מי אדיר על הכל... הוא יברך את החתן ואת הכלה
Who is mighty over all... may He bless the Chatan and Kallah

QUESTION: Why is this hymn recited and where did it originate?

ANSWER: The Zohar (Bereishit 226) says that when a person wants to bless his son or friend, etc., he should first bless Hashem — otherwise, the blessing will not be long-lasting.

Since the Chatan and Kallah will be blessed under the Chuppah with seven berachot, a hymn is first sung that consists of praises of Hashem. In it we also pray that He confirm the blessings that will soon be recited for the Chatan and Kallah.

(שלחן העזר סי' ז' סעי' ד' סק"ו, ועי' נדרים ל"ב ע"ב)

The author of the hymn is unknown, but some say that it was written in the late 15th century by the same person who composed the hymn “Adir Hu” which many recite at the Pesach Seder. The earliest printed source of this hymn is in the Birkat Hamazon, Dyherenfurth, 1791.

(אוצר כל מנהגי ישרון סי' ט"ז)


עדי קידושין
Witnesses

QUESTION: The Gemara (Eiruvin 18b) says that Hashem actually made the wedding arrangements for Adam and Chavah. The Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 8:13) says that Hashem officiated at the wedding. He took a cup [of wine] and blessed them, and the angels Michael and Gavriel were the unterfihrers — the ones who led Adam to the Chuppah (see also Pirkei D’Reb Eliezer 12).

Why is there no mention of the two witnesses? A wedding without witnesses is invalid!

ANSWER: The Gemara (Kiddushin 65b) asks: Since the need of two witnesses for marriage is derived from the laws regarding monetary matters (through a gezeirah shavah of davar-davar1 ), then just as in monetary matters admission of the litigant is like the testimony of one hundred witnesses, so too, we should say in matrimony that the admission of the litigant is like one hundred witnesses. Thus, when both the man and the woman admit that they performed an act of marriage, the couple should be considered married even if no one witnessed the act?

The Gemara answers that in monetary matters the admission of the litigant that he owes money does not disadvantage anyone. The admission is only financially damaging to the litigant himself, and therefore it is taken as proof for the claim. However, when the litigant admits that he married the lady, halachically, his admission does damage to someone else — her relatives through this marriage. Through his admission she becomes an ervah — a woman forbidden for them to marry. Therefore, there must be witnesses present at the act and his mere admission is not accepted.

When Adam married Chavah, they were the only two people in the world. There were no relatives to be affected by their act of marriage. Therefore, there was no need for witnesses and their own admission would be recognized as the testimony of one hundred witnesses.

(חתם סופר בהיותו ילד)


ברוך אתה ... שהחיינו וקיימנו והגענו לזמן הזה
Blessed are You ... Who has granted us life

QUESTION: A wedding usually occurs only once in a person’s lifetime; why isn’t the berachah of Shehechiyanu recited?

ANSWER: Marriage (the wedding ceremony) in itself is not a mitzvah. The ultimate purpose and mitzvah is p’ru urevuprocreation — which will hopefully happen at a later date. A berachah is recited only when performing a mitzvah. Marriage, however, is only a hechshar mitzvah —something which enables the performance of the mitzvah in accordance with Torah law.

When a child is born, we in fact do recite a special berachah of Hatov Vehametiv in some circumstances and Shehecheyanu in others. (See Bircat Hanehenin 12:12.)

(אוצר הפוסקים סי' ס"ב ס"ק א' אות י"א, ובפ"ת סי' ס"ג סק"ד כ' בשם מור וקציעה דיש לברך, ולכה"פ בלא שם ומלכות ובכף החיים או"ח סי' רכ"ג סקכ"ה כ' לומר שהחיינו על פרי חדש ויכוון גם לזה)


ברכת אירוסין ונישואין
The Betrothal and Marriage Blessing

QUESTION: Why is it customary to stand when the seven berachot are recited under the Chuppah while at the meal everyone sits when the berachot are recited?

ANSWER: The Chatan is compared to a king, Thus, since he is standing under the Chuppah it is not befitting that others should sit while the king is standing. Therefore, in honor of the king everyone stands. However, at the meal, since the king is sitting, it is not necessary for those in attendance to stand.

(שדי חמד ח"ה בשם ספר חנא וחסדא עי' באר היטב אבה"ע סי' ס"ב סק"א ושלחן העזר סי' ז' סעי' ה סק"א)


ברוך אתה ... מקדש עמו ישראל על ידי חופה וקידושין
Blessed are You ... He sanctified His people, Israel, through Chuppah and Kidushin

QUESTION: There are two parts of acquiring a wife: 1) Eirusin — betrothal — which is accomplished by the chatan placing a ring on the bride’s finger, and 2) Nisu’in — marriage — which is accomplished by Chuppah — bringing the kallah into his abode (Kiddushin 5b). Shouldn’t the proper order of the berachah be [“Mekadeish amo Yisrael] al yedei kiddushin veChuppah?” — “He sanctified His nation, Israel, through kiddushin and Chuppah?”

ANSWER: In the berachah we are referring to the marriage that took place between Hashem (Chatan) and the Jewish people (Kallah) at Sinai. Hashem uprooted the mountain and with the suspended mountain above them He gave them the Luchot — Tablets — with which Eirusin — betrothal — was consummated (see Midrash Rabbah, Shemot 15:31)

Hence, when we speak of Hashem’s sanctifying His nation through Chuppah and Kiddushin, Chuppah is mentioned first because Chuppah — the Divine revelation which embraced the Jewish people — preceded the actual Kiddushin — betrothal — the giving of the Torah.

(תורה אור, מגילת אסתר דף צ"ח, ד')

* * *

Incidentally, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Chassidut offers a novel explanation to Hashem’s uprooting the mountain and placing it over the Jews before He gave the Torah (see Shabbat 88a).

Bitul and Torah

A prerequisite to be worthy of receiving the Torah is bitul — self-nullification. This was accomplished through the Egyptian bondage where the Jews were enslaved by the Egyptians with crushing labor and embittered with hard work with mortar and with bricks. Affliction and suffering breaks the spirit of a person and it discourages him from being conceited. Bitul was also later demonstrated with their declaring “Na’aseh venishma.”

While in Egypt, however, the Jews sunk into the defilement of Egypt and attained only katnut — an elementary level — of avodat Hashem — service of Hashem. In the weeks that followed the exodus, their level of avodat Hashem was elevated immensely.

A Loving Embrace

Hashem’s enveloping the Jews with the mountain (see Shabbat 88a, Maharsha) was actually a Divine revelation with which He “embraced” them. It is analogous to a person embracing a friend whom he loves immensely. Such love is described by King Shlomo as “His right hand embraces me” (Song of Songs 2:6). When one embraces another he envelops the other’s entire physical being. Likewise, by covering the Jews entirely with the mountain, Hashem held them in His grip and covered them with His revelation.

The supernal love Hashem demonstrated towards the Jews via this revelation awakened in their souls a love to Hashem which brought them to the sublime level of bitul represented by their declaration of “Na’aseh venishma — we have no mind and will of our own, and we are totally subjugated to His will.” Thanks to this self nullification, they were worthy to be the recipients of Hashem’s Torah. (The abovementioned follows the opinion of Midrash Tehillim [1:4] that the Jews declared “Na’aseh venishma” after the mountain was suspended over them.)

(תורה אור, מגילת אסתר דף צ"ח, ד')


החתן וכלה שותין מהכוס
The Chatan and Kallah Drink the Wine

QUESTION: Why do the Chatan and Kallah only take a sip of the wine without drinking malei lugmav — a cheekful?

ANSWER: The requirement to drink a cheekful applies only to kiddush which must be made over wine (Pesachim 106a, Orach Chaim 271), but not to all other cases where a berachah is recited over a cup of wine. In fact, in the Gemara (Ketubot 8a), where it discusses the berachot made at the marriage, there is mention of only six blessings and no mention of the blessing of hagafen made over the cup of wine.

Since it is not obligatory to have a cup of wine at the Chuppah, so that the berachah will not be levatalah — in vain — a sip is sufficient. (In Gemara Kallah, ch. 1, Rabbi Levi mentions the berachah of hagafen, but halachically if one has no cup of wine it is sufficient merely to recite the six berachot mentioned in the Gemara.)

(עי' ט"ז יו"ד סי' רס"ה סק"י וברשב"א המובא בב"י שם, ועי' אוצר הפוסקים אבה"ע סי' ל"ד ס"ק י"ב, ס"ב סעי' א' אות ו')

Alternatively, at the first wedding in the world, the marriage of Adam and Chavah, when the Bircat Nisu’im were recited (by Hashem), the Chatan — Adam — was given wine to drink. He drank too much and became intoxicated. This, caused him to violate Hashem’s command not to eat of fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and he was cursed that the snake would bite the heel of man (Bereishit 3:15).

King Shlomo says in Proverbs (23:31-32), “Do not look at wine when it is red; for to one who fixes his eyes on the goblet all paths are upright. His end is like that of one bitten by a snake.”

In order not to repeat what happened to Adam at his wedding, the Chatan and Kallah only take a sip from the wine.

(עי' דעת זקנים מבעלי התוספות, ויקרא י:ט, ועי' בבאר היטב אבה"ע סי' ל"ד ס"ק ד)


נוהגין לקדש בטבעת
The custom is to make Kiddushin with a ring (Even Ha’ezer 27:1, Rama)

QUESTION: According to the Gemara (Kiddushin 2a) “A woman may be acquired through money or an item worth money or through a document [of betrothal].” Why are all our kiddushin — betrothals — always done with a ring?

ANSWER: The round ring customarily used has the appearance of the Hebrew letter samech. When the letter is written out in full it is spelled ס-מ-ך and has the numerical value of 120.

Originally, man was to live forever. After Adam sinned Hashem said, “His days shall be a hundred and twenty years” (Bereishit 6:3). By putting the round ring which looks like the samech on the finger of the Kallah, the Chatan is alluding that he wants her to be his wife for 120 years, please G‑d.

(שמעתי מאחי הרב שמואל פסח שי' באגאמילסקי)

Alternatively, by putting the round ring around her finger he is expressing the wish that she will always be “around” him as a true ezer kenegdo — support and companion — in all material and spiritual matters.

* * *

Alternatively, there are two parts to the wedding ceremony. The first is Eirusin — betrothal — and the second is Nisu’in — marriage. The giving of the ring is for the purpose of Eirusin. The Nisu’in is achieved by their living together as husband and wife.

