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Breaking The Glass

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No respectable film-maker would record a Jewish wedding scene without including the dramatic moment of the breaking of the glass, followed by the joyous shouts of “Mazal Tov!” A moment of juxtaposition from sadness to joy, the breaking of the glass is most often explained as a means of remembering the destruction of the Temple.

Although Jewish wedding customs around the world differ, the basic framework remains the same: a chuppah (wedding canopy), the blessing over wine and a blessing of sanctification of the marriage, the giving of a ring, the ketubah (wedding contract), the recitation of the sheva brachot (seven blessings) and the breaking of the glass. They are all customs mentioned in the Talmud.

Surprisingly, there is no mention of remembering the Temple as a source for the custom of breaking the glass:

Mar the son of Ravina made a marriage feast for his son. He saw that the rabbis were growing very merry, so he brought a precious cup worth four hundred zuz and broke it before them, and they became serious. Rabbi Ashi made a marriage feast for his son. He saw that the rabbis were growing very merry, so he brought a cup of white crystal and broke it before them and they became serious (Brachot 30b-31a).

The reaction of both Mar and Rav Ashi is attributed to the verse “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling” (Psalms 2:11). The hosts saw that the celebration was getting out of hand, even though it was a celebration for a mitzvah, and smashed the glass to remind them of the need for constant dignity and solemnity.

As breaking the glass became a common practice, the solemnity it was meant to instill was connected to the religious priority Judaism places on remembering that until the Holy Temple is restored, the Jewish people can never fully rejoice.

Copyright © 2012 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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