Ask A Jew: Breaking A Glass at a Wedding

Ask A Jew: Breaking A Glass at a Wedding

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By Hyphen Parent

What is the meaning behind breaking the groom breaking a glass at a Jewish wedding?

At a Jewish wedding, typically at the end of the ceremony (although the timing varies in different communities), the groom stomps on a glass, the glass breaks, and everyone shouts, “Mazel tov.” 

The Talmud (Berakhot 30 and 31) gives us at least two stories of rabbis who broke glasses at weddings. Both Mar bar Rabina and Rav Ashi broke expensive goblets at their sons’ weddings In both cases, it was done when they saw the sages were excessively celebrating. 

Both stories are shared as examples of Psalms 2:11, “Serve the L-rd in fear and rejoice with trembling.” In that section of the Talmud, Rav Nahman bar Yitzhak  explains, “One may not experience unbridled joy; even where there is rejoicing, there should be trembling.”

Breaking the glass is considered a moment amid the joy to remember suffering. Typically, it’s explained that breaking the glass is to remind us specifically of the destruction of the Temple.

We can and should celebrate joyful moments, but even in times of great celebration, we can’t lose sight of the full picture of life. Jewish history, life, and marriage all contain moments of grief and loss. In those moments of joy, we should acknowledge that sorrow exists. In those moments of sorrow, we can remember the happiness.  To live full lives and have fulfilling marriages, we need to balance celebrations and sadness. 

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