April 3, 2012

And then we dance

The chuppa’s soft, white sides shimmer in the night breeze, creamy
gladioli and sweet roses a fragrant lintel. The bride is a stranger
to me, glowing and beautiful. The groom? I have met him once at his
parents’ home and tonight I see happiness beaming from his eyes.
Everyone is overjoyed. As so they should be at a beautiful wedding.

Yet I cry. At first a small tear forms in my eye, and gathering
strength as it drops, more tears cascade, dripping onto my shawl.
My sobs look like grief to all those who stand watching the ceremony 
and smiling. Innocent joy.

Why am I so overcome at a wedding of strange faces?
I have just returned from a week in Poland. Not a vacation. No
recreation. We visited death camps and pits which are mass graves. 
We saw towns that were once densely Jewish and now had no signs of a
flourishing, seven-century old Jewish presence: only the graveyard.
We saw a city once established by Jewish merchants which today is
emptied of Jews. A few chic restaurants in a trendy Jewish quarter
overflow with customers on Shabbat. Non-Jews eating the plat du jour,
“Jewish caviar.” No true connection to the devasting past, but a
Disney-like recreation, an empty salute.

And here I am, back in Israel, filled with a joy, an awe and a
gratitude that is so full, it bursts forth in tears. It is just sixty years later. 
We have a land. We have wealth. We have soldiers to
protect us. We have children who are marrying and rebuilding our
nation. We have reasons to celebrate.

The millions who were forced from their homes and stuffed into cattle
cars, whose babies and children were torn from their arms; and who
marched to their deaths screaming “Shema Israel”  would never believe
that we are back and we are living here in the Promised Land.

Yes, we are flourishing and yes, it is a miracle. I see it so clearly.
We are a nation that has been rebuilt from ashes. And we have joy. 
Our children who stand under a chuppah are beginning to build new
Jewish homes.

We have our enemies and we always will. Yet now, for the first time in
2,000 years, we have an army. I am now armed with a deep knowledge of
our bitter past, and know we cannot forget. It is why we are here.

These ashes are now blooms.

The chattan smashes the glass under the chuppah so that we all
remember our shared tragedy.  And then we dance.

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