Judaism and Marriage
Jews consider marriage a holy institution. From the name "kiddush," meaning sanctification, the wedding ceremony dates back to the earliest days and is associated with the giving of the Torah at Sinai.
The essence of marriage in the Jewish faith is for the couple to establish a faithful Jewish home.
The wedding rituals can be viewed as a series of events beginning with the reading of the Torah by the groom on the Shabbat or Sabbath of the week before the wedding. The readings are chosen to express the teachings of the Torah as guide for a successful marriage.
On the day of the wedding, the couple, having fasted, recite the Book of Psalms and ask for forgiveness for any transgressions of their youth. Because on one's wedding day, God forgives those transgressions, the ceremony is thought of as a private Yom Kippur for the couple.
In a written commitment document composed by the couple and their parents, the conditions of the union are expressed and agreed upon. Once this document is signed and read aloud, a plate is broken symbolizing that just as the breaking of the plate is irreversible, the agreement for the engagement is also irreversible.
Just prior to the ceremony, the groom, along with the groom's father, veil the bride, an act symbolic of the modesty and chastity of the Jewish woman. This veiling also signifies the bride's duty as a Jewish woman and shows others her faithfulness and devotion to her husband.
The wedding ceremony is performed under a canopy. The bride circles the groom seven times and, as consecration of the woman, the groom gives the bride a wedding ring and the marriage contract, after which the married couple leave to break their fast in private.
It is traditional to include blessings and the exchange of wine as symbolic of the sanctity of marriage.
As a legally binding marriage, tradition dictates that at least two witnesses, unrelated to the couple, attest that all the aspects of the marriage have taken place.
Marriage in the Jewish tradition is an expression of confidence and trust in each other. It signifies the legal and moral commitments as detailed in Jewish law and customs and is a declaration of the dignified status of the woman. It should be noted that as a legal and consensual private contract between the bride and groom, there is no requirement for clergy to be present although today, to satisfy civil laws, a rabbi usually participates.
It is customary to conclude the wedding ceremony with the recitation of the Seven Blessings. These blessings are said in the presence of ten men and acknowledge God as the creator of mankind, joy, the bride and the groom.
- You are blessed, Lord our God, the sovereign of the world, who created everything for his glory.
- You are blessed, Lord our God, the sovereign of the world, the creator or man.
- You are blessed, Lord our God, the sovereign of the world, who created man in His image, in the pattern of His own likeness, and provided for the perpetuation of his kind. You are blessed, Lord, the creator of man.
- Let the barren city be jubilantly happy and joyful at her joyous reunion with her children. You are blessed, Lord, who makes Zion rejoice with her children.
- Let the loving couple be very happy, just as You made Your creation happy in the garden of Eden, so long ago. You are blessed, Lord, who makes the bridegroom and bride happy.
- You are blessed, Lord our God, the sovereign of the world, who created joy and celebration, bridegroom and bride, rejoicing, jubilation, pleasure and delight, love and brotherhood, peace and friendship. May there soon be heard, Lord our G-d, in the cities of Judea and in the streets of Jerusalem, the sound of joy and the sound of celebration, the voice of a bridegroom and the voice of a bride, the happy shouting of bridegrooms from their weddings and of young men from their feasts of song. You are blessed, Lord, who makes the bridegroom and the bride rejoice together.
- You are blessed, Lord our God, the sovereign of the world, creator of the fruit of the vine.
Finally, after these blessings have been offered, the couple drinks from a glass and the groom breaks the glass under his right foot, symbolizing the destruction of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem.
Signing of the Ketubah. Unlike the civil marriage license which must be filed with the local municipality, the Ketubah is a Jewish marriage contract which becomes a treasured keepsake and statement of the bride and grooms affection for each other an also declares their commitment to each other. Traditionally, it is the result of family negotiations, signed and witnessed by two people in a pre-ceremony called Bedekin.
Chupah. Symbolizes the home the bride and groom are establishing together. In their home they are free to be themselves, free to make mistakes, free to forgive for each others mistakes, free to love each other and free to discover the best that they have to share with one another. The Chupah/Huppa is open on all four sides, signifying guests will always be welcome.
Kiddish Cup. The Wedding day is one of supreme joy and harmony. In the Jewish tradition, joy finds its expression in wine twice during the ceremony, the two will drink from a single coup of wine to symbolize harmony.
Breaking the Glass. The Wedding Ceremony concludes with the Groom breaking a glass with his foot. The shattering recalls the destruction of the original Temple in Jerusalem, reminding us that even in times of joy, there is sorrow in the world. This helps to remind us of how life is both beautiful and fragile.