Thus, the love between them at Eirusin is only b’makif — an external encompassing love. The love they reach with the Nisu’in is b’penimiyut — a permeating, inward love. Hence, to emphasize that the level of love achieved through Eirusin is only b’makif, the Chatan is makkif — encompasses (externally) the Kallah’s finger with a ring.

(תורה אור ע' מ"ד, ד)


נהגו לקדש בטבעת שאין בה אבן
It is customary to make the Kiddushin with a ring which does not contain a diamond or a precious stone (Shulchan Aruch Even Ha’ezer 31:2)

QUESTION: Why is it customary to use a simple inexpensive ring and not a valuable diamond ring?

ANSWER: The simple reason for this custom is that the bride might overestimate the value of the stone and consent to the marriage under a false impression.

(אבן העזר סי' ל"א)

* * *

However, there is perhaps an important message the Chatan and Kallah can take with them throughout their lives from this custom instituted by our Rabbis.

A flaw in a diamond will remain embedded forever within the stone. If a marriage is like a precious stone, then when moments of trouble arrive and married life is not so rosy, the couple will be unable to cope with them. Therefore, the marriage is consummated with a smooth gold ring. In case it becomes scratched, all that has to be done is to take a soft polishing cloth and to rub it and it will shine again as new. Similarly, when moments of crises arise in life, they can be overcome and smoothed out by softness, devotion, love (warmth) and the understanding one has for the other.


המנהג להשים הטבעת על האצבע הסמוך לגודל
It is customary to place the ring on the index finger

QUESTION: Why is the ring put on the finger?

ANSWER: Perhaps the placement of the ring on the finger can be elucidated by a story in the Midrash (Kohelet Rabbah 1:1):

Rabbi Chaninah ben Dosa once saw the inhabitants of his city taking offerings up to Yerushalayim. Being very poor and unable to take anything up with him, he went to the wilderness and saw a large stone, which He chipped, chiseled and polished, vowing to take it to Yerushalayim. Due to its weight, he sought to hire workman.

Hashem arranged for five angels to appear in the likeness of men. When he asked them if they would carry up the stone for him, they answered, “We will carry up your stone for you to Yerushalayim, but on the condition that you stretch out your hand and place your finger with ours.” He stretched out his hand and placed his finger with theirs and they found themselves standing in Yerushalayim. He wanted to pay them but could not find them, so he entered into the Lishkat Hagazit to ask the Sanhedrin about them. The Rabbis told him “Probably malachei hasharet — Ministering Angels — carried your stone to Yerushalayim.”

Hence, by putting the ring on the Kallah’s finger, the Chatan is alluding the following to her: “In our marriage we have many lofty things to accomplish. Cognizant that we may, at times, also encounter difficulties, I ask you to be my ezer — helper — in life. I am sure that if you would only put your ‘finger’ to assist me, Hashem will bless us with Ministering Angels who will facilitate our journey in life and help us reach the highest levels.”


המנהג להשים טבעת (של זהב) על האצבע הסמוך לגודל
It is customary to place a (gold) ring on the index finger

QUESTION: Where is there a hint in Scripture for putting a gold ring on the index finger?

ANSWER: In Psalms 19, King David says “The heavens relate the glory of Hashem and the firmament declares His handiwork.” He goes on to say “In their midst He has set up a tent for the sun which is like a groom emerging from his bridal chamber.” In the succeeding passages King David offers six five-word phrases to describe the profundity of Torah and explain that it teaches man to achieve spiritual fulfillment,

1) “Torat Hashem (י-ה-ו-ה) temimah meshivat nefesh — “The Torah of Hashem is perfect, restoring the soul.”

2) “Eidut Hashem ne’amanah machkimat peti” — “The testimony of Hashem is trustworthy, making the simple one wise.”

3) “Pikudei Hashem yeshorim mesamchei leiv” — “The orders of Hashem are upright, gladdening the heart.”

4) “Mitzvat Hashem bara me’irat einayim” — “The command of Hashem is clear, enlightening the eyes;”

5) “Yirat Hashem tehorah omedet la’ad” — “The fear of Hashem is pure, enduring forever.”

6) “Mishpitei Hashem emet tzadku yachdav” — “The judgments of Hashem are true, altogether righteous.”

Were one to count the words of these phrases on the fingers of his hand (starting from the thumb), the word “Hashem,” which is the second word, would correspond to the index finger.

In the following pasuk King David says of Torah and mitzvot, “Hanechamadim mizahav — “They are more desirable than gold.” Since the word “zahav” — “gold” — is the second word of the verse, it can also be associated with the second finger — the index finger.

Since in the act of kiddushin the holy Name of Hashem is spelled out with the ring (see pg. 263), and in the Psalm Hashem’s Name corresponds to that finger, as does also the word “zahav” — “gold” — we put the ring of gold on the second finger — the index finger.

(חופת חתנים)


הרי את מקודשת לי בטבעת זו
Behold, you are consecrated to me with this ring

QUESTION: What holiness is expressed in putting the ring on the Kallah’s finger?

