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A Guide to the Jewish Wedding

A Guide to the Jewish Wedding

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Published by: bgeller4936 on Dec 30, 2009
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09/19/2010

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 A Guide to the
Jewish Wedding
 A traditional Jewish wedding is full of meaningful rituals, symbolizing the beauty of the relationshipof husband and wife, as well as their obligations to each other and to the Jewish people.The following guide explains the beauty and joy of these Jewish wedding traditions.
The Wedding Day 
 The dawning wedding day heralds the happiest and holiest day o one’s lie. This day is considered a personal YomKippur or the
chatan
(Hebrew or groom) and
kallah
(bride), or on this day all their past mistakes are orgiven asthey merge into a new, complete soul.As on Yom Kippur, both the
chatan
and
kallah
ast (in this case, rom dawn until ater the completion o the marriageceremony). And at the ceremony, the
chatan
wears a
kittel 
, the traditional white robe worn on Yom Kippur.[Seardim do not have the custom to ast and wear a
kittel 
.]
Kabbalat Panim
It is customary or the
chatan
and
kallah
not to see each other or one week preceding the wedding. This increasesthe anticipation and excitement o the event. Thereore, prior to the wedding ceremony, the
chatan
and
kallah
 greet guests separately. This is called
Kabbalat Panim
.Jewish tradition likens the couple to a queen and king. The
kallah
is seated on a “throne” to receive her guests, whilethe
chatan
is surrounded by guests who sing and toast him.At this time there is an Ashkenazi tradition or the mother o the bride and the mother o the groom to standtogether and break a plate. The reason is to show the seriousness o the commitment – just as a plate can never beully repaired, so too a broken relationship can never be ully repaired.
Badeken
Next comes the
badeken
, the veiling o the
kallah
by the
chatan
. The veil symbolizes the idea o modesty andconveys the lesson that however attractive physical appearances may be, the soul and character are paramount. The Ashkenazi custom is that the
chatan
, accompanied by amily and riends, proceeds to where the
kallah
isseated and places the veil over her ace. This signals the groom’s commitment to clothe and protect his wie. It isreminiscent o Rebecca covering her ace beore marrying Isaac (Genesis ch. 29).
 
Chuppah
 The wedding ceremony takes place under the
chuppah
(marriage canopy),a symbol o the home to be built and shared by the couple. It is open on allsides, just as Abraham and Sarah had their tent open all sides to welcomepeople in unconditional hospitality. The Ashkenazi custom is to have the
chuppah
ceremony outside under thestars, as a sign o the blessing given by God to the patriarch Abraham, thathis children shall be “as the stars o the heavens” (Genesis 15:5). Seardimgenerally have the
chuppah
indoors. The Ashkenazi custom is that the
chatan
and
kallah
wear no jewelry under the
chuppah
. Their mutual commitmentis based on who they are as people, not on any material possessions. The
chatan
, ollowed by the
kallah
, are usually escorted to the
chuppah
by their respective sets o parents.Under the
chuppah
, the Ashkenazi custom is that the
kallah
circles the
chatan
seven times. Just as the world wasbuilt in seven days, the
kallah
is guratively building the walls o the couple’s new world together. The numberseven also symbolizes the wholeness and completeness that they cannot attain separately. The
kallah
then settles at the
chatan’s
right-hand side.[At this point, the Seardic custom is that the
chatan
says the blessing
She’hecheyanu
over a new
tallit 
, and has inmind that the blessing also goes on the marriage or him and the kallah. The
tallit 
is then held by our young menover the head o the
chatan
and
kallah
.]
Blessings of Betrothal (Kiddushin)
 Two cups o wine are used in the wedding ceremony. The rst cup accompanies the betrothal blessings recited bythe rabbi. Ater these are recited, the couple drinks rom the cup.Wine, a symbol o joy in Jewish tradition, is associated with the
Kiddush
, the sanctication prayer recited on Shabbatand estivals. Marriage, which is called
Kiddushin
, is the sanctication o a man and woman to each other.
Giving of the Ring
In Jewish law, a marriage becomes ocial when the
chatan
gives an objecto value to the
kallah
. This is traditionally done with a ring. The ring shouldbe made o plain gold, without blemishes or ornamentation (e.g. stones) – just as it is hoped that the marriage will be one o simple beauty. The
chatan
now takes the wedding ring in his hand, and in clear view o twowitnesses, declares to the
kallah
, “Behold, you are betrothed unto me withthis ring, according to the law o Moses and Israel.” He then places the ringon the orenger o his bride’s right hand. According to Jewish law, this isthe central moment o the wedding ceremony, and the couple is now ullymarried at this point.I the
kallah
also wants to give a ring to the
chatan
, this should be done aterwards, not under the
chuppah
. This isto prevent conusion as to what constitutes the actual marriage, as prescribed by the Torah.
 
Ketubah (Marriage Contract)
Now comes the reading o the
ketubah
(marriage contract) in the original Aramaictext. The
ketubah
outlines the
chatan’s
various responsibilities – to provide hiswie with ood, shelter and clothing, and to be attentive to her emotional needs.Protecting the rights o a Jewish wie is so important that the marriage may not besolemnized until the contract has been completed. The document is signed by two witnesses, and has the standing o a legally bindingagreement. The
ketubah
is the property o the
kallah
and she must have access to itthroughout their marriage. It is oten written amidst beautiul artwork, to be ramedand displayed in the home. The reading o the
ketubah
acts as a break between the rst part o the ceremony –
Kiddushin
(“betrothal”), and the latter part –
Nissuin
(“marriage”).
The Seven Blessings
 The Seven Blessings
(Sheva Brachot)
are now recited over the second cup o wine. The theme o these blessingslinks the
chatan
and
kallah
to our aith in God as Creator o the world, Bestower o joy and love, and the ultimateRedeemer o our people. These blessings are recited by the rabbi or other people that the amilies wish to honor.At the conclusion o the seven blessings, the
chatan
and
kallah
again drink some o the wine.Go to
www.tinyurl.com/7blessings
or audio versions o the Sheva Brachot, as well as a printable PDF o the textin Hebrew, English, and transliteration.
Breaking the Glass
A glass is now placed on the foor, and the
chatan
shatters it with his oot. This serves as an expression o sadness at the destruction o the Temple inJerusalem, and identies the couple with the spiritual and national destinyo the Jewish people. A Jew, even at the moment o greatest rejoicing, ismindul o the Psalmist’s injunction to “set Jerusalem above my highest joy.In jest, some explain that this is the last time the groom gets to “put his ootdown.”(In Israel, the Ashkenazi custom is that the glass is broken earlier, prior to thereading o the
ketubah
. Seardim always break the glass at the end o theceremony, even in Israel.) This marks the conclusion o the ceremony. With shouts o “
Mazel Tov 
,” the
chatan
and
kallah
are then given anenthusiastic reception rom the guests as they leave the
chuppah
together.

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