The wedding

Which is more important when building a Jewish home? Looking backward, or forward? Remembering your roots, or proceeding to the future? 

David Sheyman

Judaism Chuppah by Raanan
Chuppah by Raanan

On the eighth night of Hannukah, several weeks ago, I married my dear wife, Hinda Leah. The following week, we were hosted at multiple homes in celebration of our wedding. At our last Sheva Brachot, Rabbi Raleigh Resnick, the shliach of the Chabad of the Tri Valley, explained a profound truth based on the two sons of Joseph, and its connection to a wedding. 

Joseph had two sons, Menashe and Ephraim. Menashe means “causing to forget” and Ephraim means “fruitful”.  What’s behind these names? Menashe made Joseph’s time in Egypt easier, causing him to forget his sorrow that he was not in Israel, the land that Hashem promised to his father. Ephraim, on the other hand, reminded Joseph of his important mission in Egypt, of his need to be in this foreign land.

Which is more important? Looking backward, or forward? Remembering your roots, or proceeding to the future? 

No doubt that looking forward, accomplishing the mission that you are given is more important. Yet, if it is so important, why did Joseph call his first son Menashe? You’d think that since the firstborn son holds so much significance, Joseph would switch the order. The answer, provided by Rabbi Resnick was profound: in order to know your direction forward, you must know your roots; without one’s roots one has no future, no mission, no direction. 

Rabbi Resnick concluded that on the day of a chatan’s wedding, he leaves his family to build his own. A man is commanded to leave his home and cleave to his wife and become one flesh with her. One’s birth family can be likened to Menashe. They remind you of your roots, your upbringing. Without them, you would not be who you are; yet the new home you create becomes your unique responsibility, your mission, your Ephraim. You must remember the home you were raised in and take that wisdom and experience to build your own family. 

Just as a chatan and kallah marry, so to the nation of Israel wedded Hashem at Mt. Sinai some 3300 years ago. We accepted His commandments which we were to observe in the Land of Israel. There, we would sanctify our relationship with Hashem. Yet we are exiled from our home, just like Joseph. But we never forgot Israel. Three times a day, every single day, for two thousand years, we have been praying for our return. 

We have been hardened in exile, our identity has been tested, but never have we forsaken our land, the same way Joseph never forget Israel through Menashe. It is now time for Ephraim, our redemption. Our return to the Land of Israel cannot be made possible without our prayers and reminders. But look to the future we must. We have a mission which is more possible than ever before. Let “Next year In Jerusalem” not merely be an utterance of the lips.

 Pack a bag, perhaps symbolically, my wife suggested to me. Put it in your closet, ready to go in that moment of truth. Let the Land of Israel hug your steps. Perhaps in a year, maybe in five, ten or even twenty. However long or short it may be, may it be in your lifetime; may we return to the land that our holy Creator designated for us, to the land in which we can ultimately actualize our relationship with Him.