I was just an aid – a witness, at a beautiful wedding of friends and a question struck me as I was looking out on the beautiful Mediterranean sea in the picturesque town of Caesarea.
And the question is very simple.
Where are the Romans?
Caesarea is named after, of course, Caesar and this was the main centre of Roman activity during the second temple period.
I find myself here, just a week after Tisha B’Av, just a week after we mourned the destruction of the first and second temple. However, the second temple was a far more damaging destruction for our people. Then the exile was not for 70 years as with the first temple but for thousands of years.
And who perpetrated that exile, who destroyed the second Bet Hamikdash? Who massacred millions of Jews? That was the Romans. Under the command of the Caesars, of the Emperors and we left Yerushalayim, we left Israel 2000 years ago.
Rome was triumphant, the Jewish people were defeated.
Yet, let us fast-forwarding 2000 years to 21st century, to today in caesaria and where are the Romans?
I was at another wedding this week in the hills of Yerushalayim of another dear friend, of his son. And the Rav there gave a beautiful address to the Chatan V’Kallah.
He said that the Medrash talks about Aleph being arrur, cursed and Bet being bracha, blessed. And the idea of why that is the case is because aleph is singular. When it comes to humans we don’t want to be alone, we want to be together. Bet is bracha, is blessed, because when you are a couple you come together – family and community, that is blessing.
He also said that the Chassidic masters said that the month of Av sums that idea up. The first part of the word Av is aleph, is arrur, is cursed. We have the nine days of mourning, then Tisha B’Av, remembering the destruction, remembering the pain, remembering the exile.
But then we have the second half of Av – the Bet. Which of course starts today with Tu B’Av, that wonderful, magical day of love in Jewish tradition.
And here I am in Caesarea at a wedding between two beautiful people. In the village of Caesarea. As Yirmiyahu once said ‘od yishama’ – one day there will once again be the sounds of joy, the joyous voices of the Chatan V’Kallah. And here I am witness to that incredible prophecy coming true.
We have returned to Israel, the Jewish people are back.
The Roman empire is gone.
That’s the message of Parashat Va’Etchanan. That’s the message of Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of comfort – to realise the incredible bracha we have that we finally came home.