Wedding Ceremony of
Dalia Nechama and Jeffrey Matthew
August 5, 2007
21 Av, 5767
“Man is incomplete without woman. And woman is incomplete without man. And both are incomplete without the Divine presence” (Medrash Rabbah — Genesis 8:9)
(List of participants)
Welcome to our wedding! We are honored that our families and friends are here to share in our simcha.
A traditional Jewish wedding is rich with meaningful customs and traditions. We have prepared the following explanation of this joyous occasion so our guests may join in our celebration with fuller understanding and happiness. Thank you for sharing this special day with us!
Dalia and Jeffrey
In Jewish tradition, a bride and groom are compared to royalty, and as such, they both “hold court” at separate receptions before the actual wedding ceremony. All of the guests greet Dalia in one room, where she is surrounded by her female relatives and friends. At a men's reception, Jeffrey sits at the Chatan's Tish, the Groom's Table, where the tanaim (betrothal agreement) and ketubah (marriage agreement) are signed.
The tanaim is a contract in which the two families agree to the imminent marriage of their children. After it is signed, the mothers of the bride and groom break a plate to symbolize the seriousness of this agreement.
The ketubah is a traditional document that has symbolized Jewish marriage for more than 2,000 years. It outlines the moral and financial obligations of a husband to his wife. Two designated witnesses sign the ketubah, which is subsequently read under the chuppah. Dalia and Jeffrey have also signed a traditional civil license, witnessed by two friends.
Once the ketubah is signed, the chatan (the groom), escorted by family and friends to the accompaniment of joyous music, is led to where his kallah (the bride) is seated and lowers the veil over her face. The custom of bedekin, or veiling the bride, originates with our matriarch, Rebecca, who veiled herself upon seeing Isaac, her husband-to-be, for the first time. The bedekin also has roots in our patriarch, Jacob, who was tricked into marrying Leah instead of Rachel. This is why Jeffrey places the veil over Dalia himself during the bedekin. This emotional moment is further enhanced by the personal blessings bestowed on the chatan and kallah by both sets of parents.
The marriage ceremony takes place under a chuppah (wedding canopy), symbolizing the new home that Dalia and Jeffrey will build together. Like the tent of Abraham and Sarah, which was always open to welcome guests, the chuppah is open on all four sides.
Because the chatan and kallah are compared to royalty, many have adopted the custom of rising as they walk down the aisle. Bruchim Ha'Baim, a song of welcome, is sung to both Dalia and Jeffrey as they each arrive at the chuppah.
In accordance with his family's tradition, Jeff will don a talit, prayer shawl, under the chuppah. The talit symbolizes the “marriage” between God and Israel at Sinai. It is a sign of deep commitment.
Upon her parents escorting her to the chuppah, Dalia, together with Jackie and Darlene, will circle Jeffrey seven times. A kallah encircles her chatan to symbolize unity as they start their life together. She encircles him seven times because the number seven signifies a completion. Just as the seventh day (Shabbat) completes the creation of the world, the seven circles around the chatan complete their search for one another.
The Jewish Wedding Ceremony has two basic parts: Kiddushin (betrothal) and Nisuin (marriage). Both parts are introduced with the blessing over wine, the traditional symbol of joy.
During Kiddushin, Jeffrey will place a simple ring (without stones) upon the forefinger of Dalia's right hand and recite in Hebrew, “Behold, you are consecrated to me with this ring according to the law of Moses and Israel.”
To separate the blessings of Kiddushin from the blessings of Nisuin, the Ketubah is then read aloud in its original Aramaic.
During Nisuin, the reciting of the Sheva Berachot, seven wedding blessings, takes place. It is customary for seven people — family members, friends, or Rabbis — to be called to the chuppah to bestow these seven blessings upon the couple. These blessings are chanted over another cup of wine.
In Jewish families of German descent, as is Dalia's, there is a custom to sing Psalm 128 from the Book of Psalms. This Psalm expresses our prayer that the bride and groom create a family together with happiness and contentment.
Even in moments of our greatest joy, we are obligated to remember our still incomplete national existence as symbolized by the destroyed Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) in Jerusalem. In commemoration of this reality, everyone sings together “Im Eshkacheich Yerushalayim” (“If I forget thee, Jerusalem”), a passage from Psalms.
