The Chuppah (Wedding canopy) is representative of the marriage chamber and the ancient custom of the chatan (groom) building a room onto the house of his father in preparation for receiving his Ishah (wife) to be. This once took place during the year of erusin/kiddushin (betrothal, sanctification) prior to the groom returning for his kalah (bride) and carrying her away following the nissuin (Wedding ceremony, marriage, to be carried [nasa]) John 14:1-4.
The Tallit (prayer shawl) tied to the four corners of the chuppah, covers the bride and groom symbolizing the Shekhinah (Dwelling, settling)/Kavod (Glory) HaShem (YHVH) [Divine Presence/ Manifest Spirit of G-d]. With this in mind the chuppah also mirrors the Mishkan (Tent of meeting) of the heavenlies which will descend and house the people of God in the New Jerusalem at the end of the age Rev. 21:1-6, 22-23. Thus, God will dwell (shakan) with His people (His bride), and YHVH and the Lamb (Yeshua) will be the Covering and the Light to the people of God both Jewish and Gentile for all eternity.
The head covering warn by Jewish men is called a kippah (covering, from kaparah- atonement) [Yarmulke: Yiddish] and reminds us of the fact that no one can stand before the Holy God of Israel without atonement Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22. It is therefore a reminder to those who have become followers of Yeshua Melekh HaMashiach the King Messiah Yeshua that without the shedding of His atoning blood (everlasting) no one can stand before God eternally in the Olam Haba (World to Come) John 3:13-21.
Veiling the Bride
This signifies that the groom’s love for her is for both her outward and her inner beauty, and also that the two are distinct individuals even after marriage. This custom also connects the modern wedding to the historical Biblical account of Jacob, who was tricked into marrying the sister of the woman he loved (Jewish tradition suggests that Leah was veiled). If the groom does the veiling himself, deceit of this sort can be avoided Gen. 29:16-28.
Circling the Groom
A Jewish bride makes either three or seven circuits around the groom. The circling itself represents Israel returning to God after her rebellion and becoming part of the “new thing” which God brings about through the redemption found in the King Messiah. This is based on the text of Jeremiah 31:22 “For YHVH has created a new thing on the land (of Israel):
A woman will encompass a man.”
The number three relates to the threefold Biblical phrase concerning Israel’s betrothal to HaShem (God/YHVH): “I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in favour and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness and trust. Then you will intimately know the Lord.” -Hosea 2:19-20.
The threefold circling also reflects the threefold commitment of the groom made to the wife in the ketubah agreement. He covenants to provide, food, clothing & shelter, and conjugal relations.
The number seven reflects the creation week and the sheva brachot (the seven marriage blessings).
Kiddush Cup (Sanctification cup)
Kiddush means sanctification. The Kos kiddush (Kiddush cup) is blessed twice and drunk once in order to convey the two very distinct but connected occasions of betrothal and marriage as practiced in ancient times. The fruit of the vine (grape juice/wine) is a symbol of both blood covering and prosperity. Therefore, the kiddush cup denotes atonement (the means of reconciliation), sanctification (a process), and prosperity (the result).
Traditionally the groom gives a ring and the bride receives it (in modern observance it’s become common for both groom and bride to offer rings). No women may be married unless she consents to receiving the groom’s proposal. Likewise, no human being can enter eternity with God unless that person willingly receives His sacrificial substitutionary offer of redemption and life everlasting. The ring symbolizes an everlasting covenant. The joining of a man and a woman makes them echad (a complex unity). Marriage between a man and a woman is till death, and in Messiah those aspects of marriage that are transcendent remain Gen 2:24.
It’s customary to place the ring on the index finger of the left hand. This is based on the ancient belief that this finger is connected to the blood vessel that connects directly to the lev (heart) which in Hebrew denotes the center of a person’s being rather than the seat of emotion. In other words, love is eternal and transcends temporal emotion.
Ketubah (To write)
Like the traditional ring giving, the ketubah is given by the groom to the bride. In it the groom covenants to provide for the bride in every aspect of their lives together. Like the salvation and sanctification offered by God through the Groom Yeshua (Jesus) to humanity, the ketubah and its promises are the obligation of the groom, the bride need only receive the covenant offered. This teaches us that salvation is the work of God and not of ourselves. In and of ourselves we are unable to atone for the sins of the past (we are not time travelers, nor are we devoid of evil intentions), nor can we effect salvation by any means. Knowing this God our Creator provided His own eternal blood through Yeshua Melekh HaMashiach the King Messiah Yeshua before the creation of the world 1 Peter 1:19-21; Rev. 13:8, so that all who receive Him (Yeshua) might be reconciled to God for eternity in the same way that an honorable bride is joined to her groom by receiving the ketubah covenant which he offers her.
While there are many interpretations of this custom, there are at least two primary orthodox explanations. The first is that with few exceptions all the covenants of Torah are made by “cutting”. The Hebrew B’rit (covenant) is formed from the word bara meaning to cut. The second is that the breaking of the glass reminds us that the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans and that the joy of Israel cannot be fully realized until the temple is rebuilt at the (second) coming of the King Messiah.
Our Messianic view adds the understanding that the cup of the covenant entered into by the groom and bride is symbolic of their intimacy with one another and the life (progeny) that comes forth from that union. Therefore, because they alone have drunk from it and they have committed to loving each other and forsaking all others with regard to sexual intimacy, the breaking of the cup seals that commitment and acts as a warning to any who might seek to drink from it, thus lacerating their lips. This is symbolic of a death curse upon any who would practice adultery (one of the things alluded to in Birkat Erusin [Betrothal blessing] of the Jewish wedding covenant).
Alphabetic Transliterated Hebrew Word List:
B’rit – covenant
Bara - to cut
Birkat Erusin - Betrothal blessing
Chuppah - Wedding canopy
Chatan – groom
Erusin/Kiddushin – betrothal (sanctification)
HaShem - God/YHVH
Kalah – bride
Kaparah – atonement
Kavod - Glory
Ketubah – The Groom’s Covenant Agreement with his Bride
Kippah - covering
Lev – Center of being/heart
HaMashiach – The Messiah (Christ)
Melekh – King
Mishkan – Tent of meeting
Nissuin - Wedding ceremony (marriage, carried)
Olam Haba - World to Come
Shekhinah - Dwelling, settling
Sheva brachot - Seven marriage blessings
Tallit – Prayer Shawl
Torah – Five books of Moses
Yeshua – Jesus
Copyright 2022 Yaakov Brown
Art Copyright 2022 Azariah Brown
Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,