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What is the symbolism of the chupah?

by Mrs. Dinka Kumer

  

Library » Intimacy » Marriage | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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First and foremost the Chupah (marriage canopy) serves a Jewish legal purpose for the couple getting married. Through the holy chupah and the blessings recited under it, a man and woman legally (by Jewish law) become husband and wife.

There is also much symbolism attached to the chupah ceremony:

1) Making a Household: The chupah creates a unique domain for the couple. Though others people may be present under the chupah, the domain is clearly that of the couple getting married, setting the precedent for the home they will build together.

2) Obligations: The groom begins fulfilling his duties for his bride: The chupah canopy hints to the duty a husband has to provide clothing for his wife. Similarly, the couple is united under one 'garment,' symbolizing how they are now united as a single household.

3) Kindness:  The sides of the chupah are open, reminiscent of Abraham's tent which had open doors on all four sides awaiting guests. Just as Abraham excelled in hospitality and kindness, the couple endeavors to imbue their marriage with similar benevolence.

4) Blessings: Tradition1 teaches that G-d had seven canopies for the wedding of Adam and Eve, under which they stood to receive G-d's blessings. So too, a couple receives the marriage blessings under the chupah.

5) The Ultimate Marriage: The chupah serves to remind us of the divine marriage of G-d and the Jewish people. Another “chupah” for G-d and the Jewish people was the desert Tabernacle (Mishkan) which was made of canopies help upon beams.

6) The Kabbalistic Spin: According to Jewish mysticism, the chupah corresponds to a lofty level of G-dliness. Just as the chupah surrounds those within it, so too, this particular level of G-dliness “encompasses” our reality. This encompassing spirituality is too lofty a level as to actually pervade our plane of existence. And yet this very same exalted spirituality is required for the couple’s souls to unite and make the marriage materialize.

The surrounding embrace of the chupah parallels the encompassing aspect of spirituality—and both of these are the makings of matrimony.

Footnotes

  • 1. See KolBo's commentary on Marriage chapter 75

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Life Cycle » Marriage » The Wedding

Abraham
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
Kabbalistic
(adj.) Pertaining to Kabbalah—Jewish mysticism.
Adam
The first man, created by G-d on the sixth day of creation. He was banished from the Garden of Eden after eating from the forbidden fruit of the forbidden knowledge. Died in 2830 BCE.
Tabernacle
Mobile sanctuary which traveled with the Jews in the desert, containing the Ark with the Tablets, and the sacrificial altars. When the Jews entered Israel, it was erected in the city of Shiloh where it remained for more than 300 years. It was buried when the permanent Holy Temple was erected in Jerusalem.
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.