The last two years have been cruel to Annette Salomon, a young woman from a small town in central Israel. She had lost her mother and then, last month, just a few weeks before her wedding, her father passed away as well. Convinced, perhaps, that the bride-to-be was too mournful to proceed with her betrothal, Annette’s family members and friends stayed home this Sunday; and when she and her fiancé, Lior, entered the reception hall and took their place under the chuppah, they looked around and saw that they were all alone in the room. Things were hardly looking up as the simcha unfurled: as the hors d’oeuvres were being passed around the room during the cocktail hour, there were barely a dozen people in attendance to enjoy them.
Had this story occurred sometime in the dark ages, before St. Mark emerged from the mists of time and delivered us all—with his social network—from a life lived solely on this barren earth with its confines of space and time, Annette and Lior might’ve gone to bed that night despondent and distraught. But one of the groom’s relatives talked to another one, who told a third. Before too long a Facebook post was up, urging anyone who happened to be in the neighborhood to come and party with the young and lonely couple.
“You don’t need to bring a gift, you don’t need to bring any money,” it said. “Just stop by and fill up this hall and fulfill the mitzvah of making a bride and a groom happy!”
The post went up around 10 p.m. By 10:30, hundreds of strangers had packed the hall, many disregarding the post’s exhortation by stuffing the gift box with checks, writing them out for cash because they didn’t even know the bride and groom’s names. Then the number mushroomed to a thousand guests, then two thousand. Judging by the pictures in the Israeli press, Annette and Lior’s guests were as diverse a bunch as Israel itself: young and old, Orthodox men with white shirts and black yarmulkes and stylish secular cats with tattoos and glasses, who all danced happily and hugged the dazed couple and sang like they literally believed that Talmudic bit about all of Israel being responsible for one another.
Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.