Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Twice a year I embark on a trip to Israel. Generally these trips are planned with speaking events and specific activities, but for the most part they are a time to relax and simply enjoy a country that I consider home.

Having recently returned home from one of these bi-annual trips, I am experiencing the jet-lag, the longing to return, and also I have been processing my trip. When I arrived in Israel I had few plans beyond one speaking event, a close friend’s wedding, and the luxury of spontaneous hang-outs with some of my best friends. There are specific memories that stick out to me from this trip, but one was the wedding of my former roommate, Dara.

Dara and I lived together when I studied abroad in Israel two years ago. The entire time that I’ve known her she was dating her boyfriend, Sam and it was inevitable that they would eventually get engaged and married. Dara and Sam both grew up in the States and only moved to Israel in the last three years. When I arranged my trip to be able to attend Dara’s wedding I was thrilled.

Generally when we attend weddings in the States, there is a great focus on the details. I’ve often overheard members of the wedding party–upon announcing the engagement–discuss weight loss and diets as if this is the most crucial piece of the wedding. I understand that people want to feel good as they celebrate their own/family member’s wedding but in my mind a wedding should be about celebration and excitement rather than the details and appearance.

I’ve also attended wedding where the guests make comments like, “We’ll just stay so that we can see the bride’s dress and the arrangement of the chuppah (canopy.)” It’s not simply the wedding party or relatives, but also attendants who focus on the details and appearance. This is not to say that every wedding goes like this, but I’ve seen it enough and always felt sad at the amount of energy being put into a quick diet or the most perfect arrangements.

Dara’s wedding was absolutely stunning. It took place at Beit Shmuel, a hall overlooking the Kotel (Western Wall) and old city of Jerusalem. The hall was beautiful and Dara looked beyond gorgeous. Yes, I noticed these details; I noticed the table settings and the flowers – but they did not make the wedding.

Sam, Dara’s husband, had been stationed in Gaza until the week before the wedding. His unit, Givati, had lost a number of soldiers and this brought a different air to the wedding. The ceremony was breathtaking but it was also incredibly meaningful. The rabbi who spoke translated from Hebrew to English and as the crowd sang “Im Eshkachaych Yerushalayim” a number of people began to tear up. The emotion was tangible–both the heaviness of the operation and the joy of these two souls joining together in marriage.

Sam’s unit took over most of the celebration; the dancing, the singing. You could feel their excitement for their friend but also their excitement to be participating in life, especially one of the most joyful aspects of life. Sam delivered a toast during the reception and thanked his family and friends but also noted the soldiers who were no longer with them, and the soldiers–his brothers–who came to partake in the celebration.

This was how a wedding should be; emotional, joyous, and altogether completely about the bride and groom and the happiness of the onset of their new life together. This is not to say that there was no effort put into the hall, appearance, dresses, design, etc. Yet, this was not the focus. The focus was on life and on the couple, as it should be.

Operation Protective Edge changed Israel this summer. And yet this wedding was a way for all involved to appreciate life and what God has given us. I learned a lot from this wedding, from the attitude in Israel; we can choose what we’d like to focus on in our lives. We can obsess over the details, over weight, over everything being meticulous. Or we can appreciate those things while still having in mind the ultimate values. Let us learn from this wedding, from the soldiers, and from the overall attitude that I experienced of this down-to-earth mentality and gratitude.

May we share in only simchas and true celebrations and do so in a way where the value of life comes first.

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By Temimah Zucker