I am working on this book about Jesus fulfilling the Jewish Wedding.
I’ve pulled together several writings I’ve done over the years as a place to start, but something keeps holding me back from actually hitting the “publish” button. So, I want to ask you:
“Would you help me?”
What follows next is the book’s introduction.
Here are some questions to guide your thoughts?
- Is it an okay introduction?
- Does it say too much–or too little?
- What would you like to to talk about next?
- Are there Jewish Wedding related subjects that you want to make sure get covered?
Answer you questions right here in the comments section here on my website, www.TovRose.com! I’ll be reading and responding as work allows!
What you are going to find in this book is a compilation of writings and outlines from various sources, including my own. There is certain amount of repetition in what you will read, but each section is self-contained, and builds on information from previous sections.
What is a Jewish wedding is it just a wedding ceremony?
A Jewish wedding ceremony is one that follows Jewish law and traditions. Some of these laws and traditions are found in the Bible. As the pages of this work unfold, I will endeavor to highlight what is from Scripture and what is from Tradition.
While wedding ceremonies vary, common features of a Jewish wedding include a ketubah (marriage contract) which is signed by two witnesses, a wedding canopy (chuppah or huppah), a ring owned by the groom that is given to the bride under the canopy, and the breaking of a glass.
Technically, the Jewish wedding process has two distinct stages: kiddushin (sanctification or dedication, also called erusin, betrothal in Hebrew) and nissuin (marriage), when the couple start their life together. The first stage prohibits the woman to all other men, requiring a religious divorce (get) to dissolve, and the final stage permits the couple to each other. The ceremony that accomplishes nisuin is known as chuppah.
Today, erusin/kiddushin occurs when the groom gives the bride a ring or other object of value with the intent of creating a marriage. There are differing opinions as to which part of the ceremony constitutes nissuin/chuppah; they include standing under the canopy – itself called a chuppah – and being alone together in a room (yichud). While historically these two events could take place as much as a year apart, they are now commonly combined into one ceremony.
Before the wedding ceremony, the groom (chatan) agrees to be bound by the terms of the ketubah, or marriage contract, in the presence of two witnesses, whereupon the witnesses sign the ketubah. The ketubah details the obligations of the groom to the bride, among which are food, clothing, and marital relations. This document has the standing of a legally binding agreement. It is often written as an illuminated manuscript that is framed
and displayed in their home. Under the chuppah, it is traditional to read the signed ketubah aloud, usually in the Aramaic original, but sometimes in translation. Traditionally, this is done to separate the two basic parts of the wedding. Secular couples may opt for a shortened version to be read out.
Prior to the ceremony, Ashkenazi Jews have a custom to cover the face of the bride (usually with a veil), and a prayer is often said for her based on the words spoken to Rebecca in Genesis 24:60. The veiling ritual is known in Yiddish as badeken. Various reasons are given for the veil and the ceremony, a commonly accepted reason is that it reminds the Jewish people of how Jacob was tricked by Laban into marrying Leah before Rachel, as her face was covered by her veil (see Vayetze). Sephardic Jews do not perform this ceremony.
The bride traditionally walks around the groom three or seven times when she arrives at the Chuppah. This may derive from Jeremiah 31:22, “A woman shall surround a man”. The three circuits may represent the three virtues of marriage: righteousness, justice and loving kindness (see Hosea 2:21). Seven circuits derives from the Biblical concept that seven denotes perfection or completeness. Sephardic Jews do not perform this ceremony.
In traditional weddings, two blessings are recited before the betrothal; a blessing over wine, and the betrothal blessing, which is specified in the Talmud. The wine is then tasted by the couple.
The groom gives the bride a ring, traditionally a plain wedding band, and recites the declaration: Behold, you are consecrated to me with this ring according to the law of Moses and Israel. The groom places the ring on the bride’s right index finger. According to traditional Jewish law, two valid witnesses must see him place the ring.
During some egalitarian weddings, the bride will also present a ring to the groom, often with a quote from the Song of Songs: “Ani l’dodi, ve dodi li” (I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine), which may also be inscribed on the ring itself. This ring is sometimes presented outside the chuppa to avoid conflicts with Jewish law.
The Sheva Brachot or seven blessings are recited by the hazzan or rabbi, or by select guests who are called up individually. Being called upon to recite one of the seven blessings is considered an honour. The groom is given the cup of wine to drink from after the seven blessings. The bride also drinks the wine. In some traditions, the cup will be held to the lips of the groom by his new father-in-law and to the lips of the bride by her new mother-in-law. Traditions vary as to whether additional songs are sung before the seven blessings.
|A groom breaking the glass
After the bride has been given the ring, or at the end of the ceremony (depending on local custom), the groom breaks a glass, crushing it with his right foot, and the guests shout “Mazel tov!” (“Congratulations“). At some contemporary weddings, a lightbulb may be substituted because it is thinner and more easily broken, and it makes a louder popping sound.
