Last Thursday evening, Yael, my wife, and I had the privilege to attend our niece’s wedding. It was a beautiful, spirited wedding, but it was a wedding that almost didn’t happen. Not because of any issues between the bride and groom, mind you, but the wedding almost did not happen specifically on that Thursday evening. What most of us didn’t know until after the wedding is that my niece very much wanted to get married in a hall overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, the “yam,” as she called it. After searching for a lengthy period of time, her fiancé, now husband, found a wedding hall that was in their price range in Yafo.
What he didn’t know, was that the son of the owner of the hall had apparently stolen some weapons and hidden them on the premises of the wedding hall. On Thursday morning, the day of the wedding, Israeli police raided the hall and closed it down, as they were searching for all the weapons. So early on Thursday afternoon, when the caterer came to set up the food, he was met by the police who wouldn’t let him enter. And when the florist and the photographer arrived, they met the same scene. All the vendors were told by the police that they might not be able to clear the hall for the wedding in time, which obviously would have been devastating for the bride and groom and their family and friends. When the owner of the hall told the groom what had happened, the groom told him to do what he could so that the wedding would take place, but he didn’t inform any of the other members of the wedding party for fear of unnecessarily unnerving them. Finally, with only a few hours to spare before the wedding began, the police cleared the hall to be used for the wedding and, Baruch Hashem, it was a beautiful affair. God was watching over us even when we didn’t realize it.
This wedding story reminded me of a story in last week’s parsha. In the parsha, we learn that God was watching over the Bnei Yisrael when Bilaam tried to curse us, even when we didn’t realize it. Why did the Bnei Yisrael merit this special blessing of Divine protection even when it was unbeknownst to them? The Netivot Shalom explains that the forces of impurity that Bilaam exerted could only affect lone, solitary individuals. When Bnei Yisrael were “shokhen lishvatav,” when they dwelled as tribes, unified as a nation, then Bilaam was only able to bless the Bnei Yisrael and not curse them.
And maybe there was a little spiritual magic in the air, which helped speed up the process to clear the hall just in time for my niece’s wedding. Because the wedding brought together guests from all walks of Israeli society. Charedim, Religious Zionists and secular Jews all sang together, danced together and celebrated together with the bride and groom, not as separate groups, but as one nation and one family. There was no talk about controversies at the Kotel. There was no talk about conversion criteria and lists. We were all “shokhen lishvatav,” proving that it is possible to transcend our differences in celebration of something much bigger. Hopefully, we as a nation can do this more often and find opportunities to celebrate our similarities so that God will bestow His blessing upon us.