It’s hard to miss the news that Chelsea Clinton and her new husband Marc Mezvinsky were wed this Saturday in Rhinebeck, and the media has also informed us that the wedding included a number of elements from a Jewish Wedding. Yet, to date no one has explained to us what is the significance and meaning of the Jewish traditions at a Jewish Wedding. Read on to discover what the Jewish elements at Chelsea and Marc’s wedding were and how it represents the value of marriage in Jewish life.
1. Huppah/Chupa- Chelsea and Marc sealed their commitment under a traditional Jewish wedding canopy, called a Huppah. This canopy is a kind of “portable roof structure” under which the Jewish wedding ceremony takes place and it symbolizes the Jewish home that the couple will build together. According to tradition the Huppah is open on all sides, in order to symbolize the value of hospitality which was exemplified by the open tent of the Biblical couple Abraham and Sarah.
2. Rabbi – Rabbi Jim Ponet co- officiated at the interfaith wedding. The presence of a Rabbi represents the chain of continuity of Jewish life, tradition and leadership; it represents intentionality and commitment in the couple’s spiritual life.
3. Seven Blessings – In Jewish tradition, the couple chooses relatives, friends or mentors to recite the traditional seven blessings over a cup of wine during the wedding Huppah ceremony. These blessings are beautifully poetic and replete with ancient imagery. The theme of the seven blessings of a Jewish wedding is love and joy, and the celebration of the Creation of the Universe along with the creation of man and women and their coming together in love. Click here for the text of the seven Blessings
4. Wine – Wine represents happiness, and both the bride and groom drink some wine to represent their joy and to seal the seven blessings. Wine has a quality that can bring out the best or the worst of a person, and it represents the Jewish value of celebrating life and partaking of its finer qualities, while rejecting the less refined qualities.
5. Wine glass – As of time of publishing, we do not know whether a glass was broken under Chelsea and Marc’s Huppah, however according to Jewish tradition, at the end of the Huppah Ceremony the groom stamps on and shatters a glass cup, in order to symbolize that at the most joyous moment in our life, we remember the shattering and destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem 2000 years ago.
6. Talit – Marc adorned himself if the traditional Jewish prayer shawl called a Talit at the Jewish wedding ceremony. The prayer shawl has woven fringes which are based upon the Biblical commandment to wear a four cornered garment with woven fringes (called tzitzit in Hebrew). The prayer shawl and tzitzit are meant to serve as physical reminders that God is all around us, and according to Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof it is a tradition which represents our constant devotion to God”.
7. Yarmulke – Marc also wore a yarmulke during the Jewish wedding ceremony. The yarmulke, a Jewish skull cap, represents an acknowledgment of God’s presence above.
8. Ring – We haven’t seen Chelsea’s wedding ring up close, but traditionally the Jewish wedding ring is simple, made of a plain material without marks, etchings or ornamentation (e.g. stones). This is to express the hope that the marriage will resemble the ring in its wholeness, simplicity and value.
9 .Ketubah – Chelsea and Marc’s ketubah is the Jewish legal document, which outlines rights and responsibilities in the framework of a Jewish marriage. It is read out loud, and given to the bride to keep. It is often written amidst beautiful artwork, and after the wedding it is often framed and displayed in the home.
10. Happiness! Chelsea and Marc chose the Jewish wedding traditions that symbolize their values and their hopes for their life together. However, their family and guests, perhaps unknowingly, partook in a very important Jewish tradition: enhancing the happiness of the Jewish groom and bride. According to Jewish tradition a person who attends a Jewish wedding should do whatever s/he possibly can to make the bride and groom happy, and one sees this often when the perfectly crafted speech brings a smile, laugh or even a tear of happiness to the twinkling eyes of the bride and groom. The Clinton Family’s speechwriters must have produced the perfect words to convey love, goodwill and best wishes!
So Mazal Tov to Chelsea and Marc, they have chosen some beautiful traditions from a Jewish wedding for their wedding ceremony, and we bless them that they have a spiritual and meaningful life together.