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Last Updated: July 21, 2002

Mike and Kyra's Jewish Questions and Answers

Welcome to one of the resources we've had quite a bit of calling for! We're happy that we've had so many visitors to this page. We welcome you to use it and promote it -- but please be sure to cite from where you received your information, and please drop us a line giving us a heads up that you're posting the information elsewhere. We won't sue you or charge royalties; we just want to make sure that all work is properly credited.

In addition to this page, feel free to check out our wedding program booklet on-line.

Disclaimer: We are not rabbis, nor do we play  them on TV. The information below has been gleaned from several sources off the web, in articles and in (gulp!) books. The best answers to questions regarding your own Jewish weddings will probably be best answered by the rabbi or "m'sader kiddushin" - the officiator of your wedding.

That having been said -- Enjoy! If your question has not been answered here, try emailing us at jewishfaq@kyra-mike.net and we'll do our best to help you out.


What's an Aufruf? Is that how a dog barks in Hebrew? And why is everyone throwing candy? Doesn't that hurt? An Aufruf is when the happy couple receive an aliyah (going up to bless G-d for the reading of the Torah.) the Shabbat before the wedding. Aufrufim (the plural) can also take place earlier than that as well. Aliyah is Hebrew for "going up," and aufruf is Yiddish for the same thing. The congregants throw candy (preferably soft) after the Aliyah to wish the couple a sweet life together. No dogs are involved in the process.

I heard a rumor about something where the groom is supposed to speak and everyone is supposed to disrespect him and interrupt. Is this true? and isn't that a little rude? This is called a tisch, which is Yiddish for "table." Here's the logic in all of this: It's customary for the prospective bride and groom to fast (at least 'til midday) because this day is a symbolic "Day of Atonement" for them as they end separate lives and start one together. Traditionally, when the groom would daven Mincha, or recite the daily afternoon service, it would be customary for him to have a quorum of ten adults (a minyan). After the recitation of the afternoon prayer, the groom can eat and drink, so he shares this with his fellow guests and prayer buddies (traditionally men).

Ah, but what is a meal without words of Torah and Judaism to accompany it? Logically, the host of the tisch, or table, should be the one to say these words. But the guy's under enough stress as it is! Thus, the friends and family of the groom interrupt his words with laughter, songs and more -- mostly to ease the tension and get everyone in a joyous mood. Yes, this is rude, but hey - all's fair in love and games!

Hey! I thought that the Bride and Groom aren't supposed to see each other before the wedding! What are they doing? Making sure that they are marrying the right people! Duh! This is called a b'deken. This tradition goes all the way back to Jacob. What happened with him? Well he ended up marrying Leah instead of Rachel. Therefore, the groom always checks to make sure that he marries the right girl. (none of that soap opera older sister switcheroo stuff here!)

Why is the Groom wearing a white robe? Did he forget his tux? No he didn't forget his tux, it's what we call a kittel, Bob. You see, the wedding day is a personal Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) for the bride and groom. On this holiday one wears white to symbolize cleanliness and purity. (Ever notice that Yom Kippur is always after Labor Day, but we still have to wear white? Anyway...) The white clothing is an extension of this purity.

Besides, at a black-tie affair, it's the best way to point out the bride and groom from an aerial view.

What is a Ketubah? Is that like a pre-nup? Nope! This is the Jewish marriage contract.

The Ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) is one of the oldest elements in a Jewish wedding. It's also pretty unromantic. Traditionally, ketubot do not mention love, trust, the establishment of a Jewish home, or God. When you come right down to it, it's a legal contract. Ketubot are written in Aramaic text and give women legal status and rights in the marriage. Some modern ketubot are written in an egalitarian format (no mention of virgins or maidens consenting or dowries!) and are written in English and Hebrew, but a lot of folks still use a traditional text.

The ketubah, traditionally, is an agreement that the groom will care and provide for the bride. We will be creating our own, and it will include the provision that Mike will have to grant Kyra a get in case we get divorced. (a get is a Jewish rabbinic divorce decree -- this more due to a bad experience a friend of ours had rather than our expectation that the marriage won't last). Ketubot have the standing of a legally binding agreement, that in many countries is\ enforceable by secular law.

A ketubah can be printed, but a lot are written in calligraphy and illuminated. We've seen some that are hand painted, or printed on handmade paper with flowers, pretty much any way you want. In addition to the bride and groom signing it, the rabbi signs, and two witnesses who are not related to the couple sign as well. The ketubah is read during the ceremony under the chuppah, and it becomes the property of the bride after the wedding. Most couples have the ketubah framed and hung in their home. We will choose to hang in over our fireplace -- right next to the stuffed moose head.

