"Marriage, Plain and Simple"

When to Break the Glass

There is a Jewish custom to break a glass during the wedding ceremony.
This is done so that Jerusalem’s destruction not be forgotten in our
moment of joy. Regarding when exactly the glass should be broken there
are different customs. According to many opinions the time for
breaking the glass is at the conclusion of the seven marriage
blessings; i.e., at the end of the wedding ceremony.

Many later authorities, on the other hand, say that the glass should
be broken just after the actual consecration, before the reading of
the Ketuba (marriage contract).

The accepted custom, however, is to follow the majority opinion and to
break the glass after the blessings. There are some who express
surprise at this practice. They ask: How is it that we break the glass
at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony and then shout “Mazal Tov!”
How can we shout “Mazal Tov” just after recalling the Temple’s ruin?
My father and mentor once told me that this practice in fact makes
perfect sense. Only after we recall Jerusalem’s destruction are we
able to truly express our joy. If we forget Jerusalem our happiness is
not complete. Our joy is no more than wild behavior that divorces us
from the true meaning of life. With the Temple in ruins as it is and
so much suffering in the world, it would appear that there is no room
whatsoever for celebration. After all, God’s purpose in creating the
universe was to reveal Himself through creation. If God’s abode, the
Temple in Jerusalem, sits in ruins, then the purpose of creation
remains unfulfilled. In such a situation what can we possibly be happy
about?

God created the world so that He would be able to bestow some of His
goodness upon us. With so much suffering in the world, so much
falsehood, deception, exploitation and violence; in a world where the
evil succeed in getting the upper hand and the righteous are made to
suffer, what reason could we possibly have to be happy?

By recalling Jerusalem we attach our joy to the divine truth. Marriage
is not detached from the need to strive for perfection. To the
contrary, marriage itself contributes to the process of rectification
and perfection of the world. It constitutes a partial reconstruction
of Jerusalem. This being the case, it is most fitting that such joy be
expressed on behalf of the bride and groom. In addition, it makes
sense for us to wait until after the glass has been broken to shout
“Mazal Tov!”

“If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem..”

There is a very beautiful custom wherein all those gathered around the
wedding canopy sing, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand
forget its cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to
the roof of my mouth; if I do not place Jerusalem above my highest
joy” (Psalms 137:5,6). Incidentally, until recently there was a
certain tune to which everybody was accustomed to singing these
lyrics. Lately, though, the younger generation prefers a new tune
which was written by the acclaimed master of Jewish song, the late R’
Shlomo Carlebach.

Personally, I prefer the older tune. True, R’ Carlebach’s tune is
mellow and pleasant, and it expresses feelings of yearning and
longing, but it does not contain the dramatic emphasis of the old
tune. The dramatic emphasis of the older tune gives fitting expression
to the awesome splendor of the oath, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its cunning.. If I do not remember thee, let
my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.” It is like a kind of anthem
to which the entire congregation stands and repeats the oath.

I do not know what the feeling is like in the audience. I am usually
under the wedding canopy with the families. From what I have been able
to see, whenever the old tune is sung the eyes of those who stand
around the bride and groom well up with tears. People stand
attentively and seriously and recall Jerusalem. They recall the
destruction of the Temple, the hardships encountered on the path to
its reconstruction, the holy individuals who have been killed in wars
and terrorist attacks, the orphans and widows. Against the backdrop of
the wedding’s splendor, tears well up over every conceivable hardship;
prayers go up on behalf of Jerusalem’s speedy restoration and for the
rectification of God’s creation.

When the newer tune is sung, though, one does not encounter tears.
Neither the parents nor those gathered around the couple nor the
newlyweds shed any tears.
True, there is nothing that says that one must shed tears. The main
thing is not to appear outdated, conventional. The youngsters might
the impression that we are not “with it.” That, after all, is the main
thing, that people not suspect us of being old-fashioned.

Maybe in a few years even the new tune will take on an “old”
character, stirring up moving memories of weddings gone by; maybe it
too will bring tears to eye. Perhaps young brides and grooms will
again opt for a newer tune. At any rate, I am in favor of the old
tune, especially when it is sung at the wedding ceremony.

