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Jewish Passages

Cycles of Jewish Life

Harvey E. Goldberg (Author)

Available worldwide

Hardcover, 392 pages
ISBN: 9780520206939
October 2003
$85.00, £62.95
American or Middle Eastern, Ashkenazi or Sephardi, insular or immersed in modern life—however diverse their situations or circumstances, Jews draw on common traditions and texts when they mark life's momentous events and rites of passage. The interplay of past and present, of individual practice and collective identity, emerges as a central fact of contemporary Jewish experience in Harvey E. Goldberg's multifaceted account of how Jews celebrate and observe the cycles of life. A leading anthropologist of Jewish culture, Goldberg draws on his own experience as well as classic sources and the latest research to create a nuanced portrait of Jewish rituals and customs that balances the reality of "ordinary Jews" with the authority of tradition.

Looking at classic rites of passage such as circumcision and marriage, along with emerging life-milestone practices like pilgrimage and identity-seeking tourism, Jewish Passages aptly reflects the remarkable cultural and religious diversity within Judaism. This work offers a new view of Jewish culture and history with the individual firmly situated at their center by blending anecdote and historical vignettes with rabbinic, midrashic, and anthropological insights; by exploring Sephardi and Ashkenazi traditions as well as modern ideologies; and by bringing into sharp relief the activities of women and relations with Gentile neighbors. As such, this book provides a unique window on the particulars—and the significance—of personal and communal acts of identification among Jews past, present, and future.
List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations

1. Being Jewish
2. Beginnings: Birth, Circumcision, and Naming
3. Rituals of Education
4. Marriage
5. Pilgrimage and Creating Identities
6. Death, Mourning, and Remembering
7. Bonds of Community and Individual Lives

Appendix 1. Outline of a Circumcision Ceremony (Brit Milah)
Appendix 2. Ceremony for Naming a Daughter (Zeved Ha-bat)
Appendix 3. Tefillin and the Shma
Appendix 4. Elements of the Marriage Service and Blessings
Harvey E. Goldberg is Professor of Anthropology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the editor of The Life of Judaism (California, 2001). He is the author of Jewish Life in Muslim Libya: Rivals and Relatives (1990), and Cave Dwellers and Citrus Growers: A Jewish Community in Libya and Israel (1972).
“Goldberg’s richly detailed book offers a marvelous tour of the markers of Jewish life and community.”—Publishers Weekly
“A thoughtful, insightful and important work.”—Lifestyles Magazine
“An anthropologist of Jewish culture draws on his own experience, plus classic sources at latest research, to create a portrait of Jewish rituals and customs.”—The Bookseller
“An anthropological approach to Jewish culture”—George Cohen Booklist
"Goldberg's breadth of knowledge is particularly impressive. Here is a scholar who has read everything, and has produced a rich, first-rate book that is both comprehensive and accessible, making Jewish customs meaningful even to non-specialists. A scholarly achievement that is also a great bar-mitzvah gift, with tremendous value for anyone in Jewish Studies including rabbis and members of synagogue study groups."—Jack Kugelmass, Irving and Miriam Lowe Professor and Director, Jewish Studies Program at Arizona State University

"Sweeping in its reach and richly informative in its details. Jewish Passages offers a treasury of wonderfully interesting information. This is a work that will not be lost. " Samuel C. Heilman, author of When a Jew Dies


On several occasions I have been asked to be a witness at a wedding, to sign my name on a wedding contract, or ketubba. One memorable instance was in the United States in the late 1970s. A colleague was getting married, and after the wedding, she and her husband were planning to spend a year in Israel. The officiating rabbi was a well-known figure in American Jewish life. Otherwise, upon arrival, I knew almost no one among the guests. Soon, however, I heard my name called; I was being summoned to play a role in the ceremony.

The rabbi, knowledgeable about life in Israel, was concerned that the marriage be recognized there if a question ever arose among the Israeli rabbinic authorities. The couple had some thoughts about living in Israel and, as a Conservative rabbi, he envisioned the possibility that his credentials or the version of the ketubba he used might be questioned.1 Israeli law did not give the rabbinate the power to challenge the personal status of Jews married abroad, but the rabbi wanted the contract to be as free of objections as possible. He therefore sought two male witnesses who could sign in Hebrew and be identifiable to Israeli authorities. Apparently, I was the only one present aside from himself fitting this description, and I was called to a small room to be the second witness on the document.

After affixing my signature to the ketubba, the rabbi asked me to stand next to him under the huppah (wedding canopy) so as to be an eyewitness to the part of the ceremony in which the bride accepts a ring from the groom and he declares her to be consecrated to him "according to the law of Moses and Israel." According to the Mishna, the transfer of something of monetary value is one of the ways in which a man "acquires" a woman. In order to witness this transaction, I found myself walking down the aisle with the rabbi, with my thoughts turning to the ceremony about to unfold.

A traditional wedding contains various features, in addition to the "acquisition" of the bride by the groom, which reflect a society in which a woman's position was weaker than a man's. This hardly fit the two people in question, both of whom were educated professionals. In fact, the year they were about to spend together in Israel constituted a step forward in her career, rather than his. At the same time, other aspects of the ceremony struck me as uncannily contemporary. The last of the seven wedding blessings praises God for creating "joy and gladness, bridegroom and bride, mirth and exultation, pleasure and delight, love, brotherhood, peace and fellowship." I realized that wedding rituals are very complex and even contradictory constructions, bringing together not only a man and a woman but other differences and opposites as well. They merge ancient practices and attitudes with present social concerns, attachments to tradition with hopes for a future, and ideal visions of human relationships with a recognition of the problems arising in everyday marital life. A consideration of wedding rituals entails all these subjects and more.

It has been remarked that marriage is "the most elaborate ceremony in Judaism,"2 but the salience and intricacy of weddings are features of all traditional societies. The Jewishness of a wedding celebration intermingles with many panhuman features. Marriages permanently change the personal situation of individuals, set the social stage for biological reproduction, constitute occasions for the movement of wealth, and also call upon the representatives of religious authority. While often relying upon the legitimacy offered by ancient traditions, people expect marriage rituals to speak to current notions and sensibilities. These various facets of Jewish weddings, and how ancient rites, customs, and texts have been interpreted to make sense in new situations, are the subject of this chapter.

Marriage, Women, and Menstruation: Ideals and Reality

Marriages create a special social bond for both women and for men, but often weddings are viewed as the celebration in the lives of women. As discussed earlier, giving birth itself was only minimally marked in traditional Jewish societies, and not in a way that linked it to the learned culture.3 Similarly, the fact that girls were only occasionally provided with a Torah education, and then only as a result of the initiative of individual families, meant that there was no communal recognition of their advancement through life's early phases. From this perspective, marriage was a woman's first and central ceremonial appearance in a publicly valued status. Detailed accounts of marriage celebrations figure prominently in the life stories of Jewish women from Mediterranean countries.4

The centrality of women in marriage also stems, of course, from their indispensable part in procreation. The fourth of the seven blessings recited at a wedding (see below) praises God for making man in God's image, and for building out of him a mechanism for perpetuating himself ("hitqin lo mimenu binyan {ay}adei {ay}ad"). This refers to sexual reproduction in the human species. The use of the term "build," which appears in the creation account in Genesis 2:22, is one aspect of that reference.5

Given the fact that procreation depends on women and has been a major value in rabbinic culture, it is puzzling that Jewish tradition pays almost no attention to the onset of menarche.6 A contemporary effort to compose a prayer appropriate to the occasion cites no precedents, and minimal attention is paid to the topic in the ethnography of Jewish communities.7 A portrait of the Polish shtetl states that when a girl reports the appearance of blood to her mother, "she will be roundly slapped on both cheeks." It will later "be explained that this is in order to make her rosy and beautiful."8 Esther Schely-Newman reports that in some Tunisian communities, there was a ritual use of oil when a girl first noticed vaginal blood: it was smeared on her face, or she was made to look at her face in a bowl of oil. In both instances, positive comments were attached to the gesture: "so things will always be smooth," or that the girl "will always be shiny and good-looking as she was at that time." In Yemen, according to Alana Suskin, a mother took melted butter and poured it on the hands of a newly menstruant daughter. The explanation was that "blessing will flow from her hands."9 None of the gestures or statements cited connects to traditional texts or to formal normative practice.10 In all cases, other parts of the girl's body become the focus, perhaps directing attention away from the perplexing genitalia and providing reassurance at what might appear as a troublesome juncture. Ambivalence over menstruation on the occasion of menarche also appears within the world of men. A remedy for epilepsy that entails ingesting the blood of a first-time menstruant has made its way into the writings of rabbis.11

Menstruation, of course, has not been "unnoticed" in Jewish tradition.12 A tractate of the Mishna, Niddah, is devoted to the subject, focusing on identifying the situations that constitute menstrual flow and specifying the rules leading to purification and the resumption of sexual contact between a man and his wife. The topic of niddah has been open to differing interpretations. Some recent views contrast the devalued blood of menstruation, which may symbolically invoke death, with the valued blood of circumcision, which in rabbinic writings brings salvation and life.13 It should also be noted, however, that menstrual impurity is not a permanent state; it always comes to an end. This leads to a restoration of purity and the ability to procreate, which should figure into an overall understanding of the topic as well. Moshe Idel, for example, discusses a rabbinic idea in which sexual relations between a couple in purity have a positive impact on the Divine Presence.14 In general, one rabbinic tendency is to highlight the implications of niddah for the relations between a man and wife, rather than to link it to woman's "essence" or general status in society. A variety of messages, which sometimes compete with one another, may be drawn out of time-honored texts.

In many cultures there are symbolic associations linking women and the moon. The perceived likeness between lunar cycles and women is evident in the term menses. This association was elaborated later in Jewish history in the special attachment of women to New Moon observance, which became a minor festival for them.15 A symbolic connection between women and the moon may be hinted at in the Bible. In the creation story, the sun is called "the great luminary" and the moon "the small luminary" (Gen. 1:16), probably to avoid the standard names of these heavenly bodies, which pointed to the polytheistic mythologies of surrounding cultures. Nevertheless, former mythological symbols of gods and goddesses may resurface in mundane guise in biblical literature and be utilized for the Bible's purposes.

In Genesis 1:16-18, the two heavenly luminaries are given "dominion over" the day and the night respectively. The word "dominion" here is a translation of the Hebrew stem mashol. That stem reappears twice in subsequent narratives in the beginning of Genesis, and a third time in the story of Joseph. After woman disobeys God by leading Adam to eat from the forbidden tree, both are punished; part of her punishment is that "your desire will be towards your Man, and he will have dominion over you" (Gen. 3:16). Almost identical wording appears soon thereafter in the story of Cain and Abel. There, in a phrase that grabbed the imagination of John Steinbeck in East of Eden, Cain is told that he may have dominion over sin (Gen. 4:7). Despite this warning, he murders his brother.

Later in Genesis (37:8), the stem mashol appears in Joseph's dreams that suggest that he will have dominion over the members of his family.16 In the second dream, his mother and father are explicitly compared to the moon and the sun. The dissimilarity between the sun and moon is thus linked to several themes: human beings' rule over one another, disobedience to God, the shedding of blood, and the difference between men and women. The texts struggle to project a vision of an ideal humanity while recognizing the reality of how the world seems to operate under "normal" conditions. Later generations envisioned the messianic era as entailing the expansion of the moon so that it is equal in brightness to the sun (Isa. 30:26).17

In considering laws related to menstruation, or any other topic seen as indicative of the status of women, it is possible to focus on ideal formulations of rabbinic culture, or on actual historical trends, to the extent that they are known. To anthropologists seeking to understand a religion and its ideals in concrete contexts, both are important. In the absence of direct historical or ethnographic evidence, comparative examples are often cited. With regard to menstruation, Nissan Rubin states that understanding the religious rules of antiquity should take into account the biological and demographic realities of the era, as suggested by studies in parts of the world where patterns of family life in peasant societies have been observed. On the basis of this comparison, it is possible that because of long periods of nursing, which suppresses menstruation, and because of the tendency to become pregnant again soon after a child is weaned and lactation ceases, women in talmudic times did not experience menstrual bleeding as frequently as we might imagine.18 If this is correct, the rabbis' interest in the topic might relate to the symbolic features of the elaborate laws of niddah, as much as to their concrete regulatory functions in daily life.

In the Mishna and Talmud, one finds strict demands for the separation of "a niddah," along with opinions that restrain those demands.19 An example is the expectation that women be confined to a special room or hut during periods of menstrual impurity. This practice was not incorporated into rabbinic norms, but the physical separation of menstruants from normal domestic routines is found in groups on the margins of Jewish life. For example, Ethiopian Jewish women moved to a menstrual hut, where they were provided with food and visited by female friends. Their migration to Israel entailed a major reorientation with regard to this institution. Among the Samaritans in Nablus, a menstruant refrains from preparing food or engaging in other domestic work, including touching her own children. Her tasks are taken over by her mother-in-law or sisters-in-law. This is only possible because of the extended-family structure characteristic of the group. At the same time, the menstruant-avoidance rule makes it indispensable to Samaritan life for related nuclear families to reside in the same household.20 Jews in Kurdistan in the middle of the nineteenth century also provided a hut for menstruants, but no further information is available about this.21

Other local practices developed in connection with niddah. Mordecai Ha-Cohen reports, with regard to the Jews of the Nefusa mountains in Libya, that the men "are very careful to keep their distance from a woman during her menstrual period. A man may not even step on the straw mat that she has walked on, nor may he look upon her face."22 It is not clear whether this reflects a very strict separation of men and women in other realms, because the same author notes that the women of the region opposed rabbis in the city of Tripoli who wanted to impose greater seclusion on them generally.23 This may be a case of differing perspectives on the part of men and women with regard to menstruation.24

Ha-Cohen entertains the possibility that the Nefusa customs derive from Karaite influence, as Karaites are known to have stricter rules of menstrual avoidance than rabbinic Jews. He then rejects his own hypothesis, but the comparison with Karaite rules is illuminating.25 Karaite women do not enter a synagogue while menstruating.26 This custom arose among Jews in some regions in the Middle Ages, but many rabbinic authorities did not accept it and ruled that women may touch a Torah scroll while in a state of niddah.27 On the other hand, menstruating women in a Tunisian community separated themselves from the preparation of matzot before Passover, while within the popular North African practice of visiting the graves of a sainted rabbi, the norm was that menstruating woman could not enter the tomb of a tzaddik.28 In Baghdad, there was a custom of women wearing special garments during their menstrual periods.29

This scattered information on actual practice shows that the theoretical understanding of rabbinic literature must be placed side by side with specific historical developments. It has been said that the Mishna "demoted" women in relation to the Bible, because the former focuses on the impurity of niddah as a subject in itself, while the Bible treats the impurity of flow from sexual organs of both men and women within the same textual framework. In other ways, however, the Mishna may be seen as elevating the place of women in comparison to the Bible. Judith Hauptman notes that the mishnaic texts seem to address an audience that includes women, while much of biblical literature speaks to men about women.30 She also points out that "the Mishna invented the halakhic category of bogeret, a mature woman (over twelve years) who has the power to agree to or refuse entering a marriage, while no such category exists in the Bible."31 The ketubba, or marriage contract, that guarantees rights for women is also a postbiblical institution.32 The extent to which these powers and rights were actually exercised in specific communities is a matter that only can be determined by research. In considering Jewish weddings and marriage celebrations here, I shall first outline the formal structure of the ceremony and then elaborate upon variations in the ways in which marriages were arranged, planned, and took place.

The Marriage Ceremony

Jewish marriage, as stated, has been based on the notion that it is men who acquire rights with regard to a woman, while a woman agrees to his acquisition of those rights. Wedding ceremonies, as now structured, consist of two phases, which in antiquity were separated in time. The first phase is called kiddushin or erusin, and the second is called nesuin. Nesuin is normally translated as "marriage," while the term erusin is used in modern Hebrew for "engagement." Kiddushin or erusin in the context of formal marriage procedures, however, do not mean "engagement" in the contemporary sense, but refer to the part of the ceremony that establishes a ritual and legal relationship setting a woman aside exclusively for a man who performs the act of kiddushin. The term kiddushin resembles the Hebrew word kadosh, holy, and the Talmud interprets it as implying that a woman has been "set aside" or devoted to a single sacred purpose; after that no other man may have sexual access to her.33

Once the ceremony of kiddushin takes place, a permanent relationship is established between a man and a woman. If there is a decision not to continue with the marriage, it entails writing a get, a formal bill of divorce according to rabbinic law.34 In antiquity, some time passed (typically a year) between kiddushin and full marriage, after which a woman began to live with her husband permanently. This created a complex and somewhat contradictory state for couples during the period between kiddushin and full marriage. In eleventh-century France, it became the practice to have a single ceremony, beginning with kiddushin, followed immediately by nesuin. This practice was widely adopted in Europe and later became common in other parts of the Jewish world.35 In several Middle Eastern communities, the separation of the phases continued until much more recent times.36

The word kiddushin comes from a tractate in the Mishna with that name. The opening chapter in that tractate, however, does not use the word kiddushin, but mentions three modes of how a man's rights with regard to his wife are established.37 These are through money; through a written document; or through sexual congress. According to the Mishna, an appropriate act in any of these modes, initiated by a man and agreed to by a woman, can bring about acquisition. As the wedding ceremony developed in postmishnaic times, aspects of all three acts were included in it, so instead of being alternate modes of creating a relationship, they were included in a total sequence of marriage ceremonies and thereby reinforced one another.

The feature of transferring money is typically expressed in the ring the groom gives the bride (see appendix 4 for the basic structure of the ceremony). The use of a ring is a posttalmudic development, and the Jews of Yemen preserved the practice of utilizing a coin in the ceremony.38 Aleppan Jews, in Syria, used both a coin and a ring.39 The ring has to have a minimal ascertainable monetary value, and two witnesses must be on hand to testify that the man put the ring on the finger of the bride. They also should pay attention to the fact that when the woman received it, she knew its value and accepted it for the purpose of kiddushin. When the ring is given to the bride, the groom recites: "Behold, you are consecrated [mequddeshet] to me with this ring according to the law of Moses and Israel." It is common practice that a wedding ring be plain, without any gems. There may have been magical reasons for this in antiquity, but rabbinic tradition reinterpreted the practice as making clear the value of the ring, so that the monetary issue not be clouded by "extraneous" jewels.40

Two blessings introduce the kiddushin phase of the ceremony.41 The first is the blessing over wine. The second relates to the institution of kiddushin and praises God "who has sanctified us by his commandments, and has commanded us concerning forbidden unions, and has forbidden to us those who are betrothed [to other men], and has permitted to us those who are married by the rite of the nuptial canopy [huppah] and kiddushin." The blessing is read by the rabbi, but its language represents the point of view of the man in relation to the woman whom he is "marrying" while she is "being married." Similarly, in the subsequent act of giving the ring and reciting: "Behold, you are consecrated . . . ," the man is the initiator of the marriage link. There have existed other rabbinic versions of "Behold, you are consecrated . . . " in which women also pronounce a statement of relationship. These, however, do not alter the basic ritual/legal logic of kiddushin. There does appear a degree of mutuality in some of the customs of drinking wine after the first two blessings are recited. Both the bride and groom drink: sometimes the rabbi gives the cup to the groom and then to the bride, and sometimes the groom hands wine directly to the bride after he drinks. Other permutations, including drinking of the wine by the parents of the couple, are known as well. An unusual custom found both among the Georgian Jews of the Caucasus and the Cochin Jews of India involves placing the ring of kiddushin in the cup of wine to be drunk.42

Often, with the conclusion of the betrothal phase of the ceremony, the wedding contract, or ketubba, is read. The basic purpose of the ketubba is to record the economic obligations of a man to a woman if the marriage relationship terminates. It is a socially sanctioned contract between the parties, and its precise contents have varied over time and place. For example, it specifies the dowry brought into the marriage by a woman, and during much of Middle Eastern Jewish history, it included a list of personal and household items and the value of each. The ketubba is not the same as the written document that can bring about kiddushin according to the Mishna, but it does include a paragraph corresponding to the statement of the man acquiring the woman. The ketubba is signed by two witnesses, who should also witness the actual giving of the ring and the following parts of the marriage ceremony.

Some aspects of the ketubba reflect changing historical circumstances, but other features are relatively invariant. For example, marriage contracts are still written in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jews at the time of the Mishna and the Talmuds. A historical variation is provided by Sephardi ketubbot, which may stipulate that if a woman has no children, a man may take a second wife, albeit only with her permission.43 It is not required that the whole ketubba, written in an ancient language and containing much legal terminology, be read as part of the ceremony. Very often part of it is read, and/or its contents are summarized and explained by the rabbi.

