What’s The Symbolism Of Breaking Glass At A Jewish Wedding?

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Breaking the glass is an important tradition at Jewish weddings that’s been around for centuries. The custom is followed at Jewish weddings worldwide. But what does the breaking of glass signify?

In Jewish tradition, the breaking of glass at the end of a wedding is seen by some as a reminder of the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and an acknowledgment of ongoing struggles in the Jewish community. Others see it as symbolizing a relationship’s fragility.

These are just a few of the theories behind why Jews traditionally break glass as part of a wedding ceremony. Let’s take a closer look at this tradition, its history, and its role in Jewish culture. 

What Does the Breaking of the Glass Symbolize in a Jewish Wedding?

Groom breaking a glass at Jewish wedding

The origins of this important Jewish tradition are debated among those in the Jewish community, but there are a few prevailing theories.

One theory suggests that the practice of breaking glass at Jewish weddings started as a reminder of the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The breaking of glass therefore reflects the importance of remembering the past and acknowledging the ongoing struggles of the Jewish community.

Another theory suggests that breaking the glass symbolizes a relationship’s fragility. Marriage is an important union that requires immense care and attention to thrive, and the breaking of glass reminds a couple of their commitment to nurturing and protecting their relationship.

There is also a belief that the loud noise created by the breaking of glass scares away evil spirits. This belief has its roots in superstitions surrounding weddings.

In some interpretations, breaking the glass symbolizes that joy and sorrow coexist in life. The wedding is a joyous occasion, but the breaking of the glass represents the sorrows of life, such as the destruction of the Holy Temple and the struggles of the Jewish community.

The Process of Breaking the Glass

The glass breaking usually takes place at the end of the wedding ceremony. The groom steps on a glass wrapped in a cloth or bag and breaks it with his foot. 

The glass breaking is typically followed by a loud cheer from the guests, symbolizing the start of a new life for the couple. Traditionally, the groom breaks the glass, but some couples choose to have both partners participate in the act. 

Some couples also choose to break multiple glasses, each symbolizing a different meaning.

What Do Jews Say When They Break the Glass?

Along with the physical breaking of the glass, there’s also a saying that guests at the wedding recite.

The most common saying that is recited when the glass is broken is “Mazel Tov,” which means “good luck” or “congratulations.” This saying is used to wish the newlyweds a happy and prosperous life together.

Several other sayings are recited when the glass is broken, each with its unique history and significance. 

One such saying is “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li,” which means “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.” This saying comes from the Song of Songs, a book in the Hebrew Bible that celebrates love and passion between a man and a woman.

Another saying recited when the glass is broken is “Od yishama b’arei Yehuda,” which means “may the sound of joy and happiness be heard in the land of Judah.” This saying comes from the Book of Jeremiah and is used to pray for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

One theory suggests that this saying originated in ancient times when the glass breaking symbolized the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The guests would then recite a prayer in Hebrew, asking for the Temple’s rebuilding.

Controversies and Debates

Controversies and debates tend to arise regarding many religious or cultural traditions, including Jewish weddings. 

Reciting “Mazel Tov” when the glass is broken is generally not a point of contention in the Jewish community. Instead, it is a cherished tradition embraced and celebrated by all who participate in a Jewish wedding ceremony.

Nonetheless, there is some debate about whether saying “Mazel Tov” when breaking the glass at a Jewish wedding is appropriate. Some say it is inappropriate because it contradicts the solemnity of remembering the destruction of the Temple. 

Others argue that it’s acceptable because it expresses joy for the newlyweds and their good fortune.

Furthermore, breaking the glass has sexual connotations, as it implies the release of a sexual union, which is not only permitted to married couples in the Jewish tradition but also required of them. For centuries, breaking the glass implicitly symbolized breaking the hymen.

What Kind of Glass Is Broken at a Jewish Wedding?

Standard Glass

Standard glass is commonly used for this tradition at a Jewish wedding ceremony. However, it can be any glass, such as a wine glass, a champagne flute, or even a light bulb. 

The glass is typically wrapped in a cloth napkin to protect against shards and add to the moment’s suspense.

Personalized Glass

Some couples use personalized glass for the ceremony, such as monogrammed or engraved glass. That adds a special touch to the ceremony and creates a keepsake for the couple to treasure.

Vintage Glass 

Some couples may use vintage glass for the ceremony, such as a family heirloom or an antique glass that holds sentimental value. This can add an extra layer of significance to the ceremony, and it creates a sense of continuity with the past.

Colored Glass 

For a unique touch, couples may use colored glass for the ceremony. It can be a colored wine glass, a champagne flute, or hand-blown glass in a specific hue that matches the wedding theme or decor.

Fused Glass 

Couples interested in contemporary or modern styles may use fused glass for the ceremony. Fused glass is made by melting two or more pieces, creating a unique and beautiful pattern.

Stained Glass 

For a touch of elegance and sophistication, couples may use stained glass for the ceremony. Stained glass can be made to order with various colors and designs, creating a beautiful and unique glass that adds to the beauty of the ceremony.

Crystal Glass 

For a touch of luxury and refinement, couples may use crystal glass for the ceremony. Crystal glasses are known for their clarity, brilliance, and exquisite design, making them perfect for a formal and elegant wedding ceremony.

What to Do With Broken Glass From a Jewish Wedding

Groom at jewish wedding steps on a glass

So, once the glass has been broken, what do couple do with the leftover pieces?

Collect the Glass 

The first step is carefully collecting the broken glass from the wedding floor. The broken glass should be collected in a container or cloth and kept aside until the end of the wedding ceremony.

Once the wedding ceremony ends, the broken glass should be placed in a plastic bag or a suitable container to avoid injuries or accidents. Labeling the bag as containing broken glass and handling it carefully is important.

Keep a Piece of Glass

Many couples keep a small piece of broken glass as a memento of their wedding day. The couple may select a small piece of glass from the bag and wrap it in a cloth or tissue paper. 

The couple can keep this piece of glass as a symbol of their union and a reminder of the significance of breaking it.

Dispose of (or Use) the Glass 

Once the couple has taken a piece of the broken glass, the remaining glass should be disposed of safely and respectfully. Some common options for disposal include burying the glass in the ground or throwing it into a body of water. 

This symbolic disposal act represents the couple’s commitment to their union and desire to move forward as a strong, unified team.

The broken glass can also be turned into a beautiful art piece, such as a stained glass window or mosaic. It can be a wonderful way to preserve the memory of the wedding and create a meaningful piece of art that one can enjoy for years to come.

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