It is with mixed emotions I am just arriving back in Dallas from Israel from my son Elazar and Aliza’s wedding, a heavy heart to leave our beloved homeland, but still filled with joy from all that transpired there this past week for my son and new daughter-in-law and our respective families.
This is with the backdrop of the upcoming fast of the 17th of Tamuz just around the corner, Sunday, July 5, which begins the annual three-week mourning period over the destruction of the Temple and subsequent exile from our homeland which lasts until today.
In that context I will share with you part of a d’var Torah which I delivered at the final Sheva Berachos celebration in Jerusalem right before leaving for the airport.
In last week’s Torah portion we read the famous story of Moshe striking the rock to get it to emit water for the Jews in the desert, rather than speaking to the rock as God had commanded him.
That transgression lost for Moshe his entry into the land of Israel, necessitating him to pass on the mantle of leadership to Joshua. A 12th century commentary, R’ Abraham ibn Ezra, explains that the reason the water didn’t come out miraculously upon the first strike, as well as why Moshe lost his leadership during this incident, was not really because he struck the rock. It was, rather, because he began the narrative by speaking derisively to those challenging him, saying “Listen now you rebellious ones, shall we bring forth water for you from this rock?!” (Numbers 20:10)
By labeling them as “the rebellious ones,” Moses had created a subtle separation between himself and the Jewish people. Miracles are performed by God only in the merit of the Jewish people, not for an individual. Hence, the waters did not flow for him immediately.
My mentor, Rabbi S. Wolbe, ob’m, used this teaching of ibn Ezra to explain why, hence, Moses could not bring the Jews into Israel. Israel is the place of “Who is like you, Israel, one nation in the land.” The uniqueness of the Jewish people is its “oneness”; like there is one God there is one Jewish people; the sum total of all the Jews is one whole. The place for that unity and completeness is in Israel. Moshe, who lived his entire life for the sake of the Jewish people, uttered a statement which put a blemish on his unity with the Jewish people and could not be the one to usher them into the Land of Israel.
It was disunity, sinas chinam, or idle hatred and gossip against one another, which caused the destruction and exile from Israel. Israel is acquired threw unity and lost over discord. This is a very sobering fact, given the extreme disunity we sadly find in Israel today.
The converse of this, in a positive light, is the statement of the Talmud, “anyone who brings joy to a chosson and kalloh (groom and bride) is considered to have rebuilt one of the destroyed parts of Jerusalem.” The ultimate unity between two Jews is as bride and groom, and their connection is all the greater when it is one of joy; joy is the greatest bond. All those who contribute to their joy share in the bonding of the Jewish people; a true tikkun for the destruction which resulted from separation and discord.
We heard again and again, over the week of celebration, how our Chosson and Kallah are two individuals who bring together so many, are there to help all those in need of help in very deep and meaningful ways, always offering words of strength, building up others, helping others to achieve their potential, offering a smile, pat on the back and encouragement to those who need it and then some.
So many felt that way that we saw an almost unprecedented outpouring of love and joy from literally of hundreds of fellow students and friends, who couldn’t do enough to bring as must joy as they could muster from their hearts to the bride and groom. That’s nachas beyond nachas for us parents! And if that’s how they were before, as individuals, how much more so will they be now, united as a couple!
May this joyous occasion be for all a source of joy and a big step in the rebuilding of Jerusalem for all Jews for all time!