Sunday, June 9, 2013

Jewish wedding

The Jews consider marriage to be a state of existence, an essential part of living. A Jewish wedding ceremony is a unique presentation of their ideals and values, their way of life. Though a small community of our country, the Jews have been there since times immemorial. Let us explore as to what makes a Jewish wedding an unforgettable experience.


Sabbath: This refers to the week prior to the wedding; it marks the day from when the bride (kallah) and the groom (choson) do not see each other until the day of their wedding. Later during the week, the groom is called to the torah, to impress upon the couple to look up to the torah as their guide in married life. Once the groom pronounces his promises, he is showered with nuts and raisins, which is symbolic for a sweet and fruitful conjugal life.

Yom kippur viddui: This is the confessional prayer that the bride and groom perform before the wedding, to forget the past and vows for a fresh beginning. The couple generally observes a fast before the prayers.

Badeken: This ritual takes place just before the wedding ceremony. It refers to that moment when the bride and the groom are given an opportunity to catch a glimpse of each other but in the company of friends and relatives of either side. The bride, seated on a bed surrounded by her mother and other relatives, is seen by the groom who lowers her veil and looks at his soon-to-be bride.


Chuppah: Chuppah is a decorated piece of cloth held aloft as a symbolic home for the couple underneath the clear sky. The rabbi (priest) ensures that there are two kiddush cups and wine, which will be used in the ceremony. The chuppah is surrounded by the bridesmaids, usherers, maid and matron of honor, best man and other close relatives. Finally, the groom, along with his parents, walks towards the chuppah. As the groom offers prayers for his unmarried friends so that they also find their true partners, the bride enters the chuppah accompanied by her parents. The couple is now made to stand next to each other for the ceremony to proceed. Finally, over a cup of wine, the rabbi recites the blessings and the bride and the groom are asked to take a sip. Following this, the couple exchanges rings which are solid bands of gold, silver or platinum without any stone.

Ketubah: This is followed by the reading of the ketubah, which is the marriage contract that is written beforehand and duly signed by two witnesses. The ketubah has a clear mention of the dowry and the alimony amount that the wife will receive in case of divorce. The rabbi hands over the ketubah to the groom, who in turn hands it over to his bride. This ritual completes the legal formalities of the wedding ceremony.

Sheva berakhot: This is the ritual where blessings are showered on the newlyweds. Seven blessings are recited over a cup of wine by the rabbi. This is followed by the relatives blessing the newlyweds over a cup of wine. The blessings begin by thanking god and then proceeds further for a feuitful conjugal life for the bride and the groom.

Breaking of the glass: The wedding ceremony is concluded with the breaking of an empty glass covered with cloth which is kept under the groom's feet. At times, both the bride and the groom together break the glass. Through this act, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem is recalled and remembered. The couple now share their first kiss as man and wife. This ritual also marks the start of post-wedding partying, with an unanimous shout of the slogan 'Mazel tove'.


Yichud: Right after the wedding ceremony, the bride and the groom are given 15 minutes of exclusive alone time with each other, away from the hustle-bustle around. They are left to gaze at each other's eyes and immerse themselves into the moment without any hindrance. Also, after an entire day of fasting, the bride and the groom feed each other of their first meal together.

Seudat mitzwah: In a Jewish wedding, the reception party is one of the most important aspects. The bride and groom are made to sit in the center of the dancing circle while their friends and relatives share joyous moments with them. In fact, according to traditions, it is customary for the newlyweds' relatives and friends to host festive meals for a week following the wedding.

Mitzvah dance: Dancing is a significant aspect of Jewish wedding receptions. Different dance performances are made by the parents of the bride, followed by the groom's parents and other relatives. It is also customary for the bride to dance with all the male members of the families. But while she holds the hands of both her husband and her father while dancing, she holds on to one end of a scarf or a belt while dancing with the other men.

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