Of Wars and Weddings

I sent my eldest son off to war and simultaneously planned his wedding. This was done to the accompaniment of the relentless, albeit distant, sounds of Katyushas and artillery.

Ellen W. Horowitz

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Arutz 7
"You prepare a table for me in view of my tormentors." (Psalms 23)

The last several weeks have been so surrealistic as to render anything Salvador Dali could have come up with as conventional.

I sent my eldest son off to war and simultaneously planned his wedding. This was done to the accompaniment of the relentless, albeit distant, sounds of Katyushas and artillery.

After three weeks of fierce combat, my son walked out of Lebanon. He and his unit walked 10 kilometers - strapped with 50 kilo backpacks and bearing stretchers with wounded. It's ironic that the helicopters, which managed to drop soldiers into the battle zone, were unable to effectively evacuate them. And so, they walked their way out.

It was Tu B'Av, an appropriate day to shift gears from battle plans to wedding plans. When he walked through the door, I embraced him and blessed him. I quietly and gratefully watched as he drank and ate. I wasn't sure what to say, and so I broke the silence and asked him, "What did you see?" I guess I was asking for his perceptions and feelings, rather than an actual visual account.

He said, "I saw miracles, Mom. I saw miracles."

The visual accounts came one night later, as he sat down with his father, some close friends, and a couple of six packs. I went to bed early, but I couldn't sleep. And so, I listened in the dark as my son relayed graphic descriptions of battles, and miracles.

On the Shabbat before his wedding, I blessed him with strength and the ability to always recognize his Creator, and to see the miracles and good in whatever future challenges he and his bride will face. I suppose I could have sufficed with a standard blessing of health, happiness and tranquility, but somehow I felt that the harsh reality of these times called for an additional and more realistic prayer. It should be noted that the combination of taking action in the face of challenges and requesting Divine assistance (in the form of miracles) is neither a foreign, nor impractical, formula for the Jewish people to employ. It's as real as it gets - just ask a young man who returned from Lebanon.

My son made a point of asking me to thank the many people who were praying on his behalf and on behalf of his unit. He candidly told me that he was sure that these prayers were effective, and that he was strengthened by them. Indeed, I had circulated his name and the names of several of his comrades to individual friends, as well as to various groups organizing prayer efforts. Unlike other special combat units, his unit was fortunate enough to sustain few injuries and they met with notable success in the field.

Unable to concentrate on lengthy prayers, I spent a disproportionate amount of time during those three weeks reciting Psalms 23. It's short, comforting and the right number for the mother of a 22-year-old son who so desperately wants to see him reach age 23, and far beyond that.

The psalm is clear enough, but I admit to having been a bit baffled by the line, "You prepare a table for me in view of my tormentors."

But now I understand.

On Rosh Chodesh (the first day of the month) Elul, my son and his bride were married at sunset in Mitzpeh Yericho - in front of a panoramic view of the Judean desert. It's an historic and stunning location. During the last months of Moses's life, the Israelites caught their first glimpse of the Land of Israel - and it was the Judean hills of Mitzpeh Yericho that were in their sights.

Whereas ancient history offered and continues to offer promise, modern history weighs heavily on the site. To the left of the chupah, in the distance, one could clearly see Jericho's Oasis Casino. That casino has become a symbol of the type of deranged thinking, collusion and recklessness that led the leaders of this nation to gamble away our deterrence, our security, our principles, and the lives of some of our very best.

Jericho's casino - and similar twisted experiments involving commerce, politics and ultimately terror - served as the great equalizers for Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, Shimon Peres, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, some Diaspora businessmen and a variety of dubious international diplomats. These are endeavors where enemies find common ground and ample opportunity to perpetuate their corruption, arrogance and godlessness.

It was that kind of thinking (or lack thereof) that laid the groundwork for the Gaza-Jericho First Agreement of 1994 (an outgrowth of the 1993 Oslo Accords), which would grant killers autonomy, breed incompetent leaders, and produce future disasters in the form of rampant terrorism; for the Wye and Hebron Accords; for a hasty withdrawal from Lebanon; for four years of suicide bombings; for the expulsion of 9,000 Jewish residents from Gush Katif and parts of Samaria; for the government-ordered brutality against the young people in Amona; and for a savage summer rain of Kassam rockets in our south and Katyusha rockets in our north.

This perpetual lack of leadership, lack of foresight, and disregard for all we should hold dear, has created a situation where our major cities are left vulnerable to attack, and our ill-equipped soldiers can be carelessly thrown to the wolves. The threat from Iran and from our Arab neighbors looms bigger than ever, and still there is no accountability, no justice, and the outcry from the public remains muted, at best.

Juxtaposed against this bleak and barren landscape is the promise found in a wedding. Indeed, the magnificence of the desert lies in its ability to evoke and synchronize feelings of both desolation and hope. Its vastness dwarfs any perceptions we may have of man's majesty, and it causes us to stand on a vulnerable and humbling brink, where our choices become so clear.

Against all of this, the wedding tables were beautifully set in view of our tormentors. And my son's unit was there and celebrating in full force - save for a soldier who was undergoing yet another surgery at Rambam Hospital and another soldier who was recovering. Others were absent, too. One good friend was killed in action, and another friend is recovering from a broken back and legs.

At this time in history, there may be no better place than the Judean desert, overlooking Jericho, to celebrate a Jewish wedding. It's an awesome place to break a glass and pray for comfort, joy and miracles.