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Aufruf: Why Is the Groom Called to the Torah Before His Wedding?

Aufruf: Why Is the Groom Called to the Torah Before His Wedding?

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Traditionally, the chatan (groom) is honored with an aliyah at the Torah on the Shabbat before his wedding. This is known as an aufruf, Yiddish for “calling up.” This is on par with the obligation for a boy to get called up to the Torah before his bar mitzvah.1

(Read: What to Expect at an Aufruf.)

Where did this practice originate?

Solomon’s Gates

In Solomon’s Temple, there were two special gates: one for grooms, the other for mourners. The public was positioned between the two. When mourners came through their gate, they would be greeted by words of consolation. When grooms entered, they were greeted with the blessing, “May He whose Presence dwells in this House gladden you with sons and daughters.” After the destruction of the Temple, the sages instituted that the grooms and mourners go to the synagogue on Shabbat to be greeted there.2

Reflecting this tradition, the aufruf serves as a way for people to publicly congratulate the groom. Thus, if he will be out of town for the Shabbat before his wedding, the aufruf is held on the Shabbat prior.3 Nevertheless (due to the reasons outlined below) he should should ideally be called to the Torah on the Shabbat immediately before the wedding as well.

Torah Sustains the World

The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, explains that the bride and groom maintain the world’s existence by bringing up children who will engage in the study of the Torah. The chatan is therefore called up to read the letters of the Torah, for through the Torah G‑d continually sustains the word.4

Like the King’s Two Torahs

The sages tell us that thebride and groom are like king and queen. A Jewish king was required to have two Torah scrolls, so the groom is called up twice to the Torah: once on the Shabbat before the wedding, and once on the Shabbat after the wedding.5

The Torah of Marriage

The Talmud states that one who dwells without a wife remains without Torah and blessings.6 It follows that one who is married can attain Torah and blessings. The groom is called up to the Torah to differentiate between the Torah learned before and after the wedding, which are of entirely different qualities.7

The Groom Is Now Mature

A man can only be called to the Torah once he has reached the age of 13. Some explain that being called to the Torah demonstrates that he has reached the age of maturity and can get married.8

Holy Materiality

When planning a wedding, it’s easy to get caught up with the petty details, the decor, the food, and all the other bells and whistles, forgetting the spiritual element that lies at the core of it all.

The antidote is Shabbat, when our physicality—eating, drinking and other delights—is imbued with the holiness of the day.

Starting the wedding celebration by being called to the Torah on Shabbat, the groom connects himself to the Torah, and he imbues the rest of the week with the blessings and holiness of that Shabbat.9

Livelihood From Heaven

When a man gets married, he becomes responsible to provide for his wife and their household. After the groom is called to the Torah, it is customary to shower him with candies and nuts as a “good sign.” Having goodness rain upon him from above right after he reads from the Torah is symbolic of the concept that “one who accepts upon himself the yoke of Torah is exempted . . . from the yoke of worldly cares.”10 11

As we celebrate with our brides and grooms, let us pray for the day when “once again it will be heard in the cities of Judea and in the outskirts of Jerusalem, a sound of joy, a sound of gladness, a sound of the groom, a sound of the bride,” speedily in our days!

Footnotes
1.
See Levush, Orach Chaim 287:7; Magen Avraham end of 287; Shaarei Ephraim 2:1.
2.
Mesechet Sofrim 19:12; Pirkei D’Rabbi Elazar 17.
3.
See Levush, Orach Chaim 287:7; Magen Avraham end of 287.
4.
Sefer Haminhagim Chabad; Derushei Chatunah, 5689 (printed in Sefer HaKuntreisim, vol. 1, 19b).
5.
Midrash Talpiot, Chatan V’Kallah.
6.
See Talmud, Yevamot 62b.
7.
Sefer Hamatamim 8:20.
8.
Rabbi Pinchas of Koritz in Imrei Pinchas, Shaar Torat Ha’adam 53.
9.
Shem Mishmuel, Ki Teitze, 5670; see also Likkutei Chidushei Harim, Nisuin; see also Shevet MiYehudah, Vaeira.
10.
Ethics of the Fathers 3:5.
11.
Likkutei Chidushei Harim, Nisuin.
Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin responds to questions for Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi service.
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Yankeleh Gilead Eastern Thailand December 3, 2017

ChabadORG is becoming a daily must when I open my computer in the morning. I rely on online news, everything, because I'm a bit isolated. Anyway, the article by Reb Yehuda Shurpin, Aufruf, the calling of the groom to the Torah before his wedding, brought back lots of childhood memories.At times, memories of my childhood in the Bronx help sustain me. We used "good-bye,oyffruf" when we parted with a friend or neighbor, meaning, don't forget to call me (on the telephone).I also remember the use of the word to notify that someone died. A whispered, "Gut hut bashered an offruff", meaning, some soul was called home.

I am so happy with the Ask the Rabbi because it has made me a little bit better Jew than before. I'm more conscious of being Jewish and the obligations involved. I'm not yet :"there", I never will be, but, I'm closer than before. I hope God does not invoke his "oyffruf" as I'm not yet ready to go. Reply

Anonymous Ny November 29, 2017

Thanks so much for this informative and interesting article! Reply

Yohanon Hollywood FL USA November 29, 2017

The aliyah before the wedding is an Ashkenazi custom.

Sefardim and most Mizrachim grooms receive an aliyah after the wedding. (Maybe we worried bride or groom would get "cold feet.") There are many differing traditions -- one of the things that makes Judaism interesting -- we're more alike than different, that is amazing in itself, but there are differences . Reply

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