March 13, 2020
As I help prepare couples for their wedding ceremony, I explain to them that the broken glass at the end of the ceremony represents their status before marriage, but when they crush it into a dozen pieces; the glass, like the two of them, is forever changed and can never go back to what they were before. The challenge, I explain is to take the various fragments of their individual lives and create something new, whole and holy from them.
As such, some families have a tradition of a shard box, made up of the broken pieces of family dishes, or glass from beneath the chuppah. Many families’ broken dishes are gathered to create a uniquely beautiful artifact. Fragments of life before marriage forming this mosaic of a new union. This is a remarkably vivid symbol. After struggling with life, struggling to do the right thing, say the right thing, to be present for one another, to help one another, we gather all the broken pieces – the broken promises, the plans that failed to come about, the intentions never realized, the hopes that never came to be – we gather all the shards, and we bring them together. Yours and mine.
Your failures and my shortcomings. We gather them all together. And out of them, we create something new and whole and beautiful. This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11- 34:35), we have our own version of the shard box. According to the story in the Torah, Moses received God’s word on Mt Sinai, carved into two tablets of stone by the hand of God. Carefully, he carried the tablets down the mountain, down to his people. But when he reached the camp, he found his people dancing before the idol of the Golden Calf. Powerful emotions welled up within him — rage, disappointment, betrayal, despair, bitterness. He dropped the tablets, and they shattered into shards of stone.
The people cried in despair. They repented their idolatry. They prayed for God’s forgiveness. God invited Moses back to the mountain to receive the word again and fashion new, whole tablets, which were kept in the Holy Ark of the Tabernacle. But what happened to the broken pieces of the first tablets? According to legend, they were kept in the Ark as well, placed beneath the new set, the broken shards serve as a foundation for our new wholeness.
The broken and the whole … together they are holy. Together, they are carried in the Ark. Moments of closeness, of achievement, of fulfillment, of triumph. Together with moments of loss, sorrow, brokenness. We carry them together. And we offer them all up to God.