The guests had been at tens of weddings and were familiar with the religious ceremony. The story of the bride and groom was the stuff of legends, and everyone expected something special, but this wedding was an experience!
The bride was born into a difficult situation. People treated her as a slave. The groom loved her and saved her. He provided for her; food, water and clothing. He even saved her life on more than one occasion. He was her hero, and now wanted to marry her in a unique ceremony.
Although the Ketuba, or marriage contract, is usually ceremoniously signed before the Chupah, the groom insisted that it be treated as a real contract. When both she and he stood at the Chupah, he listed all his obligations to her. The female guests were mesmerized by a groom so aware of, and sensitive to, his obligations and her needs. The men were uncomfortable and squirmed as the groom spoke. "I have detailed my obligations. I will now list my expectations of you." The men relaxed. The women began to fidget. The groom wanted the bride's actions to reflect well on their relationship even outside of their home.
The already different ceremony became even stranger when the groom said, "Yes, I have high expectations. I know that there will be times when you fail to meet them. I will withdraw at such moments, but I want you to continue to listen for my voice calling to you even when you don't see me. I want every moment of our lives together to connect with this moment. Will you do as I ask? Will you forever hear my words?"
"I will do and I will hear!"
The wedding, of course, was Sinai. The Sages teach that God held the mountain above the heads of the Children of Israel as a wedding canopy, a Chupah. He listed His commitments to His bride. He then articulated His expectations of her, and then said, "Behold! I send an angel before you to protect you on the way." (Exodus 23:20) Rashi explains that God alluded to the future sin of Israel, and said that He would withdraw His Presence from them. Rabbeinu Zerachia teaches that the promised "Angel" would be God's voice eternally calling to Israel even when they feel Him distant.
The bride, the Children of Israel responded, "We will do as You ask, and we will always listen for Your voice calling us back to You. We will do and we will listen."
How sad it is to observe a person fulfilling all his responsibilities as obligations, without a sense of relationship or love. The spouse who does all she 'must,' absent the connection she felt under the Chupah. The parent who will do everything a parent 'should' without the magical connection experienced the first time he held his child in his arms. The religious person, meticulous in observance, the "We will do," without listening for God's Voice that lovingly calls out from each commandment. Each prayer, each Shabbat, each festival, each Mitzvah, is an opportunity to reconnect to that very different wedding. When we take advantage of those opportunities we will hear that same Voice calling for us, and, we too, will be able to say, "We will do and we hear."
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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