ANSWER: The act of marriage through the giving of a ring under the Chuppah, expresses the Holy four-letter Name, the Tetragrammaton, in the following way:

The ring represents the yud. The Chatan’s hand, which gives the ring, has five fingers and corresponds to the hei. The Kallah’s hand which she stretches out to receive the ring (that also has five fingers), represents the second hei of the Name. Her outstretched finger, awaiting the placement of the ring, resembles a vav.

(של"ה)


הרי את מקודשת לי בטבעת זו כדת משה וישראל
Behold, you are consecrated to me with this ring according to the laws of Moshe and Israel

QUESTION: What is the significance of this universally standardized version?

ANSWER: This declaration starts with a “hei” (הרי) which has the numerical value of five. This is an allusion to the five Books of the Torah, which were the subject of the marriage between Hashem and the Jewish people. The Ten Commandments, which represent the entire Torah, in a sense constituted the wedding ring Hashem gave the Jewish people to establish the status of eirusin — betrothal.

(תשב"ץ תס"ו)

* * *

In this statement there are total of thirty two letters. The Torah beings with a beit (בראשית) and ends with lamed (ישראל). These two letters spell leiv (לב) — heart. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 106b) says “Hashem desires the heart” that is, righteousness, as it is written “Hashem sees into the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).

The Gemara (Sotah 17a) says that Hashem put the letter yud from His Name in the word ish — man (איש) — and the hei from His Name in the word ishah — woman (אשה) — to indicate that when they merit it He rests among them. Otherwise, He, G‑d forbid, removes Himself and they remain eish — fire — and consume each other.

By declaring these thirty two letters, the Chatan is, by way of allusion, saying to the Kallah, “Let us unite our hearts together to serve Him in accordance with the laws of Moshe and Israel. Thus, we will merit that He will be united with us throughout our marriage.”

* * *

This declaration consists of nine words. The word emet — truth (אמת) — adds up to 441, whose numerals (4+4+1) add up to 9, and in mispar katan (“single numerals” — disregarding the “0” in the numerical value of a Hebrew letter so that "כ" is 2 and "ל" is 3, etc.), the word emet also adds up to 9. The uniqueness of the number 9 is that the digits of all its multiples always add up to 9 (e.g., 9x73 = 657, 6+5+7 = 18, 1+8 = 9). Likewise, truth always remains the same and can never be altered. As we say at the conclusion of the Shema, “Hashem Elokeichem emet” — “G‑d your G‑d is true” — from beginning to end.

Thus, the Chatan is alluding to the Kallah that he hopes that regardless of whatever they experience in their life and regardless of how the wheel of fortune turns for them, they will be truly united.


כתובה
The Ketubah

QUESTION: The ketubah is a document of the Chatan’s obligations. In Hebrew a document is called a ketav (כתב). Why is this document called ketubah (כתובה)?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Sotah 17a) says that Hashem put a “yud” for His Name in the Hebrew word for man — ish — (איש), and the letter “hei” from His Name in the Hebrew word for woman — ishah (אשה). With their proper conduct, they merit that His Divine Presence dwells among them throughout their marriage.

Now Hashem’s holy Name the Tetragrammaton has actually four letters in it (yud-hei-vav-hei). Thus, the added two letters to the word ketubah (the vav and the hei) — as opposed to the word ketav (כְתַב) — represent the other two letters of His Name. The Ketubah is a document that must be available throughout the entire marriage, so with the two letters of His Name in their titles and the two letters of His Name through the Ketubah, Hashem’s entire four letter name is with the couple throughout their marriage.


שבע ברכות
Seven Berachot

QUESTION: Where is there a remez — hint — in the Torah to seven berachot?

ANSWER: When Hashem created Adam the Torah says; “Male and female He created them.” Then He blessed them with a total of seven berachot, as the pasuk says, “G‑d blessed them and G‑d said to them, 1) be fruitful 2) and multiply, 3) fill the earth, 4) and subdue it, 5) rule over the fish of the sea, 6) and the birds of the sky 7) and every living thing that moves on the earth” (Bereishit 1:28).

(ביאור הרד"ל על פרקי דר' אליעזר סוף פי"ב)


ברוך אתה ... שהכל ברא לכבודו
Blessed are You ... Who has created all things for His glory

QUESTIONS: Why is this recited at the wedding?

ANSWER: When Adam married Chavah, Hashem demonstrated benevolent kindness to them by acting like a “soshevin” — good friend — who selfishly occupies himself with making sure that all the Chatan’s needs are readily available. Similarly, the people who gather at the wedding to assist the Chatan and Kallah in getting married and create the appropriate ambiance for the occasion are following in G‑d’s footsteps. The gathering of people for this generous purpose furthers Hashem’s glory [as does any deed that emulates Hashem] and prompts the recital of the berachah “Who has created everything for His glory.”

* * *

Since it is inspired by the gathering of the guests, the berachah should technically be recited as soon as they have all arrived, long before the Chuppah actually takes place. Nevertheless, the custom is to recite it under the Chuppah together with the other berachot recited over the cup of wine.

(רש"י מסכת כתובות ח' ע"א ד"ה שמח)

Alternatively, the Gemara (Sanhedrin 38a) says that the reason Adam was created on Erev Shabbat, as the last of all creations, is so that he could enter the banquet (the finished world) immediately, and be able to enjoy everything without delay. Thus, the berachah is an expression of thanks to Hashem, Who created everything for his — man’s — glory.