One variable, and potentially attractive side of the ketubba is the way it is decorated. Because they are essentially secular contracts, ketubbot can be written plainly, or can even be produced in a standard printed form, upon which the details of a given wedding are filled in. At various periods, however, traditions of elaborate ketubba illumination developed. Historical illuminated ketubbot are favorite items in museums and books of Jewish art.44 In recent times in North America, the practice of having an individually designed and highly decorative marriage contract has become widespread. Typically, such ketubbot are prominently displayed in the homes of young couples as an expression of their joint and mutual commitment to marriage. This is very different from the traditional disposition of these documents, in which a ketubba might be hidden away in the home of the woman's father to be retrieved if life's fortunes brought her to make the economic claims guaranteed in them. Rabbinic literature typically talks of the sum mentioned in the document as "her ketubba," because it gives rights to a woman and places obligations upon a man.

After the ketubba is read or summarized, the next phase of the ceremony is nesuin, entrance into the full status of marriage. In antiquity, the hallmark of this stage was the movement of a woman from her parent's home into the home of her husband. Standing under the wedding canopy has come to symbolize that act, the image of a canopy perhaps deriving from a tent into which a bride entered in ancient times. The canopy as we know it today, however, has not always been in use. In some places, both in Europe and the Middle East, it was customary for the groom's prayer shawl to be spread over the bride as she stood next to him.45 Frequently, the statement of Ruth to Boas, that he should "spread his wing" over her (Ruth 3:9), has been invoked with reference to this custom, as has a parallel phrase from Ezekiel 16:8 in which God affords protection to abandoned Jerusalem.

Entering the huppah also is seen as standing for the third form of wife-acquisition mentioned in the Mishna—sexual congress. The act of being together under one roof is taken as a sign of full conjugal life. Another gesture expressing that association developed in Ashkenazi tradition—the custom of yihud. Yihud means being together alone "as one," and the practice evolved of the bride and groom going into a room by themselves immediately upon the conclusion of the ceremony under the huppah. Witnesses are stationed to see that the couple in fact entered a room and stayed there for a few minutes. According to strict moral and religious norms, only a married couple are allowed to be alone in such a manner, and the fact that they do remain by themselves in a closed room becomes evidence of the "consummation" of a marriage. In most instances these days, the couple simply relax for a few minutes or, if they have followed the tradition of fasting all day until the time of the ceremony, they take the opportunity to have a bite to eat. In Israel today, where Ashkenazim and Sephardim live side by side and about one-fourth of all marriages that take place are between men and women from those two backgrounds, it is common for yihud to be part of many ceremonies.

The nesuin phase of wedding ceremonies also has its own blessings. These are now known as "the seven blessings." In the Talmud, they are known as the "blessings of the grooms" (birkot hatanim). Some claim that they are a list of blessings appropriate to the occasion of a wedding, and that the Talmud did not envision all of them having to be said on the occasion of every wedding. At the same time, it is possible to see a certain logic in their sequence. One way of highlighting their overall structure is the following ordering (see appendix 4):

  1. The blessing over wine
  2. Three blessings citing God's creating humanity and humanity's power of procreation
  3. A blessing over the ingathering of Jews from the Diaspora to Jerusalem
  4. Two blessings citing the joy of the bride and groom
The blessings move from the most inclusive category of humanity through the mentioning of Jewish peoplehood and conclude with a focus on the single couple. Another movement may be discernible if the Hebrew ha-adam in the third and fourth blessings is translated as "mankind" rather than "humanity." This would involve the presentation of blessings with male resonance (mankind), followed by one with female echoes (Jerusalem is pictured as a woman), and concluding with a stress on the couple.

Both the fifth and the last blessing refer to the return to Zion and Jerusalem. This theme is also associated with the well-known feature of Jewish weddings of breaking a glass. In many Sephardi communities, it was standard to break a glass between the kiddushin and the nesuin part of the ceremony, while among Ashkenazim it took place as the very last act under the huppah. Breaking a glass is a custom; it in no way affects the legal and religious transition from being single to being married. How it became central in the Jewish imagination will be discussed below, after considering other features of marriage in which rabbinic rules and interpretations intermix with both diverse social conditions and popular practices and understandings.

Hoary Texts and Local Practices

Marriage has always been highly valued in Jewish culture. This continues to be the case in contemporary Israel, which has one of the highest marriage rates found in a Western-oriented industrial society. The centrality of marriage goes back to the stories in Genesis 24, which spells out in detail how Abraham's servant found a wife for Isaac, and the tribulations of Jacob stemming from his love for Rachel (Gen. 29:17-21). A legal discussion of kiddushin asserts that one can take it for granted that a man will prefer to be married rather than live alone.46 The value of marriage is also expressed in the legend of a Roman matron who challenged the religious belief of Rabbi Yose ben Halafta, asking him how God spends his time now that he has finished creating the world. Yose's answer, that God spends his time in deciding on matrimonial matches is greeted with mockery by the matron, who claims that she is capable of doing the same thing, and more quickly. She proceeds to line up 1,000 male and female slaves and pairs them off, assigning them to marry one another. The next day, the matron finds all these couples engaged in physical fights and consequently acknowledges the truth of the Torah and Rabbi Yose's wisdom.47

Genesis 24 also forms part of wedding-linked liturgy in many Sephardi communities. Among them, it is customary for a groom to be called to the Torah in the synagogue on the Sabbath after his wedding. A special reading takes place in his honor, from the narrative of Abraham's servant finding Rebecca and bringing her back to Isaac. In some versions of the custom, an additional sefer torah is taken from the ark, and the reading is done directly from the scroll.48 No parallel convention of reading exists today in Ashkenaz, but there it is customary on the Sabbath before a wedding to "call up" (uf-ruf in Yiddish) a groom-to-be to the reading of the Torah, honoring him with the recitation of the blessings. In both instances, the community salutes the act of marriage and the formation of a new family in its midst.

The heavy value placed on marriage has its "down side," to adopt a contemporary phrase and point of view, in that pressure to marry begins at a young age. In earlier periods, this might take the form of childhood betrothal and marriage, particularly for females. A rabbinic elaboration of the biblical story of Isaac and Rebecca pictures her as being three years old, while Isaac was aged forty according to the Bible itself.49 This interpretation does not easily harmonize with another rabbinic gloss, which, citing the fact that Rebecca's parents asked for her opinion (Gen. 24:57-58), recommends that women should be married off only with their consent.50 As mentioned above, the Mishna created the category of "mature woman," in reference to someone who had passed the age of twelve, but did not absolutely prohibit fathers from marrying off their daughters before that age. The Mishna also indicates, and the Talmud acknowledges, that ideally a father should not arrange kiddushin for his daughter while she still is a young girl,51 but practice did not always follow these norms. The Tosaphists, medieval commentators on the Talmud, in discussing this passage, wonder why in their own communities, they ignore the norm and take it upon themselves to represent their daughters and accept kiddushin for them when they are still minors. Their answer is that "every day the Exile lies more heavily upon us, and if a man is able to provide a dowry for his daughter at this moment [he should do so], lest he not be able to later and find that she remains unmarried forever."52

Aside from the strictly legal side of things, the younger a woman, the more likely that her choice will be influenced by her family. Even though the Mishna claims that a mature woman must assent to kiddushin, it is striking that Jewish tradition did not formulate a conventional verbal response on the part of a bride, such as "I do."53 Proof of her acceptance is determined by witnesses observing her actions when she is given the monetary token of kiddushin (a ring). Historically, the circumstances affecting the degree of choice exercised by women were quite diverse. Examples from the Middle Ages are found in documents from the Cairo Geniza, which indicate that a woman was often married off by her parents at an early age and had little freedom and leverage in the home of her husband. She would be treated as a child who had to be educated, and in fact she was frequently much younger than her husband. The Geniza also reveals many cases of divorce, and divorced women did not necessarily "return to the father's house," as Genesis has it.54 They were fairly independent in negotiating another marriage and in conducting their own affairs. Still, in this new situation, they did not have all the legal rights that men had and often had to be officially represented in official contexts by their brothers.

The main object of the socialization of girls was their future roles as wife and mother. This persisted even when women began to be exposed to formal education, so relatively early marriage was not unusual even in the not-so-distant past. A trend towards later marriage developed in recent centuries among Jews in Ashkenaz, while the pattern of early marriages, arranged by the parents, may have been preserved among the economic elite able to support their children and actualize the ideal of maintaining a son-in-law who was a Torah scholar.55 Early marriages continued to be common in the Middle East. A member of the Baghdadi community in Calcutta supplies an account from the nineteenth century: "My mother was about eleven and going to school. One day, she was being brought home from school when she passed the home of a relative, who called her in. A sweet was put in her mouth and she was told she was engaged. My father was fourteen then. He was seventeen when they married and my mother was thirteen and a half. They had no voice in it really."56 In Baghdad itself, towards the end of the nineteenth century, the Jewish leadership felt the need to issue an ordinance prohibiting the marriage of children under thirteen.57 At the same period of time, in North Africa, teachers in the Alliance Israélite Universelle educational network complained that young girl students were being taken out of school by their parents to be married.58 In many instances, both girls and boys were married off with little choice, but there also were instances of young women being married to men far older than them.

The early age of marriage is intertwined with other issues of both an attitudinal and material nature. There are a number of statements in rabbinic literature indicating the preference for boys over girls.59 Some probably reflect the exclusive access of males to Torah as discussed in chapter 3.60 Others may stem from the economic reality in which daughters entail dowry payments, while sons will be a source of income.61 The latter situation repeated itself in many Jewish communities over the centuries. Within the circle of Baghdadi Jews in the late nineteenth century, a local observer wrote in a Judeo-Arabic newspaper: "Woe to the father of girls. Our sages have written that at the hour a daughter is born the sun is darkened and even the angels shed a tear. Perhaps they said that in relation to the daughters of Baghdad in our day."62 He criticizes the institution of early marriage, pointing out that as a girl gets older, the amount of dowry the parents have to pay rises as well. The burden of marrying off daughters was well known in eastern Europe too; it forms a basic element in the portrayal of the family of Tevya the Milkman in the writings of Sholem Aleichem (see below). This did not mean girls were seen in negative terms only. Folksongs from Tripoli about the birth of boys and girls that reflect the point of view of mothers tell of the joys and difficulties of each.63 It is also important to distinguish between the social and cultural biases operating against girls and matters of interpersonal sentiment. A former member of the Baghdadi community in Calcutta who moved to England recollected: "My father wanted his eldest child to be a son. He was disappointed when I was born. He wrote me a letter when I left India saying how I had made up for his disappointment a thousandfold."64

