Dec 5, 2007

Breaking Dishes at a Jewish Wedding

"They Just got married - they're breaking dishes already?!" was my thought on the act of Breaking of the Glass that is at the very end of any Jewish wedding ceremony.
'No, it's a symbol' - someone said, 'Everything in a Jewish wedding is symbolic.'

'I see... what could better symbolize marriage than broken glass.'

After asking around some knowledgeable friends of mine as to the nature of this curious symbol, after all how can 'breaking' of anything be a positive sort of symbol, I got a number of answers. The source for this ceremony dates back to Talmudic times, specifically to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. Yes, in fact, it is a symbol of sadness. Based on the verses 5 -7 in
Psalm 135: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither, let my tongue cleave to my palate if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy", breaking the glass ceremony sets the memory of the destroyed Temple in Jerusalem above even the highest Jewish joy, namely the Jewish wedding.

Some say, that the act of 'Breaking of the Glass' is related to the Kabbalistic concept called 'Breaking of the Vessels' or 'Shvirat HaKeilim' in Hebrew. Here's a partial quote from regarding this idea:
According to Luria, the ten vessels that were originally meant to contain the emanation of God's light were unable to contain that light and were hence either displaced or shattered.... The Breaking of the Vessels is, according to the Lurianic Kabbalah, a clearing of the decks, a fresh start...
Why were the 'vessels' unable to withhold the Light of G-d? Because they were unable to unite themselves, to unify their efforts for this most incredible 'job.' So in this sense, 'Breaking the Glass' by the Chuppah symbolizes the new beginning of the couple as a single unit working together to bring G-d's light into the world and the shattering of their old 'single' and self-centered existence.

In other words: If you break the vessels by your wedding (i.e. if you understand that you now begin your life as two units working as one, and you take on to appreciate,to compromise with, and validate one another) then you're on the road to make your marriage a grand success. You'll also save your expensive china - you won't end up breaking dishes later on.

In some Jewish circles, single girls keep the broken shards as a segulah (omen) of getting married soon themselves.

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