The origin of this custom is unknown, although many reasons have been given. The primary reason is that joy must always be tempered. This is based on two accounts in the Talmud of rabbis who, upon seeing that their son’s wedding celebration was getting out of hand, broke a vessel – in the second case a glass – to calm things down. Another explanation is that it is a reminder that despite the joy, Jews still mourn the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Because of this, some recite the verses “If I forget thee / O Jerusalem…” at this point. Many other reasons have been given by traditional authorities.
Former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel Ovadia Yosef has strongly criticized the way this custom is sometimes carried out, arguing that “Many unknowledgeable people fill their mouths with laughter during the breaking of the glass, shouting ‘mazel tov’ and turning a beautiful custom meant to express our sorrow” over Jerusalem’s destruction “into an opportunity for lightheadedness.” 
Yichud (Hebrew for “togetherness” or “seclusion”) refers to the Ashkenazi practice of leaving the bride and groom alone for 10–20 minutes after the wedding ceremony. The couple retreats to a private room. Yichud can take place anywhere, from a rabbi’s study to a synagogue classroom. The reason for yichud is that according to several authorities, standing under the canopy alone does not constitute chuppah, and seclusion is necessary to complete the wedding ceremony. However, Sephardic Jews do not have this custom, as they consider it a davar mechoar, a “repugnant thing”, compromising the couple’s modesty.
In Yemen, the Jewish practice was not for the groom and his bride to be secluded in a canopy (chuppah), as is widely practiced today in Jewish weddings, but rather in a bridal chamber that was, in effect, a highly decorated room in the house of the groom. This room was traditionally decorated with large hanging sheets of colored, patterned cloth, replete with wall cushions and short-length mattresses for reclining. Their marriage is consummated when they have been left together alone in this room. This ancient practice finds expression in the writings of Isaac ben Abba Mari (c. 1122 – c. 1193), author of Sefer ha-‘Ittur, concerning the Benediction of the Bridegroom: “Now the chuppah is when her father delivers her unto her husband, bringing her into that house wherein is some new innovation, such as the sheets… surrounding the walls, etc. For we recite in the Jerusalem Talmud, Sotah 46a (Sotah 9:15), ‘Those bridal chambers, (chuppoth hathanim), they hang within them patterned sheets and gold-embroidered ribbons,’ etc.”
Dancing is a major feature of Jewish weddings. It is customary for the guests to dance in front of the seated couple and entertain them. Traditional Ashkenazi dances include:
- TheKrenzl, in which the bride’s mother is crowned with a wreath of flowers as her daughters dance around her (traditionally at the wedding of the mother’s last unwed daughter).
- TheMizinke, a dance for the parents of the bride or groom when their last child is wed.
- The “Horah” is a Middle Eastern/Israeli style danceusually played as a second dance set.
- Thegladdening of the bride, in which guests dance around the bride, and can include the use of “shtick”—silly items such as signs, banners, costumes, confetti, and jump ropes made of table napkins.
- TheMitzvah tantz, in which family members and honored rabbis are invited to dance in front of the bride (or sometimes with the bride in the case of a father or grandfather), often holding a gartel, and then dancing with the groom. At the end the bride and groom dance together themselves.
After the meal, Birkat Hamazon (Grace after meals) is recited, followed by sheva brachot. At a wedding banquet, the wording of the blessings preceding Birkat Hamazon is slightly different from the everyday version. Prayer booklets called benchers, may be handed out to guests. After the prayers, the blessing over the wine is recited, with two glasses of wine poured together into a third, symbolizing the creation of a new life together.
In recent years, the governing bodies of several branches of Judaism have developed standard Jewish prenuptial agreements designed to prevent a man from withholding a get (Jewish bill of divorce) from his wife, should she want one. Such documents have been developed and widely used in the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom and other places.
Erusin (אירוסין) is the Hebrew term for betrothal. In modern Hebrew, “erusin” means engagement, but this is not the historical meaning of the term, which is the first part of marriage (the second part being nissuin).
Since the Middle Ages it is customary for the marriage to occur immediately after the betrothal, and to perform the betrothal during the marriage ceremony itself. Previously this was not the case, and there were often several months between the two events.
In Hebrew and classical rabbinic literature, betrothal is frequently referred to as sanctification (Hebrew: Kiddushin, קידושין), on account of the bride becoming “sanctified” (dedicated) to the groom.