Since the Creation of man followed after the Creation of all things that man needs, we recite the berachah yotzer ha’adam — which refers to Hashem’s Creation of man — right after the berachah of shehakol bara lichevodo” — “Who created everything [man needs] for his [man’s] glory.”

(הפלאה עמ"ס כתובות)


ברוך אתה ... יוצר האדם
Blessed are You ... Who Formed Man

QUESTION: Why is this berachah made at the wedding — it should have been made at birth?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Kiddushin 30b) says that there are three partners in the creation of man: Hashem, the father, and the mother. This is alluded to in the title “Adam” (אדם). The alef stands for Hashem who is the One and Only. The letters daled and mem have the numerical value of 44 which has the same numerical value as av (אב) — father — and eim (אם) — mother.

At the time of Creation Hashem said, “It is not good that ha’adam levado — man should be alone — I will make for him a helper” (Bereishit 2:18). With this He meant that the three partners which constitute Adam — man — are insufficient; it is necessary for him to have a fourth partner — a wife. Thus, the ultimate Creation of man is when his fourth partner arrives. Hence, it is most appropriate at the wedding to make the berachah Yotzer Ha’adam to thank Hashem for the completion of man’s Creation which is currently taking place.

* * *

Alternatively, the Zohar (see Likkutei Sichot, vol. 31, p. 96) says that until a person marries he is considered a “pelag gufa” — “a half of a body.” His life companion is actually his “other half” and when he marries her he becomes a complete person. Thus, this is the first time that the berachah of Yotzer Ha’adam — Who formed [the complete] man — is appropriate.

(בישורון מלך)


ברוך אתה ... יוצר האדם
Blessed are You ... Who formed man

QUESTION: How can this berachah be reconciled with the statement in the Gemara (Eiruvin 13b) “A vote was taken and it was concluded: it would have been more pleasant for a person not to have been created than to be created”?

ANSWER: The reason some have the opinion “it would have been more pleasant for a person not to have been created” is that the allure of sin is so difficult to withstand. Tosafot (ibid.) writes that this only applies to an ordinary person. In regard to a tzaddik — a righteous person — however, he is lucky and his generation is lucky that he was created.

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Bikurim 3:3) says that all the sins of a Chatan are forgiven on the day of his wedding. Thus, he is now a tzaddik, and we can rightfully thank Hashem for creating such a person.

(דברי מהרי"א עה"ת פ' בראשית מר' יהודא ז"ל אסאד)


ברוך אתה ... אשר יצר את האדם בצלמו
Blessed are You ... Who Created Man in His Image

QUESTION: Isn’t this berachah a redundancy since we have already made a berachah Yotzeir ha’adam regarding the Creation of man?

ANSWER: The word et [ha’adam] — “the [man]” seems to be superfluous, since the word “ha’adam” alone also means “the man.” However, the word “et” at times means “with” or “together” as in “And these are the names of the Children of Israel who came to Egypt et Yaakov — with Yaakov” (Shemot 1:1). It can also mean subordinate or secondary, as the Gemara (Pesachim 22b) says that the superfluous word “et” in et besaro” — “his flesh” — includes something subordinate to the flesh — the skin.

Thus, the first berachah refers specifically to the Creation of man (Adam) alone, and the second berachah is referring to et ha’adam — the woman — who was created together with and as subordinate to Adam. We praise Hashem that she, too, was created in His form and shape.

(אמרי שפר לר' יהודה חלאוה)


שמח תשמח רעים האהובים כשמחך יצירך בגן עדן מקדם
Grant abundant joy to these loving friends, as You bestowed gladness upon Your created being in the Garden of Eden of old.

QUESTION: What happiness did Hashem cause Adam to experience?

ANSWER: According to an opinion in the Gemara (Berachot 61a), Adam and Chavah were created together as one, back to back. Hashem afterwards separated them, and they became two individuals.

Strife and suffering occur when people “turn their backs” on each other and refuse to communicate. People experience happiness when they “see” each other face to face.

The blessing to the Chatan and Kallah is that, throughout the years of their married life, they should always communicate “face to face” and never “turn their backs” on each other.

* * *

Alternatively, many of the conflicts that unfortunately arise after marriage are due to disputes regarding pedigree (yichus). One partner may tell the other, “My family is more prominent than yours, and you are not my equal.” To preserve a marriage, the Torah advises one to forsake “his father and his mother.” This could be explained to mean, forget about pedigree, and focus only on the partner. The two together should endeavor to create a family tree and beautiful lineage, starting with this union.

Thus, we bless the young couple, “Grant abundant joy to these loving friends, as You bestowed gladness upon Your created beings in the Garden of Eden of old.” Adam’s unique happiness derived from the lack of argument between him and Chavah over pedigree, since both were entirely created by Hashem.

(פרדס יוסף)


כשמחך יצירך בגן עדן מקדם
As You bestowed gladness upon Your created being in the Garden of Eden of old.

QUESTION: What is meant by the emphasis of “in the Garden of Eden of old”?

ANSWER: Originally Adam and Chavah were in Gan Eden, and were chased out when they sinned. “The Garden of Eden of old” means the joy Adam experienced before he sinned. Since the Chatan and Kallah are now pure of any sin, we pray that throughout their life they remain that way and experience the unique joy that Adam had when he was in a state of being without sin.

