The Connection Between a Jewish Wedding and the Revelation at Sinai

Ma'amad Har Sinai, The Revelation at Sinai which we read in Parshat Yitro is actually the wedding between God and the Jewish people and is in many ways similar to a wedding between a bride and groom.

Before their wedding, the bride and sometimes the groom spiritually prepare themselves by ritually immersing in a mikvah. On the wedding day, both the bride and groom fast in order to disassociate themselves from the physical and direct their consciousness toward the spiritual aspect of marriage. Their love is so strong at that moment, they can't even think about food.

The stage is set and the guests are surrounding the chupah. The parents of the bride and groom hold candles as they escort them to the chupah. There are instruments playing and voices singing. The bride and groom are shaking and nervous.

Standing under the chupah is the moment of truth where the bride and groom affirm their total commitment to each other. The groom writes and gives the Ketubah, the marriage contract, to his bride showing that this is a long term commitment and he will provide for all of her needs. She accepts the Ketubah as well as the ring which represents the endless bond between husband and wife.

Ma'amad Har Sinai was a similar experience.

The Jewish people prepared themselves spiritually. They immersed in the mikvah and fasted. The proof that they immersed in a mikvah: (Shmot 19:10) "Sanctify them today and tomorrow and they shall wash their clothing". Ramban, quoting the Mechilta comments: When the Torah talks about washing clothing, it is referring to ritual immersion.

There is proof that they fasted (Shmot 24:11) "The people had a vision of God and they ate and drank". According to the Zohar, they didn't eat physical food. Rather, their vision of God was their nourishment. They didn't have to eat physical food. They were fully able to concentrate on the spiritual.

At Mt. Sinai, there was an atmosphere. (Shmot 19:16) "There was thunder, there was lightning, a heavy cloud covered the mountain, the sound of the shofar was very powerful, the people shuddered. In this very pasuk, we have the lights, we have the music, we have the chupah and the people are nervous.

Moshe escorts the Jewish people to greet God (Shmot 19:17) "Moshe brought the people out from the camp towards God and they stood at the bottom of the mountain".

At this point, the mountain was above their heads, literally like a chupah. In the words of the Gemara in Shabbat: God covered them with the mountain as though it were an upturned vat.

At this wedding, instead of a ring being given, God gave the Jewish people the Torah. The Torah is actually like a ring, it is endless. As soon as we finish reading it, we begin again. The Torah is the endless bond between God and the Jewish people.

Even the Ketubah has a parallel in the Torah, the Sefer HaBrit. (Shmot 24:7) "Moshe took the book of the covenant and read it in the ears of the people". According to Chizkuni, the Sefer HaBrit was the list from Sefer Vayikra of God's obligations to the Jewish people and the Jewish people's obligations to God. The people responded: "All that you have spoken, we will do and we will listen". The Jewish people expressed their commitment to God, the Torah and the mitzvoth.

Every Jewish wedding, Ashkenazi or Sephardi, small or large, lavish or simple has something in common it's similarity to Ma'amad har Sinai. As the Jewish people committed themselves to God at Sinai, so too do bride and groom commit themselves to each other under the chupah.

One more thought. After the first luchot, tablets were broken Moshe ascended Mt. Sinai for another 40 days and nights. Then God gave the second set of luchot. The way that the luchot were given the second time was different than the first. There were no kolot u'vrakim, there was no thunder and lightning. Although this revelation was far simpler, it was more lasting---the second luchot, unlike the first, were never broken.

This sends us a message that a wedding should have a certain amount of humility in both the way that the wedding and celebration are conducted as well as in the way that the bride and groom commit themselves to each other. To remind us of the importance of weddings being humble, there was an ancient custom where a table at the wedding was set up for the poor to come and eat. This parallels the broken pieces of the first luchot which received a permanent place in the ark. This teaches us that even on one of the happiest days of our lives we should not forget those who are less fortunate. The broken ones should also be included.

The breaking of the glass under the chupah evokes Moshe's breaking of the tablets under the mountain and our responsibility to those whose lives have been broken.

I will never forget when on the morning of her elegant wedding, a bride called me to find out how she could donate the flowers from her wedding to a nursing home. I was so moved by the fact that amidst her last minute preparations, instead of just worrying about her hair, make-up and dress, she was concerned about brightening up the day of people she didn't even know. She understood the message of the broken glass.

This Shabbat, when we read the Aseret HaDibrot, we will in fact be simulating the moment of Sinai. When we witness a wedding ceremony, that Sinaitic moment is re-enacted again.

The challenge for all of us is how to bring the revelation at Sinai into every day of our lives.