Weddings and marriages
God’s plan of ongoing creation which began with the creation Adam and Eve, the first human couple, holds Jewish marriage as integral. In addition to providing individual companionship, marriage ensures the survival of humanity, both physically and spiritually by creating communities that reflect divine law.
Historically, Jewish weddings were something of a property transaction with the groom paying a price (mohar) to the bride’s father. Over time, marriage has evolved into a more spiritual commitment.
Acquisition, symbolized by the husband bestowing a wedding ring and the wife accepting that ring passively, remain the legal basis of traditional Jewish marriage. Even though there is an imbalance in favor of the husband, Jewish law is not static, and has evolved to include protections for women. The marriage contract (ketubah) contains an obligation for the husband to provide food, clothing and sexual satisfaction for his wife. In case of divorce, the husband is obligated to pay a lien.
Wedding rituals are not limited to a single day, but rather include several events and rituals over the course of time. The upcoming marriage ceremony (tenaim) is heralded by the reading of a document of commitment and the shattering of a dish. As the date of the wedding draws near, the groom or the couple together recite a blessing over the Torah. The congregation showers the couple with candy, a tradition known as the aufruf. An opportunity is provided for the bride engage in spiritual preparation by immersing herself in the ritual pool (mikveh).
Before that ceremony on the wedding day, the bride and groom sign the ketubah in the presence of two witnesses. The bedeken ceremony in which the groom covers the bride’s face with a veil is performed by many couples.
The marriage ceremony is conducted under a huppah or marriage canopy. The first part of the marriage ceremony is the betrothal which is known as kiddushin nor erusin. The betrothal includes a blessing over the wine and the couple’s blessing for one another, the ring ceremony, and the groom’s proclaiming, “Behold, by this ring you are consecrated to me as my wife according to the laws of Moses and Israel. The actual marriage itself is nissuin. The ketubah is usually read between the two parts.
The recitation of seven blessings (sheva berakhot) that reflect the themes of Jewish marriage occurs during the nissuin ceremony. The ceremony concludes with the shattering of a glass in memory of the destruction of the Tempe.
Rituals continue after the recessional. The bride and groom spend a short time alone in seclusion (yihud) before proceeding to the wedding feast. The seven blessings are repeated after dinner and may be repeated each night for a week as family and friends celebrate the marriage.
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