IMPORTANT: This post should be read while listening to “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof.
Welcome back to the continuing saga of planning our daughter Casey’s October wedding to her fiancé Alex at the Norwalk Aquarium.
As reported very early in the wedding planning process, the ceremony will be performed by Casey’s life-long friend Jim, who has absolutely none of the usual qualifications to do such a thing except that he is a brilliant writer and, unlike any other religious or civic official we could get, actually cares about the people getting married.
Now that we’re coming down the homestretch, Jim wants to know if there is anything we require in a ceremony, such as traditional words or actions or that it not be in Gallifreyan.*
This necessitated an email from Casey to my wife Barbara and me:
He (Jim) wants a list of traditional stuff we want him to hit upon, like the glass. Is it just the stepping on the glass and the kiddush cup? Do we have to do the kiddush cup since none of us know what the heck the kiddush blessing is? Or can it be more about the fact we’re using the same (kiddush cup) you used, so like, we’re starting our life the same way blah blah blah.
Which prompted the following reply from Barbara:
The kiddush cup is more about both of you taking a sip of wine. sharing the wine as you will life from then on. And drinking from the glass that your parents drank from 31 years ago. Blah blah blah.
Well, I now know what to write on my next anniversary card to Barbara: “Happy 31st blah blah blah.” And you, dear reader, know that my family is not exactly comprised of what you’d call “practicing Jews,” unless you mean it in the sense that we need a lot of practice.
Anyway, Barbara then did some research and came up with this, which I have edited:
Before you were born, you and your soulmate were one, a single soul. Then, as your time to enter this world approached, God shattered that single soul into two parts. These two half-souls were then born into the world with a mission to try to find each other and reunite. With marriage, two halves are reuniting, never to part again. Ironically, it was only by being torn apart and living lives away from each other that were you able to develop as individuals, to mature and grow. And so you break a glass under the chupah and immediately say a congratulatory wish of Mazel Tov! Because now, in retrospect, even the splitting of souls is reason to be joyous, for it gave your connection the possibility for real depth and meaning.
I know it’s a bad idea to mix rational thinking and religion, but I’m really having trouble with the second sentence above, primarily because Alex is a couple of years older than Casey. You mean my daughter’s half of the soul had to sit around for two years in some sort of prenatal nook until it was time to take her off the shelf?
Other than that, the whole thing makes perfect sense to me**…except for the breaking the glass part, which is the only part that’s relevant to Jim’s question. If breaking the glass symbolizes the long-ago break-up of the souls, why does it come at the end of the ceremony? Shouldn’t it come before the couple is once again joined together?
Fortunately, Barb found another explanation for breaking the glass:
It reminds us that love, like glass, is fragile and must be protected. The glass is broken to protect the marriage with an implied prayer: “May your marriage last as long as it would take to repair this glass.” The shattering of the glass concludes the ceremony on a high note.
Am I missing something? If the glass is broken to protect the marriage, then the marriage shouldn’t be as fragile as the glass because it’s protected. And how is it a “high note” to say “congratulations, may your marriage not fall apart because you were a little klutzy while emptying the dishwasher”?
Since neither of the above explanations was satisfactory to me, I made one up:
The sharing of the wine is to signal that the end of the ceremony is near, and that soon everyone will be able to get drunk at the open bar. The breaking of the glass is a reminder not to get too rowdy in the aquarium and cause major flooding.
The truth is, Jim, as it is with many traditions, no one really remembers why we do these stupid things. As Tevye says in Fiddler on the Roof, “You may ask, ‘How did this tradition get started?’ I’ll tell you. I don’t know. But it’s a tradition.”
Since no one knows why we follow these traditions, many of which are ridiculous if you give them any thought at all, people make stuff up. And I trust you can invent reasons that are at least as rational and, perhaps, more touching.
See you soon.
*Doctor Who reference. For the uninitiated, Gallifrey is the Doctor’s home planet. Although if the ceremony was in Gallifreyan, everyone would hear it in English through some process that I’ve never entirely understood.
**You can’t see it, but I’m holding up a “sarcasm” sign.