“Ayin HaRa’” – “The Evil Eye”

Some brides and grooms today wish to add a unique touch to their
wedding. For example, some grooms wish to sing a special song to their
bride. They may choose to do this when the crowd is on the dance
floor. I even heard of one groom who sang under the canopy during the
marriage ceremony.

When people ask my feelings about this, I advise the bride and groom
to avoid standing out and not to deviate from tradition. All eyes are
at any rate upon them. They at any rate occupy the center stage. Why
should they try and go out of their way to draw attention? The couple
should do their best to celebrate along with the guests and to receive
their abundant blessings and with love and humility. The more that one
is careful to uphold the traditions of the forefathers, the more one
merits becoming a significant link in the chain of generations.

Conspicuousness leads to what is known in Judaism as “Ayin HaRa’,” the
“Evil Eye.” When one person sees another standing out, he begins to
ask himself, “Is he really as fortunate as he makes himself appear?
Does he really deserve to be so happy?” After all, there are all sorts
of less fortunate individuals in the crowd looking on. There are
single men and woman who long to find a mate; there are widows and
divorced people. One ought to consider their feelings.

The danger of “Ayin HaRa’” is particularly great when the groom goes
out of his way to publicly demonstrate his undying love for the bride.
People begin to ask themselves, “Will his love continue to endure when
he begins to face the difficulties of marriage?”

As unpleasant as it is to admit, if one begins to do a little
investigating one finds that the very couples who were so eager to
demonstrate their love in public later encountered domestic problems.
Sometimes, when I see that the couple’s demonstration of love is
exceptionally conspicuous, I know that within a number of months they
will come to me with serious relationship difficulties. In short, it
is best for a couple not to make too prominent a show of their love
for one another. Love one another modestly and may God bless you with
many pleasant years together.

My father had the following to say about this issue of “Ayin HaRa’”:
It is not necessary to assert that the conspicuous behavior of the
groom at the wedding was what caused (“siba”) the problems which arose
later. It is enough to say that his behavior was an indication
(“siman”). I.e., the fact that he acted in an strange, eye-catching
manner indicated that he was likely to have problems later on.

Who Decides Where the Wedding Will Be Held?

Question: When there is a difference of opinion between the couple and
their parents over the location of the wedding, who has the final
word?
Answer: Obviously, the ideal situation is one in which everybody
agrees on one location. But, in cases where there is a difference of
opinion between the couple and their parents, the rule would appear to
be as follows: If the parents are the ones paying for the wedding (as
is the accepted practice when it comes to young couples), then the
parents must have the last word. They, in essence, are the hosts of
the meal. They invite the guest, they are the ones who sign the
invitations. Therefore, they are the ones to decide. They clearly want
nothing more than to arrange the wedding in a manner that befits the
honor of the bride and groom.

A bit of useful advice for young couples: Let the parents arrange the
wedding. Sometimes the bride and groom think that because they are the
ones getting married, they should be the ones to decide all of the
wedding arrangements. This is not true. It is true that it is the
bride and groom that are getting married; in this regard they cannot
be replaced by the parents. But if the parents are paying for the
meal, then they are the hosts of the banquet and the celebration.
Generally, most of the guest are friends of the parents, and it is
only fitting that they be allowed to feel at home with their
acquaintances. By following this advice the couple will merit starting
off their life together by fulfilling the commandment to honor their
parents. This will also allow them to arrive at the wedding calm and
happy. They are not responsible for everything. The weight of the
responsibility is not on them. Finally, following this path will bring
the parents more satisfaction.

Yet, if the bride and groom are financing the wedding themselves (a
scenario more common with older couples) they have the right to decide
where the wedding will be held, for they are the hosts. Of course, if
the parents voice a particular opinion and the couple accepts it, they
have fulfilled the commandment of honoring parents. All the same, they
are not obligated to follow their parents’ advice, for it is their
wedding and they are the ones paying for it (see Peninei Halakha vol.
4, pp. 154-156).

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