A Perfect Wedding Guest: A Jewish Perspective

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Stephen Wise

Stephen Wise

Rabbi Wise is the spiritual leader for Oakville's Jewish community, and his congregation is Shaarei Beth-El on Morrison Road. He is also the chair of the Interfaith Council of Halton.

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The weddings season has begun and if you are ever invited to a Jewish celebration, there are some unusual but meaningful elements to look for.

Prior to a Jewish wedding there will be a Bedekin ceremony, which may be private or for all invited guests. This is where the Ontario license is signed, along with a Jewish wedding agreement called a Ketubah. The Bride is then veiled by the Groom, a tradition stemming from the Bible where Jacob accidentally married Leah because he couldn’t see through the veil if it was his intended Rachel. This ceremony alleviates that embarrassing situation.

During the procession, the bride will always come last and all might even be asked to rise as a sign of respect. The Bride then usually circles the groom seven times, a symbol of the unification of the two into one. The entire ceremony takes place under a canopy called a Chuppah, symbolizing the Jewish home the two are creating together.

As typical of most weddings, there will be multiple blessings, including a set of 7 near the end. You might notice how sevens repeat in Judaism: it’s a significant number in that it represents a sense of completeness, like the 7 days of creation. Finally the most famous moment happens at the very end when the groom smashes a glass and everyone yells mazel tov. While some might quip that this is the last time the groom will get to put his foot down, this tradition is to remind us of the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem thousands of years ago, and to remember that not everything is whole and perfect in this world, despite the joy and happiness we feel at this moment. The Groom and Bride kiss and the party begins and lots and lots of food are served.

Keep an eye out for the Hora dance, no need to practice the steps, just grab a hand, join the circle, help if someone gets raised up on a chair, and participate in one of the most important commandments in Judaism – to celebrate with the bride and groom.


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