In the same spirit, Jeffrey then breaks a glass with his right foot to commemorate the Temple's destruction. Symbolically embedded in this custom is the hope that, just as glass can be reblown and reshaped, so too the Beit Hamikdash will be restored and rebuilt.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, it is customary to clap joyously and to sing “Od Yishama” to the couple as they walk up the aisle. The lyrics, “Od Yeshama, B'Arei Yehuda, U'Vechutzot Yerushalayim, Kol Sason V'Kol Simcha, Kol Chatan V'Kol Kallah,” translate to “Again may these be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of gladness and the voice of happiness, the voice of groom and bride.” This song, also sung at the Bedekin, will be sung again as the first dance at the reception.
While singing “Od Yeshama,” friends and family escort Dalia and Jeffrey to a room where they spend a few private moments alone for the first time as husband and wife. This Yichud, time alone, completes the wedding ceremony.
Wedding Ceremony of
Suzanne Ruth and Andrew Dudley
Sunday, October 14, 2007
2 Cheshvan, 5768
Welcome to our wedding! We are so excited that our family and friends are here to share this simcha (happy celebration) with us. We know that for many of our guests the traditions and customs in our wedding may be unfamiliar, so we have designed this guide to enable our guests to share fully in the meaning and excitement of this day.
… and Thank You
We want to take this opportunity to thank our family and friends for all the love and support shown to both of us throughout our lives, both separately and together. We also want to express particular gratitude to our many friends at Bais Abraham Congregation for being so open and welcoming to us and for their support in helping to make this wedding a reality.
Suzanne and Andy
On the day of their wedding, Jewish tradition treats the bride and groom literally like royalty. Royal symbolism is present throughout the day, including the bride and groom each “holding court” in separate receptions and guests rising as both the groom and bride walk down the aisle.
The wedding day is also in many ways like a Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) for the bride and groom. The bride and groom fast from sunrise until the ceremony and pray special prayers of atonement. During the ceremony, both the bride and the groom wear white, as a symbol of spiritual purity and of the clean slate with which we begin our life together as a married couple.
Kabalat Panim (Receiving Faces)
The bride and groom hold separate receptions before the ceremony begins. During the kallah's (bride) reception, Suzanne sits in a throne-like chair, surrounded by female relatives. It is customary for guests to greet the bride and family. During this reception, Suzanne and Andy have chosen to have civil wedding documents signed and witnessed by friends.
Andy, meanwhile, is upstairs at the Chatan's Tish (Groom's Table).
During his reception, Andy will begin to give a D'Var Torah (speak a few words of Torah), which is customarily interrupted with songs and jokes. This is not meant to be rude; actually it is a long-standing tradition designed to level the playing field among men. All grooms are to be interrupted on the day of their wedding, thus reducing possible feelings of competition or insecurity on the part of the groom.
Two important Jewish contractual documents are signed and witnessed during the Groom's Tish: the Tanaim (engagement agreement) and the Ketubah (marriage agreement). The Tanaim is a contract signed by both Andy and Suzanne's families, agreeing to the marriage of their children. Following the signing of the Tanaim, Andy and Suzanne's mothers will break a plate jointly to symbolize the seriousness of the contract. The breaking of the plate is also said to symbolize the breaking of any acrimony that may have arisen between the two families in order to now join the two families together.
The Ketubah is an essential component of a Jewish wedding, signifying the husband's moral and financial obligations to his wife. For thousands of years, the Ketubah has been executed between brides and grooms, in order to protect the interests of the Jewish wife. The is written in Aramaic, and is signed by two designated witnesses at the chatan's Tish.
Suzanne and Andy's beautiful Ketubah was designed by a close friend, Chasiah Haberman. In addition to the traditional Aramaic text, Suzanne and Andy have written in English their own commitments to each other regarding their marriage and the home they will create together. The traditional Aramaic text and the English adaptation will be read aloud during the wedding ceremony.
Jewish law requires that the Ketubah be physically present in the couple's home, and it is often hung in a special location. The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism and an eighteenth-century mystic, suggested that couples re-read their Ketubah whenever they fight, as a reminder of how they felt as a bride and groom, surrounded by their family, friends, and abundant love.
The Bedekin is one of the most beautiful and emotional parts of a Jewish wedding. Andy is escorted from the Chatan's Tish by a large group of men, dancing and singing a song called “Od Yishama.” (This song will be sung throughout the festivities, and is transliterated at the end of this program so that all guests can join in.)
