These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Pardes Turkey 2015: Today the Heart Returns

Posted on March 27, 2015 by Geo Poor

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TurkeyThe chuppah travels down the isle, carried by the youth of Istanbul.  Dozens of people walk with it, surrounding it on all sides as if they would prop it up with their tightly-packed selves – many shoulders for the chuppah to lean on.  On each side, the crowd, parted like the Red Sea, stands cheering out and tearing up, hundreds of guests bused in from hours away. Some have just returned to visit their old home after more than thirty years.  Some are distant family.  Some, including us, are so distant that they don’t even speak the language, but they are still family.  The procession moves at a stately pace, accompanied by a dramatically slow, and emotion-filled, rendition of “Haveinu Shalom Aleichem.”

The music stops and is replaced by a cacophony.  Countless people blast the shofar, the cries of the horns exposing the raw emotions of a dwindling community.  Sadness – over the town of Edirne, once filled with family, now devoid of Jews.  Joy – over the ceremony rededicating the synagogue after thirty years of disuse.  Hope – for a future renewed.  The sound of our People’s signature instrument fills the room, echoing off of the walls, echoing off of the ceilings, echoing off of history, echoing within our ears and our hearts.  A rallying cry to call together, the shofar leads the chuppah down the isle, leads it toward the bimah and the ark, its destination.

Walking under the chuppah is the ultimate bride, the ultimate groom.  Walking under the chuppah is the Torah, the centerpiece of the community.  How did the shul sit solitary that was once filled with teaching? How is it that she who was a princess among the provinces has become a tributary?  No, today is not a day for Lamentations.  For today the heart returns.  Today, the heart walks under the chuppah, follows the shofar, dances and sings its way, accompanied by the family, to ascend towards the holy, to be placed back in the holy chest.  Today the Jewish heart has returned to Edirne.