In the Hebrew Bible
A non-traditional view is that the betrothal was effected simply by purchasing the girl from her father (or guardian). The price paid for her (bride price) is known by the Hebrew term mohar (מוהר). The girl’s consent is not explicitly required by any statement in the Bible, neither is there explicit permission to ignore it. Yet, as the servant of Abraham was seeking a Bride for Isaac, and discovered Rebekah living in Haran, it should be noted that her father Bethuel, and her brother Laban, said, “Let us call the young woman and ask her.” And they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will go.”(Genesis 24:57, 58) It was customary in biblical times for the bride to be given part of the mohar. Gradually it lost its original meaning, and the custom arose of giving the mohar entirely to the bride, rather than to her father.
The traditional commentators do not necessarily explain mohar this way. Rashi understands mohar as a form of ketubah, an agreement to pay a certain amount upon divorce, and Nachmanides understands it as sovlanut, a sort of dowry or engagement present. Rashi understands Rachel and Leah’s complaint to Jacob (“we are considered strangers to him for he has sold us”) as saying that it was not normal for a father to sell his daughters, at least not without also giving them a dowry.
In the Talmud
The legal act
The Talmud states that there are three methods of performing erusin; by handing the woman a coin or object of nominal value, by handing her a document and throughconsummation (sexual intercourse), although the last is prohibited by the Talmud. In all cases the woman’s consent is required; however, it can be implied by her silence.In religious law, two valid witnesses must see the ceremony.
The erusin is preceded by a blessing over wine and then the bircat erusin (betrothal blessing). If forgotten before the ceremony, it can be recited before the ketubah is read. Originally the blessings were recited by the groom but today it is more common for someone else to recite them such as the wedding’s Rabbi.
Today, the custom is to perform the betrothal by giving the bride an object whose value is well known, and fairly constant: a gold ring without a stone. This is in accordance with the first method mentioned above.
The actual betrothal now takes place. The groom takes the ring and says in Hebrew, Behold, you are consecrated to me with this ring according to the laws of Moses and Israel. The groom now places the ring on the bride’s index finger.
For legal purposes, a betrothed couple is regarded as husband and wife. Similarly, the union can only be ended by the same divorce process as for married couples. However, betrothal does not oblige the couple to behave towards each other in the manner that a married couple is required to, nor does it permit the couple to have a sexual relationship with each other.
The rabbis prohibited marrying without an engagement (shiddukhin). Therefore, an old custom is to sign a Shetar haT’na’im as a formal form of engagement, forming an informal declaration of the couple’s intentions, and is read close to the start of the betrothal ceremony.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). “betrothal”. Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in thepublic domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). “marriage ceremonies”. Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
- Genesis 34:12,Exodus 22:16-17, Deuteronomy 20:7, Deuteronomy 22:29,Hosea 2:19-20
- This article incorporates text from the 1903Encyclopaedia Biblica article “MARRIAGE”, a publication now in the public domain.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in thepublic domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). “marriage”. Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
- Rashi Genesis 34:12; Exodus 22:16, Mikraot Gedolot, six volume Shilo edition, 1969
- Ramban, Exodus 22:16, Chavel edition, Mossad HaRav Kook, Jerusalem, 5732
- Halo nachriot nechshavnu lo ki m’charanu
- Genesis 314:15, Mikraot Gedolot, six volume Shilo edition, 1969
- Talmud, Kidushin 12b
- Jewish Encyclopedia,Consent
- Abraham Danzig, Wisdom of Man 129:16
- b The Jewish Way in Love & Marriage, Rabbi Maurice Lamm, Harper & Row, 1980, Chapter 15
- b c Made in Heaven, A Jewish Wedding Guide by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Moznaim Publishing Company, New York / Jerusalem, 1983, Chapters 20 and 21
- Text of the Birkat Erusin
- Adler, Binyamin.Sefer haNisuim Kehilchatam, haMesorah Publishing, Jerusalem, 1985. chapter 3, paragraph 184-5.
-  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). “marriage ceremonies”. Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
- b c d Made in Heaven, A Jewish Wedding Guide by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Moznaim Publishing Company, New York / Jerusalem, 1983, Chapter 18
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- Made in Heaven, A Jewish Wedding Guide by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Moznaim Publishing Company, New York / Jerusalem, 1983, Chapter 21
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- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). “Veil”. Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company. and A guide to the marriage ceremony
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- Made in Heaven, A Jewish Wedding Guide by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Moznaim Publishing Company, New York / Jerusalem, 1983, Chapter 19
- Ketuboth 7b
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- b Made in Heaven, A Jewish Wedding Guide by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Moznaim Publishing Company, New York / Jerusalem, 1983, Chapters 20 and 22
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- Yosef Qafih, Halikhot Teiman (Jewish Life in Sana) , Ben-Zvi Institute – Jerusalem 1982, pp. 143 and 148 (Hebrew); Yehuda Levi Nahum, Miṣefunot Yehudei Teman’, Tel-Aviv 1962, p. 149 (Hebrew)
- Isaac ben Abba Mari, Sefer ha’Ittur – Part 1 (sha’ar sheni), Lwów, Ukraine 1860
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