We have been inundated with an overload of media regarding the current war in Israel. Some of the heartwarming images I have seen despite so much devastation are the pictures of brides and grooms under the Chuppah wearing their army green IDF uniforms. It’s so heartwarming to see so many soldiers who have been fighting over the last month who used their brief time off to get married or engaged.
While many of the Jewish customs and rituals are well known, there is actually one referenced in this week’s parshah.
One of the most exciting moments of a Jewish wedding ceremony is the Bedecken which means cloaking. It is the moment when the groom is danced into the room where the bride is seated, and he pulls the veil gently over her face in preparation for the walk down the aisle. At that poignant moment, it is customary for the father of the bride to bestow a personal blessing on his daughter and also recite a verse from our Parshah :
וַיְבָרְכ֤וּ אֶת־רִבְקָה֙ וַיֹּ֣אמְרוּ לָ֔הּ אֲחֹתֵ֕נוּ אַ֥תְּ הֲיִ֖י לְאַלְפֵ֣י רְבָבָ֑ה וְיִירַ֣שׁ זַרְעֵ֔ךְ אֵ֖ת שַׁ֥עַר שֹׂנְאָֽיו׃
And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “O sister! May you become thousands of myriads; May your descendants inherit the gates of their foes.”
Commentators explain the blessing beyond the basic meaning: the Kli Yakar- Rabbi Ephraim Lunschitz (1550-1610 Prague) states that becoming thousands of myriads indicates that you should merit bringing kindness to the masses, and you will win them over as great and loyal friends. The Netziv, Rabbi Naftali Berlin (1816-1890 Russia) states that inheriting the gates of your foes means that other nations will come to you to gain wisdom and insight.
Both of these blessings have come to be over the ages. Israel is a country that sets up field hospitals when a natural disaster occurs, is a world leader in agricultural innovation, is a world leader in High Tech innovation and medical equipment, a kind country with good people who care about their citizenry and about all people in the world.
May we merit seeing the end of this war soon and return to providing goodness and wisdom to the world around us.
Rabbi Ephraim Epstein
Community Scholar in Residence