Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt
We’ve got in touch with the experts ‐ those people who conduct the marriage ceremony ‐ to ask all those wedding questions that you’ve always wanted to ask!
I am head of the Aish Hatorah UK Jewish community in Hendon. Aish Hatorah is an international Jewish organization, which specializes in adult education for Jews with little or no Jewish affiliation. I have been a Rabbi for 11 years. I am married with 4 children and live in Golders Green.
Q. Can you have a Jewish ceremony outside?
A. Not only can you, it is best to have a Jewish ceremony outside. It has only been since Jews lived in Europe and the weather has not been so great that we have taken to having the ceremony inside, but without a doubt, under the skies is where a Jewish ceremony should be held if at all possible.
What is a mikvah?
Q. What is a mikvah and do all women have to visit a mikvah before their wedding day?
A. A mikvah is a bath of pure and fresh water in which one immerses completely naked.
In Jewish life, a woman is meant to visit the mikvah after menstruation before husband and wife are allowed physical contact. Obviously the first time this would happen would be prior to the wedding as, technically, they should not have had physical contact before that point. As such, every woman is meant to visit the mikvah before her wedding. It is symbolic of a return to the womb, a rebirth and is, therefore, all the more appropriate prior to a marriage.
The beddekin ceremony
Q. What is the beddekin ceremony ?
A. The bedekkin is the ceremony in which the groom comes to see the bride before the chuppah and pulls the veil down over her face. On one level, it is a reminder that our ancestor Jacob was tricked by his father in law Laban and given the wrong daughter. We don’t want to make the same mistake and want to check who we are marrying. At the same time, it represents the groom accepting upon himself one of his primary marital obligations – that of providing clothing for his wife.
The significance of seven
Q. Can you explain why in the Jewish wedding ceremony the woman circles the man 7 times ?
A. There are a number of reasons given as to why the Jewish woman circles the man 7 times. I will give 3 main symbolisms:
- It represents the 7 prophetesses of the Jewish people to whose greatness the bride aspires.
- She is symbolically building a wall around him to protect him from his desires.
- In the Bible, Joshua walked around Jericho 7 times and the walls came tumbling down. So also, any walls that may separate bride and groom should fall at this point.
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Our various celebrants may offer very different answers to the same questions, not only because of the religious tradition they follow, but because they have their own personal views too ‐ religious questions don’t necessarily have a right or wrong answer!