Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Q and A: Why the Canopy at the Wedding?

A chuppah (also "huppah") is a piece of cloth held over the bride, groom, and rabbi during the wedding service. The cloth could be a prayer shawl or clouds of tulle, or a special tapestry--there are many different types. The one pictured here can later be used once a year as a sukkah during Sukkot, the week-long holiday in October (more about Sukkot in a future posting). The canopy is supported by poles; I think it's interesting that in Israel, in a wedding of a soldier on active duty, the poles consist of rifles held by friends. Some authorities say the canopy symbolizes the tents of the ancient Hebrews, while others suggest that it stands for the new home that is to be. Nobody knows for sure, but since the sixteenth century it has been a traditional part of the wedding.
My husband Fred told me a cute and true story. His good friend Albie, who was a tall groom made even taller by his top hat, was standing with his bride Joyce under the canopy. Albie's father, a Turkish Jew, was short, so holding the canopy up so high was straining his arms. In the middle of the ceremony the congregation heard him say, in his thick Turkish accent, "Albert, you dumbbell, bend over!" (It is a tribute to Albie's great maturity that we can report that he merely smiled--and bent over!)

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