Over the past few weeks, I, like many other Jewish people, have been asked by our non-Jewish friends how we are doing. At first, I struggled for an answer to that question as I watched the news of the atrocities Hamas terrorists committed against my people, which was then followed by marches and speeches by protestors, politicians, teachers, and college students around the globe. It wasn’t until a few days ago that I found a way to explain how I and many of your Jewish friends and neighbors are feeling.
The simplest way I have found to answer the question is to share a little about a very known Jewish tradition. If you have ever attended or have seen a Jewish wedding ceremony, one of the most well known parts of the ceremony other than the chuppah (wedding canopy) is the breaking of the glass. Toward the very end of the ceremony, a glass is placed by the foot of the groom, upon which he stomps, smashing the glass into tiny fragments, while the crowd shouts Mazel Tov (good fortune).
While many people are familiar with the tradition of the breaking of the glass, most are not familiar with the reason this tradition is included in the ceremony. Though there are many different reasons provided for breaking the glass, I will list only four in the article. Two of these reasons I am sharing are words of blessing. The first is that it is said: “May there be more joy and peace in your marriage than there are little shards of glass from the broken glass.” The second is the hope that “It would be harder to break apart your marriage than it would be to restore the broken glass without it having any signs or evidence of it being broken.” The third I am sharing is the humorous statement that the reason the glass is broken is because it is the last time the groom will get to put his foot down.
The fourth reason I am sharing is that, as Jews, even at the most joyous of occasions, such as a wedding, we still remember the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Just as the walls of the Temple were broken under the foot of Rome, this glass is broken underfoot. This symbolic act reminds us that even in the middle of something as beautiful and wonderful as a wedding, we still live in a world that desires to eliminate the Jewish people and erase our history from the face of the earth.
Unlike other people groups, the Jewish people live in a world in which we know that throughout our history, every so many years someone rises to power with a desire to end us: the Amalekites, Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Spanish, Germans, just to name a few. We live our lives in such a way that we celebrate life cycle events, such as births, circumcisions, bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings, and all other Holy Days and holidays with a blend of jubilant rejoicing, while always knowing in the back of our minds that history is bound to repeat itself and that it is only a matter of time until the next demonstration, the next protest, the next cross burning, the next synagogue burning, the next Jews murdered, the next inquisition, or Holocaust.
So, while the horrors of October 7th’s murdering of Israeli civilians by Hamas terrorists, followed by mass protests around the world (not against the terrorists, but against the Jewish people) are disheartening, they are not surprising.
If you really want to understand how I and the rest of your Jewish friends are feeling right now, just know that our entire life is like a Jewish wedding, overwhelmingly blessed and beautiful, while at the same time always knowing that someday soon the glass is going to break, along with our hearts.