Maid in Heaven: A Jewish Marriage Guide


By Aryeh Kabblan



	LOVE 


	Love, our Sages teach us, is a many splendored thing. It can strike at 
	any time, on a bus, in synagogue, even (though rarely) on a date.  Love is 
	more precious than gold; in the words of one contemporary tzaddik: "Money 
	can't buy me love." 

	But we are taught that God created the world as an act of love. We therefore 
	see that being in love is an imitation of G-d. (Note: While imitating G-d is 
	fine, doing impersonations of Him is unseemly and irreverent.)

	So now you're in love. What do you do next? If you're a Torah-oriented Jew, 
	not much. You can tell your parents. And you can tell your rebbe. (You don't 
	have to tell G-d; He already knows.) And you should definitely tell the person 
	you're in love with. The next step is getting engaged.

 

	GETTING ENGAGED 


	The engagement period is a critical one for every couple. Among many traditional 
	Jews, it is after the engagement that the bride and groom actually meet and 
	learn each other's first names. Among very modern couples, being engaged means 
	you can now share each other's toothbrush.

	This is the time for meeting the parents of your intended. You will want to make 
	a good impression, so remember to dress modestly (if you're a girl), bring a 
	small gift (if you're a boy), and shave beforehand (in either case). Very 
	traditional boys will be too young to shave. Do not forget that you will have to 
	ask her father's permission to marry her!

	It is customary for the groom to buy his bride a diamond engagement ring. In 
	traditional circles, this kind of custom is called yehareg ve-al ya'avor, 
	i.e., highly recommended. Our Sages have also established a formula to determine 
	how much one should spend on the ring: 1) take the amount you can afford; 
	2) multiply by eighteen; 3) that is how much you must spend.

	The ring symbolizes many things. First, a ring has the form of a link in a chain. 
	This symbolizes that marriage chains a man and deprives him of his liberty. As 
	our Sages teach: "Who is a free man? One who eludes marriage" (Avot de-Robbie 
	Benson 8:4).

	The ring is a circle that has no beginning and no end, which is how marriage 
	feels after a couple of years. This also alludes to Talmud Torah (Torah study), 
	which is also endless, all the more so because a man won't learn much once he 
	marries.

	Of course, a ring is not essential, any piece of jewelry that fits the above 
	requirements will be fine.

	One final note: after being engaged for a few days, you may develop a deep-seated 
	urge to punch anyone who sings Od Yishama. This is a healthy reaction; don't 
	fight it.

	The time has now come to plan the wedding. 

 

	PLANNING THE WEDDING


	There are many myths about Jewish weddings, and they must be dispelled. Many people 
	think that a Jewish wedding must be lavish, with expensive clothes, endless food 
	and a seven-piece band. This is not a myth; this is TRUE.

	The myth is that the wedding is for the bride and groom. In fact, the wedding is 
	for their parents. This is why three-fourths of the guests are people the bride 
	and groom do not know. Many of these are relatives neither the bride nor groom 
	knew existed. In halakhah (Jewish law), these people are called "wedding 
	relatives." It is forbidden to interact with such relatives except at the wedding 
	of one's children.

	There is a deeper significance to this law. The Hebrew word for relatives, 
	KeROVIM, has the numerical value of 358. This is also the numerical value of the 
	word NaCHaSH, meaning serpent. From this we see that some relatives are like the 
	evil serpent who tempted Adam and Eve to sin, thus blowing things for all future 
	generations.

 

	SPIRITUAL PURIFICATION


	Before the marriage can be consummated, the bride must immerse in a mikveh (ritual 
	pool). This ritual is neither embarrassing nor demeaning to women. Chasidim do it 
	every day. 

	Immersion in the mikveh symbolizes spiritual rebirth. It represents purity and 
	ritual cleanliness. Nevertheless, the custom is for the mikveh water to be cloudy, 
	gray, and have little things floating in it. This custom goes back to the time 
	when women immersed in outdoor rivers, braving frostbite, pneumonia, and the 
	occasional peeping Tom.

	Some point out that the Hebrew word mikveh is related to the word tikvah, meaning 
	hope. This alludes to the fact that women who use the mikveh hope they won't 
	contract anything bacterial from the water.

	In a deeper sense, the waters of the mikveh represent the waters of Eden. But to 
	learn more about this, you'll have to buy my book, Waters of Eden, on sale at 
	quality Jewish bookstores everywhere.