The traditional norms pressing for early marriage, and the exercise of the will of the parents over that of their children, in particular the will of young girls, does not mean that the inclinations and choices of young people were totally ignored. Before an engagement was announced in a traditional community, a great deal of information was discreetly exchanged as part of behind-the-scenes maneuvering. A marriage decision involved the social standing and economic interests of the parents, but the likes and dislikes of the children might also be taken into consideration. Young men in Yemen would seek opportunities to catch glimpses of young women in everyday settings, such as when they drew water at a well or when they were working to prepare for Shabbat, for on those occasions they were dressed in ordinary work clothes. On other public occasions, young women dressed in elaborate garb and clearly were "on show."65 In Jewish communities generally, the cycle of religious festivals provided the opportunity to "see and be seen," either at home, near the synagogue, or in more relaxed settings, such as pilgrimages to tombs of saintly figures.66

The flow of wedding festivities, in particular, were major occasions to observe young women, not only by young men, but by their mothers. Jews in Syria held a women's party in the hammam, or Turkish bath house, which was rented for the occasion by the family of the bride.67 At this gathering, she might be inspected by the mother of the groom and immersed herself before the marriage to be purified according to the rules of niddah. In all Middle Eastern communities, there were festivities in which a bride-to-be was decorated with henna, and these also allowed the viewing of unmarried young women who were part of the bride's entourage. Henna evenings could be utilized cautiously by young men as well, even though during most of the celebration, people were confined to same-sex groups. In henna parties in Libyan villages, there was a phase when young men entered the circle of women surrounding a bride singly to place coins on her henna-covered feet. On this occasion, a man seeking a wife might quietly mention the name of one of the village's young women. This resulted in a series of tactful inquiries to see if the person named and her family were interested. If they were not, the subject was dropped without anyone losing face.68

In more urban settings, the delicacy of exploring, hinting at, and sometimes retreating from a possible marriage gave rise to the role of "matchmaker" in both Europe and the Middle East. Yitzhak Avishur provides some details from Baghdad. After preparatory work, the parents of a young man would visit the home of a prospective bride together with the matchmaker who had suggested the agreement. The parents of the woman prepared their house carefully and also made sure that no other unmarried daughters were around on the occasion. It was customary, after the guests were seated, for the prospective girl to come into the room and offer the guests a certain kind of candy. If they were not favorably impressed upon first appearance, the guests would refuse the candy and leave soon thereafter. If they were interested, they would stay and examine the potential daughter-in-law in every way they could. Women guests would use their hands as well as their eyes. They would try to see if her breasts were really developed or whether their appearance was the result of padding. They did not want a woman who was cross-eyed and watched her walk to make sure she did not limp. They were also wary about someone with too much makeup. Physical beauty was esteemed and the ability to bear children was, of course, a concern, but families also wanted evidence that a girl had been educated in the ways of modesty.69

In Tripoli, as described by Mordecai Ha-Cohen, it was possible for a groom and his relatives to see a bride in her parents' home before serious negotiations were finalized. The meeting was called a tijliyah, or "revealing," which is comprehensible in terms of the woman from Tripoli mentioned in chapter 3 who likened her situation before marriage to a Torah closeted in the synagogue ark. Ha-Cohen also cites revulsion at the custom because of the disgrace experienced by the girl and her family if she were rejected, and explains that it was abandoned.70

Many Jewish communities in modern times were dramatically altered by migration, which led to the discarding of older forms of courtship and the rapid adopting of new ones. When large numbers of people from the same background migrated at the same period, modes of courtship underwent modification more gradually. An example of how new factors influenced the choice of a mate, while the changes were contained within traditional forms, is found among the Jews of Georgia in the Caucasus mountains. In that region there are traditions, among both Christians and Jews, of various forms of bride-capture and kidnapping. In a few instances, this involved actual abduction and rape, while in other instances, a woman would be captured and held and pressure put on her parents to assent to a marriage. Once she was in that position, it was not simple for her parents to take her back and pretend that she was in the same pristine unmarried state as before, so they often assented to the marriage. Maya Meltzer-Geva gathered information on cases of bride kidnapping among Georgian Jews who moved to Israel beginning in the late 1960s.71

In recent times, such "kidnappings" were often prearranged by a young man and woman. They might take place among a couple who were mutually attracted when the parents did not approve of the young man. Alternately, they could be a way out of a planned marriage imposed by parents on their daughter. After these ritualized kidnappings, the parents in most instances eventually agreed to a marriage. The contemporary utilization of this form undoubtedly reflects the growing desire of young people to marry partners of their own choosing, but the "ritual" also upholds traditional norms. It reinforces the premise that a woman cannot assert her will against that of her parents. It is only acceptable that she enter a marriage in opposition to their wishes when that step appears to arise from external conditions over which she and the family have no control.

Dowry: Negotiation and Ceremonies

Viewed sociologically, the high investment that families have in the marriage of their children is the obverse of the limitations placed on young people in determining their own marriage partners. This investment is constituted by both material wealth and social reputation. There is little in the way of direct data on the subject in historical Jewish societies, but it is likely that precisely the most well-to-do families, who might also be the most "educated," had the greatest interest in controlling the marriage choices of their offspring. By contrast, those of limited means had less leverage in imposing choices on their children. In any event, a marriage involved the exchange of money and of gifts between two families. In some Middle Eastern locales, it was expected that a major gift or "bride-price" be given to the father of the bride, while in other settings, both in the Middle East and Europe, the dowry brought by a woman to a marriage was the major economic investment. Both practices must be seen as part of a series of exchanges launching a new family into economic existence. There is almost no systematic study of the institution of bride-price in Jewish communities, but Abraham Marcus notes that in eighteenth-century Aleppo, bachelors were exempted from communal taxes to allow them to accumulate the funds necessary to attract a bride.72 More attention has been paid to the mechanics of dowry.

Dowry is an ancient and widespread custom in Jewish life, but the actual amounts and goods included reflected current economic realities.73 The amount given by the parents of a woman in her dowry were frequently written into the marriage contract, sometimes on the basis of assessments made by community notables. Both monetary transfers and goods brought by a woman to a marriage went into the sum promised to a woman in her ketubba. In the course of married life, the husband has control of those funds but also knows that he will have to return the money if he divorces his wife. Similarly, his heirs have to pay the amount in the ketubba if he predeceases her. In mid-twentieth-century Istanbul, a dowry might include buying and furnishing an apartment for a new couple and even purchasing a small factory to be run by the husband. A young man who showed an aptitude for business was in a position to attract a larger dowry than a person who had only proved himself in school.74

As noted, recent centuries have witnessed extensive migration and considerable social mobility among Jews as they became citizens of nation-states and participated in the economic and social life of the countries in which they resided. Rapid changes also entailed the possibility of downward mobility or simply social "stagnation." Often, men set the pace in new work settings and business ventures, while women either did not enter the labor force or stayed within a restricted range of "feminine occupations." This meant that their social status, and that of their parents, was closely linked with the kinds of marriages they made. A male could bring his potential earning power to a marriage, while a woman would be expected to bring actual capital. Daughters with limited or no dowries might be maneuvered into marriages that lowered them and their families on the social ladder; conversely, one of the strategies available to upwardly mobile males was to attract a woman with a generous dowry.

Families in which daughters outnumbered sons were clearly disadvantaged. One family sizing up another for a possible match would assess their potential partners' capabilities: the female/male ratio among the younger generation was also a factor taken into account. Attitudes reflecting this situation were found throughout the Jewish world where ancient norms intermingled with new economic realities and expectations. A development that fundamentally modified dowry transactions was the advanced education of women and their movement into expanded occupational and professional markets. The "dowry" made available to a woman was the education she received in endowing herself with professional credentials. This provided a wider range of options in the "marriage market," a process that has been evident among North African Jews who migrated to France beginning in the 1950s.75

Permanence of marriage and the stability of the economic arrangements entailed have always been major concerns. It took time to negotiate and reach understandings in such arrangements, to say nothing of the time needed for a young woman or man to become accustomed to the idea of being committed to a life together with someone whom she or he knew only very partially. The medieval practice of combining kiddushin—"betrothal"—with nesuin, cited above, left a vacuum in terms of an appropriate preparatory period before a marriage takes place. It is not surprising, therefore, that other kinds of ceremonies arose that sealed the social and economic agreements between two families. These ceremonies committed them to marry, in the combined "kiddushin and erusin" ceremony, at a later date. In Europe, the agreements reached in such a situation were called tenaim, or "conditions." A term with a similar meaning, shart, was common in parts of the Judeo-Arabic world.76 Tenaim was also the name given to the celebration that finalized the prenuptial agreement.

The signing of tenaim in Europe could be an occasion almost as serious as a wedding. The major difference is that tenaim, from a legal point of view, did not contain the element of kiddushin, or ritual consecration. If the agreement established by tenaim was broken, there was no requirement of a rabbinic divorce. Dissolving a tenaim contract, however, could be exceedingly difficult and painful. These agreements normally stipulated heavy fines to be paid by the party calling off the engagement. Rejected families lost face in the community, and a broken engagement was especially damaging to the subsequent marriage prospects of a young woman.

The weightiness of a tenaim agreement was matched by the exuberance of the festivities that accompanied its signing. These celebrations rivaled weddings in their intensity. The custom of breaking a glass at weddings stimulated the adoption of a similar practice at tenaim celebrations, in which a plate was smashed as part of the ceremony. These plates were often decorated, and as is common in Jewish art, Hebrew words were part of the decoration. Some plates carried the word qnas, or "fine." The plate-smashing ceremony was interpreted as reminding the parties that they would face a heavy fine were they to go back on the agreement they had just made. The eighteenth-century leader of Lithuanian Jewry, Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, the famous Gaon of Vilnius, required that tenaim plates be ceramic.77 He claimed that just as a ceramic plate cannot be repaired, so the families should be warned not to renege on their commitments.

Modesty and Virginity

The social worth of families stemmed from their economic position, but also from other values, such as mastery of Torah study. A statement in the Talmud exhorts a man to sell all that he has in order to marry the daughter of a talmid hakham, a scholar of Torah, or to marry off his own daughter to a talmid hakham.78 This ideal could only be realized by some members of a community, but, as noted, it sometimes played a significant role in the self-image of Jews. Women themselves were not measured by this scale of achievement, but were judged in terms of values attached to their roles as wives, housekeepers, and mothers. "[P]ropriety and a good education are part of the family capital of which the young woman is the bearer," Abraham Udovitch and Lucette Valensi note of the Jews of Jerba. "These qualities are manifested by her modesty, her quiet demeanor, her knowledge of all household skills, and her docility."79 This description, with little modification, could apply to traditional Jewish communities in Europe as well.

If this cluster of features had to be summed up in one word, it would be "modesty." The value of modesty, in its various dimensions, was highlighted in the course of weddings. A young woman and man might get to know each other somewhat during their "engagement," or might have been acquainted during childhood, but many communities assumed that they would not have contact in the period immediately before their wedding. This highlighted the "purity" with which they approached the marriage and showed their capacity for self-restraint and their acceptance of prevailing mores. During henna nights and other prenuptial festivities in Middle Eastern communities, a bride was expected to sit very still and show no emotion while singing, drumming, and dancing went on about her.

