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Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part V: Breaking the Glass
An Orthodox 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 .

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.)

With a crunch! the glass momentarily reminds all those at the wedding not to forget their serious obligations to God – even at a wedding.

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan explains the custom as continuing the Mt. Sinai theme seen throughout the ceremony. Moses shattered the first set of Ten Commandments to cool God’s anger at the Jews when they created a golden calf. Breaking a glass should shatter any negative fate slated for the couple.

Not every interpretation of this custom is negative. Broken glass looks irreparable. But there is one way to bring a glass back together – melting. While smashing the glass recalls our mortality, the broken shards can be whole, a soul reborn, through the resurrection with the coming of Moshiach. On a more day-to-day level, there is hope for marriages that look broken. Similarly, our relationship with God is never without hope.

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.

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

To overcome the prohibition against needless waste, some couples are careful to use a chipped glass.

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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The Ketubah: The Jewish Marriage Contract
• The Orthodox Ketubah Aramaic Text and Translation

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• Prenuptial Agreement: An Halachic View
• Summary of the Orthodox Wedding Ceremony
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• 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
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