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!