Cup at a Wedding
by Hakham Rabbi
Q. What is the
source for the Hathan (bridegroom) breaking the cup after
the marriage ceremony, by throwing it against a wall?
A. In the Babylonian
Talmud it is written that Mar the son of Rabina did a wedding
for his son. He saw that the Rabbis were becoming very merry,
so he brought a precious cup worth four hundred zuz and broke
it in front of them and they became serious. Rab Ashi did
a wedding for his son. He saw that the Rabbis were becoming
very merry, so he brought a cup of white crystal and broke
it in front of them and they became serious. The reason being,
that as long as the Bet Hammiqdash (Temple) has not been rebuilt,
we must remember the destruction of Jerusalem in our celebrations.
And this is the origin of breaking a cup at a wedding.
There are different
opinions about whether the cup should be of glass or earthenware,
such as porcelain. In either case, the purpose is to remind
us of our sadness that Jerusalem has not been rebuilt. In
regard to this, I would like to comment on the following:
When the cup is
wrapped in a napkin and trodden on, the guests do not see
it and the purpose of breaking it, which is to sadden those
present, has been defeated. (Obviously one should not stop
those who have this custom from doing it their way as is explained
in Mekor Ha-Hayyim). An additional problem is that since the
cup is covered and taped no-one sees what is inside.
And almost invariably, the caterer has placed a burned out
light bulb inside instead of a cup. I have even had cases
where I have asked the caterer to bring me a cup to break
instead of the light bulb, where the caterer absolutely refused.
Apparently the cost of a cup was not included in the tens
of thousands he charged for the wedding!
In his holy work
Ben Ish Hai, Hakham Yoseph Hayyim, ah, writes
that the custom of the land is to break a small glazed porcelain
cup and he mentions a few reasons for this. One is based on
the writings of the Rama and another is that one may be concerned
that when the cup is thrown against the wall to break it,
glass would shatter more dangerously than porcelain. He adds
that this is the custom and may not be changed.
I would like to
add that those who understand the reason for breaking a cup
will realise that this is a sad moment during the ceremony.
In fact, our custom is for the Hathan (bridegroom) to say
quietly I will place Jerusalem above my rejoicing
when he throws it against a wall.
From the Newsletter
of Midrash Ben Ish Hai
The origin of the custom is the Biblical injunction in Psalm
137 to remember Jerusalem above our chief joy. Breaking a
cup at the wedding is meant to be a sad moment and not a moment
of celebration as some guests start clapping at that act.
The correct procedure
is to put a glazed coffee cup unwrapped inside a small wooden
box and the Hathan breaks it with his foot.
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