(אג"ק ח' י"ח)


ישמע בערי יהודה ובחוצות ירושלים...קול חתן וקול כלה
Let there speedily be heard in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem...the voice of a groom and the voice of a bride (Jeremiah 33:11)

QUESTION: From the pasuk “Kol kevudah bat melech penimah” — “The very honor of a princess is within” (Psalms 45:14) the Sages derived that the dignified behavior for a bat melech — daughter of a king — i.e. Jewish woman, is to be within the confines of her abode and not go outside and mingle with the people (Yevamot 87b). Why, then, does the prophecy say that “kol kallah” — “the voice of a bride” — will be heard in the streets of Jerusalem, which is contrary to the laws of modesty?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Makkot 24b) quotes the prophecy of Zechariah, “Old men and old women will yet sit in the streets of Jerusalem” (8:4). Tosafot explains that this applies to the period of Olam Haba — the World to Come. Similarly, this prophecy of Jeremiah refers to life in the World to Come.

Olam Haba follows Techiyat hameitim — the Resurrection — and it is a period when “gam oyevav yashlim imo” — “even his foes will make peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7). At that time the Jews’ arch enemy, the yeitzer hara — evil inclination — will make peace with the Jew and no longer endeavor to interfere with his service of Hashem. Thus, the provision that women remain inside will be unnecessary, and the prophecy of Jeremiah that “the voice of a bride will be heard in the streets of Jerusalem” will be fulfilled.

(לקוטי שיחות חכ"א ע' 379)


שהכל ברא לכבודו... יוצר האדם... משמח ציון בבניה
Who has created all things for His glory... Who formed man... Who gladdens Zion with her children

QUESTION: What connection do the first four berachot have with a wedding?

ANSWER: Just as Hashem created the world at large, a young couple who join in marriage are undertaking the building of a world. First and foremost they must always remember that Hashem “created everything for His glory.” The entire purpose of Creation was His desire to have a dwelling place in this world, which is accomplished by the Jew’s study of Torah and observance of Mitzvot. The world the young couple is constructing will be everlasting if it is built according to His desire and blueprints — Torah and Yirat Shamayim. Otherwise, King David said, “If Hashem will not build the home, its builders labor on it vainly.” (Psalms 127:1)

The berachah “Yotzer ha’adam” — “Who formed man” — calls to the couple’s attention that man is titled “Adam” because of אֶַדַמֶה לְעֶלְיוֹן — “Edameh Le’Elyon” — “I will emulate the Supernal One” — man must strive to emulate Him and be attached to Him (Isaiah 14:14, Shelah p. 3a, Sotah 14a).

Being concerned only with oneself, however, is insufficient. One must also improve the world around him. Thus, he is told that “Vehitkin lo mimenu binyan adei ad” — “He prepared for him from his own self an everlasting edifice.” Man cannot claim incompetence to influence others since he was formed “Betzalmo” — “in His image” — and the Midrash (Bereishit 98:3) says, “Just as Hashem builds worlds, the Jews do so, too.”

(רשימות כ"ק אדמו"ר חוברת ב, ועי' כתובות ח:א, וברש"י)


נהגו לשבור כוס אחר שבע ברכות
It is customary to break a glass cup at the conclusion of the Chuppah (Even Ha’Ezer 65:3, Rama)

QUESTION: Why do we specifically break a “kos” — glass goblet?

ANSWER: When Eliezer met Betuel and Lavan to arrange the marriage for Yitzchak, he told them “I came today to the spring” (Bereishit 24:42). Rashi explains that he was telling them “Today I embarked and today I arrived.” From here we see that “kaftzah lo ha’aretz” — “the earth contracted for him,” i.e., his journey was miraculously shortened.

The same occurred when Yaakov went to seek a wife. The Gemara (Chullin 91b) concludes that this happened to eliminate a seeming contradiction:

It is written “and Yaakov departed from Be’er Sheva and went to Charan,” (which is beyond the borders of Eretz Yisrael), yet it says in the next pasuk “Vayifga bamakom” — “he encountered the place” which was Beth El the subsequent place where the Beit Hamikdash stood — in Eretz Yisrael? Hence, we must say: actually Yaakov did reach Charan, but he then said to himself: “How could I have passed the place my father prayed and not have prayed there myself?” As soon as he set his mind to return, “kaftzah lo ha’aretz” — the ground between Charan and Beth El miraculously contracted — and immediately he was in Beth El and prayed there.

Why did the Patriarchs experience kefitzat ha’aretz — contraction of the earth — when they sought a wife and what message does this information convey to us?

The Gemara (Kiddushin 29b) describes marriage as “reichayim al tzavaro” — “a milestone around his neck” — because when a man enters into marriage he assumes the burden of providing for a family. Nevertheless, in Pirkei Avot (3:5) we learn, “Whoever takes upon himself the yoke of Torah, the yoke of derech eretz — worldly cares — is removed from him.”

The term “Eretz” is a reference to earthly and worldly matters. The world is governed by laws of nature. To go from one place to another one has to rely on natural ways of transportation and traveling takes a specific amount of time. Kefitzat ha’aretz means that the laws of nature are put aside and one reaches a distant place in a relatively short period of time.

