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05/28/2020 03:58:59 PM


Lisa Septimus

Jenn was not quite bridezilla, but she came close. 

For months we had been hearing about the music, the dress, the seating, but especially about the chuppah. Jenn wanted it outdoors.  She had picked the perfect gazebo area and the perfect June day. It was the perfect June day, until the weather took an unexpected turn the afternoon of the wedding. One hour before the wedding, the workers at the hall suggested she switch to an indoor chuppah. This was too much for Jenn. She couldn’t shift gears that quickly. Against the advice of the experts, she refused to move the chuppah, and everyone nervously made their way outside through thick humidity and sat before the dreamy but ominous chuppah.  

Music played and a procession began walking down the aisle.  Finally, Jenn accompanied by her parents, started making their way. The crowd stood up and a drop fell down - and then another, and another. We all tried our best to ignore it and shifted uncomfortably, but by the time Jenn had circled her husband seven times, the skies could not be contained and it began to pour. People started dashing inside through the teeming rain. But, the chuppah had to go on.  Most guests watched from large windows indoors as the wedding party huddled under the talis and chuppah and completed the ceremony.  

While we waited for the bride and groom to join the reception, a few of Jenn’s friends gathered and discussed what to say to her. Should we not mention what happened? Should we give her a hug expressing both sympathy and joy? Before we could decide, the new couple was ushered in. Jenn looked radiant. She started to dance with her close friends and glowingly said, "Wasn’t that awesome, it was just like in the shtetl; so real!"

Sometimes the plans we make don’t turn out as expected.  Shavuot is the holiday that reminds us that Plan B may not have been our first choice but it doesn't mean it can't be awesome. 

The plan for Matan Torah was to have the entire Jewish people experience the powerful presence of the Almighty and help inspire a strong commitment to and love of the Torah.  Imagine Moshe's shock when as he descends the mountain he heard the “inspired nation” worshiping a Golden Calf. Imagine the people’s shock when the very luchot Moshe had spent 40 days receiving are now smashed to the ground. So, when we celebrate Shavuot – we are not really celebrating the destroyed luchot of the original plan, but rather the luchot of Plan B - or attempt B. 

We also read Megillat Rut, a story not of first loves, romance and perfect choices, but rather a story of teshuvah for past misdeeds (Naomi's family or the nation of Moav), developing love from kindness, and second marriages. Sometimes life throws us a curve ball and we need to know whether to swerve out of the way or hit it out of the park. Our two stories connected to Shavuot teach us when each is called for.

When Moshe descended the mountain and saw the Jews sinning he smashed the luchot. His anger and frustration was completely understandable and his instinct seemed to be to give up. But, a moment later he petitioned God to save this nation - to give them another chance - to give them another luchot. And sure enough, Moshe goes up the mountain again for a second set determined as ever. 

What allowed Moshe to be so determined?  

He believed in his mission. He knew it was so worthwhile that even if it seemed like he had lost it all, everything he had worked for was destroyed - he knew he would rebuild it. Life had not gone according to plan, but that wouldn't stop him and Moshe hits it out of the park.

When we are introduced to our heroines of Megillat Rut, we find them shaken by life.  Rut is a young childless widow and Naomi has lost her husband, sons, and fortune. Obviously, they are both in a situation they never expected or wanted. It would have been natural for Rut to go home and try again - find a new man in Moav and stay the course, as Orpah does eventually. It would’ve made sense for Naomi to refuse to return to Israel and face humiliation. Or even brave enough to return, to do so alone.

Without a Moabite sticking to her like a scarlet letter. Both women have been thrown curve balls and they choose to swerve. To move aside and try something different. To leave the past behind and start again. 

Rut leaves behind her nation. A nation that was associated with a culture of selfishness. Naomi changes the direction of her family. A family that tried to run away from people in need and their problems. Naomi returns to her abandoned people and brings her daughter-in-law, even though she fears she may only be a burden. When Rut and Naomi's lives come crashing down, they see it as an opportunity for reckoning and reconsidering. If you know you’re on the right path, as Moshe did, you forge ahead. If you suspect you are not, then you must re-evaluate and change paths.

Difficult times brings about a reckoning in our lives. Whether you don't have a minute to breathe between work, children, and household chores or whether don't know how to fill your time, we have all been pitched a curve ball.  

When we see it, will we smack it with our clear values, sense of purpose and identity, and unbreakable connection to family, friends, and community? Or will we swerve off our present path? One we often tread on auto-pilot and cruise control? Will we choose a Plan B? A new path - though not as picturesque as the perfect chuppah under the perfect blue sky? 

Will we feel real and joyful even if it rains on our wedding day?


By: Lisa Septimus

Sat, May 18 2024 10 Iyyar 5784