Monday, April 7, 2003

Destined from Birth

Destined from Birth
By David Wilder
The Jewish Community of Hebron
April 7, 2003


Every once in a while it’s nice to skip the heavy stuff and write about lighter, happier, events. True, the present situation is such that it’s not difficult to find something of major importance to deal with, but in all honesty, I’m a little tired of it. After all, what can I say tonight that hasn’t been already said, or written?

So tonight I’m going to take a break from Iraq and the road map and tell you a true story, which I find kind of amazing.

This story starts in Turkey and Yemin, in Buffalo and the Bronx. From these far parts of the world two couples met and married, some 20 to 30 years ago. For the sake of this article, let’s call them Avraham and Sarah, and Ya’akov and Leah. Avraham, originally from Yemin, lived in Israel before making his way to the United States. There he met Sarah, born in Turkey. They lived all the way up in north New York, in Buffalo. There Sarah gave birth to a daughter.

Avraham met and befriended Ya’akov. When Ya’akov married Leah, the two couples became close friends, enjoying each other’s company. When Leah became pregnant she tried to convince Sarah that she should have another child – what fun it would be to bring up their children together. Leah was very persuasive, and the two women gave birth three weeks apart – Sarah to a second girl, Rivka, and Leah to her first child, a son, Yosef. The two women have pictures of themselves sitting next to each other before giving birth, each with a large stomach, showing the stages of their pregnancy. After the children were born, the friendship continued, with two babies frequently sleeping in the same carriage, especially on the Sabbath, when the two families would eat their afternoon meal together.

As is the way of the world, the two families went their distinctive ways. Avraham and Sarah remained in Buffalo, while Ya’akov and Leah moved to Israel. They remained in touch from afar, but it wasn’t the same as living next to each other.

Then a few years ago, Avraham and Sarah too, returned to Israel. Once again the couples renewed their close friendship, frequently visiting each other and joining in their respective family celebrations. The children were older, and becoming acquainted with one another, became friends. A couple of years ago Ya’akov and Leah’s son Yosef realized that he more than liked Rivka, and one day, told her so. Thinking about it, she realized that the feelings were reciprocal, and their relationship deepened. After finishing high school she began studying in a women’s religious seminar in Yosef’s home town. It wasn’t long before the young couple became engaged, and early last week, married. Their wedding was a beautiful affair, with the Huppah, the actual wedding ceremony taking place outside in a field surrounded by trees and blooming flowers. The wedding pictures glow with a fading sunlight, and a darkening deep blue sky. And of course, the pictures glow with the apparent deep love between Yosef and Rivka.

I couldn’t help but realize, while reflecting on the week’s festivity, the Divine wonders of our universe. It seems like a cross between a fairy-tale and an impossible dream. Two people, born days apart, but then living worlds apart, only to be reunited, to fall in love and to marry, in Israel. It just doesn’t seem real. But it is real, very real. And very beautiful too.

So why spend tonight’s commentary time telling you this story? Sometimes, when we face what seem to be unfathomable problems, we look for a sign, something, a hint from
Above, that everything will be OK. The problem is that sometimes that signal can come right up to us and almost punch us in the nose, yet we take no notice. What we expect to see, and what actually happens, can be two very different things.

And as strange as it may sound, I view last week’s wedding between these two young people as something of a sign from the heavens, reminding us, if we should really be in need of such a reminder, that, yes, there is a G-d, who is watching over us, who is pulling the strings, who is making the world turn. At times events can become so overpowering that we tend to forget – for a moment we actually believe that our fate is in the hands of people, people identified as world leaders, or as the scrounge of the universe. Sometimes we reach a point where we actually believe that if we do or neglect to do ‘this’ or ‘that,’ it will be a deciding factor in our existence, or G-d forbid, our destruction.

It is true, what we do or don’t do does make a difference, sometimes an important difference. But the deciding factor is not our doing, rather, it is His. And anyone who thinks differently, remember that the Jewish people managed to survive a two thousand year old exile from our homeland, exile from Spain, England and other countries, and finally, a holocaust, only to find ourselves back in our ancient homeland, building, developing and prospering, against all worldly odds.

So too it is today – despite the difficulties, we must not, under any circumstances, fall into despair. True, our situation does not look good, but then again, neither did it look good to those poor souls encaged in Aushwitz.

And really, all it takes is something which, on the face of it, is small and insignificant, to push us back on the right track – something like the marriage of two people who were destined from birth, or even before birth, to join in holy matrimony. As our sages have taught, forty days before conception a voice from heaven announces, the daughter of so and so will marry the son of so and so. And so it is.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

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