Mark Fishman
Montreal rabbi that loves juggling family and shul

Reflections of traveling to the Million Person Wedding

It is very rare indeed that a Jewish wedding, once planned and with a date set, is moved to another day in the calendar. Three weeks ago a father and son were taking a drive together outside their home, the city of Hebron. Terrorists opened fire on their car and both the father, Rabbi Ya’alov Litman, and his 18 year old teenage son, Netanel were both murdered. What made this tragedy all the more poignant is the timing of the family’s upcoming wedding of their daughter – Sara.

In the face of such loss, the family, specifically Sara Litman and her finance Ariel Beigle postponed their wedding by a week to sit shiva and then to marry soon after. When interviewed in the Israeli papers Sara said “very soon, we will marry in a large and happy wedding. We will go on and be happy as Father and Netanel always were. We will not be crushed.”

When I heard this courageous and incredible display of strength I was touched to my core. I felt that Sara represented something more than just one person, but rather to me, she came to symbolize the spirit of the entire Jewish people. We will not be defined by tradegy, we will not stop living our lives even in the face of darkness. I knew that I had to go to Israel and dance at this wedding. With just two days notice I invited my congregation to join me and together with twelve leaders, we went.

The essence of the trip was to bring joy to a young bride and groom, a Hattan and Kallah. We were ushered into the chuppah  and we had to pinch ourselves to remember where we were and the enormity of a bride deciding that instead of being defeated by tragedy she would invite and share with all of Am Yisrael this special day.

To me it was the defining symbol of our people. We may sit in shiva, and perhaps for 2000 years we have sat in shiva, outside our land, aware of what we have lost, and yet our people have never given up on life itself. To continue, to keep getting married, to keep having children, to keep celebrating notwithstanding the tears we may still have on our cheeks.

When we entered the wedding hall we were walking to the front doors together with 20,000 other people. Jews from every walk of life, from every corner of the country, from every religious stripe and even then some. From secular to religious to those who were in their army uniforms to those were uniforms consisted of bekishires, long black coats and streimels. Am Yisrael had come to find Peoplehood.

In the middle of the craziness, through circles of circles of dancing men I somehow found myself propelled to the very epicentre of the joy. The hattan was at the centre with his beaming smile and larger than life joy. I told him we had come all the way from Canada to be with him and to dance at his wedding. He took hold of my shoulders and for a moment that felt like an eternity he looked at me with disbelief and said – “WOW, thank you so much for coming here and for being with us!”

I just burst open with awe and pride and as if my soul started shining. If it could talk it would have said:

“I am so deeply proud of you my dear heart-shattering brothers and sisters. I am honored to share this dance with you. Never have I seen such a noble expression of what it is to be a Jew, a human being”.

To go from the fresh grave of a father and brother to invite the entire nation to your wedding. And for that entire nation to respond with an incredible ‘Yes’, with clown costumes and crazed celebration… despite the pain, because of the pain, harnessing – uplifting – sanctifying – the pain. All the dire strivings of our people were encapsulated right in that single gesture – a wedding in defiance of a funeral.

We came looking for Brotherhood and brotherhood was what we found. I silently prayed: Ribbono Shel Olam, Master of the World – this is your Hattan, this is your Kallah, these are your sons, these are your daughters. And if for just that one moment we could truly see all that was important, then Dayenu – it was enough.

About the Author
Rabbi Mark Fishman is originally from London, England. He is now the senior Rabbi at Congregation Beth Tikvah, Montreal, Canada. A bustling 750 family synagogue.
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