This Is What Jews Do
In my home overlooking the hills of Jerusalem, the sun shone extravagantly as I mopped the floor and lit candles, as much for ambiance as for fragrance.
At precisely 9:30 AM, there was a tentative knock on the door and three young people, whom I had never laid eyes on before, entered my home and kitchen with various cheeses, bread, salads, wine, ice, and utensils.
We were going to have a wedding on our porch in an hour!
Twenty minutes later, the groom arrived grinning from ear to ear, already dressed for the occasion and carrying flowers for his bride. Soon after, the bride arrived with her parents. Brothers and sisters and friends showed up. A small number of friends who could join at a moment’s notice also came.
Within a very short time, the lovely bride emerged from our back bedroom, transformed and dressed and glowing. The makeshift chuppah was attached to poles and held by four guests. A brother (who also agreed to fill in as the cameraman) announced that we would begin. Music played from a boom box, and Zoom was connected to a smartphone. Suddenly, this wedding, with fewer than twenty people according to our current COVID guidelines, commenced.
My husband, the officiant, told the touching and romantic story of how the young couple met and became involved, he from the United States, and she from Israel. He then related how they had originally planned to marry in October. However, with an impending complete closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, and with no certainty that an October wedding would be possible at all, the groom asked my husband—just one day earlier—if they could get married today.
Now. Of course!
Where? On our porch.
Sure, why not? And it was done because, as my husband said, “This is what Jews do!” We find ways to continue to live when times and challenges face us. We do not stop carrying out the mitzvah of providing for a bride just because we can’t have a large ceremony. We create, innovate, and compromise, but we do not quit, we do not give in, we do not stop living. We cannot.
Love in the time of coronavirus. Why should the young lovers spend the closure apart? And for who knows how long!? So, married they were, and accommodation was rented so they could honeymoon together.
The friends and family who were called sprang into action, and in less than twenty-four hours, the deed was done, the marriage vows given, the family in America invited via Zoom, the ketubah signed (albeit with the incorrect date and place), the glass was smashed, they danced on my patio with neighbors looking on, teary-eyed and pleased. Just like that, they were off. They were off to start their “forever” together.
The wedding lasted three hours—from set-up, through the ceremony, pictures, dancing, and eating—and everyone was well-ensconced in their various homes before lockdown, which began at 2 PM that same day!
This is who we are, and this is what we do. When we were forced to flee due to various pogroms, we fled and prospered. When we were unable to secure employment due to our last names, we either shortened our names or built our own businesses. When we left occupied Poland in the early 1940s, marriages were quickly performed, and off we went—much like our COVID patio wedding. Necessary, short, meaningful, and complete.
Sadly, too, when there is a terrorist attack in Israel, we mourn our dead, sweep up the rubble, and rebuild immediately. This is who we are. This is what we do. When our sons and daughters are required to defend our country, gun in hand, for the first tender years of their young adult lives, this we also do. This is who we are. We are vigorous, and we are resilient. We value life, and we live it to its fullest, even in dampened circumstances.
Jews are the original lemonade makers, having learned from all kinds of lemons that life and other nations and disparaging circumstances have thrown our way. We have learned not only to make lemonade but lemon cake, as well. Enough for everyone! This is our ethos. This is our strength.
The God who has allowed us to be wounded, rejected, unwanted, and alienated has deepened our collective character with resolve, creativity, and strength. We live in community, and there is always someone to help. We need never be alone, even when we may want to be!
So, the happy couple is now spending an extended honeymoon during a lockdown. I am sure they are not bothered. Due to the lockdown, I have had time to write this article, which I hope has been encouraging during these uncertain times.
In truth, life has always been uncertain. It has taken something like this pandemic to remind us of that fact. We don’t have a great deal on which we can rely. Perhaps part of this time’s purpose is to be learning to seize the day and trying to provide some happiness and joy on the way. Be flexible. Never give up. In this way, we will be victorious.
This is what we can do and will do. This is who we are.
First Fruits of Zion