Iyar – Making the Bitter Sweet — By Ben

Wedding planning is fun. Does sarcasm come across on a blog?

My wedding is almost exactly a month away (God willing). In fact, it is one week after Shavuos, one of my favorite holidays. Which is oddly appropriate given that Sivan, the month that Shavuos falls in, is associated with marriage. The event of receiving the Torah from Hashem is viewed as a marriage, so that essence permeates the month. Speaking of spiritual natures and the lunar cycles, we recently finished Nissan, the month of revealed miracles and Hashem’s presence almost felt tangible for me this year.

But right now we’re in the month of Iyar, throughout which all 29 days we count the Omer. Pesach Sheini and Lag B’Omer are certainly notable days, though complicated to explain. Generally the month is associated with healing, radiance, and budding. Its zodiac sign is the bull, particularly a bull eating grass. What are we to make of this? Well, let’s go back to why I find wedding planning so enjoyable.

Loco for Logo

My fiancee found an amazing logo for customized items to be used at the wedding. I can’t give too much away, wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise, but I will say it incorporates a lovely floral arrangement around our name/initials. As is the case in wedding planning, the bride is far more focused on the details as the groom is just happy to know which way is up. However, the one thing I was very concerned about were the benchers.

A joyous and spiritual Jewish event has an inherent holiness in the event itself whether it is a wedding, a bar mitzvah, or a bris milah. But almost equally important (in a spiritual sense) to the event is the meal that celebrates it. So it is very common that small booklets, which contain the after blessings for the meal, are personalized and given away. These are called benchers (because the yiddish word for blessing is bench). I was very passionate about including this logo on our bencher.

From Zessi (Not our bencher, just an example.)

My fiancee passed along the logo from the gift website and I added names all nice and pretty, got the Hebrew in there. It was perfect. Done and done. Time to move on to getting the yarmulkes figured out… or so I thought.

It turns out snapshotting a logo may look fine on your desktop, but for printing, a much higher image resolution is required. Frantic (because everything that goes a little wrong in wedding planning is as catastrophic as oily rags next to a heater with frayed wires) I called the wedding gift website begging to purchase a high resolution jpeg of the logo. After talking to two customer service reps, a manager, and a whole lot of melodious hold music, I was given an unyielding, “No, we don’t do that.”

Eventually we found a bencher company that said they could make it work with the resolution we had. Phew. All was good. But then they asked, “Can you send us the website where you got the image so we can try to find a higher resolution ourselves?”

I felt a knot in my stomach. If I send them the wedding gift website, they may realize this is a logo taken without permission and might either legally or morally have an issue. It is an observant Jewish printer, after all. And I guess for the first time, I realized that was actually a wrong thing to do. (Despite the fact that I had called to try to purchase the logo already. Cognitive dissonance is amazing, isn’t it?) So I replied back, “This is the highest resolution image we could find.” They responded, “Fine, we can make it work.” Phew, crisis averted, let’s go to those yarmulkes.

But that night, persistent thoughts troubled me. Was this okay? Was this wrong? Does it really matter? If it is wrong, at least my wedding is a Yom Kippur, I’ll get to do teshuvah. But if you do an aveira (sin) thinking you’ll do teshuvah later, the teshuvah doesn’t count. Okay, well maybe I’m just not on that level. What about shalom bayis? My fiancee really likes the design. Then the next day during morning prayers it hit me, I’m starting my new life with these benchers, a new home. Is this how I want to start that? Can I say the blessings contained in them with a stolen item? At that point I knew I had to fix this.

I reached out to a graphic designer who suggested we buy an image online and create our own. My fiancee and I started poring over comparable floral designs. Two my fiancee found bore a strong resemblance to the original design. Over the next two hours, I legally acquired both logos, combined them in photoshop, made some adjustments at my fiancee’s insistence, and ended up with a better, more detailed, much higher resolution wedding logo than what we originally had.

What Does this Have to do with Iyar?

As the Jews are leaving, they’ve just experienced the fullest revelation of God’s presence between the plagues, the splitting of the sea, and their newly acquired freedom. But it isn’t long before the Jews in the wilderness start to experience some hardships, the first of which is referred to as the waters of Marah. Essentially, it is an oasis (as I understand it, but I may be wrong about that) where there is plenty of water to drink but it is all bitter. The Jews complain, Moses throws a tree into the water, and suddenly the water becomes sweet.

Throughout this period of the Jews’ journey to Mt. Sinai, there is repetition. The Jews run out of food and complain, then God gives them the mana from heaven. They run out of water again so God gives them Miriam’s well. Just as a parent can’t hold their child’s hand forever, so too Hashem has to pull back a little. It is in this independence, we get the chance to “bud” and grow. That’s what I believe is the message of the waters of Marah. Sometimes things are given to you, but when you have to work for them, they are all the more sweeter.

Making the bitter into sweet is what I think the month of Iyar is really all about. Yes, it was frustrating, stress inducing, and time consuming to get the logo for my benchers. But I will have a fondness for the design that would not have been there had the logo been the right resolution from the beginning. I earned that and it will always be special to me and my wife because of it. So during these days, remember that there are just as many miracles present as there were during Nissan. Hashem is just handing you the steering wheel, so to speak, to make them happen.

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