If you’ve ever seen a Jewish wedding in a big-budget movie, you probably remember seeing someone stomp on a wine glass—a solemn reminder of the destruction of the Temple.
This isn’t the only difference between Jewish and Christian weddings. Every detail of a traditional Jewish wedding is full of significance.
The bride and groom are married under a broad, cloth canopy called a chuppah, which often resembles a giant prayer shawl (tallit). The chuppah is an ancient custom, referenced in Joel 2:16 and Psalm 19:5. It represents the roof of the unified household that the couple will build together.
Before the two are formally joined together, much like in a Christian ceremony, they make solemn public promises. In Judaism these promises take the form of a contract, called a ketubah, that is legally binding under Jewish law. Among other rights and responsibilities, a ketubah binds the groom to provide for the bride’s financial needs in case of divorce. Often, the ketubah is a piece of artwork in itself, richly decorated and prominently placed in a Jewish home.
The ketubah is read aloud under the chuppah. The happy couple signs their names and are whisked away to a private room for a few minutes, ordinarily to end a day of fasting by sharing a small meal together. The families rejoice. There’s dancing. Two lives are now intertwined.
Once a year, observant Jews gather in a service that resembles a wedding ceremony. On this day the synagogue is decorated with flowers and greenery. The community takes out the Torah scroll containing the first five books of the Old Testament and reads the story of Exodus 19-20. When they come to the part of the story where God begins to speak from Mount Sinai, everyone stands up for the reading of the Ten Commandments.
This day is Shavu’ot. It looks like a wedding because it’s the anniversary of the day when God “married” Israel, taking her to be his bride, irrevocably tying their fates together for eternity. The wedding day was the day God appeared on Mount Sinai and spoke to the entire people. When he gave the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law of God (the Torah), this constituted a marriage contract, a ketubah. In the Torah God, the groom, makes certain promises to Israel, providing for all her needs. He also lays down his requirements: that she have no other gods—no other husbands—and that she maintain her moral and spiritual purity.
Israel accepted God’s proposal under the chuppah—the cloud that covered Mount Sinai. This cloud will return in the Messianic Era, as Isaiah prophesied:
Then the LORD will create over the entire area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a [chuppah]. (Isaiah 4:5 NASB)
Until Isaiah’s prophesy comes to pass, observant Jews continue to reenact this wedding ceremony every Shavu’ot, renewing their vows year after year. They articulate the coming redemption with the terms of a marriage ceremony:
His Shechinah [Dwelling Presence] will shelter her during days and nights, His bridal canopy to be built in her crowned with praises—with brilliant clouds to beautify the canopy. (Machzor)
Prophesying in the Spirit, the Apostle John wrote,
Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. (Revelation 19:9)
As followers of Yeshua, we have been invited to witness the final unification of God and Israel. As Yeshua indicated in Matthew 22:11-12, now is the time for us to prepare our wedding clothes. When the wedding of the Lamb takes place, may he find us adorned with faithful acts of righteousness.