A JEWISH wit once explained why the groom smashes the glass under the chupah: He needs one last chance to put his foot down.
Tradition tells us the glass is smashed to remind us that even at one of the most joyful moments in life, we should pause to remember the world’s imperfection and destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, says Rabbi Yehuda Appel of Aish HaTorah.
There are other explanations for the tradition. One is based on the premise of beginning something new — like a new life together. You have to “break through” the old status quo to start fresh. Finally, Appel notes, some sources say the breaking of the glass is based on the concept that we should “serve the Almighty with fear, joy, and trembling.” The breaking of the glass fulfills the notion of trembling in the Almighty’s presence.
Smashing a glass isn’t as simple as it looks. To paraphrase your mother, “It’s only funny until the groom hurts his foot.” More than one groom in Cleveland learned too late that it’s critical to place a thin glass underfoot, not some heavy lead crystal number. (Some rabbis recommend using a lightbulb.)
I remember a wedding where the groom escaped a metatarsal mishap but failed to demolish the glass on the first attempt. He reddened visibly as we all yelled, “Mazel tov,” before realizing he needed a second go at it.
For his part, Rabbi Raphael Davidovich of Heights Jewish Center says he’s heard of grooms spending their wedding night at a hospital being treated for cuts or embedded glass. To avoid that, he recommends stomping down with the thickest part of the shoe, the heel.
Glass smashing hazards can be avoided with a little common sense: Wrap the glass in something that will contain all the broken pieces — a towel or cloth napkin that completely encases the glass or even a small pillowcase. Of course, you can always go online to sites like jewishweddingcollection.com and buy a beautiful “groom’s glass” that comes with a companion bag for between $20 and $40.
But what to do with that glass once it’s broken? It can’t be put back together of course, but at sites like jewishwedding
collection.com and Judaism.com, you can have the pieces made into part of a mezuzah, Chanukah menorah, kiddush cup, picture frame, or candlesticks. You can spend anywhere from $70 to $375, depending on the item you choose. Or, for a strictly decorative item, you can simply place the shards of glass inside a clear container.
There is much to celebrate at a Jewish wedding, but each one has its nail-biting moments. If you’ve ever seen a groom injured in a “glass incident” or a bride dropped from her perch on a lifted chair (those dresses can be slippery), you know a Jewish wedding is the place for simchah (joy), but it’s no place for sissies.