The History and Symbolism of Breaking the Jewish Wedding Groom’s Glass--Posted 8/2/09
|Those unfamiliar with the traditional Jewish wedding have probably seen images of it in popular culture. However, cursory television and film presentations do not delve into the history of the traditions presented. This leads to many snippets of the event presenting cultural aspects completely out of context. One of the common images presented in these depictions is the breaking of the Jewish wedding groom’s glass. Or, more accurately, audiences will see the depiction of the groom stomping and breaking the glass after it has been wrapped in cloth. This is a very important component to the wedding ceremony. That is why it is always captured for posterity in a Jewish wedding picture frame. But, what does this traditional glass breaking ritual truly represent and what are its origins?|
In order to understand the breaking of the glass, it is important to understand how the glass is presented throughout the wedding. The glass, itself, is traditionally a wine glass that connects to the symbolic use of wine throughout the wedding. The tradition of using wine throughout the wedding ceremony actually dates back many thousands of years. Wine is commonly mentioned in the books of the Old Testament as it was used in many rituals of the Jewish people. The offering of wine at a wedding to family and guests was a sign that the event was important. Hence, mere water would not be appropriate. (Remember, wine was a luxury drink in the early days of ancient civilization.)
In addition to being offered to guests of the wedding, the Rabbi will integrate the wine into the consecration of the wedding. Specifically, he will state a marriage blessing over the wine glass. The bride and groom will then drink from the same glass. This drinking from the same glass of blessed wine infers a spiritual unification under God. This allows the bonds of matrimony to rise beyond secularism and current cultural climates. The bonds of matrimony then go beyond the modern day and connect to their origins of ancient Hebrew society. This is achieved through taking part the long and storied ritual tradition that is now the subject matter of many photographs in Jewish wedding picture frames.
In addition to the consecration, the use of wine finds it ways into the actual marriage ceremony. There is a second blessing of the wine during the ceremony that involves praising and thanking God for the ability to create the union This is soon following by the “Sheva Berachot” which is the Seven Blessings that are spoken over the glass of wine. Once the Seven Blessings are said aloud, the bride and groom will drink the wine.
Once the actual wedding is finished, it is time for the bride and groom to depart. Of course, this is the point when the groom steps on the wine glass. In order to avoid harming him, the glass is wrapped up in cloth so that the glass shards do not imbed themselves in his foot. Now, for many, this particular ritual seems somewhat out of place. Why would anyone feel the need to smash a glass that played such a large role in the actual marriage ceremony? The origins of this particular custom explain why.
As the legend states, the breaking of the glass may have first occurred during the Babylonian era. It is believed to have taken place during the wedding of the son of a man named Rav Ashi. During the wedding, the guests became carried away with the celebratory nature of the event. This angered Rav Ashi to the point he smashed a glass with his foot in order to call the wedding to attention. He wanted to remind the guests that the Jewish people had suffered much through history and they should never be clouded from this truth even when involved in a very festive occasion. Whether this legend is true or not, the ritual still persists even after many thousands of years. The sentiment of the ritual is preserved as a result. And, of course, it has made for tremendous photography subject matter since cameras were first developed.