By R' Dani Staum
What an unusual baseball season it has been! In a season that began quite late and had been shortened to 60 games, a couple of games were already canceled because of an outbreak among Miami Marlins players.
The games are being played in empty stadiums without fans. In some stadiums, cardboard cutouts of fans were placed in the stands around the stadium. Artificial sounds of cheering crowds for the home team are also being sounded. Some (real) fans are complaining that the cutouts look freaky and should be removed.
The roar of the crowd is a tremendous motivator. Every sports player is aware that talent alone doesn’t win games. There also has to be strong drive and determination. When playing in front of an emotional and exuberant home crowd, even during those games when a player may feel sluggish, he will be revitalized by the cheering reverberating throughout the stadium. Playing without crowds is far more challenging. Then the question becomes how each player can perform based on his abilities and self-generated determination and drive.
Rabbi Chaim Vital writes that the true measure of a person’s sincerity in his service bein adam laMakom can be viewed by how he davens in private. When one is in shul, no matter how sincere his prayers appear, on some level he’s motivated by a desire to present himself in a positive vein to others. But on those occasions when he must daven alone, that is indicative of how his connection to Hashem really is.
Rabbi Shimshon Pincus notes similarly that the true assessment of one’s interpersonal relationships is apparent from how one treats his/her spouse. A person can appear to be most wonderful to everyone and yet be a terror in his/her own home. It’s what happens behind closed doors that reveals one’s true character.
During the months of isolation during the pandemic, we were all forced to confront… ourselves. Davening in private and spending endless hours with the family in our own home tested who we really are, beyond the public view.
The Gemara (P’sachim 49a) writes: “A man should always be prepared to sell all he owns and marry the daughter of a Torah scholar. Such a union bears an analogy to grapes on a vine interconnected with the grapes of another vine (“invei ha’gefen b’invei ha’gefen”), which is something fine and acceptable.” Such wine is particularly flavorful because the product of one vine enhances the product of the other.
Why did Chazal choose to compare a proper marriage to grapes, more so than any other fruit?
Generally, the blessing recited on a fruit is, Borei P’ri HaEitz. However, if one squeezes out the juice from that fruit and drinks its contents, the blessing recited would be SheHaKol. When one is eating foods that require different blessings, Borei P’ri HaEitz takes precedence over almost all other blessings, while SheHaKol is the final blessing recited. Thus, when a fruit is eaten, the blessing recited over it would take precedence over the blessing recited over its juice.
The one exception is grapes. While the blessing recited on grapes is, Borei P’ri HaEitz, if one squeezes out its juice the blessing is Borei P’ri HaGafen. The blessing recited on grape juice/wine, is the loftiest blessing one can recite on food/beverage. On Shabbos, the blessing on the wine of Kiddush even precedes the blessing recited on the challah.
At a wedding there is much exterior beauty. The hall, gowns, band, flowers, energetic dancing, and flowing emotions are all quite visible. But what happens in the public eye of the wedding is hardly an indication of the true character of the marriage. The true barometer of the quality of the marriage is determined by how the newlyweds interact in the privacy of their own home.
In their wisdom, Chazal compare a wedding to grapes, whose interior warrants an even greater blessing than what is recited on its exterior. This is the blessing we confer upon the newlyweds. We pray that the wedding, with all its external beauty, be only the beginning of the true inner beauty that is hidden from the public eye and grows as the years of marriage continue.
During the last few months of the pandemic, in accordance with legal restrictions, many marriages have been reduced to the barest minimum on many levels. The disappointment, frustration, and heartache that those newlyweds surely endured in having dreams of their beautiful weddings canceled should never be undermined. Yet, so many attendees of such weddings – including parents and even chasanim and kallos themselves – described a certain ethereal beauty and genuine joy at these “Corona weddings.” In a sense, they are perhaps the epitome of invei ha’gefen b’invei ha’gefen, where the inner beauty and connection far exceeds that which is visible to the public.
These words are being written particularly in honor of the upcoming marriage of Calev Minsky to Atara Goldberg. Bruce and Jill Minsky are dear friends. In addition, we have watched Calev grow into the fine ben Torah he is today. Like so many others, I am also an admirer, and, through his online lectures, consider myself a student of Rabbi Efrem Goldberg. The kallah is the daughter of Rabbi and Rebbetzin Goldberg, and no doubt worthy in her own right. This was surely a wedding we would have loved to attend in person, but because of our being in isolation in camp, and due to the current restrictions, we are unable.
Instead, as we celebrate from afar, we extend our humble brachah that it truly be a shidduch that is invei ha’gefen b’invei ha’gefen, a home that will surely bring pride and honor to their wonderful families, communities, and to the Jewish people.
May they build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisrael.