Isidore Singer.

The Jewish encyclopedia : a descriptive record of the history, religion, literature, and customs of the Jewish people from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 8) online

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83 (85)

lb. p. 178.




83 (92)

" Statist. Handbuch,"
1881, p. 24.




91 (97)

83 (89)

Bergmann, I.e. p. 96.



82 (87)

"Jour. Stat. Soc." 1880,

p. 363.

St. Peters-


83 (78)


Korosi, I.e. p. 172.


This is probably due to the greater viability of
Jews, since the longer husband and wife live the less
likely either is to contract a second marriage. Thus
among Jews in Budapest in 1870 no less than 66 per
cent of those over 50 had husband, or wife, living,
as against 51 per cent among Catholics and 53 per
cent among Protestants ("Statist. Jahrb." 1873, p.
38). It is probable that Jews more frequently than
others marry their cousins. Jacobs has shown this
for England, where marriage of cous-
ins occurs to the extent of 7.5 percent
of all marriages as against 2 per cent
in the general population ("Studies
in Jewish Statistics," ch. i.); Stieda
has shown the same for Lorraine, where such mar-
riages occur in the proportion of 23.02 per 1,000
among Jews as against 1.86 among Protestants,
and 9.97 among Catholics.

The following table gives the pi-oportion of inter-
marriages between Jews and Christians, and be-




Marriag'e Ceremonies



tween Christians and Jewesses,
places mentioned:

at the times and


c= S

cn rt





Algeria —




"Ann. Stat. France," 1881,
p. 581.

Bavaria —




"Zeit. Bay. Stat." 1881, p.





" Statist. Jahrb." Ix. 8.




Ruppln, I.e. p. 761.

Budapest . .




" Pest in 1880," p. 12.





"Statist. Handbucb," 1881,
p. 24.





Fircks, "Zeit. Preus. Stat."
1880, p. 16.

Vienna .




Korosi, I.e. p. 18.

Relatively speaking, mixed marriages are not very
numerous (see Intermakhiage).

The creeds professed by divorced persons are
rarely given, so that it is difficult to ascertain
whether Jews are divorced more frequently than
others. In Bavaria, between 1863 and 1865, di-
vorces were 5.1 per cent in Jewish
Divorces, marriages as against 6.1 per cent in
Protestant and 5.7 per cent in Catho-
lic marriages ("Annales de Demographic," 1882, p.
290). In Berlin, 1885-86, Jewish divorces were 2.7
as against 3.6 for Protestants and 2.7 for Catholics;
ten years later the figures were — Jews, 3.3; Protes-
tants, 4.7; Catholics, 3.3 (Ruppin, I.e. 1902, p. 385).

Bibliography : .Jacobs, Studies in Jewish Statistics, pp.

J .


the sexes was much restricted among the Jews,
and the Betrothal was generally brought about
by a third peison, often a professional match-maker
("shadkan"). The latter received a brokerage-fee
fixed by law, as a rule a small percentage of the
dowry, the sum being doubled when the contracting
parties came from a distance. It was paid by
either of the parties, or each paid one-half, at tiie
betrothal or after the wedding. The rabbi, as a per-
son enjoying special confidence, was also often em-
ployed as intermediary ; it is well known that Jacob
Levi of Mayence lived upon fees thus derived, while
he devoted his income as rabbi to assisting his
pupils. Although the marriage preliminaries were
exclusively the concern of the parents and their
agents, yet the J'oung people were in nowise forced
into the contract.

Early marriages were frequent; apart from moral
considerations, they were often due to political con-
ditions; in Russia, for example, tiie Jews were sub-
ject to conscription, but those who Avere married
men were excused from military service. Social
conditions also had some; influence: a father, pos
sessing the dowry for his child, urged the marriage
so as to secure tlie dowry to lier before one of the
numberless persecutions robbed him of it. The be-
trothal was concluded, conditionally or definitely,
as soon as tlic amount of the "' kcnas " (the penalty
for breaking the contract) was fixed; however,
it iiad, [r<'iierallv, no religious or leiral sisxiiiti-

cance, since the Talmudic custom of immediately
connecting the betrothal ("kiddushin ") and the nup-
tial ceremony ("ertisiu"), and of having the mar-
riage proper follow la.ter (" nissu'in "), fell more and
more into disuse in the Middle Ages. At the be-
trothal the stipulations made by each party were
fixed ("tena'im rishonim "), and a glass was thrown
upon the floor, the broken pieces of which were
saved to be laid tipon the eyes of the espoused
pair after death.

In Poland, even to-day, the bridegroom receives
pastry ("chosenbrod ") when he visits his betrothed.
During the week before the weddiug-
Prelimina- day the betrothed pair was allowed
ries. to leave the house only when accom-

panied. On Friday evening, or some-
times two Sabbaths, before the wedding, a feast was
given in honor of the parents; this feast was com-
monly called " spinnholz " (" sponsalia" or " spindel "),
or, in Poland, " vorspiel. " On the day befoi-e the wed-
ding the most prominent members of the community
carried the presents of the groom to the l)ride with
special ceremonies; as was customary also in non-
Jewish circles, the presents consisted generally of a
girdle, veil ("covering" before the ceremony still
obtains, in conformity with Rebekah's example),
mantle ("kursen"), and wreath, subsequently also
of a "siflones tefiUah," a prayer-book with the in-
scription niym n^h^ ninSI ninX (" Love, fraternity,
peace, and good-fellowsliip "). Among the Greco-
Turkish Jews a ring was included, called " nissu'in " ;
among the Greeks and Romans it was called "sym-
bolum " (lience tlie Jewish " siflones "). The groom
received a ring and shoes, latera tallitand a shroud.
The rings were handed down in the family ; the
rings were formerly often of fine workmanshiji.
having the miniature model of a synagogue carved
on them and the inscription i<-lJ 2133, later fjio
2^t2 (= "good luck ").

Two weddings on one day, especially of brothers
or sisters, were avoided, and it was considered un-
lucky if the father-in-law and the son-
Day of in-law had the same name. In Tal-
Wedding. mudic times virgins were married pref-
erably on Wednesday, and widows on
Thursday (later, on Friday afternoon), a custom
that still obtains in tiie East. A wedding in Ma-
yence at the end of the foiu'teenth century took the
"following course: Early in the morning tiie "schul-
klopfer" invited the whole community to the cere-
mony. The leaders took the bridegroom, with
music and candles, to the court of the synagogue;
then the musicians and candle-bearers brought the
bride with her friends and an escort of women. At
the door of the synagogue the groom took the
bride's hand, while the two were showered with
wheat and coins (given afterward to the poor), and
Ps. cxlvii. 14, and later Gen. i. 28 ("Be fruitful, and
multiply "), were recited as a greeting ; after this they
sat for a short time, iiand in hand, on the bench in
front of the synagogue. Then the bride was escorted
liomc, where she put (ni the festive robe of the mar-
ried, and under it the shroud (••,sargenes"). The
groom also modilied his festive appearance by
(Irawing tiie liood ("gugel"") over his head, which
he strewed with ashes; even to-day the groom in



Marriage Ceremonies

eastern Europe wears the sargeues. ^Yitll this sign
of mourning for Zion even at the height of liunian
felicity, belonged in Talnuidic times another— the
l)reaking of a glass, the picees of which were
gathered up by girls "for luck," while the "sham-
mas" cried out "Zeh ha-ot " (= "This is the sign"),
and all jiresent responded " Mazzal tob." The grief
at Zion's loss appeared likewise in the mournful
strains of the wedding-songs in the Talmud, as also
in the poems of Judah ha-Levi, who first composed
individual "carinina" on the model of Ps. xlv. and
the "kallah " songs down to the eighteenth century.
As soon as the groom had sat down beside the
Ark of the Law, the morning prayer began, after
which the bride was led with music to the door of
the synagogue; thence she was escorted bj'^ the
rabbi and the elders of the community to the bemah
(see Almemak), taking her place at the right of the
groom (comp. Ps. xlv. 10 [A. V. 9], in whicii

Marriage Ceremony.

(From a Passover Hagiradah, Amsterdam, 1695.)

the last letters of the words -]yD''h hi^ n3VJ
[•'upon thy right hand did stand the queen "J, taken
in reverse order, spell nf'D ["bride"]), where the
mothers of the young couple stood. Bride and
groom were covered with the tallit, or with the long
end of the groom's gugel, and wedded. Later the
wedding-tent (" huppah ") came into use; this was
a reminiscence of the litter in which the bride was
formerly carried or of the room in which the couple

were left alone for a time. Then the

The groom was escorted home, and after

Huppah. him the bride, whom he met at the

door and as she entered he placed
her hand on the upper post, thus making her the
mistress of the house. The wedding-festival proper,
in the bride's house, did not begin until the eve-
ning; it lasted luitil Sunday morning, but was inter-
rupted by the Sabbath morning service. At this,
as at every service, the groom was tiie center of in-
terest ; in his honor songs were rendered that grew
more numerous as marriages became less frequent,
and more solemn as the social and political condition
of the Jews was rendered more unfortunate. On re-

turning home the groom handed to his young wife
his mantle, girdle, and hat to signify that she shared
his property.

The bridal procession (mentioned in Biblical wri-
tings) was headed, among the Spanish Jews, by
niimes, fiddlers, and armed riders. In Egypt the
bride was decked with helmet and sword, while the
groom and his escort wore feminine garments and
colored their finger-nails with henna, as women did.
The women played the cymbals and danced. Even
the most dignified scholars, also, danced in Talmudic
times. Later, music was regarded as an essential
partof the wedding, non-Jews being engaged to play
on the Sabbath, while on the other hand Jewish
musicians played at the festivities of Christians.
The garlanding of the bridal pair, a custom of Bib-
lical origin that was carried to an extreme of extrava-
gance, ceased with the destruction of the Temple ; yet
the myrtle-wreath of the bride has been retained.
Even in New Testament times young girls with
torches escorted the pair (ilatt. xxv.); in Arabia
a pole to the top of which a light has been fastened
iu carried at the head of the procession. In Bagdad
the groom is accompanied to the house of the bride by
poor ]ieople carrying lamps, and he distributes for
this service coins among them. On the way the poor
thrust live sheep in front of him, and whenever he
steps on the head of one he gives a certain amount to
its owner. The bride is usually led seven times (or
at least once) around the groom; or both sit while
the people, old and young, dance around them. Ac-
cording to an ancient Persian custom in Tahnudic
times, nuts and flowers were strewn in the path of
the pair, and they were showered with barley which
had been planted in a pot shortly before the wed-
ding (on the use of hops in this connection see Helm,
"Kulturpflanzen," p. 488; and on the use of rice
among the Indians, whose wedding-customs are very
similar to those of the Jews, see Dorville, "Gescli.
der Verschiedenen Volker des Erdbodens ''). On the
bi4-th of a boy a cedar was planted ; on that of a girl,
an acacia; and when the girl became a bride her lit-
ter was made from the branches of that acacia. In
Germany the young couple's first meal consisted of
milk and honey, and salt was sprinkled in the house
(comp. Num. xviii. 19). In Tur Malka two hens
are carried before the couple, and

Wedding- after the wedding chicken is placed
Feast. before them ("chosenluihndel ''). In
the East they jump over a vessel con-
taining a fish, and in Germany fish was formerly
eaten on the second day of the wedding week ; all
these customs are symbols of fertility.

The fasting of the bridal pair dates back to the
Talmud; it is either due to the fact that their sins
are forgiven or is intended to remind them of the
duty of temperance. The wedding-songs were oft-
en in the form of riddles, following Biblical prece-
dent (Samson's wedding), and were improvised espe-
cially by the jester ("mar.schalik "), who, however,
at times moved his hearers to tears by serious
speech, as he still does in eastern Europe. Plays also
were given, a practise which prevailed otherwise
only at Purim.

Before tlie fourteenth century the presence of the
rabbi was not required ; nor did he speak at the cer-

Marriagre Ceremonies



eraony, though he did at the feast, -wheii the groom
hkewise deli vereda " derashah " (Talmudic discourse ;
hence the use of the word " derashah " for weddiug-
gifts). Weddings were occasional Ij' celebrated in the
open air in the Middle Ages, although the Talmud
protested against the custom ; it was done probabl}'
because of the limited space in the synagogue or in
the bride's house; later the custom was interpreted
symbolically (comp. Gen. xv. 5). At the synagogue
service on the Sabbath after the wedding the con-
gregation read to the groom the chapter on Isaac's
marriage, a custom that ceased in Europe with the
seventeenth century. In the East the Arabic transla-
tion is read in addition to the Hebrew.

During the seven blessings at the ceremony the
bride and the groom, in accordance with a wide-
spread superstition, each tried to secure the mastery
in the household by putting one of the feet on the
foot of the other. At the time of the Geonim (as
occasionally to-day in the East) these seven blessings
were uttered twice — once in the house of a relative
of the bride, whither the latter had been taken from
her father's house on the evening before the day
of the wedding, and once in the house of the

The ring, without stone or inscription, is put on
the first finger of the bride's right hand. The mar-
riage certificate, the wording of which varies accord-
ing to time and place (Chorny, "Sefer ha-Massa'ot,"
p. 242; Riuman, "Mas'ot Shelomoh,"
The "Ke- pp. 156, 159; Kaufmann, in "Mouats-

tubah." schrift," 1897; S. Krauss, in "Zeit.
fur Ilebr. Bibl." 1901; A. Berliner, in
"Mekize Nirdamim," ix.), dates from the Hellenis-
tic period; among the Sephardim, especially the
Italian Sephardim, and in Cochin, it was artistically
ornamented. In early times it often bore the por-
traits of the bridal pair. Among the Jews of the
Caucasus it is sometimes put in the grave (Chorny,
I.e. p. 26).

Tlic reports of travelers concerning the marriage
ceremonies among the Oriental Jews are interesting.
Thus Rinman tells of the White Jews at Cochin : If
the contracting i)arties have come to an understand-
ing, the couple are taken before the elders of the com-
munity, the eldest of wliom asks the groom whether
he consents to tiie union; if he lias parents, lie an-
swers. "The will of my parents is my will " ; if not,
"I desire iier." Then the Itride is questioned, and
if she also consents, the elder takes a cup of wine and
drinks t<> tlie iiealtii of the pair, the others present
doing likewise; tiien tliey partake of coffee and
confectionery and leave. On tiiedayof the wedding
tlie groom wears a wiiite turban and the bride a fine
cap; after tiie ceremony l)oth clothe themselves in
red silk, and on liie seventii day in green silk or
in silk of some other color.

The costs of the feast are borne by the father of the

bride, the father of the groom furnishing only wine

and meat (often forty beeves during the fifteen days

of the feast, although Ixef is given only

Customs of to the servants, the guests being fed

Cochin. with fowl). The owner of tiie largest

house in the community surrend'rs

his ii})artments for the wedding festivities. On the

Sabbath the groom spreads a feast for ids friends:

then the whole community goes to the house of the
bride to escort her to the house of one of her relatives,
who serves coffee to them. At the end of the Sabbath
the bride is led to the house in which the ceremony
is to take jilace, and there the people eat and drink
until after midnight. On the following evening
the bride is led to the mikweh, or ritual bath. On
Tuesdaj' morning the goldsmith comes to make the
ring for the bride, which she wears until her death.
While she puts the ring on, the women sing IVIala-
barian songs. In the evening the groom is led with
music to the synagogue, where he stands on the steps
before the Ark of the Law and recites the evening
prayer with the congregation. Then the whole com-
munity, with the sound of trumpets and drums, calls
for the bride, who walks under a kind of sun-um-
brella carried by her father, in accordance with a
Talmudic law. She sits down with her bridesmaids
to the right of the Ark; before her stands a sil-
ver inkstand, to be used by the signatories to the

The groom, in the tallit, sits down opposite her
with his two best men ; the hazzan thereupon fills a
golden cup with wine and gives it to the groom,
receiving in return 7^ francs ; and the groom, reciting
the first blessing, drinks part of the wine and gives
some to the bride. Then he hands her the ring,
with the words : " Thou, , daughter of , art be-
trothed unto me, , son of , according to the

law of Moses and Israel. " Thereupon the ketubah is
read to a certain melody, and the groom gives it to
the bride, after having thrice repeated, " Here is thy
ketubah." The hazzan then causes the groom to
take hold of his tallit, and to promise that he " will
fulfil his duties as husband. " After the hazzan has
pronounced the seven blessings, the bride is un-
veiled, to the song " Yafah kalebanah," based on
Cant. vi. 10. Hand in hand, the young couple now
proceed, with music and torch-bearers, and followed
by the people, to the house in which the festivities
are to be held. There the groom dances with his
friends and the bride with hers, and all partake of
refreshments. At 10 o'clock they sit down to the
feast, the bridal couple at the head of the table, and
next to them the leaders of the community, men on
the one side and women on the other. The old
people call out " Yehi he-hatan weha-kallah ! "
(Long live groom and bride!), and the young peo-
ple answer, " Hep ! Hep ! " (This custom is derived
from the Portuguese.) The hazzan then sings, the
community responding, after which the elders sing,
and the hazzan pronounces grace and intones Ps.
cxi., "Eshet Hayil," and finally the seven blessings
(a different elder of the community blesses the bride
and groom on each of the seven wedding-days).
Then the young people dance with the groom, clap
their hands, and again sing Ps. cxi.

On 'Wednesday evening the groom goes to the
bride, who has assumed a white gown, which the
women take away as soon as the groom is gone. The
next day the elder women, after a meal, gather to
pass judgment on the virtue of the young wife. On
the following Sabbath there is another feast. In the
synagogue is read from a piintcd copy of the Torah
the section, "And Abraham had reached the days,"
with the Aramaic translation. After the service

Marriage Ceremonies



every one gathers in the house of festivity ; the
bride, in gorgeous garments, with a wreatii of pearls
on her head, stands in front of lier throne, the women
sing before her, the men eat, drink, and dance, and
then all sit down to dinner. Smaller feasts are held
daily until the following Wednesday. On Tuesday
evening there is a greater feast, when the guests
present their gifts. There is no difference between
the weddings of the rich and the poor, since the rich
give to the poor everything that is required for
the occasion.

In Cochin and among the Cingalese the follovi^-
ing order is observed : The bride counts seven days
from the day on which the groom de-
In Ceylon, clares his intention of marrying her.
On the night before the eighth day she
takes a bath, the women assisting her, and singing.
The next night, called " kofa," she is led with music
to the women's ritual bath, after which the rabbi
sings a song beginning " Yafah kalebanah Torah "
(an acrostic containing "Yizhak"); a Torah-roll,
opened at the Decalogue, is placed, before the bride,
who kisses it while putting her hand to her eyes.
Then the rabbi blesses lier, placing his hand on her
head. The people eat, and sing acrostics with
tlie names " Abraham " and " Solomon " ; after wash-
ing their hands they say grace and go home. On
the following day they gather again in the wed-
ding-house; the bride places the presents of the
groom in a vessel, and the goldsmith examines the
gold and silver to see that they are not below the
minimum value of one " peruta " or mite each. Here,
also, the women sing. At a second gathering on the
same day the groom appears with his hair cut, hav-
ing bathed and donned new garments, including a
new turban ; as soon as he comes to the table the
guests sing Ps. cxxii., the groom is placed among
them, and they recite Esth. viii. 15 et seq. ; he is then
blessed and sits down at table. This meal is called
"ajni." After dinner the rabbi sings " Kalil hatan
li-berakah," and the several blessings of grace are
recited in turn by various guests. The next evening
the people proceed with music and songs to the syn-
agogue, where the groom and his best men ("sliush-
binini") light four wax candles; then the procession
marches to the wedding-house, where the bride is
waiting. She is placed on a chair, wrapped in a
large cloth, and the groom stands in front of her
and quotes again from tiie Book of Esther (viii. 15
et seq.). Then the groom himself, as is customary in
Yemen, pronounces, according to the version of
Maimonides, tiie first blessing over a cup of wine,
to whicli a silver ring is attached by a white thread.
He tastes the wine, tidies oil the ring, and gives tiie
cup to the bride witli the words " IJa iiiddushiki."
After drinking she gives the cup to some one in
the circle. The groom next places the ring on the
little finger of her right hand, using the same words
as before, and the rabbi reads the marriage cei-
tificate, after haying obligated tiie groom (by taking
hold of his mantle — "mekabbel kiriyan " — three
times) to fulfil tiie chief duties of the husband as
stated in the certificate. The certificate is signed by
the groom and two witnesses, and then given to the
bride. Songs follow, the bride is unveiled and placed
in a litter, and cups of wine are given to tiie groom

and the rabbi, who pronounces the seven blessings.
The ceremony ends with a song.

On the Sabbath morning the groom goes with his
relatives to the synagogue, where he is received
by the rabbi with the words of Ps. cxxii. He is
called up as the eighth to read the Torah, while the
leader in prayer recites a piyyut — " 'Arba'ah Keli-
lin." Before the second blessing the groom recites
by heart from Gen. xxiv. After the Haftarah the
words of Isa. Ixi. 10 are pronounced before the
blessings. When the groom leaves the synagogue
the rabbi repeats Ps. cxix., etc. Arrived at home,
the bride and groom are blessed by the rabbi, and
the people eat and sing. On the eve of the seventh
day of the wedding-week the bride and groom are
led with music to the synagogue, the rabbi reads
Ps. xliv., and the groom recites the evening prayer;
then they go to the wedding-house, where the rabbi
repeats " Yafah kalebanah," and the people feast and
sing •' Yismah hatan be-kallah."

In the town of Tilla on the Sabbath the passage
Gen. xxiv. is read to the groom from a second
Torah-roll, and the superintendent of the synagogue
renders the song "Mi Kanioka," by Judah ha-Levi
(in the Sephardic mahzor forPurim). On the morn-
ing of the third day the friends of the groom color
his hands and feet red (the people go barefoot in
Tilla); in the evening there is a great feast, after
which they shave the groom's head and put on tlie
turban the bride has given him, he, on his part, hav-

Online LibraryIsidore SingerThe Jewish encyclopedia : a descriptive record of the history, religion, literature, and customs of the Jewish people from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 8) → online text (page 84 of 169)