Andy is led to where Suzanne is seated on her “throne;” this is the first time Andy and Suzanne see each other on the day of the wedding. When Andy is brought to Suzanne, we exchange a brief, intimate moment and then Andy lowers Suzanne's veil.
The tradition of lowering the veil derives from the tricking of our patriarch Jacob into marrying Leah. Because he did not see his bride's face, Jacob married Leah instead of Rachel, the sister he loved. To ensure that it is Suzanne he will be marrying, Andy himself covers Suzanne's face with a veil. When the veil has been lowered, our parents may bestow on us personal blessings and kind words.
Chuppah (Wedding Canopy)
The marriage ceremony takes place under a chuppah, symbolizing the home Suzanne and Andy will build together (not literally — we've done enough home building for a while!). The chuppah is open on all four sides, like Abraham and Sarah's tent, a symbol that our home will always be open to guests. The fabric of our chuppah was made by two friends and members of Bais Abraham, Phyllis Shapiro and Lyla Puro. This chuppah has been part of many weddings, and we are honored to share in its long and meaningful history.
We have chosen to both walk down the aisle to a “niggun” (wordless song) sung by all of our guests. In some Jewish communities, a niggun is believed to be a way to lift the soul to higher levels of spirituality. We have chosen this somewhat atraditional processional so that all of our friends and family can be an active part of our wedding ceremony. We hope that each of our guests will join in and sing along as we walk down the aisle.
In Jewish weddings, it is customary for both the bride and groom to be escorted by their parents. Andy is first escorted to the chuppah by his parents, Alison and George, and then Suzanne is escorted to the chuppah by her parents, Charlene and David. Suzanne and Andy also are accompanied by their siblings: Andy's brother, Robert, and Suzanne's brother and sister, Steven and Erica. Because the bride and the groom are like royalty on this day, it is traditional to rise for the processionals both of the groom and bride.
When Andy is brought to the chuppah, he is welcomed with a song of welcome, Bruchim Ha'Baim. He then leaves the chuppah to greet Suzanne as she walks down the aisle. Together as a couple, they enter their new home, symbolized by the chuppah.
Upon entering the chuppah, as a song of welcome also is sung to her, Suzanne will circle Andy seven times. This represents the binding of the bride and groom together, creating a space unique to the two of them. Seven is a particularly significant number in Judaism and is integrated throughout the wedding day. Here, seven signifies the completion of the creation of the couple.
Andy will put on a “kittel” (a white ceremonial robe) before Suzanne arrives. Both the bride and the groom will be dressed in white (or ivory) under the chuppah and will wear no jewelry and have no possessions in their pockets. This symbolizes that Suzanne and Andy accept each other as who they are, without regard to material possessions.
The Jewish wedding ceremony itself is composed of two parts. The first part, represents the betrothal of the bride and groom. Our rabbi, Rabbi Hyim Shafner, who has been an incredible influence and support for us over the past two years, recites a special blessing over a cup of wine. Both Andy and Suzanne drink from this cup.
Then, Andy places a simple ring on Suzanne's index finger, reciting a declaration that makes the betrothal official. The English translation of this declaration is: “Behold, you are consecrated to me with this ring according to the Law of Moses and Israel.” According to Jewish law, the ring must be a simple ring, pure metal without stones or carvings.
The Ketubah now is read aloud in the language in which it is written, Aramaic. Following the Aramaic reading, our personal English adaptation of the Ketubah also is read aloud. The reading of the Ketubah separates the Kiddushin from the Nisiun, the second part of the wedding ceremony.
During Nisiun, the Sheva Berachot (seven wedding blessings) are recited. These blessings are chanted over a cup of wine. Friends and family members are called to the chuppah to bestow these seven blessings on the couple, both in Hebrew and in English, after which Andy and Suzanne drink from the cup of wine. The seven blessings, which will also be recited at the end of the wedding meal, are translated at the end of this guide.
According to Jewish law, the groom gives the bride a ring during the Kiddushin as a gift to her, and an exchange of rings at that time may be seen as negating this act of marriage. Therefore it is not customary for the bride and groom to exchange rings at the Kiddushin. However, Suzanne and Andy both feel that it is important to both wear wedding rings as a sign of their commitment to each other. Therefore, in a separate act during the Nisuin, Suzanne will give Andy a wedding ring as a sign of her love for him.
