Reason to Celebrate!

July 18, 2012 - 5:00 am

“This is what the Lord says:  ‘You say about this place, “It is a desolate waste, without people or animals.” Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither people nor animals, there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord, saying, “Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good; his love endures forever.” For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the Lord.” — Jeremiah 33:10–11

Jeremiah prophecies that the very same Jerusalem that will become completely uninhabited, will eventually return to fullness. To illustrate the complete restoration of Jerusalem, the prophet describes the joyous scene of a bride and groom who join worshipers bringing offerings of thanks in the rebuilt Holy Temple.

The Jewish Sages borrowed this imagery when they designed the Jewish wedding ceremony, but they made one significant change. They eliminated the part about the Temple. Why?

The Sages who wrote the wedding blessings felt that the prophecy in its original language could lead to despair. When Jerusalem sat desolate – as it did for the majority of the last two millennia – who could believe that redemption was near?

The Sages felt that setting aspirations too high would lead to depression, and then apathy. Why strive for a goal that is totally out of reach? In their wisdom, the Sages substituted an alternative to the all-or-nothing scenario. The full blessing reads:  “Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the joyous sounds of bridegrooms from their wedding canopies and young men from their music-filled festivities.”

Instead of utter desolation or total redemption, the sages introduce an option in between:  regular life in the Holy Land. In this scenario, there may not be a Temple or world peace, but the Jewish people have returned to their homeland. There are regular life-cycle events and young people do the same kinds of things that other kids do, like listening to their music. This then, the Sages are telling us, is a reason for celebration.

All too often in life, we take the all-or-nothing approach. We demand perfection – from ourselves, from others, from our lives. It can be downright depressing when we compare the life we have with the life that we expected. The Sages teach us that this kind of thinking can be extremely detrimental. Instead of focusing on how far we need to go, they suggest that we celebrate how far we have come.

So what if you earn less than you wanted, thank God you have a job! So what if your spouse whines, you have someone to share your life with! When we find joy wherever we are on our journey, we will have the strength to continue towards the life of our dreams.

And that is reason to celebrate!


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