The norm of modesty also is expressed in the practice of bedekn, known from Eastern Europe and practiced in many contemporary weddings. Just before they approach the huppah, the groom comes to the room where the bride has been sitting with her family and friends and lowers her veil so that her face is covered (see figure 11). He then rejoins his own "party." The bride thus comes to the wedding canopy separate from the groom, radiating modesty, accompanied by female relatives and friends (see figure 12). It is common to connect this practice with Genesis 24:65, in which Rebecca, upon encountering Isaac for the first time, covers herself with a veil, or for onlookers to quote the words "Our sister, may you bring forth tens of thousands" from earlier in Genesis (v. 60). Some also link the Yiddish word bedekn, and the practice, with the Hebrew bodeq, to examine, and recall Genesis 29:25, in which Jacob does not know that he has married his beloved's sister until after the marriage has been consummated. Here, as elsewhere, there is an interplay of rabbinic textual glosses and popular social values.80

There was also a norm of modesty with reference to grooms. On the Saturday night that initiated wedding festivities in Yemen, a groom was dressed in a special manner by a mori, or rabbi. This took place in a festive atmosphere, accompanied by hymns (piyyutim), in the home of the groom along with his friends. Moris usually limited their participation in these events, leaving soon after the formal dressing. So long as the mori was present, the groom and other guests acted with restraint and propriety. Once he left, the atmosphere became lighter and freer.81 The major burden of modesty, in Yemen as elsewhere in the Jewish world, fell, however, upon the young woman. Ultimately, the notion of "modesty" referred to her sexual status and behavior.

It was expected that a woman married for the first time would be a virgin. The value of virginity was encoded in both formal rabbinic law and popular practice. The Mishna sets the minimum value that a man must stipulate in his wife's ketubba. It is double in the case of a virgin (200 zuz) in comparison to a widow (100 zuz; in both cases the sum can be much higher).82 If it should happen in a case of widowhood or divorce that the actual ketubba is not preserved, a dispute may arise as to what the status of a woman was when she was married. This would make a big difference in the amount a man or his heirs would have to pay. In such cases, the court accepted testimony from witnesses as to the nature of the celebration at the time of marriage. There were customs that differentiated the festivities in connection with the marriage of a virgin from those of a woman who had been married previously. One convention was that a virgin would appear publicly with her hair uncovered. Another, according to one opinion, is the distribution of parched corn.83 The talmudic discussion of the mishnaic principles adds the passing of a certain kind of wine before the bride as indicating her status as a virgin. It also mentions that customs in Babylonia differed from those in Judea.84 We find here a recognition, by rabbinic law, of the power of local custom.

Another aspect of female virginity, and its public display, was the need to prove it. This could not take place before a wedding, but was built into the widespread custom of showing a sheet, stained with the blood of the bride, after the first sexual union on the night of a wedding. One of the oldest examples of this practice is alluded to in Deuteronomy 22:17. It continued to be common in many Middle Eastern communities, among both Jews and non-Jews, up to the present, even though it is by no means a fully adequate test.85 There was even an attempt among Jews in the Middle Ages to institutionalize a blessing appropriate to the occasion, but authorities such as Sa{ay}adiah Gaon and Maimonides disapproved of it.86 The custom was also known to Ashkenazi rabbis in Italy at the time of the Renaissance.87 Deuteronomy speaks of a legal claim, showing the proof before the (male) elders in the city gate, if a husband declares that his wife was not a virgin when they married, while the ethnographic record reflects popular expectations and usually depicts the event taking place among older women, in particular the female relatives of the couple. Mothers of the groom wanted to make sure that the sheet demonstrated the virginity of the girl, but their family was also "on trial," because the virility of the young groom was also being tested. Relatives of the bride were there to be vindicated and enjoy public recognition that their daughter had received a proper, modest education.

There was a basic cultural tension in this aspect of the celebration, in addition to the uncertainty felt by those waiting until the test was passed successfully. Matters of sexual intimacy were usually treated discreetly in Jewish life, but at the time of weddings, they were on public display. This inherent contradiction was partially handled by the fact that the direct public was made up of women, while the values they represented concerned all the members of the community. This balancing of opposing elements also appears in the ritual immersion of a woman before her wedding.

Earlier I mentioned the practice of women having a party at a Turkish bath before her marriage. The use of a hammam paralleled what was known in Europe as going to a miqveh. The term miqveh is derived from the Hebrew phrase miqveh mayyim, a gathering of water,88 and rabbinic tradition defined the minimum amount of a natural collection of water within which a woman was to totally immerse (see figure 13).89 The fanfare of prenuptial "miqveh parties" may be contrasted to the conventional modesty and discretion that pervades "going to the miqveh" during routine married life, before a couple resumes sexual relations after a woman's period.90

Henna and Transitions

Some aspects of a wedding, like the formal rabbinic kiddushin, or the popular showing of a sheet after consummation among Middle Eastern Jews, constitute dramatic crossings of a threshold. Other parts of a wedding consist of many individual acts drawn out over the long festive period both before and after the formal religious ceremony. It is common to talk of the "seven days of feasting" based on the biblical reference to Samson's wedding (Judg. 14:12, 17), but the cycle of celebrations before the wedding night could be shorter or longer.91 In Middle Eastern communities, some of these celebrations involved applying henna to the bride, and it was common that one (or more) of the nights before the wedding was known as "the night of henna."

The henna plant (Lawsonia inermis) is mentioned in the Bible, in the Song of Songs (1:13-14):

My lover is like a bundle of myrrh
He dwells between my breasts
My lover is like a bundle of henna
In the orchards of Ein Gedi

It continues to have connotations that are saliently associated with weddings, and implicitly with sexuality, among Middle Eastern Jews. In Algeria, the night of henna was also called the "night of opening." It was the occasion upon which a bride-to-be was verbally initiated into the "realities of marriage."92

The actual way henna was incorporated into prenuptial ceremonies varied greatly. In Tunisia, more than one night was identified with henna.93 While the central use of henna was its application to the fingernails, toenails, and hair of a bride, in San{ay}a (Yemen) and Tunisia, it was also ceremonially applied to grooms. The opposition of Yemenite rabbis who claimed that this violated the rule of not dressing a woman like a man (Deut. 22:5) did not succeed in squelching the practice.94

In the villages of Libya, on one henna night, a decorated bride sat outside on a low stool, her face and hair completely covered, but with her henna-covered hands and feet exposed. As already mentioned, young men would approach her, walking through a crowd of women gathered about her, and place coins on her toes and then leave them in a basket. One loquacious informant of mine said that young men might press the coins on her toes with great pressure, explaining that the act gave them vicarious erotic pleasure.95 Many other more "conventional" explanations are assigned to the use of henna, which symbolically condenses various aspects of a marriage. Even the act of grinding up the leaves and preparing the mixture had ritual import.96 The application of henna is seen, for example, as purifying the bride before the wedding. Another common reason, relating to the placing of henna on grooms as well as on brides, is that it wards off evil spirits, or opposes the evil eye operating within a community. This reason is given often, but yields only a superficial level of understanding. The very diversity of interpretations shows the need for other levels of understanding.

There are several characteristics of the henna plant and dye that make it appropriate for marriage ritual. While the plant itself is green, after being ground and mixed, it turns a darker color, sometimes described as red-brown and sometimes as yellow-brown. The change from green, the color of freshness and fertility, to red, the color of deflowered virginity, is particularly apropos, but even without focusing on the specific colors, the far-reaching transformation itself is a central feature from a sociological point of view. In addition, henna dye, when applied to the nails, hair, or the palms of the hand, is relatively lasting. It cannot be washed away immediately, but fades slowly over a period of weeks or more. It thus corresponds to a desired but not universally attained end-state of marriage ceremonies—that of permanence.

A general social science view of the use of henna does not mean that the explanations of warding off demons or the evil eye are devoid of sociological merit. As a major transition, a wedding entails charting unknown territory for the couple and for their families, a situation entailing anxiety. The belief in demons or the evil eye gives a concrete focus to anxieties and provides socially recognized ways of combating them. Such beliefs and actions may also mask other sources of ill feeling. As summarized by Eric Wolf with respect to weddings in peasant societies: "When one man succeeds in marrying a woman and receiving her dowry, a new household is formed; but the unsuccessful suitors will hang their head in despondency, or react with envy and shame." He adds that two families concluding a successful alliance may be the targets of gossip and ill will emanating from those "upon whom fortune has not smiled." The general sense of gaiety at weddings may thus drown out, but not eliminate, tensions that inevitably arise in the course of daily life. As in other communal celebrations, "participation does not end the hostilities between households, but rather affirms the existence of that larger social and moral order within which the hostilities are both contained and constrained."97

Tensions in Marriages: Divorce and Polygyny

A marriage is an alliance between two households, but even in the most traditional of settings, it is based on daily cooperation and accommodation between individuals. The expectation that the man is "in charge" and the woman obedient, once common in many communities, was often contradicted by reality and depended on the individual spouses involved. In his study of marriage customs in Morocco, Issachar Ben-Ami describes practices he calls "rites of supremacy."98 These may take the form of each member of the couple "putting his/her foot down" on top of the other's foot, or a contest over cutting fish. These playful rites, which have parallels in eastern Europe, are not necessarily declared to be tests of future domestic strength, but are embedded in other practices and gestures. Throughout North Africa, there were postnuptial customs involving fish, expressions of hoped-for fertility.

The wishes and blessings for harmonious life notwithstanding, some marriages end in divorce. Rabbinic tradition has discouraged divorce, and has encouraged couples to make every effort at reconciliation. It recognizes, however, that there are circumstances in which marriages should be dissolved. Even if rabbinic tradition wished to prohibit divorce, because of the value placed on marriage and procreation, it would be next to impossible, because divorce is explicitly recognized in the Bible. Deuteronomy 24:1 mentions a document called sefer keritut, a "bill of divorcement."99 Thus divorce entailed creating a formal written document from early times. It is noteworthy that there is no biblical mention of a written document in the case of marriage, parallel to the rabbinic ketubba. In fact, the rabbis partially justify the possibility of marrying a woman through a written document by enunciating the general principle that one can learn laws concerning marriage from the laws of divorce, because the two subjects are juxtaposed in the passage of Deuteronomy just cited.100

There is also symmetry between divorce and marriage in rabbinic law in that they are both actions taken by a man, which a woman acquiesces in (or refuses).101 Some suggest that the term "repudiation," of a woman by a man, would be a more accurate description of the formal aspect of Jewish divorce. The necessity of having a woman agree to accept a bill of divorce was instituted by authorities in medieval Ashkenaz, and is attributed to Gershom ben Yehudah of tenth-eleventh-century Mainz.102 Another development was the ability of a woman to pressure her husband, through the court, to issue her a get, or bill of divorce.103 From a strictly legal point of view, however, the initiative lay solely with the man.

