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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

URL: www.scjfaq.org/faq/08-19.html
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< Q8.18 TOC Q8.20 >

Question 8.19:
Weddings: Why is the glass broken at Jewish weddings?

Answer:

Even at the most joyous occasion in the couple's life, we are commanded by our sages to remember that our joy will never be complete until our temple is rebuilt in Jerusalem. Breaking a glass has become the traditional way to express this idea. Many grooms also place a small amount of ashes upon their head at the ceremony to express the same idea. Before breaking the glass, at some weddings a short sad song about the destruction of the temple is sung. The rabbis of the Talmud refer to this tradition as zecher l’chorban.

Over time, this tradition has been updated to symbolize the Inquisitions, the pogroms, the Holocaust, and in our own time, the dangers faced by our brethren in Israel, and throughout the Middle-East. Some believe that the lesson is exclusively a Jewish lesson, but a human one: that no couple, no matter how much in love, has the right to separate themselves from humanity, but rather that each of us, as an individual, and as a family, is obligated, if only in some small way, to help bring the world a bit closer to what we call y’mei ha-mashiach, that messianic era, in which no peoples, and no persons, regardless of faith, regardless of origin, regardless of ethnicity, will ever again feel the heel of oppression.

For some, there are other reasons. For example, the breaking of something lovely and fragile is sad. The measure of a good marriage is not only the ability to celebrate joy together, but also the ability to overcome the moments of sadness, of pain, of anxiety, of loneliness, of emptiness, of frustration, that enter every human relationship, by virtue our finite and therefore imperfect condition. Breaking the glass reminds us to celebrate the joys, as well as to overcome the moments of sadness.


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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