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Aufruf: A Torah Honor for the Groom
An Orthodox Perspective by Rivka C. Berman

“Aufruf” is a Yiddish word meaning “to be called up”. The Shabbat before his wedding, a groom is called up to the Torah, that is he is given an aliyah. In years gone by, the portion of Isaac and Rebecca’s betrothal was read at the aufruf.

Several reasons account for the aufruf custom. First, in the times of the Temple, grooms would enter the courtyard through a special gate. All who saw grooms entering would pray they would be blessed with children. Today the grooms receive these blessings and good wishes from their fellow congregants. Second, a Jewish king is commanded to write a Torah (a dose of divine law to counterbalance the seductive powers given to a sovereign) and grooms are likened to kings (and brides to queens).

Just like a member of the royal family, the groom is customarily accompanied to the synagogue with a retinue of friends and family. Some grooms will wear their wedding suits to the aufruf. Others won’t want to chance dirtying their clothes for the big day.

Once the groom completes his aliyah, some congregations will shower the groom with candy. This custom is based upon a Talmudic account of tossing nuts and toasted wheat at newlyweds (Berachot 50b). In Song of Songs’ poetic rapture, a lover speaks of going down to a nut garden (6:11). Hard shells must be cracked before a nut can be enjoyed. A couple need courage to open barriers, let down their guard, in order to create a lasting intimate relationship. Furthermore, the numerical value of the Hebrew word for nut, egoz, is 17 which is equal to the words for sin (chet) and good (tov). Taken together the nuts hint at the forgiveness of all the couple’s past misdeeds and their entry into their marriage with a clean slate.

Candy and raisins are thrown to wish the couple a sweet and fruitful life. Children collect the goodies and gain a sense of the sweet potential of marriage. In the Talmudic era, a newly-married couple had grains and nuts tossed at them, but only in the summer. Winter mud eliminated the possibility of retrieving the tossed food, and there is a commandment against willful wasting of food.

Word to the wise. Choose pre-wrapped, soft candies. Check with the rabbi. Some synagogues have pelting policies.

Hosting an after-service kiddush is customary in many synagogues, and is a way to share a couple’s happiness with the entire congregation. 


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