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In the Jewish religion, the wedding day is the most important day of one’s life. It’s even more important than one’s birthday. Because according to Judaism a newborn comes in to the world as only as half a person. Every soul is originally composed of two parts: masculine and feminine. When the soul is getting down to earth it parts. After years of search and pursuit, when the man and woman unite under the marriage oath, the soul is finally complete. He or she becomes a whole soul only when marrying his or her other half.
Religious Jews believe in the holiness of the match. For them, one’s wedding day is like a personal Yom Kippur (a day of atonement). On this day, all their past mistakes can be forgiven. This is why religious Ashkenaz Jews fast during their last day as singles. It’s a short fast – from the sun rise till the sun set, less than 24 hours – but it’s enough to prepare the couple for their new future as good Jewish couple. On that day, the bride and groom are no longer individuals, but a family. They are responsible for each other and for their future descendants. The fast’s hardship is not only an atonement for their past mistakes, but also a cleansing opportunity to contemplate their coming future.
The wedding day is full of traditions and rituals, but the wedding ceremony itself is the most exciting one. The ceremony is the holiest part of the wedding party. Some believe that the ceremony is a unique time, during which the gates of prayer are open and God is listening. If the wedding day is an atonement day – a day of absolution for the couple – the wedding ceremony is a good time to pray. Because a prayer that comes from a person cleansed from sins is more likely to come true. A couple who want to can exploit this opportunity and turn to God with all their wishes. Some of the wedding guests enjoy this tradition as well. It is common to approach the bride and groom right after the ceremony ends and ask them for a blessing.
Other guests drink from the wine. It’s a Jewish custom to drink from a blessed glass of wine during the Kiddush, for example. The Kiddush is a blessing recited over wine or grape juice to sanctify the Shabbat and the Jewish holidays. Every Friday evening, the father of the family (or another man of the family) recites the Kiddush. After the blessing, he drinks from the wine and then passes the glass on to the rest of the participants, who in their turn sip from the wine. A similar thing occurs at a Jewish wedding. The glass of wine (red or white – it doesn’t make a different) isn’t passed on, but perched quietly under the chuppah. After the ceremony ends, lots of bachelors, and especially bachelorettes, jump on the glass. It’s not only a glass of wine that has been blessed, it’s a glass of wine that has been blessed at a wedding ceremony. As such it is now believed to have a marriage blessing – according to the superstition an unmarried person who drinks from it will get married in the next coming year.
Most secular Jewish people don’t fast at their wedding day (well, at least not for the above reason!). Most of them also don’t pray before the wedding ceremony. But they do observe other customs, like the popular one of drinking from a wedding glass of wine (for advanced Hebrew reading visit this funny post about this custom). Some of them have their own family customs, like pay respect to the graves of their lost love ones, or put on tefillin on the morning of their wedding day. Religious or not, a wedding day is one of the most exciting day of one’s life. Mazal Tov!
Wedding = חֲתוּנָּה
Wedding day = יוֺם נׅישּׂוּאׅין
Bachelor = רַוָּק
Bachelors = רַוָּקׅים
Bachelorette = רַוָּקָה
Bachelorettes = רַוָּקוֺת
Bride = כַּלָּה
Groom = חָתָן
Fast = צוֹם
To fast = לָצוּם
Prayer = תְּפִלָּה
To pray = לְהִתְפַּלֵּל
Wine = יַיִן