Thus, perhaps what happened to our forefathers Yitzchak and Yaakov is a metaphor for all future generations. If the Chatan will resolve that his married life will be governed by the yoke of Torah, he will merit kefitzat ha’aretz — his involvement in earthly matters in pursuit of his needs will be “contracted.” Hashem will see to it that his needs are attained easily and abundantly lemalah miderech hateva — above and beyond the natural way.

The Hebrew word for a glass is “kos” (כוס). The numerical value of “kos” is 86, which is also the numerical value of “hateva” (הטבע) — “nature.” The breaking of the glass at the conclusion of the Chuppah can be interpreted as an expression of a prayer by the Chatan that his journey through married life will not be in accordance with natural complications and difficulties, but that nature will be shattered for his benefit and he will experience a kefitzat ha’aretz, a miraculous contraction of his involvement in earthly matters.

(משוש דודים ח"ה דרוש כ"ב)


נהגו לשבור כוס אחר שבע ברכות
It is customary to break a glass cup at the conclusion of the Chuppah (Even Ha’Ezer 65:3, Rama)

QUESTION: What message is conveyed with the breaking of a glass under the Chuppah?

ANSWER: A marriage joins two people who may come from different walks of life, and each of whom may have his or her independent perspectives. Therefore, it is not always blissful, and differences of opinions arise that may threaten, G‑d forbid, the continuation of the marriage.

At the conclusion of the Chuppah ceremony, as the Chatan and Kallah are officially declared man and wife, it is customary to break a glass.

Glass is a material that when broken can be heated with fire and put back together.

The breaking of a glass conveys a message to the Chatan and Kallah that even if your marriage is, G‑d forbid, “on the rocks” and it appears shattered, it does not necessarily mean that the situation is hopeless and that the only solution is a divorce. Just as the glass can be repaired by applying heat, so to, many a troublesome marriage can be put back again on the track to happiness with heat — warmth and understanding.

* * *

When the glass is broken under the Chuppah, all in attendance joyfully exclaim Mazel Tov.” According to the above, it could be explained that the intent of this is to tell the Chatan and Kallah that a marriage which is shattered like the glass and afterwards repaired can also be an extremely joyous and blissful lifelong experience.


נהגו לשבור כוס אחר שבע ברכות
It is customary to break a glass cup at the conclusion of the Chuppah (Even Ha’Ezer 65:3, Rama)

QUESTION: Can a burnt-out electric bulb be used in lieu of a glass?

ANSWER: No. [While perhaps this may be a wise austerity measure, it misses, however, one of the beautiful thoughts contained in breaking a glass.]

When Hashem officiated at the first marriage of the world, a Heavenly voice (ruach hakodesh) said “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife” (Bereishit 2:24, Rashi). The obvious question that comes to mind is that it is understood that in marriage a husband and wife should cling together. Why, however, is it necessary to emphasize that the groom should entirely leave his father and his mother?

The relationship that exists between child and parent during his formative years is usually that of a mekabeil — he is on the receiving end. He has not fully developed his capacity to give. One who marries is expected to become the supplier materially and spiritually for his wife and children. One cannot enter marriage, however, expecting to continue being the recipient: The art of giving must be developed.

Therefore, the Torah says “The man must leave his father and mother,” meaning that he must leave the parent-child relationship and stop being a receiver. He must learn to be a giver, and then the marriage will succeed.

A glass (cup) is a keli kabbalah — a receiving vessel. One puts things into a glass and stores things in a glass. Thus, when the Chuppah is completed and the Kallah is now his wife, the Chatan breaks the glass to indicate that from now on he is no longer a mekabeil — receiver — but rather a mashpia — a giver — one who will do everything possible to give his wife and their children all the best materially and spiritually.

(באוצר הפוסקים סי' ס"ה סעי' ג' אות ב', כתב שצריך לשבור כוס יפה ולא גרוע, ע"ש)


מזל טוב
Mazal Tov

QUESTION: Why does everyone shout Mazal Tov” after the Chuppah?

ANSWER: The word “mazal” (מזל) is an acronym for “mei’ish lukachah zot” (מאיש לקחה זאת) — “for from man was she taken” (Bereishit 2:23).

The word “tov” is a reference to what King Shlomo says Matza ishah matza tov — “He who has found a wife has found good” (Proverbs 18:22).

Thus, with the announcement of “Mazal Tov” all present are expressing the wish that this marriage will prove to be made in heaven. The Kallah is truly the other half of the Chatan and through her the couple will experience only tov — good — in their married life.

(שלחן העזר סי' ח' ס"ק כ"ו)


סעודה
Festive Meal

QUESTION: Why is it customary that the Kallah’s side make the wedding reception?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Berachot 6b) says:

Anyone who benefits from Seudat Chatan — the banquet of a Chatan — and does not gladden him violates [the spirit of] the five ‘kolot” — “sounds” — [that Jeremiah prophesied will return to the streets of Jerusalem]: “The sound of joy and the sound of gladness, the sound of the groom and the sound of the bride, the sound of people saying: Praise Hashem, Master of legions.”

In order not to cause any detriment to some who may partake of the Se’udat Chatan and not actively engage in gladdening him, it has become customary for the seudah to be made by the Kallah’s side, so that it is then a Se’udat Kallah.

