I experienced two amazing, and yet very different, events this week that have given me pause. On Thursday night, I went to a beautiful wedding that took place under the stars in Gush Etzion at the Yeshiva in Alon Shvut. The bride literally danced her way to the chuppah (and pretty much continued dancing through the entire ceremony). The groom’s father was murdered by a terrorist when the groom was a small boy. His mom went on to raise her four children, to remarry, and to have another four children. And she stood under the chuppah on that night, marrying off the first of her many children.
Standing under the chuppah, the bride and groom shared a few words with the hundreds of guests in attendance. They explained that a wedding is truly an act of faith – to declare your love for another of Gd’s creations and to have the faith in your union and your future together. Coming from a boy whose entire life was ripped apart at a young age, these words were particularly poignant and dramatic. While he spoke of his deep sadness of not having his father by his side, he also explained how incredibly thrilled he was to reach this point in his life and how honored he was to have so many loved ones with whom to share his declaration of faith.
In sharp contrast, I attended a very different type of event last night. Our dear friends here lost their two year old daughter in a tragic and horrific accident 10 years ago. This month would have been her bat mitzvah, and they asked a group of their old friends, all of whom knew them from the States (except us), to come to their home last night. The gathering was as beautiful and festive as it was heart wrenching. The mom spoke, saying that she didn’t want to dwell on the “what ifs” and the “if onlies” of her life, but rather that she wanted to talk about what she’s learned from this experience. Listening to her was amazing.
As she explained, they were completely torn apart by this tragedy that happened one Sunny June day. She woke up that morning, appreciating how much she had in her life, and went to sleep waiting for her husband to return from Israel where they were burying her 2 year old child’s body.
She spoke of resilience and faith; of incredible friendships and of perseverance. And while she was talking about how they managed to muddle their way through this tragedy, I marveled at the two of them. Their act of faith is evident in the family that they have since built. Since their daughter’s death, they have gone on to have four more children. As she said, all that she wanted after the death was to find a way back to being a “normal” mom, wife and person. And with time, as she found herself focusing on regular little details in her life again, and complaining about the inconsequential events of ordinary living, she realized that she had, indeed, started to recover. Her life would never be what it was before; but, as a trusted psychologist explained to her, there would be life “before” and life “after” and she could learn to rebuild her life after the tragedy.
Most of us don’t have a difficult time exhibiting faith and courage in easy times. The boy who builds a life for himself in the face of the atrocities of terrorism; the mother and father who show the faith to give birth to additional children, and to move through each day with gratitude and optimism…these are the heroes who live in my midst and from whom I learn so much each day.