Beit Midrash

  • Family and Society
  • The Jewish Household
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Berel Wein

June is the month of weddings both here in Israel and in America. Weddings are happiness and joy, tension and nervousness, and sometimes disagreements and confrontations between the "opposing" sides. I have been a rabbi for many decades, thank God, so I have seen many an eventful wedding. I had a groom faint dead away under the canopy/chupah and the ceremony continued only after he was revived, seated and regained full consciousness and reasserted his intention to actually get married to the bride left standing under the canopy/chupah. More tragically and indelibly impressed in my memory was the instance when the mother of the groom suffered as fatal heart attack under the canopy/chupah. The Talmud in Ketubot discusses such an instance as how to proceed regarding the wedding ceremony, the week of sheva brachot and the shiva/mourning period - which ritual has the priority of time and place. But as a young student then in the yeshiva I was convinced that the Talmud was being fanciful and discussing an unrealistic situation. But the Talmud is always realistic and true to life and everything recorded in the Talmud therefore does happen at one time or another. I have also witnessed bitter disputes between the respective parents of the bride and groom that were continued under the canopy/chupah during the ceremony itself. I was then not only the officiating rabbi at that wedding but the referee of a domestic dispute taking place publicly to the horror of all of the onlookers and invited guests.

But these are all exceptional events not truly representative of weddings generally. Yet the Talmud again unerringly realistic warns us that there is no wedding without aggravation, frustration and potential disagreement. Knowing this truth going into the wedding planning and ceremony allows one to take defensive measures to minimize problems, smooth out differences and allow the festive mood of the wedding to permeate the time and place of the wedding ceremony. I am always emotionally touched by a wedding because the Torah has taught us that the Jewish people are constructed and perpetuated on the basis of family and home. Nothing takes precedence over the importance of family - not career or education, wealth and seeming worldly opportunities. The count of the Jewish people in the Torah is always by family and in fact Jewish tradition forbids counting Jews directly as individuals. So a wedding confirms our continuity and growth and is a symbol of belief in the future and optimism in our personal and national lives. The rabbis of the Talmud placed great store in helping the bride and groom rejoice on their wedding night. Singing, dancing, music (I am not convinced that they had the deafening volume now employed at many weddings in mind) clapping of hands, etc. are all part of this joyful time. The Talmud even teaches us the wicked queen Izevel, the wife of Achav and an idolater and tyrant was rewarded for clapping her hands and dancing at weddings in that the dogs that tore her body apart left her hands and feet untouched. God’s justice is exact and exacting

Being a participant in a wedding of a child, sibling or grandchild is certainly a special privilege and occasion. Then one witnesses the continuity of one’s own family and senses the immortality within us that enables one to see beyond the grave. One wishes the best for the young couple though one always realizes that problems, difficulties, adjustments, and challenges await every family in life. Yet there is a sense of serenity and hope present at a wedding for the union of a man and woman in matrimony is a Godly ordinance, the basis of all human life and civilization. The blessings that are recited at the wedding ceremony and feast confirm this view of the event. The Lord Himself, so to speak, confirms this new union of man and woman as He did the original marriage of original man and woman, Adam and Chava in the Garden of Eden. God, so to speak, is one of the many invited guests at all Jewish weddings where these blessings are recited. It is His presence, so to speak that elevates the entire ceremony and feast into a holy and joyful occasion. For the wedding ceremony and accompanying feast and merrymaking show us that the new couple now carries a whiff of eternity with them into their new lives together. June is certainly a happy month for it brings with it the gift of weddings and everything holy and wonderful that they represent.
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