Chapter Twenty-eight

About the Wedding of the Jews.

When the engagement of two parties occurs, many Jews are invited, young and old, and they gather in a big room and each of the young Jews has a new [earthenware] pot or jar in his hand. Then one of them comes and reads the marriage document, that N. son of N., and N. daughter of N. have been betrothed to each other, and one shall give to the other as morning gift so and so much, and the wedding shall be on such and such a day. However, if one party does not keep what is put down in this Tenóim [lit. "conditions"] or marriage document, then such party shall pay fifty florins to the other as a penalty.

After this, they wish one another luck, and say Massal Tobh, good luck, and as soon as the others hear it, they throw their pots and jars to the ground, and break them, which means happiness and abundance.

Then they all leave, and one stays at the door, to give them sweet wine to drink, and sometimes some sweets too. The next eight days, neither bride nor groom leaves the house. However, many young men come to the groom to eat and drink with him, and to amuse him. They prove this with the story of Samson, who was given thirty young men when he wanted to make a wedding.

On the day before the wedding, the bride has to take a bath in cold water, and submerge completely under the water. She is accompanied there by other women with music and noisemaking, and also led back again the same way, so that everybody should hear, and know that she is a bride. Some leap and dance in front of her, but pious women do not commend that.

Bride and groom send each other a wedding-belt. The bridegroom's belt, namely the one which the bride has to send to him, should be fitted with silver clasps, and the bride's belt with golden clasps. When once I asked for the origin of this custom, I was told that silver signifies the Semen virile, which is white, and gold signifies the Semen muliebre. This is a worthless ratio, [reason] like everything that comes from their shuls.

On the day when she is to be consecrated, she puts on her bridal dress, and makes herself beautiful in the Jewish fashion. She is led into a special room by the women, who sing lovely wedding-songs before her. Then they seat her on a beautiful chair, braid her hair, put on a beautiful head covering, and put a veil before her eyes, so that she may not look at the groom, on account of modesty and good breeding, just like Rebecca when her groom came to meet her. Gen. 24.65 The women take special pleasure in braiding her hair, singing and dancing, and entertaining the bride to make her happy, and they think they are doing a fine deed for God in this. In order to convince the pious women of this, the very wise rabbis write in the Talmud that God himself made braids for Eve in Paradise, and he sang for her and danced with her. The chachámim and very wise rabbis derive it from these words Gen. 2.22: And he led her to Adam, that is, God brought her to Adam just like a bride, beautifully tricked out and braided, with dancing and leaping. You can also read in the Pirke or Capita R. Eliezer, that God himself waited on Adam and Eve at their wedding, and made the sky for them, under which bride and groom might be blessed. And the angels played the fife and drum for dancing, and danced themselves. The Jew who blasphemously wrote the book Brandspiegel some years ago wrote thus in chapter 34. It was printed for the first time in Crakow, Poland in the German language in Hebrew letters. It is a strict book about proper behavior, and is held in high regard by the Jews. In the Talmud Niddah 45b I can only find that God made plaits or braids for Eve, and it is proved by what is written Gen. 2.22 Vajíbhen hael, [sic] that is, and God built, i.e., braided. Therefore in some places, according to the Jews, the braids, or plaits, Binjasa, are called a building, because the Hebrew word Banah, from which the previous word is derived, means to build. Now Moses says explicitly, and not with dark [=not explicit] words: And God built from the very rib, which he took from Adam, one whom he called woman, and led her to Adam. This would mean, according to the very wise rabbis, that God made braids for Eve, and led her to Adam with leaping and dancing. Were there a spark of right understanding and knowledge of God's word in these people, they would be ashamed of their blasphemous words before the whole world. But this is in vain, because they are struck with blindness by God, and they desire no light. Let us go further.

