If you’re like me, you’ve probably been to a lot of weddings (thank God). And if you’re like me, you’ve probably waited in eager anticipation for the groom to break the glass so that everyone can shout “Mazel Tov!” and the festivities can begin.
We know that we break the glass to remind us of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Perhaps we even paid attention when the rabbi 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 experiencing the pain of the loss – the sense that something is missing – should be real. It’s a tall order. For most of us the loss of the Temple is ephemeral, outside our experience. It’s all too easy to forget about it, if it was ever truly remembered.
I used to feel like that. The Temple? The pain? An intellectual idea. No niggling sense of loss impeded my joy at a wedding. How could I possibly connect to that ancient pain?
But I no longer feel that way. 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.
I am conscious of who is no longer there. The pain rises up, not to be quelled.
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.
As the bride and groom head off to build their home, we shouldn’t forget that the Almighty’s home was destroyed, that He has no place to rest in this world.
We get comfortable, we get complacent. We don’t always notice that something’s missing. Weddings remind us. Our wishes for the couple reflect not only our desire for their personal joy and accomplishment but our national aspirations as well – as the blessing says, “There soon shall be heard in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and the sound of gladness.”
Even the homes we create are meant to be a beit hamikdash me’at – a miniature Temple, a small sanctuary until the 3rd Temple in Jerusalem is rebuilt. We want to create a sacred spot for the Almighty to reside within our individual homes, keeping in mind the goal of a home for all.
Yes, sometimes it’s hard to focus on the loss. Sometimes we read Holocaust stories and ponder recent acts of terrorism to remind us. And sometimes we access our personal tragedies as well.
But I also want to suggest a way forward this year, another way of invoking the past while looking to the future. Perhaps if we all decide we really want our homes to be tiny tabernacles, a place for the Almighty in this world – and we apply ourselves seriously to creating the corresponding atmosphere – a home of respect, of courtesy, of dignity, of warmth, and of holiness – perhaps if we all turn homes into that special arena(whether we live alone, with our parents, with a roommate, with our spouses or with our children), then we will create the conditions on earth for that ultimate sacred space to be rebuilt.
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 Rena. I’ll never experience the breaking of the glass the same way again.