It is natural to want your wedding to be one of the most joyous occasions in your life. You are the most excited you have ever been and you want your happiness to infect your family and friends who are celebrating with you. There is so much effort and thought being put in to the planning to insure each guest has a wonderful time at your simcha so…..
Why according to Jewish custom do we recall one of the most tragic events in Jewish history, the destruction of the Temple, at the climax of the chuppa ceremony? Why oh why did the Rabbis who instituted our traditions deem it necessary to introduce this sad memory at this precise moment?
The way this memory is recalled is by the groom stepping on a glass at the end of the ceremony. People often joke and say it is the last time he will be able to put his foot down…. There is usually a pause and a sad melody is sung which tells of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the return of the Jewish people to their homeland.
The tradition is traced back to the Talmud which tells of a Rabbi who broke a vase at a wedding because he didn’t want people to be too happy. Is being too happy problematic? What could have been his motive?
Perhaps for the Rabbi in the Talmud, he believed that too much joy can lead to behavior that would trivialize the meaning of marriage. Maybe he wanted to remind people that getting married is a serious step, not just an immediate pleasure. The bride and groom are hopefully, blissfully, wrapped up in each other and naturally so. But, Judaism is a religion of community too and much of it’s traditions are there to encourage and create close community. The institution of marriage and the building of a home and family isn’t an isolated private matter rather it is a unit that forms a part of a larger whole; the Jewish people.
The Jewish community began thousands of years ago and was at the height of it’s glory when Solomon built his Temple. The smashing of the glass under the chuppa hearkens back to this period to remind us that, as a community we have not yet reached this prominent status of old. It is something we as a people must strive for and not be satisfied until it is reached. The joy at the union and love of bride and groom needs to act as an impetus to all gathered to remind them to work towards the unification and love of the entire community. So we raise a glass and drink to the happy couple, and we smash a glass and long for the future happiness of the entire Jewish nation…