For most couples, the week preceding their wedding is a time of nervous excitement.
For Sarah Litman and Ariel Bigel however, it was a time of unimaginable tragedy.

Just days before the two were due to marry, the family traveled to the Shabbat Kallah to celebrate.  On the way, Sarah’s father and brother, Yaakov and Netanel Litman, were killed in a terrorist attack when their car was fired upon just South of Hebron. Anunavoidable halt was placed on the wedding preparations. Four days later, instead of participating in her marriage ceremony, Sarah sat shiva, mourning the brother and father she’d so savagely lost.

Sarah spoke to reporters through her tears, displaying tremendous courage and such admirable dignity. “This evening, instead of wearing the bridal dress, I will sit on the floor with a torn shirt,” she acknowledged. “But very soon we will marry in a large and happy wedding. We will go on and be happy, as Fatherand Netanel always were. We will not be crushed.”

The bride and groom then did something unprecedented in Jewish history: They invited all of am yisrael to their wedding which, though postponed by nine days, would still very much take place.  “Do not rejoice over me, my enemy,” said their wedding invitation, “for I have fallen, but I have gotten up.” In unison the couple proclaimed, “This will be the million-person wedding. Multitudes will come to make
us happy.”

And indeed, that’s just what happened. Over 20,000 Jews traveled from all over the world on two days’ notice to take part in this momentous occasion. Religious dignitaries, clergymen, army personnel, and complete strangers assembled to bring joy to a couple whose story had touched them deeply. It quickly became clear, though, that this boundless show of support was about more than sympathy – it was about unity. To so many Jews, who felt it vitally important that they be in attendance that day regardless of whether they knew the couple personally, Sarah and Ariel were a composite of am yisrael as a whole. This bride and groom symbolized the grit, the resilience, the everlasting perseverance of our Jewish nation through the centuries. Indeed, hasn’t this been true of the Jewish people for so long? Try as they might to destroy us, we live on, to the dismay of our enemies. We thrive and bounce back with a celebratory roar that completely drowns out whatever sorrow once overtook us.

“We’re here as one nation,” shouted wedding guests for the camera, as a bugle trumpeted in the background.
“Am Yisrael Hai!”

“This is for us,” said another reveler. “We’ve uplifted ourselves to show that no matter what they try to do to us, we will not be put down. We will always, as we have done for over 3,000 years, rise up again.”

The tributes continued. “You are witnessing the secret weapon of the Jewish people. It’s called happiness! Tonight, we’re going to dance, we’re going to sing, we’re going to show the world that we are here to live!”

What is so telling about these exuberant messages of strength and solidarity is that none of them were purely directed at the couple themselves. Almost instantly, the wedding took on a universal hue so that the particulars seemed inconsequential.  Quite obviously, the wedding of Sarah and Ariel Bigel was just an excuse, an impetus for the Jewish nation to come out in throngs. Together we stood that night, enthralled by our own vitality, and completely and utterly united. Then again, wasn’t that exactly what the couple wanted when they invited all of Israel to attend? In extending such a grand invitation, Sarah and Ariel Bigel made both a political and a spiritual statement. A statement that resounded in the ears of B’nei Yisraeland served as tremendous hizukduring these trying days of terror, a statement that confounded the goals of Palestinians in pursuit of evil. Never have we been more hopeful, never have we felt more rejuvenated, never have we come out so strong. We are in debt to Sarah and Ariel Bigel, for showing us how to turn tragedy into celebration, and reinforcing the ideal
that in times of unspeakable horror we can be one another’s
greatest support.

As I think about this story, I marvel over the refinement showed by this innocently young couple – and something in me is calmed. Because for once, the focus in not on terror, is not on murder, is not on loss, but is on renewal. As the epitome of am yisrael, Sarah and Ariel Bigel show that the love story between Hashemand the Jewish people continues. We are His bride and He is our bridegroom.