A wedding took place last week. The bride and groom weren’t members of Klal Yisrael, so it wasn’t a Jewish wedding. And yet, at least in a way, it was.
It took place in a Muslim country that I won’t identify; the authorities there do not look favorably on Jews or on citizens who communicate with Jews, like the groom and his mother, who long ago decided that the Jewish mesorah is true. Long ago, she abandoned the Christianity into which she was born, and has tried mightily, and with some success, to convince her husband, a Hindu, to forsake the idols and rites of his own upbringing and join her in her acceptance of Torah. Talk about a complicated family dynamic.
“Tehilla,” as I’ll call her, has not converted to Judaism. She and her two adult sons are “Bnei Noach,” non-Jews who have accepted the Torah’s truth and who cherish Klal Yisrael.
There are similar non-Jews in Australia, Asia, Europe and here in the United States (a good number of them, for some reason, in the south). Many confront formidable societal obstacles, although Tehilla, considering where she lives, likely faces more than most.
“Tehilla” is an appropriate alias for someone so filled with praise for the Jewish people. Her studies of Judaism over years and her electronic interaction with various rabbis around the world have endeared the Jewish people and the Jewish religion to her – and her to her mentors. Jews, to be sure, are enjoined from proselytizing to non-Jews, but Tehilla is self-motivated (an understatement); those, like me, who have corresponded with her are simply answering her queries – and are often inspired by her observations.
Tehilla’s empathy for Klal Yisrael, especially in Eretz Yisrael, is deep. And it is accompanied by a clarity of vision that eludes so many, and so much of the media. “With all the sufferings [the world has] inflicted on you all,” she once wrote, “I still cannot fathom how magnanimous you all are in being a light to all nations.”
“After meeting your people [by e-mail],” she once wrote, “I cannot understand how such a warm, compassionate and humane people can be so persecuted and so misunderstood.”
And, from other communications:
“G-d will never allow you to fall, in the merit of your patriarchs and prophets… soon G-d is going to say ‘enough’ to your tears…
“All I can pray is when Hashem decides it’s time for all your sufferings to be over, He will show us Gentiles the compassion we failed to show you all.
And she looks forward to Moshiach’s arrival with eagerness: “The greatest blessing for believing Gentiles like us is to be able to live where we can study … without fear and acknowledge Hashem as the supreme G-d and you all as His chosen.
Tehilla has always worried about how her sons, who share her dedication to truth, will find wives who will likewise eschew their religious upbringings and accept emes. She was overjoyed when her older son found precisely such a young woman. Their marriage is the one that recently took place.
Tehilla was pained by the possibility that the bride’s family, Hindus, would insist on a ceremony that might include idolatrous rituals. In the end, the young couple’s insistence on only a civil ceremony and one presided over by an Orthodox rabbi in another country, carried the day – with the full support of Tehilla’s husband, and reluctant acceptance by the bride’s parents. (And you thought your chasunos had challenges!
Tehilla is overwhelmed with gratitude toward her distant Jewish friends, whose tefillos on her behalf she credits with her good fortune. Of course, those Jewish friends credit her fortitude and perseverance in a religiously hostile environment
It’s an image worth conjuring, and pondering. A family without any natural connection to Jews or Judaism that has embraced both. A wedding of two non-Jews who believe that Moshe emes v’Torahso emes, and who will raise their family accordingly. A Bas Noach mother and traditional Hindu father looking on proudly.
I don’t know how many others there are in the wide world who have thought deeply about life and history and come to the same conclusion as Tehilla and her sons have. But it’s intriguing to imagine that there may be many who are entirely “off the radar.” And heartening to imagine that one day, their lives will come more publicly into view. And then go, as they say, viral.
Our hope for precisely that, after all, is what we express three times a day in the second paragraph of Aleinu.