I heard a sad story last week.  

By Rabbi Eric Goldman  

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I heard a sad story last week. It seems as if I’ve heard too many such stories lately, but this one struck me deeply. Something about this particular story resonated with me in a different way.   

On April 4th, the third day of Chol Hamoed Pesach, Yisroel Levin, 21, and his kallah, Elisheva Kaplan, 20, were driving on Rockaway Turnpike on Long Island when their car was hit and they were killed. In an instant, their neshamos were taken to Shamayim, just as they had planned to live their lives, together. For their families and communities, if not the entire Klal Yisroel, Pesach suddenly turned from yom tov to eivel, holiday to mourning, and from or gadol to afaila, great light to darkness.  

Have you ever wondered why there is so much simcha at a wedding? After all, the couple is just starting out, having known each other only a few months in many cases. Many couples, if not all, will struggle in the early goings of their marriage. Many will continue to feel those struggles long after the music and dancing has finished.  And yet we sing and dance and treat the chasan and kallah as if they are the king and queen. Why then is there such a celebration? Maybe we should save the celebration for down the road when the couple has a child or achieves some other significant milestone?    

The rav of the community I grew up in was very fond of saying that the difference between a bar/bas mitzvah and a wedding is that the bar/bas mitzvah is just the beginning of adolescence. There is a long journey ahead filled with questions and perhaps even doubt. But by the time an adolescent becomes an adult and is walking down the aisle, his or her potential in life has become clear.  There is a pride in the young man and woman standing under the chuppah and a profound level of optimism in what they will accomplish in their lives together.  The happiness and excitement are palpable. The young chasan and kallah exude so much emotion and hope for the future that we cannot help but all join in on the simcha. 

Maybe that is why this story struck me so hard. It wasn’t because of the tragic nature of the story, although one cannot help but be moved by that, or even some Shakespearean misfortune of love lost. But because this young couple represents the pinnacle of hope and optimism. They were in a stage of life when happiness supersedes all other struggles and questions. We can face obstacles and be presented with challenges, we can see that there is a rocky road ahead, but we can still be b’simcha. We can allow the hope to pervade our outlook on life and gaze into the future knowing and believing in all of the beautiful things that are destined to come. For that time to be taken away is truly heart wrenching. 

The seforim write that Hashem is always allowing a certain amount of hashpa’a– influence- to enter the world at any given time for whoever has the koach to grab onto it. Last week, the hope and optimism that was instilled in Yisroel and Elisheva was left ownerless.  

I heard a sad story last week. It is a story of lost potential and happiness erased. But for us moving forward, it is a story that brings us back to that time. To the time when we felt more hope for our futures than we ever have. To the time when we felt so much optimism for what is to come that we spread simcha to the entire community around us. We all now have the opportunity, if not the obligation, to take hold of that hope and optimism and bring it into our own homes and marriages and ensure that their hope lives on.   

I heard a sad story last week.  But I was also reminded of hope.