Somebody said something about witnesses. When I think witness I think of Harrison Ford and the Amish. Am I close? Not even. We just spoke about the ketubah as a wedding contract. This one takes at least two witnesses to make sure it's all on the up-and-up. The requirements for these witnesses are simply that they uphold the Jewish laws and customs and can be trusted with such a great responsibility. Oh... they also can't be related to the bride or groom through blood ties. So much for nepotism...

Does every Jewish wedding require two rabbis? What does the extra one do? Actually, how many rabbis does a Jewish wedding really require? Answer: Nada. None. Zip. The rabbi in a Jewish religious ceremony only acts as the facilitator. A sole religious Jewish wedding, theoretically, can be performed without a rabbi.

But what about the civil aspect of it? Only members of the clergy (i.e. rabbis), notaries, judges, and captains Picard and Stubbing can perform marriage ceremonies recognized by the state. That's where a rabbi comes into play. Only one rabbi is required.

So why are we having two? Because we want to be different? Possibly. We also had two rabbis who were great influences on our lives growing up...

How come the ENTIRE family (parents and grandparents) gets to walk down the aisle? Tradition! Tradition!  ... Tradition!

How come everyone is standing underneath a canopy? What's that thing called anyway? It's called a chuppah. It symbolizes G-d's presence and symbolizes the couple's new home. They can be made from a tallit, or hand painted, or quilted, pretty much whatever the couple would like. It is held up with four poles either held up by the chuppah holders or free standing.

Why are they walking around each other in circles? I guess to get a a good look before they jump into anything. Seriously, though, these circles indicate an intertwining of the bride and groom together as they begin a new life together. They make seven circles, symbolizing the seven days of creation.

Those wedding bands look kind of plain. Simply gold bands without stones or anything. Guess the Groom's having a bit of financial trouble... First of all, what a terrible thing to say.

Secondly, Jewish tradition allows a wedding band to be without engravings or stones. You see, the ring is a symbolic transfer of property, and having it stay plain makes the point absolutely clear that the marriage is occurring through the ring itself, and not through any special added goodies on the ring which could change its value.

Hey! Why is everyone interrupting the ceremony? What are they saying? These are the Sheva Brachot, or seven blessings. Once again, we see the "seven" motif symbolizing the creation of the world. Here are rough translations of the seven benedictions:
  1. Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, Ruler of the universe, Who created everything for His glory.
  2. Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, Ruler of the universe, Who fashioned humanity.
  3. Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, Ruler of the universe, Who fashioned humanity in His image, in the image of his likeness, and prepared from Himself a building for eternity. Blessed are You Hashem, Who fashioned humanity.
  4. Bring intense joy and exultation to the barren one through the ingathering of her children amidst her in gladness. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who gladdens Zion through her children.
  5. Gladden the beloved companions as You gladdened Your creature in the Garden of Eden from aforetime. Blessed are You, Hashem Who gladdens groom and bride.
  6. Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, Ruler of the universe, Who created joy and gladness, groom and bride, mirth (mirth?), glad song, pleasure, delight, love, brotherhood, peace, and companionship. Hashem, our God, let there soon be heard in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and the sound of gladness, the voice of the groom an the voice of the bride, the sound of the groom's jubilance from their canopies and of youths from their song-filled feasts. Blessed are You, Who gladdens the groom with the bride.
  7. Blessed are You Hashem, our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who created the fruit of the vine.

The only thing that I know about Jewish weddings is that you break a glass at the end. What's up with that? Well, there are a couple theories out there:
  1. This gives the big cue to the congregation to shout "MAZEL TOV!"
  2. It symbolizes the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. (We're Jewish, why should we be happy at every occasion?)
  3. This represents how fragile a relationship can be. By breaking the glass, we are reminded that the relationship should stay intact.

There is also something relating to the Bride's "loss of innocence" (if you know what I mean) but since this page is rated G - we're not going there.

Why do the Bride and Groom go off together in a little room after the ceremony? Are they in "time out"? My, aren't we nosy...

They aren't in "time out," they are just, um... "celebrating" their marriage. It's called yichud, Hebrew for "together. One would like to think that they are just hiding our avoiding sloppy kisses from relatives and the whole reception line thing. Most likely, they are having a little nosh, a little wine, and letting the reality of what just happened sink in.

And why do they lift the Bride and Groom up in chairs at the reception? (They aren't nervous enough as it is? Or is everyone just drunk?) Probably a little of both. The couple is symbolically made king and queen of the dance. They are put in their "thrones" and their goal is not to fall out of their chairs, and pray that their friends don't drop them.


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