and advertising and works primarily as a music teacher. She has lived in Israel for more than two decades.
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