On February 17, 2001, my wife and I were married in Bais Faiga hall in Lakewood, NJ. (Lakewood is a city way down the Garden State Parkway with a prominent yeshiva, as well as numerous other Torah institutions, a bunch of kosher restaurants, and many religious Jews. Perhaps you’ve heard of it…)
At our wedding we were joined by our closest friends, relatives, and neighbors. It was a most special and memorable evening. We were the stars of the show and everyone who came and danced did so in our honor. There were flowers, a live band, and other floppy things that made the night even more memorable. We definitely felt very special.
About a week later I was back in Bais Faiga attending a ‘spousal-obligation-wedding’. Those are the weddings of your spouse’s friends that you have to attend in order to accompany your spouse, even though you don’t really know anyone there. That particular wedding was quite a humbling experience. Here I was standing in the same spot where a week earlier I was the center of attention and everyone was looking to shake my hand and wish me all blessings, and now I was just another face in the crowd.
Some people politely greeted me and asked who I was and what I was doing there. For the evening, I explained that I was “the new husband of the former Chani Mermelstein”. Some people remembered that our wedding had been a week earlier and wished me Mazal Tov, others simply asked if she was related to “the Mermelsteins from Brooklyn”. [Open a phone book from any Jewish area and see how many Mermelsteins come up. That’s one reason why I chose to stick with the name Staum.]
Bais Faiga will always be the place where we married (as well as the place where my wife went to school, which itself is an interesting combination), and it’s always nice to point that out when we drive by. But ultimately, as soon as our wedding was over, and we left the hall it no longer had much meaning to us. It wasn’t so much where it happened that matters as much as what happened. The important thing is that we were and are married, and that bond traverses all time and place.
Everyone knows that Mount Sinai was the location where the Torah was given. We are taught that it was because of the humility of Sinai that it merited becoming the chosen mountain. We are also taught about the incredible unprecedented and never repeated revelation of Sinai, at which all of our souls were present.
Yet Sinai no longer contains any holiness. In fact, we aren’t completely sure where it is. Contrast that with Har Habayis (Temple Mount), from which the Shechina has never departed.
Har Sinai is the place where we forged or connection with Hashem, and the Torah served as the divine ring. Har Sinai was our wedding hall. Therefore, it is no longer important to remember where it happened as much as it’s vital that we remember that it happened. The bond forged there traverses all times and places. No matter where we have been exiled to and how long we have been away from home, that bond remains secure.
Har Habayis on the other hand, is the home we constructed for Hashem. It was there that we learned to serve Him with awe, trepidation, and love. It was there that He demonstrated His professed love for us through miraculous occurrences which were commonplace there. A home has far more personal meaning than a wedding hall. A home represents the perpetuation of the bond and everlasting dedication to its preservation. Therefore, the divine presence has never left Har Habayis.
The great Yom Tov of Kabbolas HaTorah is upon us; the day we recall what and why, even though we no longer know where. Happy 3,232nd Anniversary!
By Rabbi Dani Staum
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