A get is a short document, addressed to a woman by her husband, that simply releases her from her commitment to him and makes her "permissible to any man." There are strict rules as to how it should be written. In contrast to a ketubba, it cannot be a standard form in which the names and date are filled in, but must be written expressly for the divorce in question. It is often explained that the detailed requirements concerning the preparation of a get are intended to create a "cooling-off" period, during which a man has time to rethink his decision. After a get is written, it must be handed to or delivered to a woman, and it must be clear that she has received and accepted it.104

There have been different views as to what constitutes a good reason for a man to repudiate his wife. The last Mishna, in the tractate Gitin (9:10; gitin is the plural of get), offers several opinions. The followers of the sage Shammai say that divorce is justified if a woman is promiscuous, while the followers of Hillel claim that even her spoiling his cooked meals is grounds for divorce. The talmudic discussion that follows this Mishna concludes with the statement that even the sacrificial altar (in the Temple) sheds tears when a man divorces his first wife.105 Historically, a common reason for seeking a divorce has been barrenness. The norm developed that if a woman did not give birth after ten years of marriage, her husband was justified in divorcing her. The sixteenth-century Polish sage Moshe Isserles states that the practice of divorcing a woman after ten years of childlessness had fallen into disuse.106 Another option in those circumstances, which continued to exist in Sephardi tradition, was to take a second wife, as will be discussed shortly.

The decision to divorce and the writing of a get became matters of great gravity in rabbinic culture. Not only does divorce challenge the value of marriage, but, as noted, it calls for legal caution and precision. If there are mistakes in a get, or a lack of clarity, it may be claimed that a woman is not formally divorced. If she then enters into a relationship with another man, she is committing adultery. This was considered less of a legal problem with regard to the husband, because the Torah did not prohibit him from having more than one wife. Rabbinic concern, moreover, was not only about a woman's "morality" but about the status of any children she might bear in a second marriage.

Children born as the result of an adulterous relationship would be designated mamzerim (singular mamzer, Deut. 23:3), a word translated into English as "bastards." This is a misleading translation, however, because the question of a mamzer does not entail inheritance rights, nor is it only a matter of social opprobrium. Rather, it concerns the basic status of the individual within the Jewish community. A mamzer is any individual born as a result of sexual intercourse forbidden in the Torah, such as with one's sister, daughter, or another man's wife.107 A mamzer may only marry someone of the same status (although a convert, who can marry any Jew, may also marry a mamzer). The rabbinic stress on the correctness of a get, then, was linked to the desire to avoid creating or expanding a class of outcastes within Jewish society who were forbidden to marry other Jews.

Overall, it is very easy to marry according to Jewish tradition, but getting divorced is a slow and painstaking legal process. If a man past bar mitzvah age gives an unmarried woman a ring in front of two witnesses, recites the phrase of "kiddushin" (above), and she accepts the ring, there is good rabbinic opinion that a marriage has been effected according to halakha, even though this is not the recommended way of marrying today. If a man were to try to give his wife a get in such an informal and unsupervised manner, there would be myriad ways of challenging the validity of the procedure, and the working assumption of traditional rabbis would be that she was still married until a get had been given under their watchful eye. In modern times, now that Jews are able, or required, to marry and divorce according to civil law, the lack of coordination between civil divorce and Jewish divorce has created the problem of the aguna.

Aguna is a term from rabbinic tradition referring to a woman who is "tied down," or caught in a marriage that is no longer active, but who, at the same time, is not free to remarry.108 The classic situation creating the status of aguna was a husband who left home in uncertain circumstances, such as going to war, or even going on a long journey for purposes of business, and then did not return. If there was no firm proof of his death, or he did not send a get to his wife through a legally empowered messenger, there was no way of terminating the marriage at her initiative. Rabbinic tradition sought ways of handling this problem. One was to relax the rules about witnesses who would be accepted to testify that the man had in fact died. Another was to have a husband who went off on a long or dangerous journey prepare a conditional get for his wife, which would become actual if he did not return after a defined amount of time. This was common among medieval traders, and the obligation that a man prepare conditional bills of divorce was even stipulated in betrothal contracts.109

In modern times, aside from the anonymous deaths of the Holocaust, the question of an aguna appears in two common versions. One is in Diaspora countries, where a couple may be divorced under civil law but not necessarily under Jewish law. If the couple is not concerned with rabbinic tradition, then the question does not become a personal problem. If the woman does want a get, however, or a man whom she later wants to marry is concerned that she have one, her former husband has a way of "tying her down" by refusing to issue it.

The second form of modern aguna arises in Israel, where marriage and divorce can only take place under religious law (Jewish, Muslim, or Christian, as the case may be), and the supervision of these matters among Jews is under the control of the Orthodox rabbinate. The established rabbinate has followed the principle that a woman can be released from her marriage only through a get issued by her husband, even when it is clear to them that the marriage no longer has any substance, and that it may even be harmful to her to continue in the relationship. There have been cases of men incarcerated in order to persuade them to provide a get but who preferred to remain in jail rather than release their wives. This has created a category of women in Israel who "have been refused a get," and who come under the rubric of aguna. The rabbinate has been slow and hesitant in finding halakhic solutions to this problem, which now is a major concern of organizations dealing with women's rights.

One halakhically possible solution is annulment of the original marriage by a rabbinic court. Historically, rabbis have been reluctant to take upon themselves the power of annulment, but recourse to it in recent history has been documented by Zvi Zohar, who studied the rabbinic response to a problem that arose among the Jews of Egypt in the nineteenth century.110 After the construction of the Suez Canal (1869), Egypt began to attract migrants from Europe, including Jews from eastern Europe. Many of the latter were young men who came to Egypt looking for economic opportunities. They came in contact with local Jewish families, which included old Egyptian families and others who had migrated to Egypt from elsewhere in the Middle East. In some instances, European men began to court the daughters of these families. The young men could be relatively "free" in their behavior, while the young women both came from more traditional backgrounds and were more directly exposed to the scrutiny of their families and community. When couples reached a stage of growing sexual intimacy, men sometimes persuaded women to take the step of full sexual intercourse by saying they would marry them privately, and later let the parents know when the man had established himself economically. As indicated, this could be done by the man simply reciting the kiddushin in front of friends, and the woman accepting something of monetary value. This became a common occurrence, but in some cases, the men later left Egypt without a trace before publicly acknowledging the fact of their marriage. The abandoned women, telling their sad story, explained that they had agreed to sexual contact because of the ceremony of kiddushin. In facing this new situation, which was more extensive than a few individual cases, rabbis in Egypt took the daring step of annulling the private marriages. Zohar stresses the willingness of these rabbis to respond to a new social problem in a manner that enlarged the options in halakha, rather than to hold on to safer, conservative opinions. He claims that this willingness stemmed from the fact that there were no organized religious movements in Egypt that challenged traditional rabbinic authority, so that the rabbis there could allow themselves to cultivate the possibilities of change within halakha. This suggests that the stances of contemporary orthodox rabbis to issues like that of aguna may overlook opportunities for halakhic solutions for reasons that are not inherently halakhic.

This issue of the aguna easily becomes a prism through which contemporary religious and political divides in Judaism are refracted. In the United States, the issue was addressed by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, representing Conservative Judaism, in the 1950s. Based on the formulation of a leading Talmud scholar, Saul Lieberman, a version of the ketubba was put forth including a clause in which a husband agreed in advance that should problems arise in the marriage concerning religious matters, he empowered scholars at the seminary to summon him before a rabbinic court (beit din) and to impose monetary compensation upon him. The assumption was that the threat of a big fine would deter men from refusing to supply a get just out of stubbornness.111 The idea of the new ketubba was vociferously opposed by most leaders of Orthodoxy. In an intimate setting, I heard a leading orthodox rabbi explain that there was nothing wrong with the "Lieberman clause" from the point of view of halakha, but that the new policy would bring Conservative rabbis to deal with the writing of bills of divorce, rather than rely on Orthodox rabbis to deal with this legally intricate matter as they had done in the past.

This explanation indicates that religious debates between religious streams in Judaism today are not always over religious content per se, but also, and sometimes mainly, over who is empowered to make decisions with regard to that content. Some Orthodox rabbis did express halakhic objections to the "Lieberman clause." They are mentioned by a well-known "modern Orthodox" spokeswoman on feminist matters, who also warns that rabbinical positions on issues should not be ruled out "just because Conservative or Reform or Reconstructionist Judaism got there first."112 In 1996, a modern Orthodox rabbi, Emanuel Rackman, who has had a prominent career in both the United States and Israel, founded a beit din in New York to deal with the problem of agunot (plural). This court has since released many agunot based on the rabbinic principle of annulment. The majority of rabbis in the Orthodox world have not recognized these decisions, however, and are not prepared to preside over the marriages of these women to new husbands. It seems that matters of maintaining solidarity and authority get inextricably mixed into deliberations concerning individual families and lives.

In Israel, Conservative or Reform rabbis are not recognized to deal officially with matters of marriage or divorce. They have no standing in the eyes of the Ministry of the Interior, by which changes of personal status are registered and given legal validity. There, the issue of an aguna by virtue of a husband's refusal to provide a get pits individual women against established Orthodoxy. Some of the groups concerned with the problem view it in its most general terms because the same halakhic issues exist in various countries even though the context of national civil law differs. The International Coalition for Agunah Rights, for example, claims that rabbinic courts could make greater use of annulment to overcome the monopoly that men have with regard to the power of divorce.113 Others encourage halakhic moves similar to the principle used by Lieberman: the inclusion of an agreement within the ketubba on steps to be taken in the event of a divorce.114 In some aspects of family law, rabbinic authority in Israel has responded to pressure and agreed to the appearance before a beit din of professional female advocates in cases of divorce.115 Whether the entrenched rabbinate will eventually permit developments that relieve the basic imbalance of divorce rights entailed in traditional Jewish marriage is a matter of speculation.

