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 Home > Jewish Wedding Guide > Conservative > Ceremony Part V: Breaking Glass

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 Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part V: Breaking the Glass
A Conservative Perspective by Rivka C. Berman

 • Breaking the Glass - Mazal Tov!
 • How to Break the Glass - Customs and Traditions
 • The Broken Glass Pieces: Wedding Keepsakes

Breaking the Glass
In the Gemarah, Mar, son of Ravina, and Rav Ashi deliberately broke an expensive glass at their children’s wedding to settle the rowdy crowd. Uninhibited joy was out of place while the Jewish people were still mourning the loss of the central Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Grooms in Solomon’s time would enter the Temple through a glass gate. Breaking a glass reminds us of our lost glory .

Demons are supposedly scared off by noises, so other have interpreted the custom as a rite to scatter the evil spirits who vie to ruin a wedding day. Smashing a wine bottle or glass across a ship’s bow serves much the same purpose.

Later glass breaking was interpreted as tempering the incredible elation at the ceremony’s close with a remembrance of the Temple’s destruction. In 568 C.E., Babylonian armies swarmed through the breached walls of Jerusalem and burnt the elaborate, central Temple of the Jewish people. Scattered across the world from that point onward, the Jewish people would never forget Jerusalem. A psalm spells out Jewish devotion to the devastated city: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.” (Psalms 137)

While it was mentioned in the Gemarah, stamping on a glass to close a wedding ceremony became popular in the 1100’s.

Can there be any moment more radiant with ethereal happiness than a wedding day? True to the trust of remembering Jerusalem, we shatter a glass in sorrowful commemoration. (This is why some people refrain from shouting “Mazal tov!” just after the glass is shattered. Instead they recite the words from Psalm 137 cited above.)

Once the glass is broken, the remaining shards remind the couple how fragile the bond of marriage is, and how they must care for their marriage with love and understanding. The jagged edges call the new couple to repair the fragmented society all around them.

In an interesting contrast to this explanation, some see hope in the glass shards. Broken glass is an undoable state. So too, we pray the couple will never undo their pledges of love and commitment.

How To Smash the Glass
Wrap the glass in a paper or cloth first. A worry-wart’s reminder: make sure the groom’s footwear is up to the task – for safety’s sake avoid paper thin soles. Use glass, not ceramic or porcelain cups. Glass can be re-melted, reunified (like the couple who will work to remain as one), but once ceramic or porcelain is broken, the cracks remain. (By the way, once wrapped, no one will know if you’ve used a light bulb which is easier to shatter. Especially helpful when a much older couple is marrying.)

Some communities follow a bit of different custom, where the grooms break the glass by hurling it against a wall.

Broken Glass Pieces: Wedding Keepsakes
A popular option: carefully gather the pieces up and throw them away. A more sentimental option: send the glass shards into an artist who can piece the glass slivers back together and set it into a display box as a wedding memento.

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Jewish Wedding Attire Customs: From Wedding Gown to Kittel
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Ketubah Designs and Designation
The Bedeking Ceremony: Veiling of the Bride
The Chuppah - the Wedding Canopy

Chuppah: The Inner Meaning
The Processional and the Chuppah Ceremony
Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part I: The "Erusin" - the Engagement
Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part II: The Ring and Its Significance
Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part III: The Ketubah Reading
Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part IV: Nesuin, the Marriage Ceremony
Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part V: Breaking the Glass
The Recessional at end of Wedding Ceremony
Yichud: Bride and Groom Retreat from Crowd for Alone-Time
Jewish Wedding Reception Customs and Traditions

Shana Rishona: The First Year of Marriage
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Jewish Wedding: Proper Etiquette and Gift Ideas




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