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RE'EH-TO DANCE, TO PRAY, AND TO EAT

Friday, 14 August, 2015 - 1:54 pm

FOR RE'EH

 

TO DANCE, TO PRAY, AND TO EAT

 

It is one of the more heartwarming stories to emerge in a long time. Annette, engaged to Lior Solomon, was slated to get married recently in Israel. They booked one of the country’s most gorgeous venues, a setting with exquisite gardens, beautiful décor, and a large hall.

 

Invitations had been sent out, and wedding guests had responded in the affirmative. The bride and groom continued with their preparations. The hall, conveniently located in central Israel, was all set.

 

Annette had suffered tragedy in her life. She lost her mother a couple of years ago. Her father was very unwell, and succumbed to his ailments just a few short weeks before her scheduled wedding. On her wedding day, she must have had some longing thoughts and feelings about her missing loved ones. She must have also been looking greatly forward to greeting relatives in joy and in happiness.

 

Her guests and friends, however, must have apparently assumed that, due to the passing of the bride’s father, the wedding had been. The majority of them were awaiting word about an alternative date, and did not make their way to the wedding.

 

The wedding was, after all, not cancelled. A disaster of massive proportions was unfolding. Only around ten people, a mere handful of guests, had shown up. It was ten in the evening, and the place was disconcertingly and painfully empty.

 

One of the groom’s relatives, Rivkah, decided to take matters into her own hands. She posted the details of the situation on social media from her phone. She requested of anyone who read her words simply to show up at the wedding of this dejected couple. She wrote “You don’t need to bring a gift, you don’t need to bring money. Just come fill the auditorium, perform the good deed of bringing joy to a bride and a groom, especially an orphan, and let’s make them happy!”

 

Word spread quickly through social media and word of mouth. Around two thousand people showed up! The pictures show a packed auditorium, filled to the brim with people from every walk of Israeli life. From the ultra-religious to the ultra-secular, every stream of Jewish Israelis was represented.

 

All total strangers!

 

After standing alone under the wedding canopy, futilely hoping their guests would somehow arrive, the bride and the groom soon realized what had unfolded before their eyes on their special day. And they cried.

 

The impromptu guests also managed to bring gifts and their checkbooks. It was a beautiful sendoff to the elated couple.

 

This is the Israeli people at their best. Two thousand people. From near and far. From all walks of life. That is so moving.

 

A similar story occurred in Israel not too long ago with a widower who was sitting alone at the grave of his wife of fifty years. He had been waiting for hours, hoping for a quorum of ten men to recite the Kaddish. Someone finally discovered this situation, snapped a picture, and posted it on social media, with a request that people make an effort to attend this short prayer service. Dozens from all walks of life showed up, and the poor man recited the prayer, and then broke down in tears over this incredibly warm gesture. See here for the details: http://www.onlysimchas.com/news/8346/

 

These stories, aside from warming the heart, emphasize a critical element of responsibility and camaraderie in Judaism, and is based on a strong message from one of the elements in this week’s Torah portion, “Re’eh.”

 

The Torah addresses the Jewish people in the desert, poised to enter the Holy Land, and are seeking to expand their eating experience: “[If] you say: ‘I want to eat meat,’ because your soul desires to eat meat, then you may eat as much meat as your soul desires… You may slaughter from your cattle and sheep which G-d has given to you, and then you may eat meat in your cities as much as your soul desires… However, be strong not to eat the blood, for the blood is the soul, and you may not eat the soul with the flesh.” (D’varim (Deuteronomy) 12: 20-23.)

 

Many laws of Kosher food are found in this week’s Torah portion. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Torah presents the above rules about slaughtering animals and not consuming their blood. It is the opening words that seem strange: Have the people not eaten any meat in their forty years in the desert?

 

Rabbi Yishmael in the Talmud (Chullin 16b) explains that, in the desert, the Jewish people were not permitted to eat any meat other than of animals offered to the Almighty in the Sanctuary. This is because, while in the desert, all the needs of the people – such as food, water, shelter, even laundry – were miraculously provided from Heaven. The people were thus allowed the time to be devoted entirely to spiritual pursuits. In the desert, therefore, there was no room for eating meat that “your soul desires.” Animals offered on the Altar maintained a sanctity akin to their spiritual lives. Only this meat was permissible for consumption.

 

Once the people would enter the Land of Israel, regular life would then begin. It would be necessary for the people to provide their own food, build their own homes, and tailor their own clothing. They would be now living and working in the natural world.  Their spiritual focus would also shift to the routine and the mundane. Now they were also permitted to partake of the physical world, and to introduce purity there too.

 

The Torah does insist on a condition, though: “Be strong not to eat the blood.” Blood is the energy, the passion, and the urge. The meat is permitted in order to be utilized for positive and sanctified purposes. The passion, the excitement, and the craving for materialistic involvement must be curbed and guided in the right direction.

 

Those people in today’s Israel who selflessly attended that wedding and the prayer in the cemetery did just that. They directed their energies, their passion, and their compassion, towards turning a wedding – and a lonely old man – into a time and place of elevation, of holiness, and of Divinity.

 

This type of beautiful news from Israel should surely inspire all people of all places to discover opportunities to bring sanctity and elevation to every corner of the earth.

 

 

SUMMARY: Enthusiasm and passion, when directed towards the right matter, can bring great elevation to this world.

 

 

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