 

	PREPARING FOR THE CEREMONY


	One of the most important preparations for the wedding ceremony is the veiling of 
	the bride. The origins of this custom are unclear. Some relate it to the biblical 
	story of Jacob, who let his father-in-law veil the bride and wound up with the 
	wrong woman!

	Others trace the custom to the little-known talmudic sage, R. Yosi ben Seymour, a 
	man blessed with thirty-six daughters. R. Yosi,according to one tradition, 
	instituted the veiling at the wedding of daughter number thirteen, a girl with the 
	complexion of an overripe turnip. This idea may be alluded to in the Yiddish name 
	for the veiling ceremony, _bedekun_, which means "Cover her up!"

 

	THE WEDDING CEREMONY


	After the preliminaries, the groom and bride are led to the chupah (canopy). It is 
	customary that the groom be led first. This is because Judaism regards men as more 
	important than women. As we shall see, this is an important theme of the Jewish 
	wedding ceremony.

	The groom is then dressed in a kittel, a long, white garment resembling a bathrobe. 
	The kittel recalls the day of the groom's death, the symbolism of which is pretty 
	obvious, especially if you've been married for a couple of years. This is also 
	alluded to by the word kittel, which is rooted in the Hebrew verb katal, meaning 
	"to slay." A fuller exposition of the similarities between death and marriage may 
	be found in my article, "Why Moshiach Is a Bachelor."

	In some circles, the groom is followed by a procession of relatives and friends. 
	This is a Gentile custom, however, like drinking gin and playing golf.

	Finally, the bride is brought to the side of her groom. She should be finely 
	dressed in a beautiful, but modest, white gown. The bride must also wear contact 
	lenses. This is because the Hebrew term for lenses, adashei maga, has the numerical 
	value of 497, which is only three less than 500, the numerical value of 
	peru u-revu ("Be fruitful and multiply").

	At this point, the bride traditionally walks around her husband seven times. There 
	are a variety of explanations for this custom, all of them demeaning or patronizing 
	to women.

 

	THE ERUSIN


	The rest of the ceremony is fairly technical from a halakhic point of view, but a 
	true understanding of its essence reveals how romantic it really is.

	Simply put, the man acquires the woman in a financial transaction. He does this 
	by giving her something of value. Although customarily a gold ring is given, any 
	object of minimal value, such as a comb or french fry, will do.

	At this point, it is necessary to create an intermission between the erusin and 
	the latter part of the ceremony, the nisuin. Jewish tradition, with its keen sense 
	of irony, reminds the newlyweds that, until Jerusalem is rebuilt and the Likud 
	returned to power, our happiness can never be complete. In order to introduce some 
	unhappiness into the proceedings, the ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) is read.

 

	THE KETUBAH 


	Like all contracts, the ketubah is a dry legal text, somewhat lacking in 
	entertainment value. Worse, the ketubah's text is very ancient and is written in 
	a very ancient language, Aramaic, which has not been spoken for about 1500 years. 
	Historians say that Jesus spoke Aramaic, but unless he's invited to your wedding, 
	the reading of the ketubah will go largely unappreciated.

	Today many people spend hundreds of dollars to have an artistically designed, 
	beautifully illuminated Ketubah, most of which are possul (not recommended for 
	use). In halakhah, these people are called hedyotos (airheads).

 

	A SERMON 


	Instead of reading the ketubah, and sometimes in addition to it, a D'var Torah 
	(sermon) is delivered. To again commemorate the anguish of the destruction of the 
	Temple, the sermon is traditionally long and boring. Preferably, it should be 
	delivered in an incoherent mumble by a scholar who knows neither the bride nor 
	the groom. Instead, he will refer to them generically as the "chusankalloh." Even 
	better, he should not refer to them at all, but present a lengthy discourse on 
	sin and damnation.

 

	THE REST 


	This is followed by the Seven Blessings, yihud (seclusion), a big meal and lots of 
	photographs.. Of course, the wedding is only the beginning. The real headache of 
	marriage does not take hold until long after the centerpieces from the dinner 
	tables are stolen by the "wedding relatives." Only after the band has gone home will 
	you greet the future of married life with that immortal prayer: "Dear God! What have 
	I done?"

 




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