(טעמי המנהגים בשם קרבן עני)


סעודה – המוציא לחם מן הארץ
Festive Meal

QUESTION: Why is it customary for wedding guests to eat from the challah over which the chatan makes the blessing Hamotzi?

ANSWER: King Shlomo says “Matza ishah matza tov” — “He who finds a woman found good” (Proverbs 18:22). He also says, “Motze ani et ha’ishah mar mimavet” — “I found the woman to be more bitter than death” (Ecclesiastes 7:26).

The Gemara (Berachot 8a) says that in Eretz Yisrael when a man got married, people would ask him “matza or motze” — i.e. “is she a good woman or a bitter one?”

In order to wish the chatan well, the participants eat up the “motzi,” leaving the chatan only “matza” — “a good wife.”

(אמרי צדיקים בשם ר' עקיבא ז"ל איגר)


המשמח חתן כאילו בנה אחת מחורבות ירושלים
One who gladdens a groom, it is as if he built up one of the ruins of Jerusalem. (Berachot 6b)

QUESTION: What is the meaning of this analogy?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Yoma 9b) says that the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and Jerusalem occurred due to sinat chinam — unwarranted hatred. Consequently, to merit the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash, ahavat chinam — love without any ulterior motive — is a prerequisite.

One who participates in a wedding and makes the Chatan happy demonstrates ahavat Yisrael, the opposite of sinat chinam. He thus offsets the effect of the sinat chinam which caused the destruction, and is credited as though he rebuilt one of the destroyed homes of Jerusalem.

(מצאתי בכתבי אבי הרב שמואל פסח ז"ל באגאמילסקי)

* * *

QUESTION: Why is it that someone who makes a Chatan happy is considered as having rebuilt one of the ruins of Jerusalem?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Yoma 9b) says that the Beit Hamikdash and Jerusalem were destroyed due to “sinat chinam” — unwarranted hatred among the Jewish people.

However, theGemara elsewhere (Shabbat 119b) gives many other reasons for Jerusalem’s destruction: desecration of Shabbat, failure to recite Keriat Shema in the designated time, disruption of young children’s Torah study, lack of respect for talmidei chachamim, etc.

When the Sages say that bringing happiness to the Chatan is like rebuilding one of the ruins of Jerusalem, they do not literally mean one home, but rather that one of the causessinat chinam — for the destruction of Jerusalem has been removed, thus hastening its rebuilding.

(שמעתי מאחי הרב שמואל פסח שי' באגאמילסקי)


שבע ברכות אחר הסעודה
Sheva Berachot at End of Meal

QUESTION: Why under the Chuppah is the berachah over the wine the first to be recited and then the other six berachot follow, while at the end of the meal the order is the reverse?

ANSWER: Prior to deriving pleasure a person must recite a berachah (see Berachot 35a). Therefore, a berachah is recited before partaking of any food. Likewise, the acquiring of the Kallah as a wife is a pleasurable experience for the Chatan; hence, it necessitates the reciting of berachot.

Since at the Chuppah, the first thing the Chatan will enjoy is the wine, and the actual enjoyment of attaining a wife for himself will commence with the yichud — seclusion — hence, first hagafen is recited and then the subsequent berachot.

At the conclusion of the meal, the six berachot are for the pleasure he already achieved that she is now his wife. The blessing over the wine is for the pleasure that will occur later when the wine is consumed. Therefore, since the order of his pleasure is first the marriage and then the wine, the berachah over the wine is delayed till after the other berachot.

(מגיד תעלומה דף צ"ג - דינוב)

Alternatively, in reality the order of the berachot after the meal should have been the same as under the Chuppah. However, there is a possibility that people may think erroneously, that the blessing of Hagafen is only related to the Grace after Meals and is not part of the sheva berachot (since every time the Grace is said with a cup of wine, Hagafen is recited after Grace). Therefore, we recite it after the recital of the six blessings, which are connected with the Chatan and Kallah, to indicate that Hagafen also serves as the seventh berachah connected with the wedding celebration.

(ב"ש אבה"ע סי' ס"ב ס"ק ב' ועי' מחצית השקל סי' ק"צ ס"ק א')


ברוך אתה ... בורא פרי הגפן
Blessed are You ... Who created the fruit of the vine

QUESTION: Regarding the appropriate marriage our Sages (Pesachim 49a) comment, “Invei hagefen be’invei hagefen davar na’ah umitkabeil” — “The mingling of the grapes of the vine with the grapes of the vine is beautiful and acceptable.”

Why the analogy to grapes and not another fruit?

ANSWER: Before eating a fruit that grows on a tree, one must recite the berachah “Borei peri ha’eitz.” On the juice of the fruit one recites the berachah “Shehakol niheyah bidevaro,” which is lower in the ranking of berachot. The only exception to this rule is in the case of grapes. While the fruit itself has the berachah “Borei peri ha’eitz,” the juice is kovei’a berachah le’atzmo — acquires a berachah for itself — “Borei peri hagafen” — which is considered higher in the hierarchy of berachot than “Borei peri ha’eitz.”

The originators of a family are the parents, who are analogous to the vine, and the offspring are compared to the grapes. Our Sages are telling us that a marriage in which there is a “mingling of grapes” and which produces wine, i.e. the children accomplish even more than their parents— is “davar na’ah umitkabeil” — something beautiful and acceptable.