Even in our most joyous moments, it is incumbent upon us to remember the suffering that has been experienced in the world and our responsibility to “Tikun Olam,” repairing the world where we find it to be broken.” In engaging in celebration and joy for the newly married couple, we first take a minute to sing “Im Eshacheich Yerushalayim” (“If I forget you, oh Jerusalem”). This is followed by the final part of the wedding ceremony, the well-known breaking of the glass, remembering the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in 70 c.e. After Andy crushes the glass with his foot, it is customary to shout “Mazel Tov!” (“congratulations, good luck”).
After the breaking of the glass, guests joyously sing “Od Yishama” to the couple as they walk up the aisle. This is a ubiquitous wedding song, sung earlier at the Bedekin and likely sung again during the wedding day.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Suzanne and Andy are escorted to a private room, where they spend a few moments alone for the first time as husband and wife. Two witnesses guard the door to make sure that this private time is not interrupted, enabling the couple time to take in the moment together and to reflect on the significance of the day. Also at this point, the couple is able to break the fast that they have kept all day.
It is a particular mitzvah (commandment) in Judaism to rejoice with the bride and groom at their wedding through song and dance. The dancing at our wedding is in the form of group circle dancing. We hope that you will join us and be a part of the unique and joyous sense of community and celebration created by this group dancing. In keeping with the tradition at Bais Abraham Congregation, we ask that men and women dance separately during the reception.
The dancing may be interrupted for “shtick,” random merry-making for the enjoyment of the bride and groom. Feel free to share your own jokes and funny dancing moves! It is also typical during the dancing to lift the bride and groom up in chairs accompanied by much singing and dancing.
Wedding Seudah (The Wedding Meal)
The wedding meal also carries special significance and incorporates specific traditions. This is a festive meal, which begins with a hamotzie (blessing over bread). This is preceded by a ritual washing of hands, which guests are welcome to join in if it is their custom. When the meal is complete, we will recite the Birkat Hamazon (a grace after meals). A grace after meals is commonly recited after every meal, but at a wedding, a special grace is recited that concludes with the Sheva Berachot, the same seven blessings recited under the chuppah. The text for the hamotzie, Birkat Hamazon, and Sheva Berachot can be found in the small books at each place setting during the meal. At the end of the wedding, guests are welcome to take these books (known as “benchers”) home with them.
Wedding Songs and Blessings
Sheva Berachot (Seven Blessings)
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who created everything for His glory.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Creator of man.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who created man in His image, in the image of His likeness, and provided for perpetuation of His kind. Blessed are You, Who formed man.
Let the barren city (Jerusalem) be jubilantly happy and joyful at her joyous reunion with her children. Blessed are You, Who fills Zion with the joy of her children.
May You gladden the loving couple as You gladdened Your creations in the Garden of Eden of old. Blessed are You, Who fills the groom and bride with joy.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who created joy and celebration, groom and bride, rejoicing, jubilation, pleasure and delight, love and brotherhood, peace and friendship. May there soon be heard, Lord our God, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, the sound of joy and the sound of celebration, the voice of a groom and the voice of a bride, the happy shouting of grooms from bridal canopies, and of young men from their feasts of song. Blessed are You Who makes the groom and bride rejoice together.
“Od yishama, b'arei Yehuda, u'vechutzot Yerushalayim, kol sason v'kol simcha, kol chatan v'kol kallah”
“Again may these be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of gladness and the voice of happiness, the voice of groom and the voice of the bride”
“Siman tov u'mazel tov, mazel tov u'siman tov, yehei lanu, yehei lanu, u'lechol Yisroel”
“It is a good sign and good luck for us and for all of Israel”
Hebrew transliteration of Blessing #7
“Baruch Ata Hashem, Eloheinu Melech haolam, Asher barah sason v'simcha, chatan v'kallah, gila rina, ditza v'chedva, ahavah v'achava, v'shalom v're'ut. Mehera Hashem Eloheinu yishama b'arei Yehudah u'vechutzot Yerushalayim, kol sason v' kol simcha, kol chatan v'kol kal-lah, kol mitzhalot chatanim mechupatam, u'nearim mimishte neginatam. Baruch Ata Hashem mesame'ach chatan im hakalah.”