The other side of the advantage given to men by rabbinic law in relation to a get is that they can initiate divorce. As mentioned, lack of children was considered a legitimate motive in this regard. An alternate way of meeting the problem of barrenness was to take a second wife. The Bible recognizes polygyny; it appears in the lives of the patriarchs (Jacob marrying Leah and Rachel), in Deuteronomy 21:15, and in the political alliance marriages of David and Solomon. It sometimes assumes the form of concubinage, and no less a figure than Abraham provides the precedent for taking a concubine (actually offered to him by Sarah) in order to have children (Gen. 16:1-3). At the same time, domestic life as portrayed in later biblical literature, like the Book of Proverbs, seems to take monogamy as both the normal and ideal situation. This is the case in classic rabbinic culture as well, although the sages of the Mishna and Talmud never banned polygyny and were content to follow what had become accepted, rather than forbid what is explicitly permitted in the Torah.

Polygyny, however, did not completely disappear from Jewish life. It continued in some areas and was restricted or outlawed in others. From about the eleventh century on, it was banned among Ashkenazi Jews. This ban is commonly attributed to Rabbi Gershom of Mainz, mentioned above, but probably emerged even before his time. It is likely that the norms of the Christian surroundings, which viewed marriage as a concession to human weakness, influenced Jews to institutionalize the limitation of married life to one woman.

Classic Sepharad was at first heavily exposed to Islam, which permitted polygyny, and later to Christianity as well. In that setting, polygyny was not forbidden but was discouraged by means of the marriage contract. In addition to the standard stipulations of a ketubba, other provisions might be included at the agreement of the parties. A condition, for example, might be that a man could not take a second wife unless his wife agreed to it, or that if he did take a second wife, he automatically had to pay his first wife the sum of "her ketubba." Alternately, a ketubba might state that if a woman did not bear children after ten years, a man could take a second wife with the first's permission. Examples of such ketubbot or the laws on which they are based were found, among other places, in the Cairo Geniza, and in a collection of the ordinances of Sephardi rabbis after they had lived in Morocco for several generations.116

Polygyny continued to be an option among Jews in parts of the Islamic world. Mordecai Ha-Cohen writes of Tripoli at the turn of the nineteenth century that Jewish men would come there from Italy in order to marry a second wife, something they could not do in Italy itself.117 Typically, rabbis in Tripoli only agreed if the first wife had borne no children. Among poor families in nineteenth-century Baghdad, young women who had no dowry to offer sometimes migrated to India, where they married local Jewish men in the Bombay Bene Israel or the Cochin communities. These men were so pleased to have Baghdadi wives that they even agreed to marry a second penniless bride, often a relative of the first.118 There also were cases of polygynous marriages in the twentieth century in North Africa and in Yemen.119 In Aden, the practice was explained as a way of ensuring the birth of a son who would recite the kaddish prayer after the death of his father.120

There were undoubtedly regular tensions built into polygynous families. In Jerba, where polygyny was forbidden by the Tunisian state in 1958, "people preserve the memory of a rabbi at the beginning of this [twentieth] century, whose four wives exhausted themselves in domestic battles."121 With regard to the Jews of Yemen, we have information from S.D. Goitein at the time of the mass immigration to Israel.122 Goitein found two women living together in a village outside of Jerusalem in 1950, who were then widows but had been co-wives of the same man in the past. The second woman had come into the household after the first one had borne no children. The new wife gave birth to several children, and they still continued to be good friends. The latter gave the following account: "We two women were like two doves. The man was one week with her and the next week with me. I did embroidery and she the household work. I produced the children, and she reared them."123 A more rounded perspective is provided by Laurence Loeb's discussion of polygyny among the Habbani Jews of southern Yemen, which notes that "co-wives, who could often be in vigorous competition for affection, attention, and influence, often were socially affable companions in the absence of their husbands." Loeb also indicates that males "were quite aware of the disadvantages of polygyny: conflict between co-wives for a husband's attention and over inheritance, interfamily hostility, expense, and . . . sexual responsibility."124 He summarizes that "in retrospect, Habbani women [in Israel today] . . . comment negatively on their naiveté, especially in their consent to polygyny and early marriage."125

Preserving, Reviving, and Interpreting Customs

Institutional arrangements like polygyny are mainly a matter of historical interest, but other aspects of traditional marriages and wedding celebrations have been maintained, reshaped, and even revitalized in new circumstances. In many marriages in Israel, brides now wear white dresses, as has long been de rigueur in Europe. It is quite common, however, if the couple or even one of the partners has a Middle Eastern background, to have a minor henna ceremony a few days before the wedding, during which the woman dresses in the traditional wedding garb of her parents' (or husband's parents') country of origin (see figure 14). Sometimes this is done to satisfy the expectations of the older generation, but in other instances, the bride-to-be wishes to express family and ethnic continuity. It also is not unusual for a woman of Ashkenazi background to want to taste the practices and traditions that have meaning to the family of her future husband. The practice is so common that many catering companies advertise their services for "henna parties" along with a list of events like brit milah and bar mitzvah. Contemporary henna celebrations are by no means close replicas of the ones conducted in the countries from whence immigrants to Israel came. I have seen a home video of a henna celebration by two Libyan families in Italy in a fancy Rome hotel, with elegantly dressed guests.

Another example of restored continuity, in relation to the European world, is the custom of bedekn (see above), which is part of the wedding ceremonies of many observant couples in Israel today. It has also undergone something of a renaissance in North America among people choosing to shape a traditional Jewish life for themselves. There, it is sometimes tied to another practice revived in these circles, the tish. The Yiddish word tish means "table," and the institution was adopted from eastern European Hasidic traditions, where many kinds of celebrations take place on the occasion of a meal around a table.126 Typically, the leader of the Hasidic group, the rebbi, is the main figure at a tish, but in weddings, the groom holds center stage.

After the bedekn, the groom and the bride separate, each with his or her same-gender companions. The groom, and these days sometimes the bride, sets out to deliver a brief Torah lesson to those present. Ostensibly, this shows how cherished the value of Torah study is, being attached to every occasion. In fact, however, no sooner has the groom begun to speak than he is interrupted by his guests' bursting into song, cued by a word from him that calls to mind a familiar melody. The groom's "lesson" is thus jokingly frustrated, and an atmosphere of gaiety prevails. There was also a tradition of interrupting the groom's Torah lesson at the festive meal (se{ay}udat mitzvah) after a wedding.127 In the case of a prenuptial tish, when the joking and partying ends, the next stage is the actual approach to the huppah.

One possible view is to regard this interrupted lesson simply as a form of wedding fun arising within communities to whom the study of Torah is a central value. At another level, the pretense of giving a lesson and having it stopped corresponds to, and even goes beyond, the rule in the Mishna that on his wedding night, a groom is exempted from reciting the Shma{ay} Yisrael prayer.128 The Mishna seems to assume that a young man getting married will not concentrate on the meaning of the Shma{ay} and its religious message and therefore releases him from that obligation. With this rule in the background, the custom, as it were, presents a groom so committed to the study of the Torah that his friends have to remind him that there should be other things on his mind just then. This interpretation is offered as one of many intricate ways in which rabbinic tradition and popular culture interact on the stage of wedding celebrations. Another practice in which it is possible to view the complexities of that interaction over the long haul of Jewish history is the custom of breaking a glass.

Breaking the Glass

"Up to the present day, the breaking of a glass has remained one of the most characteristic features of Jewish weddings," the noted anthropologist Edward Westermarck observes in his ambitiously titled History of Human Marriage. He notes that the custom may take several forms: the bridegroom may break a glass with his foot or it may be broken by the rabbi. "Various fanciful explanations have been suggested for this ceremony," he adds, "but its true meaning, as I understand it, has to my knowledge never been recognized."129

One can still claim, over a century later, that the breaking of a glass is a characteristic feature of Jewish weddings, but today's anthropologists resist the notion that we can know the "true meaning" of this or any other custom. Rather, they claim, customs have various meanings for different members of a society, or for the same members of that society on different occasions. The best an analyst can do is to specify the diverse situations in which a custom comes into play and record them in detail, along with the reactions to and comments upon the custom. Customs do not have set, stable meanings that are good for all times and places.

With this skeptical approach, contemporary anthropology also questions what once was a basic dogma of the discipline: the belief that explanations offered by "natives" concerning their own customs are not very illuminating. Interpretations growing out of a scientific perspective were preferable to those given by members of the society involved. Today, however, it is a commonplace that anthropologists, or any so-called "objective" observers, themselves offer a variety of interpretations, none of which can be authoritatively established as the true one.

It is not easy to distinguish between "insider" and "outsider" explanations in the case of Jewish culture, with its ever-expanding storehouse of understandings, enshrined in texts produced over the generations. This corpus of interpretations contains many sophisticated insights. Often, rabbinic commentary on laws and practices yields "native" interpretations that parallel ideas found in social scientific discussion.

An appreciation of these issues emerges when examining the custom of breaking a glass at weddings. Several explanations that seem "fanciful" (Westermarck's term) when taken alone, make sense in the context of a set of interlocking interpretations. Glass-breaking, which is seen as part of Jewish "folk culture," provides a richly complex case of the meeting of textual and popular culture in Jewish life over the centuries.

It is common knowledge, often repeated at weddings, that the breaking of a glass is interpreted as a sign of mourning for Jerusalem and the destroyed Temple of antiquity. At the moment of their highest joy, a new couple must remember the plight of their people. This explanation is relatively "recent," however, in terms of the development of Jewish law and lore. It has no explicit basis in the Bible or the Mishna. Many later rabbinic authorities linked the practice of breaking a glass to a passage in the Babylonian Talmud (see below), edited in the fifth or sixth century c.e. This connection is indirect, however, as will be explained. The interpretation of the custom in terms of mourning for the Temple is known only from the fourteenth century in Ashkenaz. It is also only from the late Middle Ages that breaking a glass appears as a prescribed part of the marriage ceremony. It is therefore a puzzle why this custom, and its now quasi-official explanation, became firmly implanted in Jewish practice and awareness despite the "recency" of the Temple-mourning interpretation.

One facet of the success of the glass-breaking custom and its explanation is their inclusion in standard rabbinic codes compiled in the sixteenth century and after. These are all based on the Shulhan Arukh, a legal compendium by the Sephardi scholar Yosef Caro, to which by the Polish sage Moshe Isserles added extensive glosses, based on Ashkenazi tradition, and included the "Temple-memorializing," or zekher la-hurban, explanation. The two works were printed together around 1570, and many times thereafter, and this may be one factor accounting for the widespread diffusion of the practice within the Jewish world.

This explanation of the custom's vitality can only be partial. Modern Jews have ignored and abandoned many traditional customs, the existence of proof texts notwithstanding. Why should they privilege the breaking of the glass and its zekher la-hurban justification? Other perspectives are called for to supplement and make sense of the persistence of this feature of Jewish weddings.

