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IX.      A Jewish Wedding

An orthodox Jewish wedding is a celebration that includes the whole community of Israel. It represents a continuation of the Jewish people and is therefore considered a “simcha” (happy occasion) for the entire nation. The atmosphere at an Orthodox wedding is extremely festive. In fact, Jewish law bids us to create joy for a bride and groom.

The guests are intent on fulfilling the mitzvah of making the  “chosson” (groom) and “kallah” (bride) happy. The Talmud tells us that anyone who gladdens the heart of a groom and his bride is deserving of reward.  The guests come with this attitude: to entertain the wedding couple, and not to be entertained by them.

A traditional Jewish wedding is composed of several parts, based on Jewish law and customs, each one rich in history, meaning, and symbolism. The following is a guide to the sequence of wedding events.

 

Kabbalat Panim  (Reception)

Generally a wedding begins with the reception.

Many follow a tradition in which the bride and groom refrain from seeing each other for a period of up to one week before the wedding. Therefore there are separate receptions; one for the bride and one for the groom.

On their wedding day the bride and groom are likened to a king and queen. The bride sits in a special chair similar to a throne and greets guests. Meanwhile the groom is busy with the Rabbi in a separate room signing the marriage “kesuba” (contract) and the conditions of the marriage “tenaim” (agreement).

 

Bedekan  (Veiling Ceremony)

The groom is escorted to his bride with great singing and dancing. He then confirms that she is his intended and lowers the veil over her face. The guests then proceed to the chupah.

 

CHUPAH  (Wedding Canopy)

The groom is escorted to the Chupah by his parents.

He waits there for the bride who is brought down the aisle by her parents and circles around him seven times.

The ceremony begins with the recitation of two blessings. Immediately thereafter the groom places a ring on his bride’s finger and the couple is married in the eyes of the Torah.

The marriage contract is then read aloud.

The second part of the ceremony involves seven blessings typically recited by honored guests.

 The ceremony is completed with the groom stepping on and breaking a glass amidst shouts of “Mazel Tov”.

 

 PRIVACY (YICHUD)

Accompanied, once again by singing and dancing, the couple is escorted to a private room where they will share their first few moments together as husband and wife. 

 

THE WEDDING MEAL (SEUDAH)

The wedding meal, celebrating the mitzvah of marriage, is served and the guests begin eating while waiting for the newly married couple’s grand entrance to the ballroom.

 

The Dancing

The highlight of the wedding commences upon the couples return. They are greeted with enthusiastic singing and very spirited dancing in separate circles of men and women.  Keep your eyes on the middle of the circle where guests, intent on making the bride and groom happy, will be performing all kinds of amusing “schtick.”

          Most often, the dancing guests form two or three concentric circles around the bride and groom. Anyone standing on the perimeter of those circles will periodically be asked to join in the dancing and sometimes even physically pulled in. Join in the merriment; you’ll love it.

 

GRACE AFTER MEALS (BIRCAS HAMAZON) AND another SEVEN BLESSINGS (SHEVA BROCHOS)

The celebration concludes with a communal grace-after-meals and seven additional blessings in honor of the bride and groom.

For seven days after the wedding the bride and groom continue to celebrate their marriage with festive meals for family and friends, at which the seven blessings in their honor are recited.

 

JEWISH WEDDINGS: A Torah Perspective

A Torah Observant wedding is one of the religious events that captivates the interest and fascinates the secular person, whether Jew or gentile.

The infectious joy and beauty of a traditional wedding is apparent even to a first time participant.  Jewish attitudes and values which help to create this ambience are a bit more subtle, but worth noting.   As previously mentioned, the main intent of the guests is to fulfill the mitzvah (religious obligation) of making the bride and groom happy.  The wedding celebration then becomes infused with a religious fervor, excitement and sense of purpose.  Unlike secular weddings, the great majority of guests, with the exception of the infirm and a few real ogres, are actively involved in the proceedings. 

In such an environment the usual focus on food, regardless of how delicious or plentiful, is lessened. In fact, it is not unusual for a few of the more exuberant dancers to miss eating all together.

One who is inexperienced at Jewish weddings may also be impressed by the large attendance, which helps make a more festive atmosphere.  Every guest is not necessarily a close friend or relative of the bride and groom; they may just be friends of someone in the family.  They are invited and attend because a Jewish wedding is truly a community celebration for which all the Jewish people have cause to rejoice. Therefore, the guest lists tend to include extensive numbers of the couple’s community. 

Another, somewhat unique aspect of a religious Jewish wedding is the level of modesty maintained. Despite the easy accessibility of alcohol, no one seems to get really drunk. Judaism utilizes alcohol as a means of enhancing one’s happiness only.  Wine is mandated for use in almost every Jewish celebration, but never is one permitted to lose his better judgment and behave crudely.  

These are some of the features of a traditional Jewish wedding that make it so enjoyable and distinct from other types of weddings.

 

Last updated on: 12/14/2017
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