A wedding in Jerusalem

Friday, 1 January, 2010 - 10:43 am

Holy day in a holy city

I would like to welcome you all on this most joyous occasion, the wedding of Yoni and Avi. It is a great honour to be at Yonatan and Avichag's holiest day that is taking place in the holiest city of the world, Jerusalem.

May the day of their wedding and their life be infused with the holiness of this scared city and be a blessing for a happy and joyous life together.

Past, present and future

At the wedding we have the coming together of the past, the present and the future. The power and force of the past is evident, real and tangible in the city of Jerusalem.  Every step and stone calls out with our heritage of thousands of years, tears and happiness.

Likewise the traditions at the Chupah (wedding ceremony) are rooted in history and ancient customs of our people, every aspect of which is imbued with deep spiritual meaning.

We are also united with the present that Yonatan and Avichag are getting married in the present creating a physical and spiritual bond with each other under the Chupah receiving Divine blessing for a joyous and happy life together.

The future is also represented at the wedding in the Chupah canopy, where we have just entered and under which the wedding takes place. The Chupah is the first home of Yonatan and Avi. What kind of home is this without any walls?

This however represents the home of Abraham our patriarch who while having an intimate and loving relationship their house was always open to visitors, guests, family and friends in good Jerusalem and Jewish tradition.

As in Jerusalem, the past, thousands years of Jewish heritage, is not just something of past – it is not even one of the seven wonders, even though Alhambra in Granada of merely 9th century is – for it is miraculously a vibrant and living city in the present, where history and the present are completely united. Similarly the traditions and spiritual meaning of the marriage are not just history but giving blessing in the present to the lives of Yoni and Avi

This is our hope and blessing for the future that your home should be based on Jewish traditional values imbued with love, sharing, kindness, joy and happiness with good health.

Addressing the bride and groom

It gives me much pleasure to address the bride and groom, Avi and Yoni.

Having known Avi & Yoni for several years I would like to say a few brief words about this remarkable couple.

Avi: you are a person who is clever, determined, passionate about being Jewish, know what you want out of life and will not settle for anything that is not the best, including Yoni.

You have a sense of responsibility, quality of leadership, as you represented one of the Jewish Societies in Oxford, the Chabad Society, you are also proud of your Sephardic heritage which has imbued you with warmth, joy of life and passion to succeed – which indeed you have done by studying in Oxford, a credit to your family and where you met a charming gentleman, Yonatan, whom you have chosen to marry.

Yoni: You are a person who is charming, undeterred by challenges, incredibly smart who apparently did not have to do much work at Oxford to succeed and the fact that you have made aliyah and are marrying in Israel speaks of your commitment to Jewish values, our People and our Land.

Love, hope and peace

Marriage is about, love, shared vision and peace.

When Isaac met Rebecca it says 'and he loved her'. When Jacob met Rebecca he worked for her for seven years which felt like ‘a few days in his great love for her’.

Love and marriage are not just contingent to one another ‘like a horse and carriage’ but essential to the relationship.

The words 'I love you' are not just meaningless words, as Jonathan Freedland recently observed in an article last week that people just say 'I love you' with no meaning – people say it in habit and has become void of sincerity. It has become replaced with lust, passion and self gratification.

True love is about giving of oneself. In Hebrew the word for love is ‘Ahavah’. The root fo the word is "Hav", which means ‘give’ to the other.

Love is also about respect for each other, as Maimonides writes, one should honour one's wife more than oneself. Similarly, the Torah says ‘You should love your neighbour as yourself.’

Love is about giving of oneself, humility and altruism.

Based on this love there needs to also be a shared vision of hope.

Some have the custom to throw kernels – 'hopen' in Yiddish – at the bride and groom. The Yiddish word 'hopen' also means hope – or jumping. Marriage is based on a vision and hope for the future.

Love alone is insufficient, there needs to be a joint vision and shared hope for the future between the bride and groom. Love transcends differences; shared vision and hope harmonises the natural differences.

It is clear that Avi and Yoni both share a vision for life.

They are both graduates of the esteemed institution, Oxford, both studied Jewish studies - I believe Yoni even helped Avi with the course he completed a year earlier. Both displayed leadership qualities in the leadership of Jewish life in Oxford, as presidents of the Oxford University Chabad society, and finally both chose to make Aliyah, immigrate to Israel, to serve our people. The importance of making Aliyah  is explained by Nachmanides, who described living in the Holy Land of Israel as residing in the palace of G-d, where G-d is manifest. These shared aspirations for life reflect a shared value system and compatibility for the future - an essential ingredient for living a harmonious life together.

Finally, peace: Maimonides says ‘Torah was given to bring peace to the world’.

These two concepts of love and shared vision allows for the third and most important condition for a healthy marriage - peace and harmony together, the ultimate need for Shalom Bayit, marital harmony.

May I bless you with these three aspects of life – true love, shared hope and peace – in your lives, allowing for the establishment of a home infused with Jewish values, blessed with good health and joyous occasions.

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