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Why Does a Bride Wear a Veil?

Why Does a Bride Wear a Veil?

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“The Badeken” (bride veiling ceremony)—a painting by chassidic artist Zalman Kleinman
“The Badeken” (bride veiling ceremony)—a painting by chassidic artist Zalman Kleinman

Question:

I’m getting married in a few weeks, and I want to ask about the custom of the bride wearing a veil. I want to do things right, but I’m not particularly turned on by the veil thing. It seems a bit outdated!

Answer:

There’s a common misconception that the groom covers the bride’s face before the wedding because he has to check that he is marrying the right bride, ostensibly to avoid what happened to our patriarch Jacob, who was tricked into marrying Leah instead of Rachel. But this doesn’t make much sense: the groom covers his bride’s face, and if he were meant to identify her, he should be uncovering her!

Rather, by covering the bride’s face, the groom is making a statement: “As beautiful as you look today, my love for you is not skin-deep. It is not just your eyes that dazzle me; it is your persona, your character, your views on life—the real you. I can cover your sweet face with a veil and still marry you, because your face is just one level of your true beauty.”

Another reason for the veil: The Torah says that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, his face was so bright with holiness that no one dared look at him. He had to wear a veil whenever he spoke to the people, in order to filter the divine glare. (This is the source for Michelangelo’s depiction of Moses with horns: the words for “beaming” and “horns” have the same letters in Hebrew; an old Greek translation mistakenly rendered this verse, “And Moses had horns.”)

When the bride and groom stand under the chupah, they are in an elevated state, as they are about to unite as one. In the bride, this elevated state is more revealed. She radiates a special holiness; the Divine Presence (Shechinah), the feminine aspect of G‑d, shines through the face of the bride.

This light is so intense that it must be veiled, just as the light emanating from Moses’ face had to be covered. Holiness needs privacy.

Those moments under the chupah are potent. As your day approaches, make sure to soak in and utilize every holy second.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
Painting by Chassidic artist Zalman Kleinman.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Discussion (26)
March 23, 2014
Moses and the veil
If you read Exodus carefully, Moses did NOT wear the veil when he talked to the people - he wore it AFTER he talked with them, to conceal the fading of the glory. He wanted only God's glory to shine, so he veiled himself when it began to fade.
In a wedding, when the veil is pulled back, it might symbolize the way God's glory is shared with his people - and so the Bride (God's people) begins to radiate the glory that comes from the Groom (God).
Curtis
Portland
December 29, 2012
Is a typical jewish wedding done in the synagogue?
Anonymous
Nigeria
November 1, 2011
nice article
very nice article
Anonymous
mumbai
November 6, 2010
abandonned-orlando
If you were abandonned by your filrst husband, make sure he gives you a "get"
(Jewish devorce according to Orthodox Jewish law) otherwise you are still married to him and cannot marry someone else,
because obviously you can only have one husband!
With best wishes.
Shoshanah
Yerushalayim, Israel
May 23, 2010
The Veil
I always understood the veil to represent the virginity of the bride.

A woman marrying for the second time would not wear a veil.
AJB
Adelaide, Australia
October 16, 2009
RE: Isn't there still another spiritual reason?
If either the bride of the groom are getting married for the first time, the veil placing ceremony is exactly like it is by any other first-time wedding.

In the event that both the bride and the groom were previously married, a veil is placed over the bride's face before the chupah, but not by the groom.
Menachem Posner for Chabad.org
October 16, 2009
Isn't there still another spiritual reason?
Wearing a veil is for those who never marrie ? Can someone who was abandon from her first husband can not wear one on her next marrage ?
Anonymous
Orlando, fl
April 16, 2008
wow this makes me feel happy to wear my veil
I will Make sure to soak in and utilize every holy second.
Anonymous
NL
June 17, 2007
moses veil
When studied thoroughly you will come to find out that Moses came down from the mountain with out the veil on and then he had to put it on so people would not see the glory of God fade away from him. That said I beleive the veil is worn for modesty and the husband does receive the extra excitement from lifting. I plan on wearing one on my wedding day.
Teresa Garcia
Antioch, ca
March 24, 2007
Why does a bride wear a veil?
If the tradition of the bride wearing a veil started with Moses, how would Laban have been able to use a veil on Leah to deceive Jacob?

I thought the veil of a bride had some sort of symbolism with the veil in the Temple.
Shoshannah
Louisville, KY
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