sunday i had the opportunity to attend a jewish wedding. it was really a fascinating event. the richness of the tradition - the hoopah, symbolizing the open home of the new couple, the blessing of the wine, the cup of sweetness and blessing, etc.
as i sat there watching this beautiful ceremony, i was struck by the richness of the symbolism and the connnection with such a rich tradition. these sacred acts connect this couple with thousands of years of those who have gone before them.
it made me want to be jewish. i longed to be connected to something bigger than myself. i longed to be a part of a community united by its identity in faith. suddenly my faith seemed so shallow in the presence of such a ceremony. the christian or pseudo-christian wedding ceremony which i am used to seemed like an act, an empty symbol in light of such strong symbolism.
for instance, 'christian' weddings typically have several well-groomed men and women that process in up front like a call line. then the bride and groom stand in front of a robed figure who says words that they then repeat. (and promptly forget before the reception.) anybody can do this. it seems not to have any 'gravitas'. it's too familiar.
so, what is the difference between these two ceremonies. for one, this experience of a jewish wedding was entirely new to me. so possibly the difference between the two was my familiarity of with 'christian' ceremonies and the newness and mysterious nature of the jewish ceremony.
a second difference, related to the first, is that one must be jewish to have a jewish wedding. whereas, one doesn't really have to be christian to have a 'christian' wedding. very rarely does someone who has no affiliation with a synagogue or the jewish faith seek out a rabbi and say, 'i have always dreamed of a jewish wedding. your building is so beautiful, i would love to get married here. can i join your congregation to avoid paying the fees?' in our culture, christian wedding ceremonies have become the default, the cultural norm, which because of their familiarity, seem devoid of any deeper meaning.
finally, the jewish wedding ceremony was connected to something deeper - a rich tradition (tradition defined as the living faith of the dead.) the rituals practiced have been a part of that culture for so long, yet as newcomer, they seemed so rich. (like a seven-layer chocolate cake!) whereas in the 'christian' ceremony the only rich act is communion but most of the time people choose not to do this for fear of offending someone. (yet, it seems no one really fears offending God when they are planning their ‘christian’ weddings.)
in reflecting on this, i must ask, how can we recapture the power and meaning of two people making a covenant with each other and God to love, live and share life together until the end of their days? what do you think?
(it is not lost on me that there may be some in the jewish community who experience frustration because of those who are jewish by tradition and not practice having a jewish ceremony. yet even still, it seems that the ceremony in some ways can redeem that.)