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Why Break a Glass at a Jewish Wedding?

Why Break a Glass at a Jewish Wedding?

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Question:

I understand that the reason I will be breaking a glass with my foot at the end of the wedding ceremony is to commemorate the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago. This was indeed a significant event in Jewish history, but it doesn’t seem to have any relevance to me. What does a destroyed building have to do with my wedding?

Answer:

The destruction of the Holy Temple has extreme personal relevance. It happened to you. It is true that shattering the glass primarily commemorates the fall of Jerusalem; however, it is also a reminder of another cataclysmic shattering—that of your very own temple, your soul.

Before you were born, you and your soulmate were one, a single soul.

Then, as your time to enter this world approached, G‑d shattered that single soul into two parts, one male and one female. These two half-souls were then born into the world with a mission to try to find each other and reunite.

At the time, the split seemed tragic and incomprehensible. Why create fragmentation where there was once completion? Why break something just so it could be fixed? And if you were meant to be together, why didn’t G‑d leave you together?

It is under the chupah, the wedding canopy, that these questions can be answered. With marriage, two halves are reuniting, never to part again. Not only that, but you can look back at the painful experience of being separated and actually celebrate it. For now it is clear that the separation brought you closer than you would otherwise have been.

Ironically, it was only by being torn apart and living lives away from each other that were you able to develop as individuals, to mature and grow. Your coming together is something you had to achieve and choose, and therefore it is appreciated deeply. With the joyous reunion at the wedding, it becomes clear that your soul was split only in order to reunite and become one on a higher and deeper level.

And so you break a glass under the chupah and immediately say the congratulatory wish of “Mazel Tov!” Because now, in retrospect, even the splitting of souls is reason to be joyous, for it gave your connection the possibility for real depth and meaning.

We see a parallel story in the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Temple was not merely a building; it was the meeting place of heaven and earth, the ideal and the real, G‑d and creation. When the Temple was lost, so was the open relationship between G‑d and the world. Our souls were ripped away from our Soulmate.

The only antidote to fragmentation is unity. And the deepest unity is experienced at a wedding. Every wedding is a healing, a mending of one fragmented soul, a rebuilding of Jerusalem in miniature. Our sages teach us, “Whoever celebrates with a bride and groom, it is as if he rebuilt one of the ruins of Jerusalem.” When soulmates reunite in a holy marriage, an energy of love and oneness is generated, elevating the world and bringing it one step closer to mending its broken relationship with G‑d.

So you see, your personal story and the story of Jerusalem’s destruction are inextricably linked. The shattering that happened to Jerusalem happened to your soul, and the joy you are experiencing now will one day be experienced by Jerusalem, too.

One day soon, when the Temple is rebuilt, our souls will reunite with G‑d, our Soulmate, in a true relationship that we built together. We will no longer mourn the destruction, but looking back we will finally understand its purpose, and we will celebrate.

Then, even the shattering will deserve the blessing of “Mazel Tov.”

Please see our Jewish Wedding site for more insights into the wedding rituals.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
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Discussion (22)
May 29, 2016
For Adam
Thank you for pointing that out. Yes, in the speech of Aristophane's he describes the "original human being" as androgynous. But Genesis came before Plato, and the passage in the Zohar from which this idea is taken is based upon the account there.

The common translation of the passage in Genesis is that Eve was taken from a rib. The word "tzela," however, is also translated as "side." Rashi cites a Midrash to that effect in his classic commentary.

At any rate, it's a truth, why shouldn't it appear in different forms among other traditions?
Tzvi Freeman
May 14, 2016
Plato not Judaism
The way you described the souls being split up and left to find each other after birth is taken directly from Plato's "The Symposium." This seems like plagiarism to me.
Adam
February 16, 2016
Soul Mates
Soul mates are not born so, they are made that way over a lifetime. It takes hard work, and the earlier started the better the bond.
This is why in some areas, a family starts looking for suitable mates for their children from the moment their gender is known. You look for a family with similar values and faith with an apropriately aged infant or child of the opposite sex. The families draw close and allow the children sufficient possitive interactions and if it all pays off, another match is made! And everyone is happy!
And yes, sometimes it doesn't work. The good news is this is discovered long before they marry, have kids and start looking for lawers! So even in failure everyone is happy! (Except the lawers, may your kids be doctors so everyone is happy!)
Engaged for a year is a long time these days, so these might get to spend their tenth aniversary with their soul mate. But childhood sweethearts get to marry their soul mate! Did I mention how happy everyone is? Shalom!
Stephen
Australia
February 12, 2016
G-d does not make incomplete souls. There are no soul mates. You are misguiding people. Reflect on your error.
Anonymous
October 12, 2015
Beautiful explanation
I really like this explanation; it really does a nice job tying together various threads of thought about the links among the wedding, Jerusalem, the Temple, our relationship with HKBH, etc.

I'm wondering if the Rabbi has a source for this explanation. Is this from a Gemara, or a Midrash, or a Lubavitch source, perhaps? Or is it your own? I was asked by someone else who read it, and I didn't know where it came from.

Thank you in advance.
Philip Setnik
Beachwood, OH
July 16, 2015
Aron I hear what you say. But honestly I prefer Stephens explanation from Australia. With all due respect Aron, and please I'm not criticizing, I just find the "two souls splitting" sounds like a Ron Hubbard from the church of Scientology fantasy.
Whatever the reason is, is not important. We got two stories take your pick!
Being a Jew doings good deeds and tradition is what's important.
Lechaim Yidden
Cheers
Jeff Blesovsky
South Africa
July 16, 2015
nice
Avi
MALOT
July 15, 2015
Broken glass a sign of fidelity
My understanding is that a covenant between the husband and wife to drink of the same cup, and no other will drink from it. This is assured by its destruction. It therefore represents a vow of fidelity, one to the other, and no other will enter into it. Your thoughts?
Stephen
Australia
July 15, 2015
I find it strange that all the critics remain anonymous. The same people criticize farmers with their mouths full. We break a glass. It's tradition! The reason why is not as important as the tradition.. I was born an Orthodox Jew and this is the first time I've learned why. And quite frankly I don't care. Lechiam to tradition.
Jeff Blesovsky
South Africa
July 14, 2015
there is still free choice and divorce.
Anonymous
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