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When a number of religious rituals are being discussed, marriages cannot be kept out of the equation. It is imperative that the wedding ceremonies are integral to the social life. For the special qualities of Jewish wedding, it is worth a mention, whenever the topic of weddings in Indian context. Even though the origin of Jews in India dates back to many centuries ago, their customs and traditions have become well known only in the modern days. This is because of the self-identifying ethnicity of this particular community, where a number of divisions have been seen, with varying origins from different parts of the world. There are a number of Jews in the world, these being the Askhenazi Jews, African Jews, Sephardic Jews, and those living in India, Bukharan, Iraqi, Persian and Yemenite. Since, there is regional difference in the cultures and rituals followed by these Jews, it is pertinent that their marriages are also held with differences. But, in most of the communities, the rituals are almost followed with some common features.
Stages of Jewish Wedding Ceremony
Some common features in all kinds of wedding ceremonies of the Jews in different parts of the world are Ketubah, Chuppah and the process of breaking a glass.
Ketubah is the contract of marriage, which is required to be signed by the bride and groom and witnessed by two signatories. Chuppah is a wedding canopy, under which the ring is given by groom to the bride. The Jewish wedding comprises of two stages broadly, the Kiddushin or the sanctification process and the nissuin or the marriage. The first stage is a kind of divorce, where the woman is technically prohibited from all other men and the second stage is the giving of the ring. The latter part is somewhat differing in the present day, as the first and second stages are brought together in one ceremony.
Various steps in Jewish Wedding
- Prior to the start of other rituals in the Jewish wedding, the groom is required to sign the Ketubah or marriage contract which is done in the presence of two witnesses. This is a legally binding contract wherein the obligations related to food, marital relationships and clothings are detailed. Usually, Jews frame this document in an illuminated background with art forms. In this document, there is also the provision of providing for the wife, in case of divorce or death.
- Bedekin is a form of light snacks, where the groom along with the father and future father-in-law goes into the room of the bride, who he has not seen for a week or so. He then covers the face of the bride with a veil, this being a formality where the groom legally identifies the bride.
- Chuppah or canopy is the next stage in the Jewish wedding. The Chuppah is a special kind of cloth, which is held high as a symbol of home for the newlyweds. During this ceremony, the groom wears a white dress, known as Kittel, which symbolises a pure and fresh start. On this day of Jewish wedding, both bride and groom are on a fast, until they are taken below the Chuppah, known as Yom Kippur, meaning the Day of Atonement. When the bride arrives under the Chuppah, she has to encircle it 7 times. Under this cloth, the Rabbi gives a recital of blessings, over wine.
- Putting the plain gold ring into the fingers of the bride is the next step in Jewish wedding, which is termed as Kiddushin where the groom recites certain phrases from holy books.
- Next step is the recital of seven blessings, known as Sheva Brachos, which is done under the guidance of one or more rabbis. After the recitals, the bride and groom take part in drinking of wine from glasses. Then, after the glass is emptied, it is thrown to the ground and crushed under the feet of the groom. Symbolically, this is a step carried out in all kinds of Jewish weddings which marks the destruction of Temple in Jerusalem and is a form of express of sorrow. Immediately after that, the band starts playing and the guests start dancing while chanting Mazaltov.
- Culmination of all the ceremonies and rituals of the Jewish wedding is done in the form of Cheder Yichud, where the couple is accompanied into a separate room, witnessed by two people. This is a requirement in the legal formalities as the culmination of marriage is supposed to be done inside a closed room, without anyone else and hence this is the final step, declaring the marriage between the man and woman as per Jewish traditions.