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Books: On The Chabad Chasidic Wedding

By , Lubavitch Headquarters

The ninth of Av (this year corresponding to August 10) concluded a three week period of commemorative mourning on the Jewish calendar during which no weddings are scheduled. With weddings resuming this week, lubavitch.com reviews a new book that explores a custom unique to the Chabad chasidic wedding.

(lubavitch.com) A mysterious part of the Chasidic Jewish wedding ceremony became a lot easier to understand with a new publication from Chabad-Lubavitch’s publishing house.

At Chabad weddings, before anyone sets off down the aisle, a number of moving rituals take place. Guests of all backgrounds get the meaning behind the emotional moments as a father blesses his son and a bride receives her veil. But often, respectful silence turns to befuddlement when the groom sits to recite his ‘maamar,’ one of two 112-line discourses customarily recited according to Chabad-Lubavitch tradition.

“It’s twenty minutes long, and in a language many guests do not understand. You see them trying to be supportive, but to many it’s like a really, really long Kiddush blessing,” said Tali Rosenthal owner of Events Enchanted, an LA based wedding planner.

Kehot Publication Society took a step to end the confusion with the release of Majestic Bride. Like its 21 other siblings in the Chasidic Heritage Series, Majestic Bride unfurls the meaning of the discourses with an English translation and very extensive notes.

Majestic Bride “traces the kabbalistic meaning of the order of the wedding ceremony from when we first welcome the groom, walk with the groom to welcome the bride, and the bride’s face is covered with a veil,” said Rabbi Avraham Vaisfiche, co-translator and annotator of the book.

The discourses reveal the kabbalistic aspects of the Jewish marriage ceremony, showing that their spiritual roots go deeper than tribalism and tradition. Using kabbalistic terminology and plenty of analogies, the text of the discourses aims to explain how the rituals of the ceremony symbolize the process of give and take in relationships, explained Rabbi Ari Sollish, co-translator and annotator of Majestic Bride.

“In order to create a full relationship between two individuals, there has to be a process of give and take. An external connection precedes a lasting connection.” Or in everyday English: “You can’t have a deep and fulfilling marriage without taking the garbage bags out. It’s the small things that create a place for the deeper relationship.”

Majestic Bride is one of the most frequently memorized in the vast library of Chabad Lubavitch Chasidic discourses. Every Chabad groom will at least attempt to recite it at his wedding, often by heart, sometimes with cheat sheets. There are two discourses to choose from, one written by the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn, and the other by the seventh Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.

Prior to his own wedding, Rabbi Vaisfiche, now director of adult education at Chabad of Mission Viejo, CA, studied “a few weeks” to recite the sixth Rebbe’s discourse in its original Hebrew. “It is not so many pages, it is deeper than wider. To go and understand it, that is what you need the time for.” Even with the translation, into modern English – no thee’s or thou’s – and notes, there are many kabbalistic concepts in the discourse that require concentration to grasp.

From his home in Atlanta, GA, Rabbi Sollish, director of the In Town Jewish Academy, recalled for Lubavitch.com that he chose to deliver his own Yiddish translation of the discourse by the most recent Lubavitcher Rebbe. “The Rebbe’s discourse includes insights from all the Rebbes of previous generations,” he said.  Sharing the wisdom of the earlier leaders of Chabad at the most meaningful day of his life was an act of “inviting the authors of those ideas to my wedding.”

Today, when Alison Hendeles, an Events Enchanted associate, hears the groom beginning to recite the Chasidic maamer, she knows she has a good 20 minutes to resolve catering issues, sew fallen bridal dress hems, or fix flowers around the wedding canopy.

With Majestic Bride as a companion, the rest of the wedding party and guests will now have an opportunity to join the groom on a meaningful kabbalistic journey to a better marriage. 

The book is available online, at the Kehot Publication Society website.

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