Pushcart Prize nominee, KJ Hannah Greenberg wrote JPost's "Old/New World Discourse...
Mon,Dec 9,2013 6 Tevet 5774
Blissfully, my family is days away from our oldest daughter’s nuptials. In a word, our house is chaos, happy chaos. The phones ring. Emails arrive unrelentingly. Friends, who are tired of my family’s electronic bottlenecks, now, instead, literally knock on our door (in our neighborhood, no one knocks on doors). Most days, three to five different sets of people knock on our door. BH, our dear ones are as excited about the upcoming joyous day as are we.
Our child, who lived at home during her sherut leumi year and during all the college years she has thus far completed, is, suddenly, realizing that her chuppah will bring not only the gain of her husband, but also the loss of her dwelling in the only emotional home (geographies discounted) she has ever known. This realization overwhelms her.
It overwhelms me, too. For the moment, I am electing to compartmentalize that thought. After the week of sheva brachot, I believe I’ll have time to process it fully. Such contemplation deserves a greater quantity of my temporal resources than I currently have available.
I don’t expect to have similar needs to sort out my feelings with my second and third children. They have already “been away,” respectively, at hesder yeshiva (I only cried for two weeks leading up to that separation) and during summers for camp. The camper, what’s more, plans on spending her sherut leumi time first in a distant city and then, for a second year, somewhere else in the world. Neither of those children, nor I, will experience the dissonance the current bride and I are feeling at present.
As per what my youngest will do, there’s no telling how that separation will evolve; like my oldest, to date, he’s chosen to live at home. He’s only in ninth grade, though, so he and I still have plenty of preparation time before he joins with a wife.
Regardless, the background emotional commotion in my home notwithstanding, my family’s down to the nitty-gritty. We are attending to last minute details. Gifts are being bought for our nightly housesitters (sadly, in the Holy City, criminals tend to prey on families, who are away from their homes for weddings, for sheva brachot, and for any other publically known happy occasion), professional manicures (a first for all of the ladies in my family) are being ordered, and some small amount of thought is being given to what to feed our sons during the celebratory week, a time when parties will leave the daughters and the parents wanting not to contemplate food, but will leave the sons opening and reopening the refrigerator door in search of meals that were not cooked.
Beyond experiencing anxieties and responding to relative minutia, my family is also tripping up a bit. Even when we grasp that this season, for us, is necessarily one of delight, and even when we grasp that true cosmic ecstasy undergirds our countenances at this time of the building of a new Jewish home, my family still has to deal with our personal and collective embodiments of the yetza hara.
Accordingly, no matter the rarity of the phone call of congratulations from Europe or from North America, we still go through momentary despondency. No matter the extent to which local friends give of themselves to raise our joy, we still encounter the dispatched darkness that masquerades as reality. No matter the giggles, tears, or other shared feeling passed among us, we still repeat the mistake of being disheartened, i.e. of wrongly releasing ourselves to shadowy thoughts.
In remedy, my family places our self in environments full of Torah. A span with increased amounts of attention to gashmius is a span that requires increased amounts of attention to ruchnious. Now, a time when we are vulnerable because of our elation, we absolutely must surround ourselves with people of good middot, with books of Torah and with Torah commentary, and with acts of loving kindness.
Fortunately, Torah is water, which is a substance that can, over time, erode even stone. Little by little, this moisture, and all else that is nurturing, trickles into my family’s beings even if we don’t deserve such gifts, even if we fall on our faces from error during a time when we could, alternatively, be raising our souls. Fortunately, Hashem will never stop Loving us.
His light necessarily permeates our darkness; such is the nature of the universe. Even when we intentionally block our souls’ apertures, light returns to us. Even when we purposefully seal ourselves away in unnatural environments, spiritual sustenance finds us. Even when we hide the better portions of our neshemot, Hashem plants His kisses on us; he continues to fill our days and nights with the best of all pleasant things. Our Tatty necessarily Remembers us even when we stray when His prescribed path. It’s our duty to notice and to rectify our faults. It is not and never will be our charge to try to be perfect.
It can’t matter that we had to make a last minute switch among florists, that one of our children’s way of participating in the festivities, so far, has left us wanting, or that another family member’s haircut looks a little funny. The focus ought to be on the opportunity to take a kallah to the chuppah, to support a zug in establishing a family, not on worldly matters. Period.
So, during these days, these hours just before the wedding, whether my family, collectively, or individually, acts like angels or like rocks, Hashem and His kindness exist, did exist, and w ill continue to exist beyond any impact we make on local causality.
All we can do is to try to do our best and to amend any mistakes we notice we are making. Mazel Tov!