Jewish weddings in past and modern times.


Jewish couple standing under the Chuppa in a jewish wedding ceremony | Photo by CANFI

The Jews are an ethnic group whose origins can be traced to the Middle East, Israel precisely. The Jews have unique traditions that have lasted over the centuries of which the Bible and our history books have chronicled it to be quite eventful. Those unique traditions range from their feast, burial ceremony, naming ceremony and of course jewish wedding ceremonies which have been confirmed to have survived since the 13th century BCE.


"jewish wedding ceremonies which have been confirmed to have survived since the 13th century BCE."

Jewish wedding can be said to be an orthodox religious ceremony that follows the Jewish laws and traditions strictly. The Jewish wedding is not that different from the conventional Christian wedding pattern; the slight difference lays in the indigenous representation of most Christian wedding ceremonies mainly by the use of Hebrew or Jewish languages. Example of this is Huppah otherwise known as Chuppah which can be translated to “wedding canopy” – this is a place where the groom gives a ring to his bride, just like the Christians will do same standing on the altar.


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A jewish Chuppa in a jewish wedding ceremony | Photo by CANFI

"Chuppa - this is a place where the groom gives a ring to his bride, just like the Christians will do same standing on the altar."


Wedding rings are one resemblence between a Christian wedding and a Jewish wedding | Photo by CANFI

Unlike the exchange of the rings in the Christian methodology, the Jews break a glass afterwards. Another Christian similarity one can easily relate to is Ketubah – the marriage contracts that require the two parties to sign a contracted marriage document with or more than two people standing as witnesses.

The Kiddushin; a stage where the groom gives his bride a ring with the intent of formally wedding the bride thereby restricting the woman from having access to other men stands as another Christian stereotype. Interferers – it’s a process where the bride is escorted to the Huppah (alter) by her parents. This process is also seen in the Christian wedding where one of the bride’s parents leads her to the altar.


Weddings in Israel are very much alike weddings all over the world | Photo by CANFI

Apart from the slight resemblance the Jewish wedding has over the Christian wedding, there are still some traditions and rituals that make-up the Jewish marriage ceremonies which spike up its uniqueness.


TRADITIONS AND RITUALS IN JEWISH WEDDINGS

These traditions and rituals have survived for centuries and are still very much relevant to date. They include:


YICHUD – this is a Hebrew word for “togetherness”. It is a stage where the prospective couple is expected to share their first meal together as husband and wife. The couples are left alone for about 10 – 20 after the wedding ceremony to a private room. There is no particular room set aside for this ritual as there have been occasions where the Rabbi’s study room, the synagogue classroom are used for such purpose. Meanwhile, in some Jewish settlements mainly in Yemen, a separate room mostly in the groom’s home is used for the sole purpose of Yichud. It is traditionally decorated with large hanging sheets of coloured, ornate cloth with short-length mattresses for reclining, a scenario where the union is consummated.


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MAZEL TOV – this is a way of wishing the new couple farewell. This ritual comes up immediately the glass is broken. At the breaking of the glass, the guest will have to cheer the new couples with “Mazel Tov! Mazel Tov!!” which can be translated to “good luck’’ or in most cases “ congratulations”.


BREAKING OF THE GLASS – this is the last ritual performed by the groom. The groom is meant to step on and shatter a glass placed inside a cloth bag. This ritual although holds some peculiar meaning. Some will relate it to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem hence the recitation of Ps. 137: 5 which mourned the destruction of Jerusalem as saying “if I forget thee O Jerusalem….”, while others claim it signifies a demonstration that marriage holds two sides; sorrow and joy and they will always advise the young couples to stand by each other at all times. In modern times, glass cups are replaced by light bulbs which are easier to crush with the feet and have that popping sound.


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Jewish groom Breaking the glass under The Chuppa | Photo by CANFI

SHEVA B’RACHOT: SEVEN BLESSINGS – The Sheva B’rachot is a special kind of blessing which is adapted from the ancient teachings. In any Jewish wedding, the Sheva B’rench is read in Hebrew and translated in English by friends and family members who are called out individually, though sometimes the rabbi or Hazzan can still do the job of reciting the seven blessings. The blessing is said to be focused on love, celebration and joy which single idea is focused on love, celebration and joy which is sealed afterwards with a drink from a cup of wine.


"The ritual of the seven blessings always ends with the teaching of joy, peace and companionship."


CIRCLING – this ritual requires the jewish bride to circle her groom three or seven times while under the Huppah. There are myths that this ritual protects the couple from evil spirits, temptation and promiscuity. While others still believe that the tradition of the bride circling the groom represents a systematic creation of a new family circle, in modern times the couple can circle each other for some number of times which the current Jewish faithful interprets as demonstrating independence and complimentary orbit.


VOWS UNDER THE HUPPAH – the Huppah is just like a canopy in a square with a covered roof which symbolises the couple’s new home. In some settings, the four corner of the huppah is being held up by family members and friends throughout the ceremony signifying their support on the new life the couples are building together. Under the Huppah, the parents of the couple are meant to join them while the rabbi stands in-between the couples to supervise the vows.


THE WALK TO THE HUPPAH – unlike in the most Christian weddings, the Jewish wedding tradition requires the parents of the groom to walk him to the Huppah (more like walking him down the aisle) after which the bride’s parents follow suit.


KETUBAH SIGNING – this is the most significant part of every Jewish wedding. At this stage, the groom is given a document that outlines the responsibilities, right of his bride and a structured framework should the couple choose to divorce. This is done before the wedding proper and in the presence of two witnesses. Though the Ketubah is said not to be a religious document, it is a solid manuscript in Jewish law.


BETROTHAL – this is the presentation of the ring by the groom followed by the recitation of a blessing over the wine. The blessing sounds more like a declaration: behold, you are consecrated to me with this ring according to the Law of Moses and Israel. Afterwards a quote from Songs of Songs which goes thus: Ani I’dodi, ve Dodi li meaning “I am my beloveds and my beloved is mine”. The declaration is immediately followed by the presentation of the ring. Most of the times the couple’s wedding rings have the declaration inscribed on it. In modern times (though not all the time) the presentation of the ring is done outside the Huppah to avoid the process conflicting with Jewish law.


The Jewish wedding is seen to be one of the unique and oldest cultures still practised to date. Though with one or two slight modification, the whole practice remains unique even in the face of our ever-changing world widely influenced by western culture. In all ramifications, this culture will no doubt stand the taste f time.


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