When the public consecration is to take place, four young boys carry a canopy, or cover, attached to four posts, to the place where the consecration is to take place, in the street, or in a garden, under the open sky. The groom follows with several men, then the bride with the women accompanied by lutes and other instruments, all under that canopy. (They call it Chuppah, cover) and everybody calls out Báruch hábba Blessed be the one who comes. The bride is led three times around the groom (just as the cock goes around the hen) with the statement Jer. 31.22: the woman will go around the man. Then the groom takes the bride and leads her around in a circle, and then the people throw wheat or other grain over them, and they call out Prú urefú, be fruitful and multiply. They say this means peace and abundance in their household, as it is written in Psalm 147.14: He brings peace to your borders and satisfies you with the best wheat. In some places it is the custom to mix money with the wheat, which the poor Jews pick up. The bride stands at the right side of the groom, as is written in Psalm 45.10: The bride stands at your right in naught but precious gold. Her face should look towards the south, because the rabbis taught in the Talmud: The one who puts her bed between the south and the north, so that her face looks towards the south, will be blessed with many sons. The rabbi who performs the ceremony puts the corner of cloth that the groom wears around his neck (they call it Talles) on the bride's head following the example of Ruth who said to her cousin Boaz Ruth 3.19: Spread your wings over your handmaiden. And in the Prophet it said Ezek 16.8: And I spread my wings over you and covered your shame. The Rabbi then takes a glass of wine, and says a prayer of praise over it (they call it Birchas œrusin, Benedictio desponsatorum) [=the blessing of the betrothed] in which he praises God that they are promised for each other in marriage, and he gives the bride and groom to drink from it. If the bride is a virgin they usually take a narrow glass, for a widow a wide glass,and for a poor little creature an earthen vessel. Everyone knows the origin of this. Now the rabbi takes a ring from the groom. It should be pure gold, with no precious stones on it. He calls several witnesses to show them and determine if it is good and worth the money, and he puts it on the second finger of the bride and reads publicly aloud the marriage document. Then he takes another glass of wine, and says a prayer over it (they call it Birchas nissuin) [=wedding blessing] in which he thanks God that they have now taken each other, and he gives them to drink again. After that the groom takes the first glass and throws it against a wall or on the ground, so that it breaks in remembrance of the destroyed temple at Jerusalem. In some places they strew ashes on the head of the groom to remember the burning of the Temple. For this reason the groom has a black cap on his head, such as the people in mourning are accustomed to wear, and the bride has her head wrapped in a black mantle (very elegant - you could scare little children with it) as a sign that even in their highest joy they should also be sad, because of the destruction of the city and Temple. (Yes, the clothes are mourning clothes, but the heart does not mourn, as experience proves). It is also written in the Psalm 2.11: Be afraid with trembling. They hold the consecration under the open sky as a sign that they should multiply like the stars in heaven.

After the blessing they sit down at the table. First the groom has to sing a long prayer, the more beautifully he sings, the more pleasing he is to the bride, who sits next to him. It is done more for love and pride, and to please the bride, than to show devotion to God.

Meanwhile, someone calls out to prepare and bring the chickens. A chicken and an egg are put before the bride. The groom gives the bride a piece of the chicken, and after that everyone, women and men reach out with full hands. They tear up the food like hungry dogs. Whoever gets the biggest piece is the best at the table. They eat it with their hands, and soon someone comes and snatches it from the hands of another, or even from his mouth, and they make a lot of noise and they laugh, just to make the bride and groom happy with all this. The egg is not boiled. They throw it at each other, or, better yet, at the face of a Christian who happens to be watching. They explain to the bride that it is a sign that she will give birth without pain, with joy and ease, just as a chicken lays an egg with joyful cackling.

After this enjoyable entertainment, the real meal is offered. They are happy, and do not think much about Jerusalem. They dance and leap, as everyone who has seen it knows.

At the end of the wedding they hold a dance which they call the Mitzva dance, that is a dance which is held at a wedding because of the law of God. The most eminent person present takes the groom by the hand, and they follow one another. Also the preeminent woman takes the bride, and all women follow, and they all dance round in a large circle. It is a horrible tossing about, and with that they conclude the joyous wedding feast.

The wedding usually lasts eight days, and when the Sabbath comes during the celebration, they do it great honor by extra dancing. This is because the Sabbath is also called a bride, as we mentioned before.

Above all, they write, everybody should be warned not to invite uncircumcised Christians to the wedding. King Solomon says in Proverbs 14.10: And in your joy no stranger should mingle. However, this is a perversion of the text. It says something different and has a completely different meaning. They also write: When the good angels see that strangers, that is, Christians, are at the wedding, they flee, and evil spirits come, and do damage. They cause quarrels, disagreements, and accidents. Some people may break their necks or legs, or even kill somebody. So you should be aware how welcome Christians are at their weddings. If one drinks to the other they respond: Lechajim tobhim, to good life, that is the drink should serve your good health. But if they do not wish well to another person, such as a Christian, then they understand by these words Kelalah, that is, a curse, because the word Kelalah, counted in the kabbalistic way, has the same numerical value as the previous two words, namely 165, and they understand with it, the person should drink damnation with it. [l=30, ch=8, j=10 (twice), m=40, t=9, o=6, bh=2, i=10, m=40: total=165. k=100, l=30 (twice), h=5: total=165.] These and similar Jewish blessings and secret malice will come to light at some other time, God willing.


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Alan D. Corré
corre@uwm.edu