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Why Candles at the Chupah?

Why Candles at the Chupah?

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Question:

I was recently at a wedding where the bride and groom were walked to the chupah by their parents, each of whom was carrying a candle. It was spiritual, regal and beautiful. Are the candles just there to add ambiance, or is there a deeper reason as well?

Reply:

There is indeed a deeper significance to the candles. Let’s shed some light on the reasons for these candles, as well as why the bride and groom are each escorted with two candles (one on each side), which is the common custom.

Light Increases Joy and Happiness

In a number of places in Scripture, an increase of light is associated with an increase of joy. We therefore light candles to increase the joy at the wedding, as well as to bless the new couple with a life full of happiness.1

The Wedding of G‑d and Israel

Many of the customs at a Jewish wedding correspond to the marriage between G‑d and the Jewish people at the time of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. The candles are reminiscent of the verse2 “All the people saw the sounds and the flames . . .”3

Union of Man and Woman

As you observed, the bride and groom are each escorted to the chupah by two people, each holding a candle. The numerical value of the Hebrew word for “candle” (נר) is 250 (נ=50 ,ר=200). According to the Talmud, a man has 248 limbs and a woman has 252. Together, they have 500. Thus, the two candles (250+250=500) symbolize the union of husband and wife.4

Candles of Blessing

In a similar vein, the numerical value of G‑d’s directive to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply” (פרו ורבו), is 500, the same numerical value as two candles.5

So yes, the candles are beautiful. But what they symbolize is even more exquisite: the unification of two souls, and the blessings of joy, happiness and family.

Footnotes
1.
See Responsa Maharam Mintz 109.
3.
Sefer Mat’amim, Chasan v’Kallah 89.
4.
Mateh Moshe 3:1; Sefer Mat’amim, Chasan v’Kallah 101.
5.
Mateh Moshe 3:1; Sefer Mat’amim, Chasan v’Kallah 100.
Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin responds to questions for Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi service.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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2 Comments
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Morton M. Esterson July 7, 2016

Rabbi Yehudah states " A man has 248 limbs and a woman has 252.
Actually a woman has 365. Reply

Meyer Chein July 3, 2016

What a beautiful story, my grandmother cried after reading it. Reply

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