Customsinvolved in the Jewish wedding ceremony uphold both religious law aswell symbolism, with cultures that date thousands of years back(Cohen, p. 1). The wedding actualizes a transformational event in thelife of the married, bringing together two individuals into a unionof the souls that were presumed separate before. The customspracticed in the marriage ceremonies have a blend of theunderpinnings from spiritual and historical backgrounds. Theceremonies represent both the marriage between Adam and Eve in theGarden of Eden and the national marriage between the people and Godon Mount Sinai (Jewish Lifecycle, p. 1). As it has been stated, theJewish marriage ceremony involves several steps and customs such asthe chupah, signing the ketubah, bedeken, circling, and breakingglass, each with a specific meaning and symbolism in the Bible andhistory.
Thefirst activity of a marriage ceremony is the signing of the ketuvah,which is normally written in Aramaic and details the obligations ofthe husband to the wife. The Obligations include clothing, pleasure,dwelling, and food. The property the husband must pay the wife incase of divorce is also indicated in the ketuvah. Ketuvay is underthe ordination of Mishnaic law. The signing of the ketuvah is done bythe groom with two people as witnesses. An illuminated manuscript isused as paper for the contract, and as such, some couples frame it asa piece of art, to be displayed in the house. Snacks and wine followthe signing of the ketuvah as guests, bride, and groom go into theroom for identification of the bride by the groom (Mordechai, p. 1).
Chupahis a symbolism for the home where the couple will reside after theceremony. It is made of a piece of cloth well decorated and held overthe heads of the bride and the groom. Normally, this event happensoutside in the open to serve as a sign of blessing Abraham was givenby God. The groom is required to wear a white robe and parentsaccompany. The white robe symbolizes a new life began without pastsins or pains. The wedding day is taken as a day of atonement and thebride and the groom fast the day before. Songs are sung followed bythe groom praying for her friends to find true partners in life(Milder, p. 2)
Circlingentails the bride circling the groom, the mother, and mother-in-lawseven times, although the number of rotations may vary withtradition. The circling is based on a biblical scripture, which says“God has created a new thing a woman shall go around a man”(Jeremiah 31.21). The circling symbolizes the fact that the woman isa surrounding light of the household providing protection. The lightilluminates within while protecting the house from outside. The sevenrotations parallel the seven days God spent on creation andsymbolizes that the couple is getting into a process of creatingtheir own world in unison. Rabbi then recites a prayer over wine andthe groom and bride then drink from a full cup of wine. Wine is asymbol of life while the full cup symbolizes overflowing divineblessing (Milder, p. 2).
Afterdrinking the wine, the groom places a plain gold ring on the fingerof the bride with two witnesses present before reciting holy words.The ring is a symbol of provision and protection the groom owes thewife. The ketuvah is read aloud at this point by someone lese beforebeing given to the bride (Mordechai, p. 2).
Afterward,seven blessings are recited by a Rabbi or a family the families wishto honor. The blessinga include praising God in general, then for thecreation, then express hope for success in the marriage, and hope forthe rebuilding of Jerusalem. Once the prayer is over, the coupleshare a cup of wine, after which they break the glass by stamping onit. Bulka (p. 37) refers to the breaking of glass as a climactic actof the ceremony. The crowd at this moment erupt with the cry “goodluck.” The symbolism of this act is that Jews must remember thedestruction of the Holy Temple even in their moments of joy, bydestroying a glass (Bulka, p. 37).
Thecouple is now officially married at this point and dancing and songsaccompany them as they move into a place or room of privacy. Thecouple is given a few minutes of their marriage to be alone in aroom. This act acts to the fulfillment of biblical as well as legalrequirements. According to the Jewish authorities, by the couplebeing alone behind locked doors fulfills a requirement in the legalact of marriage. Two witnesses are present to witness this.
Thecouple share food in the privacy after having fasted as guests alsosit down to share a festive meal. Ritual washing of the handsprecedes the meals, and when the couple comes back, they are referredto as Mr. and Mrs.
Becher,Mordechai. “THEJEWISH WEDDING CEREMONY: AnOverview.” http://ohr.edu. 1996. Web. Accessed 8/3/15<http://ohr.edu/judaism/articles/wedding.pdf>
Bulka,Reuven P. Jewishmarriage: a Halakhic ethic.Vol. 12. KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 1986.
Cohen.“Jewish Wedding Ceremony.” rabbijeffrey.co.uk.1998. Web. Accessed 8/3/15 <http://www.rabbijeffrey.co.uk/Wedding.pdf>
JewishLifeCycle. “Celebrating Jewish Wedding Ceremony I.”morashasyllabus.com. n.d. Accessed 8/3/15<http://www.morashasyllabus.com/class/Celebrating%20a%20Jewish%20Wedding%20I.pdf>
Milder,Rebecca. “AGuide to the Jewish Wedding.”home.uchicago.edu.N.d. Accessed8/3/15<http://home.uchicago.edu/~bdm/PDF/weddingguide.pdf>