Jewish Weddings, Sephardi and Ashkenazi–Henry

While deciding what topic to choose for this blog post a lot of things ran through my mind, until I started to recall my best friend’s wedding which was very different from what I am accustomed to.

My friend Daniel is an Israeli from Brooklyn and is Ashkenazi and he had a very traditional Jewish wedding according to Ashkenazi minhag. For the husband (chatan) and the wife (kallah) this day is said to be a personal Yom Kippur, which entails a fast from dawn till the end of the wedding, as well as the chatan wearing a kittel (traditional white robe). These customs seemed so foreign to me at the time, but it really showed the sacrifice that they were willing to give up, to be with each other. This is vastly different from Sephardic weddings. In Sephardic weddings the ceremony begins about seven days before the actual ceremony, which is when there is a party thrown and the bride to be wears an embroidered velvet dress and pearls. This is typically followed by the women painting henna on their palms, to symbolize fertility and protection against the evil eye. I have noticed amongst my Sephardic friends that the belief in the evil eye is a big issue and many people wear a red bracelet to “protect” themselves from it. The weeklong celebratory feasts are called Shevah Brachot, at these parties guests come and treat the husband and wife like a king and queen and say many blessings.

For Ashkenazi Jews, the Kabbalat Panim is a period before the wedding ceremony where the chatan and the kallah don’t see each other for the week leading up to the wedding; this to me also reiterates the sacrifice and the love and longing for each other that builds up to this amazing moment. One Sephardic wedding tradition that is different from Ashkenazi weddings is that bride and groom do not fast beforehand and are expected to savor the meal. In most wedding customs there is a veil involved but not in Sephardic traditions. Also there is no custom of Yichud because it is looked down upon and seen as a compromise to modesty (its considered davar mechuar) –  a repugnant act –because Sephardic Jews have already eaten, where as Ashkenazi Jews have fasted the entire ceremony).

While enjoying myself at the buffet I started to hear loud singing and started to see a circle forming, I then began to notice that many men were surrounding my friend and singing traditional songs to him, this was great to see. Everyone was then having an amazing time singing and dancing, while this was happening on the chatan’s side, the kallah was seated on a throne and greeted by her guests.

One of my favorite parts of the ceremony was when the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom stood together and broke a plate to signify that like the plate that cannot be fully repaired, the relationship between husband and wife can never be fully repaired if something comes between them. This is a very strong message and I believe this is why I’ve seen so many of my friends stay in happy marriages. The text of the traditional Ketubah document, both Sephardic and Ashkenazi are written the same. These documents have been set by the Talmudic statue for nearly 1800 years. Originally written in Aramaic, it lays out the standard terms and conditions of Jewish marriage. A slight difference in the Ketubah between Sephardic and Ashkenazi’s is that in Sephardic Ketubah not only are the parent’s names included, but so are generations of forbearers. I think this is a great deterrent for many Jewish couples to divorce. I also think it provides great security to the families because if the couples stay together or the couples divorce, the money is distributed accordingly. Some Sephardic Ketubahs are written in Ladino.

When the chatan unveils the kallah this moment is called badeken, this moment symbolizes the idea of modesty, however attractive, the physical appearance should not be most important. This is like Rebecca covering her face before marrying Issac (Genesis 24). While being seated during this custom, I noticed a tall canopy type of covering the bride and groom were standing underneath, while doing further research about the canopy I learned that it is called a chuppah and it is a symbol of a home that the bride and groom will build together.

Then the bride began to walk around the groom seven times, this was to symbolize that the world was built in seven days and this is a wall for the couple world, they then began to sip wine for Kiddushin. Finally arrives the moment everyone had been waiting for, the ring placed is on her hand and the Rabbi said “Behold, you are betrothed unto me with this ring, according to the law of Moses and Israel.”{1}. They then say seven blessings over more wine then they put the glass on the floor and stomp on it. This is one of the most significant actions in the whole wedding, this pays homage to the original temple in Jerusalem, this creates a nostalgic feeling which derives from this Jewish tradition that has been practiced for many years.

At the end of the wedding everyone shouted “Mazel Tov”, the bride and groom were escorted off to a room together, this is called the Yichud roon and this signifies their new journey in life together as a married entity. Between the kiddushin and the actual marriage they then preceded to sign the Ketubah (marriage contract), this basically outlines the many responsibilities for the groom. After the Yichud a final meal is entailed. These were many interesting things for me  to see all of these customs and traditions that are thousands of years old brought to life in front of my eyes. All night we ate, drank wine, sang, danced and celebrated.

Sources:

“Guide to the Jewish Wedding.” Aishcom. Web. 09 Apr. 2016.

“Jewish Wedding Ceremony Rituals.” Theknot.com. Web. 09 Apr. 2016.

 

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