Tuesday, April 5, 2011

This is one of the two speeches I wrote in honor of my brother-in-law's wedding last week in my hometown. This is the basic material, minus the personal words I addressed to the new couple:

The last mishna in Ta’anis quotes the pasuk in Shir HaShirim:
  צְאֶנָה וּרְאֶינָה בְּנוֹת צִיּוֹן בַּמֶּלֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹה--בָּעֲטָרָה שֶׁעִטְּרָה-לּוֹ אִמּו,ֹ בְּיוֹם חֲתֻנָּתוֹ, וּבְיוֹם שִׂמְחַת לִבּוֹ. 
Explaining the last phrase, the mishna elaborates: “B’yom chasunaso” is referring to matan Torah, and “b’yom simchas libo” is alluding to the Beis HaMikdash.

But this explanation needs further elaboration: first of all, what is the qualitative difference between b’yom chasunaso and b’yom sichas libo? The fact that they are listed separately connotes that there are varying levels of simcha as characterized by these days, the lesser being the first and the greater, the second.
Second, if these two days are symbolized by kabolas haTorah and the Bais HaMikdash, respectively, wouldn’t it seem to make more sense if it were the other way around? Matan Torah was a once-in-a-lifetime event, never to occur again, when an entire people witnessed the Divine revelation! And although the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, in theory it could have remained forever. Why is the seemingly greater level of joy associated with the apparently lesser of the two? Why is it that the Bais HaMikdash is regarded as a greater simcha than mattan torah? What is the deeper meaning to this ma’amer?

I heard from a great talmid chacham a very important insight that can shed light on this mishna:

Of course matan Torah is the greater event, by definition. The entire Creation was geared toward this tachlis; essentially, this was the kiddushin between God and His chosen people, the bnei Yisrael! But like any wedding, there is the recognition that this elevated spirit, this time of unbelievable joy will not last. There will be a wedding, and then an entire week of sheva brachos, - but then the chosson goes back to yeshiva, and the kallah goes back to school and life as we know it picks up again. Matan Torah happened, but on the next day, everyone returned to their regular business, because life continues. Because we intuitively understand this, the joy of the wedding has this feeling mixed into it, and it is not an ultimate level of joy.  Additionally, while matan Torah was a crescendo in the history of Creation, it was by no means the climax of Creation; just as the kiddushin is only the beginning of the path towards shleimus with our soul mates, so it is with matan Torah – the embarking on a magnificent journey toward our Creator.

But the Bais haMikdash represents the hope and the ideal of the bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael. The beis haMikdash takes that awesome event and filters it into our everyday lives. It is a testimony and an affirmation to the unique relationship that we alone have with the Master of the World. Yes, we’ve gone back to our regular programming, but we have the blessing of the Shechina’s Presence with us. We can make our home anywhere – from Yerushalayim to Brooklyn to Cleveland – and we will never be alone, because we strive to maintain a binyan adei ad.

That is b’yom simchas libo – when we take the reality of HaShem’s Presence and internalize it in our day-to-day dealings, filtering that Divine input of kabolas haTorah into our very own mikdash me’at, letting it guide us through our lives. That is true joy.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Your bil married a girl from your hometown.

Shmuel said...

Yeah, her family lives around the corner from my folks.