Rabbi Yakov Saacks, The Chai Center, Dix Hills, NY
It was a beautiful warm spring day, a picture-perfect one where the sun and breeze cooperated to the fullest extent. Not too hot, not too cold – just breathtakingly gorgeous. It was a perfect day for a wedding and a wedding we had.
Lag B’omer 2020.
I would have never dreamt that my wife Zoey and I would be standing under our son Mendy‘s wedding canopy all decked out in our wedding best. My wife looking beautiful in her long flowing gown and me well, a new hat, while both wearing bright sky-blue masks that covered our smiles.
Under the Chupah I held steadfastly onto two very precious items. The first being the wedding band that my son had entrusted to me to hold until the right moment. The second, just as precious, was a bottle of Purell – hand sanitizer.
You see, this private wedding took place during the Covid–19 pandemic. Only close family members were invited such as the bride and groom’s parents, siblings and one or two aunts and uncles. There was no dancing, not even a one-piece band, all because of social distancing.
Both the chazzan/cantor and the Rabbi stood from afar assuring that social distance was being kept and most of the guests (sadly, not all) wore masks or a bandana printed with the names of my son and his new wife as a wedding memento.
In past weddings for my other children, there was literally pandemonium. There were hundreds of guests cheering and celebrating, a rocking band (yes, very loud), gallons of alcoholic beverages consumed, and an event that lasted for hours upon hours.
Don’t get me wrong, this wedding was extremely festive, albeit without the racket. It was a very though, a very different experience. True, I was concerned whether I would feel that I lost out on an opportunity to celebrate and share my second son’s wedding. I was equally worried that my son and new daughter-in-law Mushkie would feel cheated out of a huge wedding and party.
Here is the fascinating thing to me. Not even for a millisecond have we looked back with regret. Not that we had much choice during a pandemic, but my wife and I felt that everything was perfect. Neither during or after the wedding did we feel badly. On the contrary, it was a Kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of Hashem’s name.
I learned quite a few things from this experience:
1. I learned to let go. Not everything will always go as planned. Sometimes you just need to simply let go. A true lesson in humility.
2. Larger is not always better. Aside from the Covid anxiety, there was much less stress. Our new daughter’s family prepared everything to the tee, from the spiritual preparations to the ice cream. Another silver lining, we did, in fact, save a few shekels which in turn we will give to the newlyweds.
3. Our community, friends, peers and family understood. This was a great concern. So many people knew my son from when he was literally a baby. I was initially upset, but the support I received from the community where I am the Rabbi and from family and friends was heartfelt and appreciated.
4. You can tell someone is smiling even though they wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth. The eyes change and get smaller and you feel the smile even though you don’t see it.
5. We received so many blessings from so many people. There were hundreds who watched the wedding live-streamed and the comments and well wishes were overwhelming. I realized that the blessings, like this dreaded Covid, came from all over the world and not just from where the Chupah was situated.
All those that bless shall be blessed – in double measure.