Breaking the Glass in a Jewish Wedding
At a certain point in a Jewish wedding, the groom steps on a glass and breaks it apart. Right away, the orchestra starts playing wedding music, the audience erupts in an applause, and everyone joins the orchestra in singing and dancing.
What is the meaning of this ritual, of breaking a glass at a wedding?
Tradition says that it is to remind us Jews, even at a moment of our highest happiness, at our wedding, that the temple was destroyed.
But this interpretation is now being challenged. Archeologists have found that even while the temple stood in its full glamour, Jews used to break a cup—this time made of ceramic—at their wedding time. So, it cannot be true that the ritual is intended to remind us of the temple’s destruction.
Here is my interpretation of why we break the glass:
You probably know the expression, “You cannot unscramble scrambled eggs.” In other words, scrambling eggs is an irreversible event.
The same, I think, applies to breaking a glass. You can try to put it back together, but it will never be the same. It is an irreversible event.
In a Jewish wedding when the groom breaks the glass, it symbolizes the irreversibility of their marriage. That is why there is no singing or dancing until he breaks that glass. Once that happens, the marriage is signed, sealed and delivered. There’s no way back. From that point on, the groom and the bride are no longer groom and bride, but husband and wife.
I like my interpretation of the ritual because we really should remind ourselves that a marriage is an irreversible commitment. It is not that we stay married as long as we love each other. The Rabbi even asks both the groom and the bride if they are committed to each other in good times and in bad until death sets them apart.
To be aligned with modern times I suggest there should be two glasses to break, simultaneously. One for the groom and one for the bride. She should acknowledge too that this marriage is irreversible. Today, among the non-poor people, I find more women divorce their husbands than husbands their wives.
And to reflect on modern times further, when the man breaks that glass stomping it with his foot, it symbolizes that it will be the last time he is allowed to put his foot down:))))))
Ichak K. Adizes