Judaism, as is known, is the oldest form of monotheistic religion, boasting of a history spanning more than three thousand years. Their view about marriage is that it is a fusion of two souls and a partnership for life. The word for a man in Hebrew is Eish, spelt in Hebrew with the alphabets Aleph-Yud-Shin; consequently, the word for a woman is Eisha, spelt as Aleph-Shin-Hay. Now, the letters Yud and Hay combine to give the name for God in Jewish, which signifies that the union between a man and woman is divine and is blessed by God. There are several ceremonies that are a part of a traditional Jewish wedding. Read on to know about Jewish wedding ceremonies.
Jewish Wedding Ceremonies
It is the contract of marriage signed by the groom before marriage. Before he signs the contract, the Rabbi extends to the groom a handkerchief that the groom holds on to, while the Rabbi reads out and explains the terms of it to the groom. After he has signed it, the witnesses present there sign too. In olden days, this marriage contract or the ketubah gave important legal protection to the wife, which was also the purpose behind a legal contract.
This is another pre-wedding ceremony wherein the groom veils the bride. In Yiddish, Badeken means to “cover over”. Traditionally, the bride and groom should not have seen each other for a week prior to the wedding. Thus, after the groom covers the bride’s head with a veil, she would stay veiled till the Seven Blessings are recited to complete their marriage.
Escort To Chuppah
The Chuppah is a piece of cloth held up by four poles. The bride and groom are escorted to this open tent and all other ceremonies are carried out under it. Sometimes, the people who escort the bride and groom carry candles with them, usually two of them. Two candles symbolize the union of a man and woman, in the physical sense – the Jewish word for candle is Ner, which has a numerical value of 250 (made from nun which equals 50 and raysh which equals 200). Also, a man’s body has 248 organs; a woman’s has 252, the combination of which is 500. Two candles would equal 500, too.
Circling The Groom
Some brides circle the groom before the Blessings are read out under the Chuppah. It is in accordance with the tradition that when Joshua walked around the walls of Jericho seven times, the walls fell down. Thus, when the bride circles the groom, it is believed that any wall that might exist between them falls and their souls are united. As she circles him, the groom prays for his friends who are yet to get married or someone who may be ailing or sick. When he stands under the Chuppah on his wedding day, the groom is considered to be dearest to God. After this, the service begins with two servings of wine in the same glass, from which the bride and groom drink the wine.
Exchanging rings was not a part of Jewish wedding ceremonies until the 7th Century. The groom is required to buy a ring for the bride from his own money. He puts the ring on the forefinger of bride’s right hand; the forefinger is most easily seen by witnesses and the right hand symbolizes strength. After this ceremony, the bride and groom are considered to be married.
After the ring ceremony, the Rabbi reads out the marriage contract or ketubah and translates it for the benefit of all present, as the ketubah is written in Aramaic language, an ancient language from where Hebrew originated. After it is read, the groom hands this contract over to the bride, another way of showing that the ketubah was meant to give the wife legal protection.
The Seven Blessings, also known as Sheva Brachot, are then read over a second glass of wine. Both the bride and groom drink from the same cup as two servings are given to them. The wedding ceremony ends when the groom breaks a glass of wine under the Chuppah. Legend has it that a rabbi broke a vase at a wedding ceremony to remind the people assembled there of the tragic destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem.
After all the ceremonies, the bride and groom retire to a private room to symbolically consummate their marriage. They take a few minutes of rest before going out to greet the guests at the feast. The feast includes much merry-making, dancing, eating and toasting, in the name of the new couple.