This is one of the most popular scenes from the traditional Jewish wedding that you can see on many mainstream movies and TV shows: the groom stomping on a napkin- or foil-covered glass, immediately followed by yells of “mazal tov.” This is the breaking of the Jewish wedding glass that signifies the end of the Chuppah, and the official beginning of the Jewish couple as husband and wife.
While this may literally seem to be an afterthought, this custom speaks much of the Jewish approach to life events, being careful to keep everything into perspective, and binding our times of joy and struggle today with the Jewish experience across the ages.
So what is the actual meaning behind the breaking of the Jewish wedding glass? Here are the top 3:
There are a few symbolic interpretations, all of them valid and wonderful to keep in mind (as if you don’t have enough to think about!) when that big moment finally comes.
Commemorating the destruction of the Holy Temple
This is the most popular explanation for why this remains part of the Jewish Chuppah. For two thousand years the Jewish have been dispersed throughout the four corners of the world, awaiting for that one Home where G-d’s presence was openly revealed, and where Jews could come together three times a year in unity and celebration. We still yearn for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple to this day.
The breaking of the two halves of the soul, now reunited
This idea is more on the romantic side, and more symbolic as well. There is a concept in Jewish thought that a Jewish couple actually originated as one soul, and those two halves have spent their time on this earth searching for each other, to be reunited under the Chuppah. This is a wonderful concept that brings the bond between a Jewish couple to beautiful detail.
Drawing together the spectrums of the human experience
While remembering the destruction of the Holy Temple is the favored symbolism for the breaking of the Jewish wedding glass, the first time this ritual was mentioned in Jewish literature actually predates the destruction of the Second Holy Temple.
The Talmud briefly describes the wedding that one of the Sages, Mar Bar Rabina, was hosting in honor of his son. Once he saw that the celebratory mood was becoming too light, he took an expensive goblet and smashed it. Needless to say, this put everyone in a more somber mood immediately. The concept here is that it is important to stay balanced throughout every stage in life. In times of celebration we know that life can take more somber turns as well; in difficult times of loss or mourning, we know that we will and can experience celebration and happiness in time, as well. Not only that, but the Jewish couple breaking the glass at that moment is declaring that they will see each other through the celebration and the difficulty.
Of course, before that epic breaking of the Jewish wedding glass, there is the presentation of the Ketubah, arguably the most important part of the wedding according to Jewish Law, along with the Jewish wedding ring.
Today, Ketubahs are more than just Jewish marriage contracts. They can be fine works of art, particularly those from artists like Danny Azoulay. Using Paper cut Ketubah method and incorporating vibrant colors and gold- and silver-leafing, every Jewish couple can find a design that expresses their sense of style, to be enjoyed for their lifetime together.