Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The time period right after Lag Ba’Omer is a joyous one indeed. From after Passover until Lag Ba’Omer we do not make any weddings because during that time we are mourning the deaths of the 24 thousand students of Rabbi Akiva. However, on Lag Ba’Omer the wedding season begins. It is written in the Torah that with every wedding that takes place, another brick is added to the holy Third Temple. Therefore, during this happy season of weddings, we can feel all that positive “building” in the air.

This past week I attended two weddings of my next-door neighbors from Kfar Darom in the Gaza Strip. We were brutally expelled from there in 2005. These weddings brought to mind so many thoughts. The first and most obvious was of all the beautiful memories I have of Kfar Darom. I was a young mother in my 20s raising four little children five and under. Life was so wonderful in those days. Full of energy and optimism. I was so energetic and hopeful, believing I could change the world together with my friends in my small settlement. It was not a century ago, nor was it even 50 years ago. It was only 14 years ago, and still life seemed so different back then for so many reasons.

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Life in Gush Katif was full of positive activities: building the country, settling the land, and bringing up the next generation to love this country and all it entails. It was about bravery and unity, about boldness and courage, about friendships and love.

While I lived in Gush Katif, there wasn’t a day that I didn’t praise Hashem for creating such a beautiful and amazing land. My neighbors and I were so young and eager to conquer the world. Especially the Gush Katif world. We all had licenses to carry a weapon, and we all felt with each and every day in our settlement that we were protecting the entire land of Israel. Our being there meant that the rest of the Jews in the country could be safe. We were on the front line and were so proud to be there.

At a wedding ceremony we are all very happy, but we are also commanded to remember that Jerusalem isn’t whole yet and that we are still missing the main worship house of Hashem, the third Beit Hamikdash. While under the chupah, we sing the verse of Psalm 137, “If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy…”

How appropriate those words were at the weddings of friends from Gush Katif who were exiled from their homes and land. The same words that were said with tears and anguish by the Jews who were exiled to Babylon so many centuries ago. We all shed a tear remembering our beautiful homes and lives. We all are awaiting the days of our return to our homes in Kfar Darom.

Another thought that crossed my mind during the chupah ceremony at each of these weddings was what a great matchmaker G-d really is. Finding two people who don’t know each other, having them meet in the right place at the right time – and even greater, having them love each other and decide to build a home together. Sometimes you see a couple that you would never have dreamed to match together and yet Hashem did “dream” it. It’s so amazing to see two young people standing under the canopy so pure and so innocent with such ambition to make their marriage work.

It is even more amazing to attend a marriage where the couple might be considerably older or even a second marriage. Those older couples or second-time-around couples are conveying an even more powerful message than the young and innocent couple. They are saying that they never gave up hope in the Master Matchmaker. They are saying that it is always the right time to begin again, that purity and continuity can be achieved by everyone.

There is such positive energy at that moment when the bride and groom unite under the chupah and begin together to build a beautiful Jewish home. It doesn’t matter how many weddings I attend, the feelings at the ceremony are always so uplifting and inspiring. I feel G-d’s presence right there. It is as though at that moment Hashem looks around at all the people who came to attend this event and bring joy to the bride and groom, and in return He says, “I want to make you happy as well, for making the effort to make my children happy.”

I know life can be a bit more complicated and complex – it isn’t just a rose garden. But G-d gives the new couple this uplifting feeling as they begin their journey together so that they will have strength to go on even when the lights dim and the thorns begin to appear here and there. We start out with a big event so that the pretty pictures will stay with us forever. Every moment in life should be spent trying to see the goodness and the beauty that lies within every experience that we go through.

Hopefully at the next wedding that you attend, you will feel more elevated and happy, and see with your eyes and heart all the wonderful blessings from Hashem.

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