When one makes a simchah, Hashem takes his deceased parents from Gan Eden and brings them to join in the simchah
“But with those standing here with us today before Hashem, our G-d, and also with those who are not here with us today.” (Devarim 29:14)
The covenant discussed here was sealed with those who were standing right there before Hashem on that day, but also with the deceased of the previous generations. (Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, Fascinating Insights on the Torah)
Despite the years, I still found it hard to believe that my baby was married with a baby of her own. How had that happened?
I remember the moment I found out I was expecting her; I already knew this child of mine would be a girl and what her name would be. Of course my husband was sure his firstborn would be a boy and even started composing a pidyon haben speech, but I had no doubts. For years I’d thought about this child, this namesake of my grandmother, and how she would bring comfort to my mother and her family.
The first time I “met” my grandmother, I stood on Har Hamenuchos, a young seminary girl of 18. I had the instructions written down how to find the gravesite and was prepared with all the pirkei Tehillim and tefillos one says in such a place.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the rush of emotion that swamped me as I looked down at the words carved in stone. The person I’d heard so much about was now somehow tangible.
I wanted to introduce myself. But what did I call her? Would she have been Bubby? Savta? Somehow, the words started flowing, the tears as well. I told her who I was, how I got there, how much I sensed her love, despite the fact I’d never seen her. Expressing that connection strengthened the resolution I’d always had: My first daughter b’ezras Hashem would be named for my grandmother.
Similarly, the Zohar tells us, that when one makes a simchah, Hashem takes his deceased parents from Gan Eden and brings them to join in the simchah. The Midrash Rabba says that Dovid came to the inauguration of the Beis Hamikdash even though it occurred after his death.
So now it was that daughter’s anniversary. My memory flooded with memories of her chasunah.
The chasunah was the first week of September, the first week of Elul. Timing that, for the American side of my family, was really off. Besides one sister-in-law (bless you, Baila!) none of my siblings could get away. I understood their reasons and accepted that this first chasunah I’d be celebrating with my Israeli family alone.
It was hard. Yes, it hurt. But it was something I always knew could (probably would) happen when I chose to live 7,000 miles away from so many I loved dearly. But I had more to invite.
The Midrash Pinchas relates the following story: Rav Pinchas Koritzer made a wedding with many people in attendance. Yet no damage occurred — not even a small plate broke. Everyone was amazed. Rav Pinchas Koritzer explained that it was because the deceased were there on guard.
A week before the chasunah I went to Har Hamenuchos, armed with a printed invitation. I doubted if minhag dictated actually giving an invitation to those I was “inviting,” but I wanted something tangible, something to hold on to as I passed along the news of this milestone.
I’d come to this spot many times since that first year in seminary; each time, I’d stood under the lone tree that shaded her grave and davened and said Tehillim l’illui nishmasah. Now I was coming full circle.
My grandmother never had the chance to walk her children down to the chuppah. Yet I felt her accompanying me as I walked mine. She was the daughter of generations of Yerushalmi scholars, and I breathed in her presence as the Yerushalayim breeze rippled the cloth of the chuppah.
The words of the sheva brachos echoed through my heart, wound their tendrils of simchah as we celebrated together: “…B’kibbutz baneha l’socha b’simchah — as her children are gathered to her midst in joy.”
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 709)
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