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Why is the wedding ceremony held under a Chupah canopy?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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According to Torah law, marriage is a two-step process.

The first stage is called “kiddushin". Kiddushin is commonly translated as betrothal, but a more literal translation would be "to sanctify" or "to designate". Through this step they are separated from the rest of the world and designated for each other. After this point, if, G-d forbid, they decided to part ways, a get (Jewish divorce) would be required, and an affair during this time would be considered adultery. However, regarding themselves they are not husband and wife until the second step, which is "nisu'in".

In Talmudic times, these two stages of marriage were customarily separated by a significant period of time; often times as much as a full year
Nisu'in is commonly translated as marriage, and the bride and groom are not permitted to live together as husband and wife until this step is completed.

While there are several methods how the kiddushin can be effected, the common custom, based on Halachic as well as Kabbalistic considerations, is to do so using a ring—the customary wedding band. The nisu’in is accomplished through the Chupah—the husband uniting with the wife under one roof for the sake of marriage.1

In Talmudic times, these two stages of marriage were customarily separated by a significant period of time; often times as much as a full year. Today, both these steps are done simultaneously beneath the chupah.

See also What is the Symolism of the Chupah?

Footnotes

  • 1. There are different opinions amongst the medieval halachic authorities as to the exact definition of the Mishnaic term “chupah.” Some maintain that chupah is actually accomplished in the yichud room which follows the wedding ceremony. However, this technical debate is beyond the parameters of this medium.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Life Cycle » Marriage » The Wedding

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Halachic
Pertaining to Jewish Law.
Kabbalistic
(adj.) Pertaining to Kabbalah—Jewish mysticism.
Chupah
Wedding canopy. Under this canopy, the groom betroths the bride with the customary ring, and the traditional marriage benedictions are recited.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.