-Almost a quarter of a century ago when I first settled permanently here in Jerusalem, I was invited to a wedding of a distant cousin of mine whom I had never really met - but somehow he had determined that we were related. I always had a strong sense of family and even though I knew that I would not know anyone attending that wedding – not even my distant cousin whom I would not be able to recognize facially – I was determined to go to the wedding as a sign of family solidarity.
My wife in her wisdom decided not to accompany me since she would be in a separate room and amongst women who did not speak English and not one of whom was known or recognizable to her. So, I embarked on this journey to Bnei Brak alone to attend the ceremony.
The venue for the wedding was a multi-storied building that contained eight different wedding halls, with weddings scheduled for each of the halls that night. I did not know in which hall my wedding was supposed to have taken place. I asked around and was directed to one of the halls. The wedding ceremony was about to start, and as I looked around the hall, I recognized no one and no one came up to me, nevertheless I stayed for the entire ceremony and when the names of the bride and groom were pronounced I realized somewhat to my dismay that I was in the wrong hall.
I left the hall and after fruitless inquiries finally found the correct hall. The wedding that I was supposed to attend was now about to take place, since no matter how late you come to a religious Israeli wedding, you never seem to be too late. I was able to hear the entire ceremony, congratulate my distant relatives, deposit my envelope in the little vault and returned to my home in Jerusalem. When I related this story to my wife, she gave me the’ I told you so’ look that wives always reserve for such occasions.
Last week a dear friend of mine – really one of my closest friends here in Israel, invited me to the wedding of his youngest son. Because of the coronavirus my children do not allow me to attend weddings here in Israel personally. It is interesting how life turns. I remember when my children had to listen to what I had to say and now apparently our roles are reversed.
Since I was not able to attend this wedding, my friends sent me a link so that I would be able to see and participate in this happy occasion. At the appointed hour I received the Zoom link, I clicked on it and it ushered me into a wedding that was taking place in a beautiful location somewhere here in Israel, with an attendance of about 50 people. I naturally assumed that this was the wedding that I was supposed to be observing and thereby participating in. I thought it strange that I did not recognize anyone at the wedding but then my eyesight is such that I have a difficult time identifying facial features. As the wedding progressed and the rabbi performing the ceremony read out the names of the bride and groom, it became apparent to me that again I was at the wrong wedding, this time courtesy of some mix-up with the Zoom link that I clicked upon.
But, I stayed on the link for the whole wedding ceremony. Though complete strangers to me, including the bride and groom, I was amazed that I was emotionally touched by the wedding itself and that I even shed tears at its conclusion. I was truly struck by this reaction of mine since I am not usually given to such outward emotion.
I thought about this matter afterwards and I realized it's that I was emotionally touched by the fact that Jewish weddings performed according to Jewish law and tradition according to the religion of Moses and Israel are generically worthy of emotion and tears of joy. In an age where the general society has degraded the holiness of marriage and of physical intimacy, where marriage itself is deemed to be a burden and not necessarily a positive accomplishment, the fact that there still are young people who are willing to undertake this adventure and build homes and families that will be loyal to tradition and Jewish values, is itself most heartening and joyful.
I am sorry that I missed the right wedding but I am happy that I wished good fortune to the couple that was being wedded before my eyes on the wrong Zoom.
Rabbi Berel Wein is a noted scholar, historian, speaker and educator, admired the world over for his audio tapes/CDs, videos and books, particularly on Jewish history. After many years serving as a community rabbi in Monsey, NY, he made aliya and is rabbi of Beit Knesset Hanassi in Jerusalem.