A Jewish wedding ceremony is not complete without the groom breaking a glass under the wedding canopy (the Chuppah) by stamping on it with his foot. The glass is usually thin and wrapped in a napkin to contain the fragments. This is a beautiful way that Judaism links our current lives to the history of the Jewish people.
At this joyous joining of two people in marriage – a time of personal happiness – Jews must be reminded that our joy cannot be complete as long as the Temple in Jerusalem is still destroyed. We must remember the catastrophes that befell our own people – as the destruction of the holy Second Temple in 70 CE and all subsequent sufferings of the Jewish people, and place the beginning of a married life within the framework of the joys and sorrows of Jews throughout history. As the groom’s action recalls the demolished house of God, the now married couple takes on the obligation to rebuild the Temple in their own lives by building a Jewish home as a miniature temple.
There are several different meanings that have been devised for the ceremony of smashing the glass. One interpretation is that the fragility of the glass symbolizes the fragility of trust, commitment and love that make up a marriage. We must treat our relationship with special care. The promises made by the bride and groom, like the broken glass, are irrevocable. It is also a reminder that although the couple came together as a single union, the world as a whole is broken and needs mending. Even in a moment of such great joy, we are asked to remember that there is still pain and suffering in the world, and we have a responsibility to relieve some of that suffering (the commandment of tikkun olam!). The sound of the breaking glass is said to frighten away evil spirits who spoil this joyous occasion with their mischief. Some people interpret the breaking of the glass as the hope that the couple’s happiness and their children will be as plentiful as the shards of glass. On a lighter note, some Jews joke that this will be the last time the groom “gets to put his foot down!!”
After the glass is broken everyone yells “Mazel Tov,” which means good luck, and the couple proceeds down the aisle to celebrate with friends and family!!
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