Winning looks like a wedding in defiance of a funeral. 2 funerals. Too many funerals for #onefamily to endure…and yet endurance is our game.
It looks like a bride-to-be sitting shiva on the day that she was to be wed and deciding that she would invite the entire nation to dance her to the chuppah instead.
It looks like a many-thousand-member mosh-pit of a party fresh and fearless on the back of a tragedy.
It looks like a breath of LIFE blown into dry bones…and those dry bones standing up to dance.
It looks like an injured and traumatized mother and her 6 bereaved children banding together against the darkness and hosting the largest celebration the country has ever seen.
It looks like the unbeatable spirit of Yiddishe temerity once again dancing wildly in the face of darkness.
This wedding is our winning. Nothing short of THE defining symbol of our people as we sit – in shiva and in simcha – at this epic junction of history. This wedding, the perfect glyph that we just won’t be beat.
This, my friends, is us living up large to our highest calling to be a light unto the nations. I tell you, I am standing here up-close and it is blindingly bright and I am just weeping with pride.
So, here, take this slice of the cake of light that I wrapped up and brought home from the wedding…Read it and consider yourself partaking of the feast.
We walked there like pilgrims to a holy site. This the kind of thing one must approach slowly – so as to stop and catch your breath each time it is taken away.
Hundreds of us streaming together like wet leaves on a moving river. Throbbing forward towards a great teeming pool of people at Jerusalem’s largest convention center turned wedding hall.
It felt as if our souls had received the wedding invitation several lifetimes ago. Its destined date somehow already set for the tearful near-full moon of Kislev 5776, November 26th. Thirteen days after the Friday the 13th murder of the bride’s beloved father and brother.
We stepped in to the pulsing carnival of the party, in the parking lot no less. The insides already 10,000 strong & spilling all over the streets.
The Na-Nach vans first greeted us. Pumping strong their own signature blend of trance meets Hassidus with a frenetic Messianic twist. Mini-vans dressed in neon lights leaked loud music everywhere. Dancing youth stood on their roofs and twirled larger-than-life blue-star-studded flags.
I just gawked at the unbelievable All-ness of it. The All-the-feelings-in-the-thesaurus-ness of it.
We were like Kamikaze moths. Never mind our singed wings from these past two months of tragedies. We all just wanted to get closer to the light. To flock the bright bulb that was this wedding hall.
Because this wedding, this wedding, this holy wedding, had the incomparable SHINE of a great light born from a terrible darkness. As far as I could reckon this was a taste of the legendary rays stored away for the righteous at the End of Days.
A ministering angel handed me a mixed drink of Emotions. Laced with fear & fearlessness and so many contradictions you could almost call it science-fiction. It was an intoxicating on-the-rocks blend of somber and ecstatic, thrilled and devastated, bedazzled and depressed.
I leaned against a pole and closed my eyes as hundreds of deep-bellied voices and djembe-drums exploded together in synchronized prayer. I stood back and just like that some young yeshiva bocher shimmied his way up the pole, shaking his arms and chanting like a court-jester before a King.
Through the crowd was a clearing where circles and circles of dancing girls twirled. Somewhere in the throng of all those colorful braids the kallah – the bride – was being carried around as if on a silver tray as young girls, mothers, sisters, threw songs like flowers at her feet and swept her around the parking lot for all to see.
I caught a quick flash of her white dress and I just wept. I mouthed three-hundred-thousand prayers in twenty-seconds flat, wiped my eyes and was ready to dance.
I turned around to find two clowns. Literally. Two perfect fairies dressed so very appropriately for the occasion. In fearless polka-dot-reds with big cherry-tomato noses and contagious gusto. The perfect picture of all my hopes and dreams…Dressed up like clowns bringing down joy to a post-funeral wedding feast!
We took beaming selfies and made a dance circle of our very own right there on the cement clouds beneath our feet.
Inhibition had no place there. Just a stomping out of agony. Just a download of honest-to-G!d belief. Just a dissolving into full bodied prayer for something so much better than the murder of gentle righteous men like the ones in this precious family.
In no time our dance circle was beset by twenty exuberant teens. Laughing and crying interchangably. One long-haired young thing lept in to the middle and belted strong, “HaKadosh Barach-Hu Anachnu Ohavim Otach!” “Holy Blessed ONE we LOVE YOU!”
This whipped up the whole bevy of us into a raucous of singing, jumping, walking on air. Walking in a dream. Waking up from a nightmare. Drinking light. Dancing upon the very tip of the still-submerged iceberg of our highest hopes for a world at peace.
And I just burst open with awe and pride and gleemed out loud:
“I am so deeply proud of you my dear heart-shattering kin. I am honored to share this dance with you. Never have I seen such a noble expression of what it is to be a Jew, a human, a tireless chaser of the Light!”
To go from the fresh grave of a father and brother to invite the entire nation to your wedding. And for that entire nation to respond with utmost incessant Yesness, with clown costumes and crazed celebration…despite the pain, because of the pain, harnessing – uplifting – sanctifying – the pain.
All the direst strivings of my people encapsulated tight in this single gesture -a wedding in defiance of a funeral.
We had reckoned epic with the darkness and sweated it in the face.
Yes, sweet bride and groom. I promise to celebrate relentlessly with you. To feast on the light. To advertise the miracles. To give THANKS & praise. To march in THIS, Jerusalem’s very best Thanksgiving Day Parade!
Past midnight now and we set out for home. A beat-up Honda pulled over to offer a ride. It was a long-bearded religious dude who drove in from a great distance to partake of the wedding feast. It went something like this:
“Where can I take you friends?”
“Oh, just drop us off down the hill, we’ll walk the rest of the way.”
“No, I insist. I must take you to your door.”
We protested. He insisted. We protested. And then he launched into this perfect ending to our night:
“Listen, you are my family. Just as much as my own son or daughter. Would I drop off my beloved children on the street? No, you’re family. Please let me take you all the way.”
And how could we argue with that message from the archetypal driver’s seat.
The perfect ending to a most poignant evening.
So Yes, let’s. Let’s take each other all the way. Door to door service. Dor l’Dor Service. Generation to Generation…in celebration…in the face of darkness. This is our nation. This is our family tradition. To keep the simchas coming. To dance like jesters in the face of monsters. To pick each other up and drive each other all the way home.
If this is what comes of our tragedies then whatever may come…we have won. We have won.