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The articles in this issue have been divided up into the following categories







Breaking the Cup at a Wedding

by Hakham Rabbi Ya’aqob Menashe

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, a”h, 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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