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 Yichud: Bride & Groom Spend Time Alone
A Conservative Perspective by Rivka C. Berman

Immediately after the ceremony and just before the wedding reception begins to swirl around the new couple, they share a few minutes alone – away from the bright lights and music. Yichud, literally meaning, becoming one.

An unrelated woman and man should not remain alone behind locked doors. After the ceremony, spending time alone, in a room of their own, signifies their new status as a married couple.

Yichud takes place when the couple, and only the couple, are alone in a room. Witnesses ascertain the room’s emptiness before the couple enters and then stand guard to ensure the couple’s privacy.

For couples who have fasted until the ceremony, Yichud is breaking of the fast time. Eastern European couples feasted on the easy-to-digest, nutritious, satisfying cure all: chicken soup. Its golden hue was said to portend a prosperous marriage. Honey and cheese or eggs and chicken are other customary yichud room treats.

New Traditions
Yichud occurs in the first moments of a new marriage. There is time to reflect upon the day and reconnect now that all the pre-wedding jitters and hassles are over.

Rabbi Debra Orenstein, editor of Lifecycles, created a new yichud ritual to encompass the two meanings of yichud: alone and togetherness. Strong marriages are built by couples who feel the closeness of one, but maintain their own distinct individuality.

In some communities the bride and groom fast until they reach the yichud room. Eating has long been a part of the yichud tradition. Couples who feed each other, as part of Rabbi Orenstein’s ceremony, symbolically begin the nurturing that last throughout the marriage. A reading built upon Hosea 2:21-22 sets the tone for each mouthful. “I will feed you forever… I will feed you with compassion. I will feed you with faithfulness.”

Before drinking, the couple recalls the passage in Song of Songs: “Many waters cannot quench love, and no flood can sweep it away” (8:7).

Just before the ritual ends with the Shehecheyanu blessing, the new husband reads about Isaac’s first encounter with Rebecca. “And Isaac took Rebecca and made her his wife. And he loved her and found comfort.” The new wife reads: “And Rebecca lifted her eyes and beheld Isaac and was jolted with the surprise of love. She said, ‘that is my husband.’” (Adapted from Genesis 24:64-65.)

The Shehecheyanu blessing punctuates happy events throughout a Jewish life and ends the yichud ceremony.

Baruch atah Adon-ai Eloheinu melech ha-olam sheheche-yanu v’keyi-manu v’heegee-anu la’zman hazeh.

We bless you God, our God, ruler of all worlds, who has let us live and sustained us and brought us to this day.

Generally, Yichud is not part of the Sephardic tradition.

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