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Thursday, April 7th, 2005
Literally translated, mikreh means ìkarah míHaShem - it happened from G-d. The word itself testifies that nothing, absolutely nothing, occurs without His guidance, and this holds true from the most major to the most insignificant event. Our sages teach that a man does not so much as prick his finger or stub his toe without it being orchestrated from Above. Coincidence, on the other hand, connotes a random event. Things happen because they happen, without rhyme or reason, and G-d is most certainly out of the equation. On the other hand, we, Am Yisrael, see hashgach - Divine guidance and direction in every situation, even in apparently ordinary occurrences, and nowhere is this more evident than in Jerusalem.
Once again, I write this column on a return flight from our Holy Land. I was in Jerusalem for a modern-day Jewish fairy tale wedding, but before I relate the story of that amazing simcha, allow me to share with you some remarkable coincidences .... I leave it to you to decide whether they are ìcoincidenceî or mikreh.
The wedding was scheduled to take place late Sunday afternoon. Earlier that day, I was invited to speak for Shuvu - an outstanding organization that works tirelessly for Russian Jews in Israel. I also planned to give the students a gift of my book, ìThe Committed Lifeî in Russian translation. The director of the school was waiting at the entrance to the building to greet us. Just as our taxi pulled up. a heimishe looking Yid, passed by. And the director, thinking that he was part of our party, extend his hand to him in greeting and asked his name, to which the man responded, ìJungreisî. And the director proceeded to escort him into the school.
Somehow, all this interplay eluded me. I was under the impression that that gentleman walking in with us was a member of the Shuvu staff, and it was only as I was about to speak that the truth emerged. The heimish Yid turned out to be a distant cousin whose father, Zítl, had studied together with my husband, HaRav Meshulem HaLevi Jungreis, Zítl in yeshiva in Hungary!
ìCoincidenceî or mikreh? - I invite you to decide.
However, my day in Jerusalem was just starting. From the Shuvu program I rushed off to that magical wedding, and here I was faced with a dilemma, for on that evening there were two weddings that I had to attend - the one that I mentioned earlier and a second one that was to be celebrated at the other end of Jerusalem This second young couple was from the Sephardic community. The chossen was a victim of terror who had been caught in the horrific bombing of the Number 2 bus returning from the Kotel. The Kallah had also been on the same bus, but she got off just before the explosion. The young man went through a very difficult and painful recovery period, and our Hineni chapter in Jerusalem was there to help him work through his trauma. The kallah, overwhelmed by the twist of fate that had allowed her to be spared, felt a tremendous responsibility to HaShem and a kinship with those who werenít equally fortunate - and now this had become a Hineni-Jerusalem wedding. They were anxious for me to join them and give them a brocha for a new life of Torah on which they were about to embark together. The chosen was planning to spend the first few years of their marriage learning Torah, and the kallah was very proud and supportive. So yes, I wanted to be there for them. But since the first wedding was one in which I personally was the shadchan, and the chossen/kallah had no parents, I regarded them as my children, and with great joy I accepted the honor of escorting the bride under the chuppah. So to resolve my dilemma, I decided to stop by the second wedding late in the evening to give the chossen/kallah a bracha.
I was one of the first guests to arrive at the wedding... I wanted to be there early to escort the bride to her chair... to sit at her side and hold her hand, as a mother would. It was a cold, drizzly, windy day in Yerushalayim, and from time to time, the rain was fell in torrents. As I walked into the reception room, I was greeted by the chossen from the second wedding (the victim of the Arab terror attack). He rushed toward me, his face aglow with happiness. I became totally confused. Could it be that I had mixed up the sites of the two weddings?
ìRabbanit, how wonderful that you came,î he said, bursting with joy. ìMy kallah will be so happy. Sheís upstairs...can you give her a brocha? Still confused, I went to greet the second beautiful bride, who couldnít believe that I was actually there. Finally, a few minutes later, the pieces all fell into place.
