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Jewish Wedding Customs

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on February 8, 2012

Today is the official “on sale” date for Shear Murder! Weddings form the theme for this story, a suitable topic right before Valentine’s Day. Consider giving a copy of this Bad Hair Day mystery as a gift to your friend or family member.

Hairdresser Marla Shore is a bridesmaid at her friend Jill’s ceremony. Things go terribly wrong when Marla finds the matron of honor—Jill’s sister—dead under the cake table. Weeks away from her own wedding, Marla has to find the killer fast or she might end up wearing a funeral shroud instead of a bridal veil.

For both ceremonies, I had to research wedding customs the bride would follow. Here are some of my findings:

Why is the bride veiled?                                       3705351_m
The tradition honors Rebecca, who veiled her face when she was first brought to Isaac to be his wife. The veil also symbolizes modesty and tells us that a person’s character is more important than the outward appearance. If truly following the customs, the groom is supposed to lower the veil over the bride’s face. Thus after getting a glimpse of her, he won’t be deceived as was Jacob when Leah was substituted for Rachel.

What is the meaning of the canopy under which the couple are wed?

The four-posted chuppah symbolizes the home being built by the happy couple. It is open on all sides like the tent of Abraham and Sarah who welcomed visitors.

Why does the bride circle the groom seven times?
Just as the world was created in seven days, the bride, representing Mother Earth, reminds people that marriage is part of the creation process. At the same time, she symbolically builds the walls of the couple’s new dwelling, as embodied by the chuppah.

What happens next?

Blessings of betrothal, including the Kiddush or blessing over wine, come next. The Kiddush is a sanctification prayer recited on most religious occasions. Here it signifies the sanctification of a man and woman together in marriage.

When is the couple officially married?

In Jewish law, a marriage becomes official when the groom gives his bride an object of value, such as a gold ring. For more religious observers, it is placed on the bride’s right forefinger where witnesses can readily see it, and the ring is a plain band without any stones. The ring symbolizes the continuity of an everlasting marriage.                 3091177_m

The Ketubah, or Jewish marriage contract, is read after the giving of the ring. This document is signed and witnessed, often immediately prior to the ceremony, and is considered legally binding. It details the husband’s obligations to his wife, including among other things, his duty to provide food, clothing, and marital relations. It also mentions his obligations regarding child support and provides for his wife’s financial security in the event of death or divorce.

What kind of blessings follow?

After the giving of the ring and reading of the Ketubah, seven more blessings are offered. These, like the previous ones, are accompanied by sips of wine.

Why does the groom smash a cloth-wrapped glass?

This practice is supposed to remind people of the Holy Temple’s destruction in Jerusalem. It means that to truly experience joy, one must be open to the possibility of sorrow. Some say this is the last time the groom gets to put his foot down.

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One of the most interesting topics I discovered during my online research was the concept of Soul Mates. According to one source, forty days before a male child is conceived, a heavenly voice announces whose daughter he will marry. This match is called bashert. However, finding one’s bashert doesn’t mean that bliss will follow. Jewish law allows divorce. The Lord also arranges second marriages, choosing a man’s next wife based on his merits.

Some resources:

http://www.aish.com/jl/l/m/48969841.html
http://www.jewishweddingnetwork.com/jewish-wedding-traditions
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_wedding
http://www.jewfaq.org/marriage.htm

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Shear Murder by Nancy J. Cohen
Weddings always make Marla Shore shed a tear of joy, and she’s elated to attend her friend Jill’s reception. Marla’s own nuptials are weeks away, and she’s busy following her frenetic to-do list. Her plans go awry when she discovers Jill’s matron of honor dead under the cake table, a knife embedded in her chest. Lots of folks aren’t sorry to see Torrie go, especially since the bride’s sister knew their deepest secrets. But when suspicion falls upon Jill, Marla wonders if her dear friend is truly innocent. She’d better untangle the snarl of suspects and iron out the clues before the killer highlights her as the next victim.

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Leave a comment during Nancy’s blog tour and enter to win signed copies of Perish by Pedicure and Killer Knots.

Coming next: Why I Like Cozies at The Stiletto Gang on Thursday, Feb. 9 (That’s tomorrow!)

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4 Responses to “Jewish Wedding Customs”

  1. Maureen said

    Nancy,

    Thanks for another interesting article. I didn’t know the reasons behind many of these Jewish wedding customs and it was fascinating to learn about them. You certainly do our research, but you also show how much goes into writing fiction, that I think a lot of people don’t realize! Keep up the good work!

  2. Really interesting post. I loved learning more about what lies behind these ancient traditions, Shear Murder sounds great too.

  3. I learned things I didn’t know, too. Of course, the bride has the option of choosing which traditions she’ll follow.

  4. […] began to the music of violinists. A more beautiful bride couldn’t be found. A traditional Jewish wedding followed, with all of the customs described in my earlier blog. The wedding program explained each […]

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