At weddings we always wait in eager anticipation for the groom to break the glass so that everyone can shout “Mazel Tov!” and the festivities can begin.
Yes sure, we know that we break the glass to remind us of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. (How many times have you heard the rabbi say that?) Perhaps we even paid attention when he mentioned that the joy of the Jewish people is never complete because of this loss. Maybe we even shed a tear when the band leader sang, “If I forget thee O Jerusalem…” But then we quickly moved on.
It’s not wrong to move on. It is a simcha, a celebration, and our job is to increase the joy of the bride and groom.
But the experience of the lack, the pain of the loss, the sense of something missing should be real. It should be brief but perhaps not quite so fleeting.
Not only do we jump into the singing and dancing because it is the “fun” part, we do it because we are truly happy for our friends or relatives. Possibly we do it because it’s more real. The joy is tangible, right there in front of our eyes. The loss is less concrete, more ephemeral, outside our experience.
So we turn to what we can easily relate to. We dance and cheer and eat and entertain the bride and groom – exactly as we’re supposed to – and the Temple is forgotten – if it was ever really remembered.
I used to feel like that. The Temple? The pain? An intellectual idea. No niggling sense of loss impeded my joy. How could I possibly connect to that ancient pain?
But I don't feel that way any longer. Since the death of my infant granddaughter I carry a sense of pain with me wherever I go. The loss is always present. Sometimes it is hidden deep below the surface – to rise up at unexpected moments.
And, ironically or not, I have found weddings to be one of those times. Amidst the joy and sense of family, amidst the children and grandchildren and aunts, uncles and cousins present at everyone’s simcha, I am vividly aware of our loss. I am conscious of who is no longer there. The pain rises up, not to be quelled.
And I think to myself (after I get a grip on my emotions and paste a smile on my face), this is how we should feel about our national loss, about the destruction of the holy Temple.
It should always be there, on the edge of our consciousness, ready to rise up in our moments of joy, of sorrow, and of everything in-between.
Yes, we should grab onto the joy of a wedding. We should dance with exuberance and pleasure. But our emotions should always be tempered by the memory of that painful and ongoing tragedy of Jewish history; just as mine are always tempered by the memory of my granddaughter Rena. I’ll never experience the breaking of the glass the same way again.