Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Ellul 5766 - August 30, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

A Picture Worth More Than a Thousand Words

"Oh, hello . . . Bluma? . . . " The gentle voice behind me sounded vaguely familiar. I turned around, surprised. Who knew me here in the new housing project we'd just moved to?

A glance at the speaker and a quick search of my memory . . . Yes, I do know her. That's Devora, a girl I remembered from my high school class.

We were both excited to meet each other. Even though we were never exceptionally close, it was nice to meet up with someone recognizable in this new, unfamiliar neighborhood. Devora invited me to come to her apartment that evening for a cup of coffee and some cake so we could catch up on the news.

The invitation came at a perfect time. At eight o'clock exactly I put my one-year-old's coat on him and got ready to leave a houseful of half unpacked boxes. It would be nice and different to sit and chat a little, to reminisce about our childhood antics, and to forget all the work that was waiting for me so that my house would stop looking like a storage room!

As I was walking out the door, my eye fell upon the box that held my wedding albums. Devora wasn't at my wedding; she herself had gotten married the night before, and therefore I wasn't at her wedding, either. It would be nice to look at the albums and to experience each other's simchas, even if we were three years late.

Devora was waiting for me in her small homey kitchen. Her baby was crawling on the floor and my one-year-old Shloimi joined him. The two of us, like all ladies, sat and schmoozed.

"Oh, I forgot! I brought my wedding albums with me . . . " I suddenly remembered. One after the other, I took out the albums and spread them on the table.

Devora quickly took the albums and started looking through them, commenting the whole time on how nice the pictures came out. I told her that we were quite disappointed with the quality. True, when you look hastily at the pictures they look fine, but at a closer look, you realize that they aren't as sharp and clear as they ought to be. Any professional would see that they are inferior pictures. Some are relatively dark; in others, the eyes are red . . . I continued pointing out the problems.

"It's not that important," Devora claimed.

"Why do you think it doesn't matter?" I wanted to understand. "These pictures are my memento for life. You know how much it bothers me that they didn't come out the way I had expected them to!?"

"The main thing is to see the great happiness," she comforted me and continued looking at the pictures, fascinated.

"Here, look at this," I showed Devora one of the pictures taken before the chuppah, in my house. "If the photographer would have just stood at a different angle, the magnificent bouquet I was holding would have come out so much clearer. And also this picture," I persisted. "He didn't photograph it the right way; the background came out too big and it just doesn't look right . . . "

"What's important is that everything went well," Devora commented as she continued flipping through the pictures and following the wedding through them.

Devora had succeeded in annoying me a little by now. Pictures from a wedding are a precious souvenir; why was she so passive about my disappointment? Let's see her not minding if her pictures would be such terrible quality!

When she finished looking at the last album, I spontaneously asked: "Nu, where are your albums? I'm interested in seeing how your wedding album came out!"

"Boruch Hashem, our wedding was joyful and stunning; pictures would never be able to capture its real beauty," Devora answered.

Obviously, I agreed with her. Pictures are pictures and the real thing is reality. But even so, pictures are special keepsakes that are very valuable. "Let me just see the pictures instead of sitting here philosophizing."

But Devora didn't hurry to bring them. I started to think that she wasn't comfortable showing me her gorgeous albums after she saw how disappointed I was over mine.

"It's okay, Devora," I told her, "I just want to see your wedding photos, without comparing the pictures."

"I truly want to show them to you," Devora answered quietly, "but I simply don't have any!"

"What?!" I almost screamed: "Are you trying to tell me that you didn't have a photographer?"

"We sure did have one." And with a smile she began to tell me the story of the pictures that weren't.

"The day after our wedding, the photographer drove into a gas station. He went out of the car for a minute, and while he was approaching an attendant, someone burst forward and in a mad frenzy, entered the car and drove off. By the time the photographer realized what was going on, the thief was already way out of sight.

"The trunk of the car contained the photographer's expensive equipment, and also our films, which he had planned on developing that same night. They quickly called the police but unfortunately, they were not able to find the stolen car. Most probably, he brought the car to a junkyard in one of the Arab villages, and there they took the whole thing apart. They probably sold all the equipment, and my pictures were probably thrown out carelessly, into a nearby trash can."

