Columns - 2008

    Marital blitz

    by Doug Brook
    Deep South Jewish Voice columnist

    For thousands of years, Jewish weddings used to feature the sacred ritual of the couple sharing a Jewish delicacy together in front of all their friends and family.

    This tradition faded because this tasty tidbit, the marital blintz, would get messy. As dry-cleaning bills rose, the tradition fell into obscurity.

    The publisher apologizes for the preceding introduction to this column. The writer mistakenly misread his own headline and started rambling. While that's the case for most of the columns in this space, this time he was stopped with several hundred words to spare. Let's start again...

    Several chapters of the long-lost Mishnah tractate Bava Gump debate the exact number of plagues in Egypt that are the equivalent of planning a Jewish wedding.

    One of the more disturbing trends in wedding planning is dealing with all the needs and insistences of all the people about whom the wedding isn't. People often forget that a Jewish wedding is and always has been about two, and only two, people: the bride, and the bride.

    If the bride's mother is in the room, she also makes the list. Until she leaves.

    Having been the Better-Than-Nothing Man at my college roommate's wedding and the Better-Than-No-One Man at my brother's wedding, this column can speak with modest authority on the inner workings of Jewish weddings. But it won't. It will instead look at the more esoteric aspects of the ritual, and their origins steeped in atypical believability.

    The bride's seven circles around the groom carry a vague history. Several "legitimate" reasons for these mini-orbits are provided, but Bava Gump provides two practical interpretations: the bride is marking her territory, and the circles are proof for later that the bride was sober when she married the guy.

    In the name of equality, more recent ceremonies split the circles between the bride and groom. This ensures both are equally sober, at least until the reception.

    At a Jewish wedding, the groom symbolically smashes a glass to replace all the broken dishes, much as the musaf service replaces the animal sacrifices from the Temple Era.

    While that is a cultural distinction, Bava Gump clearly identifies the original intent of the breaking of the glass: It is the last time the groom will ever be allowed to put his foot down.

    To ease the burden of breaking the glass, for several decades a light bulb has been used instead. Easier to break, better shattering noise. To symbolize how green either or both spouse might feel during the ceremony, it's more recently been replaced by an energy efficient bulb.

    Not only have Jewish weddings taken on secular concerns such as the environment, but Jewish weddings have influenced secular weddings as well. For example, the wedding vow of generations past to "obey" actually originated when, upon hearing the long list of those other vows, Jewish grooms would say "oy vey."

    Traditional Jewish weddings still use the traditional Hebrew vows. However, the traditional woman's vow, "Ani l'dodi, v'dodi li" (I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine) has changed in the last hundred years from its original text to "Ani l'dodo, v'dodo li," due to the advent of the popular "I'm with stupid" t-shirts.

    But before it gets to that point, Jewish tradition provides several opportunities for quick escape just in case anyone's jitters get the best of them.

    The auf-ruf is a traditional pre-wedding blessing of the bride and groom at a regular service prior to the wedding. The name comes from the metaphorical opportunity to appear with the fiancee in public briefly and to jump "off (the) roof" if the experience is unpleasant.

    The other easy exit is the bedeckin, the unveiling of the bride at the start of the ceremony to ensure it's the right girl. This provides the groom, or bride, an opportunity to run in shock at seeing someone they didn't expect at the last moment. While the person is of course who they were scheduled to appear with, there's enough confusion to allow a quick escape.

    But none of this should discourage anyone from planning a nice Jewish wedding. After all, while what's confessed at Kol Nidre stays at Kol Nidre, nothing that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. You'll want a real wedding with a Ketubah, not an Elvis playing tuba.

    Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley who is not getting married this month, as far as he knows. For more information, past columns, other writings, and more, visit

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.