Bride and groom had been on their way to the Kotel for wedding photographs (a tradition in many Sephardic communities) when a heavy downpour began. Their photographer took them back to his studio which is located in the same hotel in which the other wedding was to take place. There is an old Yiddish saying, ìMen ken nisht tanzen oif tzvei chasenehsî - ìYou canít dance at two weddingsî... But if HaShem wills it, and you are in Yerushalayim, you can!
ìCoincidenceî or mikreh?
And now to tell you about the Jewish fairy tale wedding of that magical couple, David and Nechama Tamara.
I first met David, who was born in Russia, some three years ago when I was lecturing in a small Jewish community in California. Tall, handsome, bright and charming - he definitely stood out from the crowd.
ìDavid,î I told him,î You simply must come to New York so that you can enroll in a serious Torah program and I can introduce you to a nice Jewish girl.î
Well, one fine evening, David showed up at our Hineni Torah class in New York. Very quickly, he became a much loved member of the Orthodox community. With his keen mind, he became totally absorbed in Torah study, and with his kindness and chein he endeared himself to one and all, but try as I could, I couldnít find the right girl for him. Every date that I set up was ìcloseî, but not ìquite there.î Then, this past Chanukah, I was in Eretz Yisrael. In honor of the Yom Tov, we were giving copies of the Hebrew translation of my book, ìThe Committed Lifeî to the soldiers of the IDF. While there, we also had the zchus of attending a wonderful wedding. The groom, was part of our Hineni family and a ìben bayitîin my daughterís home. His kallah had taken time off from her medical studies to learn at Midreshet Rachel in Jerusalem. It was a beautiful wedding under the open skies of Jerusalem with the Kotel as a backdrop. All of the Kallahís friends from seminary were present and it was there that I spotted Nechama Tamara. An exquisite young woman with a striking, regal air, she had come to Israel from Russia via Poland. Her mother had died when she was very young and she had undergone a long, arduous and painful journey to reach Jerusalem. Some people become bitter and angry when fate deals harshly with them. Others grow, become wise, and turn to G-d. The latter held true for Nechama Tamara. An artist and designer by profession, she applied her sensitivity to building a new Torah life and quickly became a beloved source of inspiration to everyone. . As soon as I saw her, I knew that I had found Davidís wife.
When I returned to the States, I gave David her e-mail, but when he questioned me as to how well I knew her, I told him that I hadnít spoken to her for more than five minutes, and yet, I just knew that she was the right one. ìJust call and e-mail her,î I urged.
David was skeptical, but just the same, he contacted her, and from their very first conservation, they clicked. But the distance made it seem unrealistic and impractical. Soon afterward, David called to tell me that he was going to Odessa for his fatherís yahrzeit. ìThereís no wayî, I told him, ìthat you can return to New York without stopping off in Yerushalayim. You must meet Nechama Tamaraî. A few weeks later, I received a phone call from Jerusalem. ìRebbetzin,î came Davidís sweet voice, ìRebbetzin,î he repeated with excitement, ìNechama Tamara is everything you said, and more! How can we ever thank you? We are so happy. You must come to our wedding!î
Baruch HaShem, I have had the zchus of making many shidduchim in my life, but this one was different...two children without parents embarking upon a long, long journey home, finding one another, crossing continents, and oceans, building a bayit neíeman - a new home in Jerusalem, and forging a link in that timeless chain of Torah. The wedding took place after Purim, and in extending the brocha to chossen/kallah. I said that that great Yom Tov of Purim is a true reflection of their simcha..... it was a true níhapachu - a total turn around. From Russia to Jerusalem, from the secular world to a life of Torah, from darkness to light, from sorrow to gladness, from hopelessness to triumph... and it all happened in the wink of an eye!
The story of David and Nechama is the miraculous story of the Jewish people - two regal children returning to Torah, to their Jewish roots.
Everyone at that wedding danced with an energy from Above, for that wedding was open testimony that He who is Above has not forsaken His people. Kee loh yitosh Ha Shem et amoî .He has not abandoned His children
ìThis is My Covenant with them - And My words which I have placed upon your lips, shall not depart from your lips, nor from the lips of your children or your childrenís children, forevermore - Thus sayeth the L-rd.î