I recently wrote a blog here, titled Priorities. It was about our daughter’s wedding which was supposed to take place this coming November 19th. I wrote about how all those detailed plans disappeared into a puff of smoke because of the war that our country is fighting, and how this beautiful couple had stopped caring about any of those details because they JUST wanted to get married. Period.
Well, here’s the update:
We had hoped that his team would be let out for a few days the weekend of November 19th so we could plan a Chuppah on the closest base, because after all, this was the date they had chosen and they didn’t want ANYTHING – let alone a terror organization – to ruin it for them.
Instead, after almost 2 weeks of no communication, she was informed that his team was being let out for less than 24 hours on November 11th. It was a Shabbat morning and small vacation hostels in the south were filled to the brim with hundreds of soldiers and their families so they could rest, shower, and be with their loved ones for this tiny pocket of time.
Of course, my daughter went down south to see him, along with his family. She had an afternoon and evening to spend with him before he had to go back into Gaza for God only knows how long, and discovered that he was definitely not going to be back for the 19th of November.
It was maybe 5 or 10 minutes after Shabbat was over, when we received the call.
“We’re getting married tonight!”
At first I thought it was a joke. Ha ha, very funny. It was 5:30 pm – what was she even thinking?
But she was serious. They both were.
Sometime that late afternoon, they decided they weren’t waiting. They were going to get married no matter what.
So the race against the clock began: her future sister-in-law was on her way to gather her dress, shoes and the rings. We grabbed the Ketuba that was not filled out, the wine goblet, the tallit we had bought him a few weeks earlier, and my husband grabbed a couple bottles of Scotch. My other daughter called to let me know that her friend’s mom was putting together a bouquet and would drive over and drop it off. One friend dropped off 2 cakes, still warm from the oven, and another brought 2 massive trays of candy. And so many offers for help!
While I was organizing, gathering and loading the car, my husband was on the phone with a Rav from Tzohar who had agreed to officiate and was jumping into his car so he could make the long drive down south. My husband was thanking him profusely, but he was the thankful one: thankful that we were giving him the opportunity to do this amazing thing for this couple.
We contacted our kids – the bride’s siblings and sister-in-law, 3 of which were in Jerusalem and one in Tel Aviv – and we let our other close family members know what was going on – we had no expectations that anyone would come, but we promised to send photos and videos. (So many came!!)
We made the drive down south with the bride’s best friend in tow, in a total state of shock. Was this really happening?
We didn’t even have an address until we got down there. We thought we would be directed to a park somewhere, where we would gather, hold up a tallit and have a Chuppah.
Instead, this amazing community in the south heard about this soldier who wanted to get married and they waved their wands and did their magic:
A small hotel gave us the use of their outdoor patio, and they set up a bar, and long tables. Food was coming in by the droves, delivered by local women who turned their ovens on the minute they heard about this impromptu wedding. Trays of baked goods filled those tables to the point of bursting with beautiful notes attached to each one.
Someone showed up with music, insisting on being the DJ, and suddenly, we had a wedding.
It was surreal, it was crazy, it was spontaneous, it was wacky, but most of all, it was wonderful.
At just around 11 pm, the bride – in her white dress and veil – stood next to her groom – in his army uniform – under a canopy that was fashioned from the groom’s grandfather’s tallit.
The Rav led one of the most amazing, touching and uplifting Chuppahs I have ever been present at. He was genuine, warm, spiritual, funny and joyful and he spread all of that incredible energy throughout everyone who stood there watching. The joy was palpable and I felt as if we were all enveloped in something truly magical.
My oldest daughter, the bride’s sister, is an art student and artistic photographer. She sent me this one photo that just about described the whole night. It was a photo taken of those standing under the Chuppah, but only from the waist down. This is what you saw:
Suit pants and dress shoes standing next to shorts and flip flops, jeans and sneakers, the IDF uniform and combat boots, and a white lace gown with beautiful heels.
I think in a way, that said it all.
We are all in this together.
Whether you are in a suit with a big kippah and a beard, or in a pair of shorts and flip flops and no kippah, or a tee shirt and jeans, or an army uniform, or a wedding dress with fancy shoes, we are ALL in this together.
Surrounding the Chuppah were the groom’s army friends, some with tzitzit hanging out, their arms draped around the shoulders of their brothers-in-arms, some of whom had tattoos decorating their forearms. And there was so much love everywhere.
The Rav said something during the Chuppah that really resonated with me. He pointed out that the groom was in his army uniform under his Chuppah. He explained that there was no longer a Bet Mikdash, but make no mistake: his uniform was like the בגדי כהונה – the priestly robes of the Kohanim. Because he was fighting a מלחמת מצווה – a righteous war, and nothing was more holy than that.
To me, that was so profound.
So I took a lot away from that crazy night. Besides a new son-in-law (who I’m crazy about…)
I had a newer and deeper appreciation and intense love for these young men – these real honest to goodness Superheroes – who are, as I write this and as you read this, putting their lives on the line again and again, so that WE – AM YISRAEL – could live freely in our land.
I learned what true kindness and boundless generosity really looks like. The people in the south, despite the constant disruptions to their lives, put all of that aside to give and give and give to people they had never met. And they did so with such open hearts.
And that nothing is more important than the love that we have for one another. Nothing.
And finally, and perhaps most importantly, that no matter what “uniform” we wear, we are all one people. We are connected by something much, much stronger than the threads of our clothing or the shoes on our feet, or what is – or is not – on our heads.
We are connected by Hashem our God, this beautiful ancient land of our ancestors, and our inspirational, ever-hopeful and incredibly amazing nation.
And this, THIS! is our superpower.
Am Yisrael Chai