Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Jewish Wedding And The Walls Of Jericho

What could they possibly have in common?

Last week I was invited to a hasidic wedding in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The ceremony was to begin at 7:30 and the following reception to continue until 2AM the following morning. I knew I wouldn't have the stamina to last for the entire event, and that I would probably be heading home around 10PM, too late for me to want to contend with New York subways and New Jersey Transit from Penn Station. I had to drive during rush hour traffic and contend with  very limited parking availability in Brooklyn. I was anxious (a not uncommon phenomenon). My GPS got me through the traffic and when I arrived at the venue a parking spot was waiting for me not twenty five feet from the entrance to the reception hall. It was a message from somewhere that I was supposed to be there.

That still leaves the question of what do a Jewish Wedding and the Walls of Jericho have in common. I had never been to a hasidic wedding, so I was keenly interested in the rituals of the ceremony. Anyone who's ever been to a Jewish wedding is familiar with the Chuppah - the wedding canopy under which the actual ritual takes place - usually, but not necessarily, outdoors. And also with the groom breaking a glass at the end of the ceremony signifying that despite the joy of the wedding, Jews still mourn the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

But there's so much more: the final drawing up of the Ketubah - the Wedding Contract, the covering of the bride's face with a veil (badeken in Yiddish), escorting the groom to the chuppah by the two fathers, escorting the bride to the chuppah by the two mothers. And to answer the original question, the bride is led around the groom my the bride's mother seven times. Why seven? In Genesis we read that G-d created the World in six days and on the seventh day - Shabbat - he rested, so the number seven assumes mystical significance as representing perfection.

But wait, there's more, and more to the point. After the Exodus from Egyptian slavery, when the Hebrews were about to enter Canaan, the first city they were instructed by G-d to redeem was Jericho. G-d commanded Joshua to march around the walled city seven times while blowing a shofar and when he did, the walls came 'tumbling down'. So, the seven circuits of the bride around the groom are to signify the breaking down of the walls of individuality and the joining of two people into the sanctity of a married unity, to build a home and family.

It was a pleasure to be able to attend the ceremony, and doubly to be allowed to document the proceedings with pictures. I shot over 800 images. A small selection (10 images) follows and more will be coming in the near future.

A gathering of relatives in the woman's room (both before and after the ceremony there is no mixing of the genders during the reception).


The bride and her mother:



The groom's father and some relatives:



Filling in the names on the ketubah (wedding contract)



Leading the groom to slaughter (just kidding):



The bride circling the groom seven times:



Reading the ketubah:



The groom's father greeting the rabbi:



Guests enjoying the reception: