Lessons in Memory of my brother Dale Alan Konigsburg
September 6, 2004 – Number 5764-37
Wedding 6 – The Wedding Ceremony- Part III
Following the reading of the Ketubah, and the bride accepting it from the hand of the groom, the next section of the wedding service is the “Sheva Berachot” the seven wedding blessings. The blessings are arranged according to the order of their length, each one longer and more important that the one before. Since there is a blessing for everything in Judaism, it is no surprise that there is a blessing for getting married, but marriage is such an important ritual in Judaism. It is considered to be the most joyful day in a person’s life. It is considered to be one of the most joyful events in the life of the community, that one blessing doesn’t seem to be enough, for that matter even two blessings would not be enough. This is why there are no less than seven blessings in honor of the bride and groom.
The first blessing is over the second cup of wine. The first cup was used in the Arusin blessing at the beginning of the service. Now the cup is refilled (or some wine is added to what remains in the cup) and the cup will be held by the one reciting the blessing. In many weddings the Rabbi or Cantor who are officiating hold the cup while all seven blessings are recited. In some places, each of the seven blessings are assigned as a honor to guests at the wedding. It is a big honor to be asked to recite one of the Sheva Berachot. The cup is passed from hand to hand as each honoree recites the assigned blessing. At the end the cup is returned to the Rabbi or Cantor who then gives it to the bride and groom to drink. They are the only two who will drink from this cup of wine.
The other six blessings are a mixture of individual and communal reasons to celebrate. The second blessing refers to the ceremony being for the glory of G-d. The third blessing thanks G-d as the creator of humanity. The fourth blessing thanks G-d for creating both men and women in the divine image. The fifth blessing is a hope for the gathering of exiles in Jerusalem. The sixth blessing compares this wedding to the first wedding, of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden where G-d officiated. The final blessing, which includes passages from the book of the prophet Jeremiah, combines the joy of marriage to the rejoicing of those who have returned to Jerusalem with great feasting and singing.
After the last blessing, the bride and groom drink the wine (or kosher grape juice). Now the officiant will offer a small D’var Torah to the couple. There is no real reason that this needs to be long. There are times when there are several Rabbis or officiants who wish to speak and the speeches can drag on a bit, but the topic is usually some advice on love and marriage to the couple based on the lives to the couple, on the Parsha of the week or on some other Rabbinic text. It is not in lieu of pre-marital counseling which should be done at a meeting prior to the ceremony.
Many Rabbis will conclude their remarks with a blessing for the couple. This often is in the form of the Birkat Kohanim, the three part blessing that is mentioned in the Torah.
At this point the Rabbi will explain what the breaking of the glass is all about. The origin of breaking a glass comes from a story in the Talmud where a bunch of Rabbis were invited to a wedding celebration and the celebration was so lavish and so joyful that they wanted to bring a bit of seriousness to the wedding. They felt that there was so much rejoicing that no one was paying any attention to the serious nature of what a wedding is all about. They took some of the expensive dishes and smashed them to the ground. Immediately everyone was quiet and concerned. The custom stuck.
Today, we set aside a glass to be broken at every wedding. To remind the bride and groom for a moment of the serious nature of the relationship they are entering into. To remind them that life is not all party and rejoicing. And to remember the destruction of Jerusalem and exile of our people. At that time the exiles believed that there would never be another reason to be happy. But they were wrong, we have found a reason to rejoice and so we pause to reflect on the serious for a moment.
The glass itself can be anything made of glass. A simple light bulb, is often used not only because it is glass but because it makes a good “pop” when broken. There are some who sew a glass goblet into a silk bag so that the pieces can be saved with other mementos of the wedding or they can be placed inside some lucite trophy as a lasting memory of the wedding. While these are nice gifts for the bride and groom, the simple light bulb, wrapped in a cloth napkin, is all that is required. After the glass is broken, the guests cry out “Mazal Tov”, the bride and groom kiss but the ceremony is not over quite yet.
Next week: Wedding 7: The Wedding Ceremony-Part IV – After the Ceremony