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So, You've Never Been to a Jewish Wedding?

Don't Panic!

Whether this is your first Jewish wedding, or you've seen many over the years, we've put together this little page to guide you through our ceremony.

Setting the Scene

The Chuppah

The chuppah is the traditional wedding canopy, where we accept upon ourselves the commitments of marriage. The chuppah itself is said to symbolise the new home a couple is creating through marriage. On the one hand, it is open on all four sides to represent openness and hospitality; on the other, it creates an intimate, discrete space which the couple inhabit and make their own.

We have asked our friends Gal Farchi, Hans Peter Jenssen IX, Danny Orelowitz, and Jacob Wagen, to hold up our chuppah, to represent the support we feel from the people we love (that's all of you!).

The word chuppah comes from the Hebrew root chofef which means to hover or reside. In Jewish tradition there is a belief that all those whom the bride and groom have lost reside beneath the wedding canopy with them on their wedding day. Eyal's mother Leah, who is no longer with us, made a beautiful silk painting of a peaceful and harmonious Jerusalem. We had her painting printed on silk to make our chuppah canopy. This is our way of having her with us today.

The Ketubah

Before entering the ceremony, we will have signed the ketubah, the Jewish wedding contract in which we formally recognise our responsibilities to each other. Historically, this would have been the document that outlined the wife's rights and husband's responsibilities in the marriage, as well as explaining what the wife should be given in the case of divorce or her husband's death.

We have chosen to amend the traditional text so that our ketubah reflects our egalitarian values, outlining our mutual commitments to each other. The ketubah has been signed by our two witnesses, Jamie Lewis and Sarah Sackman.

Eirusin

Wine is a prerequisite for any Jewish celebration. This is the first of two cups of wine to be blessed and drunk during the wedding ceremony. It is given to us by our respective parents, accompanying the betrothal blessing.

The Eirusin Blessing

We're using an amended text of the traditional betrothal blessing created by Chani Smith for the wedding of our dear friends Alma and Daniel Reisel. The reason we're using it is that the traditional blessing refers to a set of laws called arayot, which are considered forbidden relationships. These include one biblical verse that has been traditionally understood to prohibit intimate unions between two men. While this is not our understanding of this verse, the traditional interpretation has been a source of distress for many Jews. We like that this version omits the reference to arayot while remaining true to its original intent, which is to devote the bride and groom exclusively to each other.

You abound in blessing, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe, Who has commanded us concerning purity in the intimate realm, and has sanctioned exclusive intimacy within marriage by the ceremony of the chuppah and kiddushin. You abound in blessing, Adonai, Who blesses the People of Israel through chuppah and kiddushin.

Kiddushin - Sanctification

We now exchange rings under the chuppah as a symbol of our mutual love, respect and commitment. Each of us will place a ring on the other's finger and say:

Behold, you are consecrated to me with this ring, according to the laws of Moses and Israel.

Reading of the Ketubah

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg will now read the ketubah, the marriage contract which Debbie and Eyal have agreed to in the presence of their witnesses.

Nissuin and Sheva Brachot - The Seven Blessings

In the Jewish tradition, the number seven is a symbol of perfection or completion. There are seven blessings that are traditionally said to a couple on their wedding day. These ancient marriage blessings call on themes of creation, redemption and joy. We have asked some of our dear family and friends to pronounce these blessings for us:
  1. Blessed are you, Lord our God, Sovereign of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.
  2. Blessed are you, Lord our God, Sovereign of the universe, Who created all things for divine glory.
  3. Blessed are you, Lord our God, Sovereign of the universe, shaper of humanity.
  4. Blessed are you, Lord our God, Sovereign of the universe, Who has shaped humanity in Your image, patterned in Your image and likeness, and Who brought forth from that person a partner and an everlasting home. Blessed are you, Lord, shaper of humanity.
  5. May Zion rejoice as her children are restored to her in joy. Blessed are You, Lord, who causes Zion to rejoice her children's return.
  6. Make these two beloved friends happy, supremely happy, just as You gladdened Your first couple in the Garden of Eden of old. Blessed are you, Lord, Who gladdens the bride and groom.
  7. Blessed are you, Lord our God, Sovereign of the universe, Who created joy and gladness, groom and bride, laughter and singing, dancing and delight, love and harmony, peace and friendship. Quickly, Lord our God, let there be heard in the cities of Judah and the courtyards of Jerusalem, the sound of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bride and groom, the voice of newlyweds heard from their wedding canopies and the voice of young people singing loudly at their wedding feast! Blessed are You, Who brings happiness between husband and wife.

The Eighth Blessing

We have chosen to add an additional blessing, written for the wedding of our friends Alma and Daniel Reisel, which recognises the beauty and richness of love in all its forms and throughout history. The eighth blessing goes beyond the present moment, celebrating the multiple forms of love in our world, past, present and future, and requesting that God opens our hearts to all true lovers.
  1. You abound in blessing, Adonai our God, Source of Life, who makes us cleave to one another in great sanctity, in love and in trust. May we be devoted to each other like Jonathan and David. May we experience mutual loving-kindness like Ruth and Naomi. May we receive the merits of our ancestors, who built Your world with love. May our hearts and our gates be open to all true lovers, and may we all drink from the cup of joy and gladness. Blessed are You Adonai, who increases love in the world.
Now is the second time we drink wine, and this time it is given to us by each others parents.

Birkat Kohanim - The Priestly Blessing

At this point, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg will give us, and the whole community gathered with us (that's you!) the priestly blessing, which would have resounded in the Temple in Jerusalem:

May God bless you and keep you.
May the light of God's face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May God's face be lifted towards you and grant you peace.

It is traditional for the following song to precede the breaking of the glass at Jewish weddings. It is a solemn moment to consider that in spite of today's great happiness and joy, the world contains much pain, sorrow and brokenness.
We are all too aware that the perfection and harmony of the Jerusalem in Leah's painting is far from the reality in today's Jerusalem, in our city, our country and around the world.
At the height of our joy, we are reminded to be lovers of peace and seekers of peace in all that we do, and to play our part in healing our broken world.

If I forget you, O Jerusalem

Im eshkachech Yerushalayim,
Tishkach yemini.
Tid'bak leshoni lechiki,
Im-lo ezkereichi;
Im-lo a'aleh et Yerushalayim al rosh simchati.

If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
Let my right hand forget her cunning.
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,
If I remember thee not;
If I set not Jerusalem above my highest joy.

The Breaking of the Glass

This is the bit from the movies... Eyal smashes the glass underfoot, everyone yells 'Mazal Tov'! As music breaks out, we enjoy some warm hugs and kisses from our families. You are invited to get up, clap, dance and sing in celebration!
We then sign the civil registry, witnessed by our dear friends Lidija Haas and Andrew Tancredi Brice Girvan.
We invite you to dance with us to the Yichud Room, the private space in which we will spend a few moments just us two, our first time alone as a married couple.

Time to Celebrate

Now it's time to party.