I had difficulty digesting the story. She suffered such a big loss? What a great disappointment! She must have felt terrible, being left with not even one picture of the most central occasion of her life! But Devora reminisced about it with such peace, as if she were talking about a lost pair of glasses. Maybe, maybe time eased the pain?

"Devora," I couldn't hold back from asking, "tell me, if then, too, right after the wedding, as newlyweds who wish to keep on reliving the fantastic event — did you relate to your loss then as you do now?"

She became preoccupied: "You know what?" she said to me. "This really was a very great loss, but there was also a lot that we gained from it."

"And what exactly could that have been?"

"We found what is really going on inside of our hearts; we figured out what we really wanted from life."

I looked at Devora, waiting for an explanation. She took a deep breath and continued:


"Like every newly married couple we had anxiously awaited our pictures. That's why my parents didn't tell us what had occurred until after the sheva brochohs; they didn't want anything to take away from our happiness. The day after the last sheva brochos, I was already growing impatient; the photographer had assured us that within four days he would bring us the photos. What could have happened to him? Why was he behind schedule?

"And then my mother told me that he had already called, two days after the wedding, and he tremblingly told told my mother what had happened. And she herself had a hard time repeating the story to me. She knew how much it would upset and hurt me.

"As soon as I understood that there were no pictures, and I would never have a memento from my wedding, I was blinded by my tears. My soaring spirit fell at once. I went home, brokenhearted. I couldn't even get myself to prepare dinner.

"When my husband came home he was shocked to see the way I looked. `Did something happen, Devora?' he asked worriedly.

"`You bet!' I cried, and told him the whole story.

"My husband listened quietly and didn't say anything. I realized that he felt the loss but didn't dwell on it; he immediately started thinking of what to answer me.

"`Devora, really, why are the pictures so important?' he suddenly asked.

"`What do you mean?' I couldn't believe my ears. `They are the mementos from the most important event of our lives together. In fifteen, twenty, or even in forty years we would have been able to relive the wedding . . . as often as we liked . . . '

"`And without pictures we'll forget everything?'

"`Oh, of course not,' I answered as I wiped away the tears. `We'll always remember our wedding, but pictures help us remember every aspect; and relive the entire simchah.'

"`You're right,' my husband agreed, `The pictures do help to recollect every small detail: how the hall looked, what everybody wore, who was there, and who wasn't, how we danced, who recited the Brochos under the chuppah, and more. But on the other hand, what we felt in those uplifting moments, what we accepted upon ourselves, what we prayed for - - the pictures could never remind us of these. In order to relive those thoughts and feelings, we don't need pictures, right?'

"I nodded, understanding the direction in which he was heading. The pictures are the exterior of the wedding. In order to experience the internal part, the real part, you don't need any pictures.

"The uplifting excitement, the closeness to Hashem, the great joy — to remember these, pictures won't help. Pictures can even detract, as we get caught up in them . . . Instead, you need to work on yourself . . . "


I sat, mesmerized. Devora looked at me with her simple smile and finished:

"Don't worry, it took me a long time to make peace with this 'catastrophe,' even to be able to think about it without feeling like my heart is breaking into pieces. And I found myself often thinking about what I told you now. I understood that this hardship was from Hashem and it was meant to teach me to concentrate on the really important things in life, and not only on the insignificant aspects that we often emphasize by mistake. I put a lot of effort into reliving the wedding, without the pictures' aid. Believe me, it's not any less wonderful . . . "

I got up, and picked up Shloimi. Devora picked up her baby too, and walked me to the door.

"You know what this reminds me of?" she suddenly asked. "I once heard a joke about a proud grandfather wandering around in a nice park, holding his grandson's hand. An acquaintance met up with him and said, 'What a cute grandson . . . '

"'This is nothing,' replied the grandfather, and he starting fishing around in his pocket. 'Just look at the pictures.'"

I laughed. Our obsession of pictures and cameras really does blur our vision of life itself.

I wrapped my Shloimi well in his blanket before taking him out to the cold night air. Devora also hugged her son, protecting him from the winds coming in through the open door.

"Tell me, Devora," I said, pointing to the four of us, "isn't this 'picture' here worth more than thousands upon thousands of photos?"

[Translated with permission from Marveh laTzameh.}


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.