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November 29, 2015 7:32 am

Finding Hope in a Wedding That Represented All of Israel

avatar by Pinchas Allouche

The wedding of Sarah-Tehiya Litman and Ariel Bigel. Photo: StandWithUs/Facebook.

The wedding of Sarah-Tehiya Litman and Ariel Bigel. Photo: StandWithUs/Facebook.

“This is Am Yisrael,” she said, pointing to the enormous crowd.

Noa Litman whispered these words in my ear on Thursday night, in the midst of her daughter’s wedding.

I couldn’t believe it. Just days before, Rabbi Yaakov and Netanel Litman — her husband and son — had been murdered by terrorists. Noa and her family were driving to a pre-wedding party. She had witnessed this murder and had been wounded.

Released from the hospital, she joined her children for the week of shiva and mourning; the wedding — planned for that week — was postponed.

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And now, here she was at the rescheduled wedding of her radiant daughter, Sara Techiya Litman. With dignity and courage, she was speaking to scores of guests, with a beaming smile, and a receptive heart.

“This is Am Yisrael.” My mind couldn’t stop echoing Noa’s words. As I looked around at the thousands of people who came together to celebrate her family’s joy, the profundity of her message became glaringly clear. She was right. If there is a face to our nation, this was it.

This wedding spoke to the unwavering resolve at the heart of our nation. Indeed, we are a nation that knows that life is more powerful than death, that love is mightier than hate, that hope is greater than despair. We are a nation that has lived by the words of the Haggadah: “In each and every generation, they rise against us to annihilate us, but the Holy One Blessed Be He saves us from their hand.”

An Unforgettable Exchange

The ceremony began with joyous singing and dancing. The bride and the groom approached one another with a palpable intensity of emotion. The world stood still.

The bride and groom asked me to deliver this message: “Tell Jews in Arizona and everywhere that we are one, and since we share the same collective soul, no one can ever separate us. We promise to do our part to nurture our small part of this collective Jewish soul, but we ask everyone in your community and beyond to nurture their individual parts of our collective soul too.”

I came to celebrate with the Litmans, but I left having learned two life-changing lessons:

Lesson One: Thinking of Others

Here was a couple that found the courage to celebrate after sudden tragedy. They found a way to transform sorrow into joy, tears into triumph, and death into life.

How could they be so brave? It may be because they were not focused on their own needs. Were they experiencing unimaginable pain? Sure. Were they tempted to fall into melancholy and depression? No doubt. But they believed that they were born to be bastions of hope and beacons of light for their families, and, so unexpectedly, for our nation too. They knew that our nation needed them to “nurture their part of the Jewish soul.”

Every day we have the chance to touch someone’s life, to serve, to comfort, to listen, to smile. Yet how often do we overlook what is in front of us? How often do we ignore the cries of our those who are yearning for support and direction? How often do we say that it’s too tough to change the world?

Lesson Two: Ignite A Light of Goodness Today

During the chupah, a speaker evoked the Talmudic statement: “Our father Yaakov, Jacob, did not die. As his descendants are alive, so too he is alive.” But he was referring, of course, to the bride’s father, Yaakov. Although he had been ruthlessly murdered just days before, he too was still alive, in his family members, and through their mitzvot and kindness.

Sara Techiya and Ariel, the bride and groom, were right. They are doing their part in nurturing their souls. But we too must do our part to keep Jacob our forefather, the bride’s father, Rabbi Yaakov, and our ancestors of all generations, alive and well.

Now it is up to us to nurture the individual parts of our united Jewish soul. Let us take upon ourselves a new mitzvah, and ignite a light of goodness today, in our lives, and in our world, one mitzvah at a time.

Our nation, our very “Am Yisrael,” will then undoubtedly remain alive and robust. To eternity.

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