It must be noted that it is not only anthropologists who raise questions forcing us to look twice at the conventional meaning attached to ceremonial glass-breaking. In his description of the customs of the Jews of his native Tripoli, Rabbi Mordecai Ha-Cohen of Libya implicitly challenged the "remembrance of the destroyed Temple" thesis, with reference, not to the glass broken as part of the wedding ceremony, but to two other vessel-breaking events.

In Tripoli, when a procession accompanied a bride to the home of the groom, the latter climbed to the top of his house and threw down a clay jug in front of her, forcing her to walk through the shattered pieces before entering the house. Upon entering her new abode, the bride took a raw egg that she had been carrying, and threw it at the opposite wall. Both these acts were viewed by Tripoli's Jews as "remembering the Temple." Ha-Cohen wonders, however, why, if the point is to recall a sad event—the smashing of the jug is accompanied by the high-pitched joyous ululation of female onlookers? He further observes, in describing life in a mountainous region south of Tripoli, that Muslim Berber brides also smashed eggs against the walls of their new homes. He ponders: "What connection exists between the Muslim Berbers and the destroyed Holy Temple?" Ha-Cohen's questions make it clear that there was something at work in these local customs beyond their time-sanctioned Judaic explanations, and the same is true of related practices in other Jewish communities as well. For answers to these questions, one seeks to supplement the historical study of ancient Jewish texts with insights based on actual practice.

As stated, breaking a glass as part of the wedding ceremony proper is not mentioned in early rabbinic literature, but when the practice became established, later authorities linked it to a talmudic precedent. The Babylonian Talmud describes two spontaneous events of glass-breaking that took place during wedding festivities. In the first: "Mar, son of Ravina, made the wedding feast for his son. When he noticed that the rabbis were merry, he brought a precious cup worth 400 zuz, and broke it before them. They immediately became sad."130

The second story is an almost exact parallel of the first. Both stories appear, not in relation to the topic of weddings, but in a discussion of the appropriate attitude to be maintained during prayer, which cites a phrase from Psalms 2:11, "rejoice with trembling," indicating complex and contradictory emotions.

In a 1925 article "The Ceremony of Breaking a Glass at Weddings," Jacob Lauterbach cites this talmudic reference and then follows the custom of breaking a glass at weddings through posttalmudic literature. He concludes that it reflected beliefs concerning demons. The purpose of the act, he claims, was to distract, or drive away, harmful demons from the joy of a new couple. He also sees the belief in demons and concomitant actions as implicated in the events reported in the Talmud.131

Posttalmudic rabbis, in Lauterbach's view, were aware of what he called the "superstitious" bases of these actions and would have preferred to eliminate them. They could not eradicate the glass-breaking custom, however, because of its popularity. The rabbis' strategy, he surmises, was to let the practice continue without commenting upon the dubious beliefs it implied. That is why no allusion to it appears in the centuries after the talmudic period. The custom is mentioned only in twelfth- and thirteenth-century Ashkenaz, when breaking a glass first appears as part of the wedding ceremony. In the fourteenth century, as noted, the practice is first interpreted as a gesture of mourning over the Temple. The subsequent persistence of the custom, Lauterbach asserts, stems from linking an ancient practice, which was questionable from the point of view of pure monotheistic belief, to the rabbinic explanation. He further argues that the acceptable interpretation of the glass-breaking custom did not immediately displace older demonic understandings, but that these persisted for several centuries.

Lauterbach's reconstruction seems plausible, given the sources available. The talmudic stories he cites do not mention demons per se, but they approvingly describe incidents in which a limit is placed on mirth during wedding celebrations. His explanation of why the rabbis did not comment on the glass-breaking custom from the late talmudic period until the twelfth century—a span of almost 700 years—remains in the realm of speculation.

From a contemporary point of view, these demonological interpretations are limited. Notions concerning demons were certainly widespread in Jewish communities, but anthropology does not now see ritual action as growing only out of the logic of belief systems. The belief in demons itself requires explanation. It reflects social processes, in particular the transitions and stresses of individual and communal life.132 In addition, the explanations of rituals often do not help us understand their "origins"; they are better viewed as attempts to make sense of already existing practices. Lauterbach's exposition, by trying to elucidate the "logic" that links ritual acts to what he sees as no-longer-tenable beliefs, ignores the grounding of ritual in universal aspects of social life.

Ruth Gladstein-Kestenberg supplements Lauterbach's analysis by discussing the sexual symbolism of the glass-breaking, the meaning that was obvious to Westermarck.133 She anchors her thesis in comparative study but also provides a talmudic prototype. Earlier, we noted that the Talmud contains information on the customary celebration of weddings. One practice was the passing of a vessel of wine in front of a bride. The Talmud further specifies that the shape of the receptacle depended upon whether she was a virgin or not.134 A slender container was used in the case of a virgin, and a wider-mouthed vessel in the case of a widow. This dramatizes a direct link between virginity and a vessel used at a wedding.

According to Gladstein-Kestenberg, the talmudic sources underlined by Lauterbach and the ones that she cites were brought together in the wedding ceremonies performed by Rabbi Jacob ben Moshe of Moellin in fifteenth-century Germany. Rabbi Jacob used two different kinds of vessels to recite the blessing over wine. He utilized a narrow glass appropriate to a virgin and a wider ceramic cup for a widow. In the former case, a bridegroom would drink from the first cup of wine, then turn towards the north and smash it against the wall of the synagogue. One talmudic text was seen as the source for ceremoniously breaking a glass, while the other pointed to the shape of the vessel to be used. By linking the practice to old rabbinic sources, Rabbi Jacob not only underscored the validity of glass-breaking, but also seemingly acknowledged the sexual overtones of the rite.

Gladstein-Kestenberg also surmises that this practice was in fact older than the date of its first documentation. In some instances, at least, its sexual connotations must have been recognized. The same distinction appears in an account of Jewish weddings in seventeenth-century Morocco by the English clergyman Lancelot Addison, who writes: "If the bride be a virgin, they give her wine in a narrow cup; if a widow, in a wide one, for excellent reason no doubt." It is likely that Addison did not observe this directly among Jews in Morocco but copied these details from a description based on Jewish life in central Europe (Rabbi Jacob's milieu).135 In any event, it was not difficult for him to "read" the sexual reference. Jacob of Moellin emphasized ties to the talmudic text, but he was also responding to meanings associated with the ceremony in popular sentiment.

Both the talmudic passage cited and Addison's comment suggest that a metaphoric connection between femininity and a vessel was by no means opaque. Contrary to Westermarck, an appreciation of the juxtaposition of glass-breaking with the conjugal act has never been obscure. In weddings I have observed, the ability to break a glass decisively was often associated with the "strength" of the groom in the form of jokes by onlookers concerning his "virility." Contemporary rabbis also have commented on this type of jesting; typically, they disapprove of it.136

The association of wedding glass-breaking and the end of virginity also appears in other guises in Jewish tradition. In late medieval central Europe, a wedding wine glass was thrown forcefully against a synagogue wall, leaving a red spot.137 The stain on the wall may visually hint at another aspect of weddings mentioned above, proving the virginity of a bride by showing a blood-stained sheet.138 Concerns over the successful initiation of sexual intercourse on the part of a newly established couple, an issue present at any wedding, received partial expression in the glass-breaking ceremony. Depending on time, place, and participants, an explicit grasp of the sexual resonance of the gesture was not very far beneath the surface.139

Gladstein-Kestenberg wonders why the sexual connotations of the symbolism are not made explicit in traditional sources. She cites Westermarck, who surmises: "That this intention has been more or less disguised, is not to be wondered at, considering the nature of the subject." Another reason why this level of explanation fails to appear in rabbinic writings may, however, be because it concerns a panhuman facet of marriage, rather than an issue with specific Jewish content. Rabbinic silence as to the sexual side of the practice may have repressed the awareness that Jewish life stemmed from the same human forces that affect everyone, as much as it reflected unease over issues of sexuality. Thus, the twelfth- to thirteenth-century sources that first mentioned glass-breaking, and linked it to the Talmud, may have sought to actively "judaize," or give a Jewish cast to, a custom that had clear non-Jewish parallels.

Attention to explanations given for customs in neighboring cultures broadens the range of interpretations applicable to Jewish customs as well. We recall Ha-Cohen's observation that egg-breaking among Libyan Jewish villagers was also found among the local Muslims.140 In one Muslim community, the act took place when a bride entered the room in which she would soon be deflowered; there is also the suggestion that it represents the desire for fertility. Similar attributions are made by Westermarck in referring to customs in many parts of the Muslim world and in Mediterranean lands generally.141

The Libyan Muslim data yield other understandings as well. For example, there is the interpretation that the act points to the loosening of social ties between the bride and her original family. Muslim villagers in a second Libyan community, on the other hand, state that the practice brings harmony to the new house.142 These two explications of the same act may be seen as different aspects of a single process; it is only by neglecting, or permanently altering, the old ties that a new family can be successfully formed and sustained. Comparison with other cultures thus shows that our custom reflects the making and breaking of social ties, in addition to its patent sexual associations.

The symbolic understandings offered thus far bring together distinct ideas, which in some instances may be seen as opposites of one another. The rupturing of the hymen that constitutes the termination of virginity is associated with the beginning of procreation and the building of a new social unit. The breaking of an object points to the creation of a new social bond. In both instances, opposite types of processes are closely linked. Let us explore the latter association further by examining what happens when a vessel is smashed. First, the breaking of a glass entails a dramatic change of state. A second feature of the process is the move from wholeness to destruction. A third is the irreversibility of the change involved. This is the feature that seems most closely to match the aspired-for developments in the realm of marriage.

Judaism, as discussed, places high value on stable and peaceful family ties, but also recognizes the possibility of divorce. The rabbinic marriage ceremony and ketubba can encourage a successful and permanent union, but cannot totally guarantee that outcome. The unpredictable course of a marriage thus calls forth popular expressions of its durability. Breaking a glass seems to say: "Just as a broken vessel cannot be reconstituted, it is to be hoped that what has been done at this ceremony will not be undone." Standing the well-known injunction from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer sometimes heard at non-Jewish weddings on its head, the breaking of a glass challenges the onlookers of a ceremony: "Let no man join together what has here been rent asunder!" Its social-symbolic use, however, is precisely the opposite: to hold intact that which is inherently fragile.

This idea is also hinted at by Westermarck when he cites the explanation given in Boeotia, Greece, for the custom of burning the axle of a wagon that carried a bride to the house of a groom, thus culminating the wedding procedures. Once the marriage has taken place, there is no return. Westermarck does not apply this reasoning to his egg- and glass-breaking examples, but it applies there as well. The logic is that of the most widespread riddle in the English language: Humpty Dumpty. Once the egg—Humpty Dumpty—is broken, "all the king's horses and all the king's men" cannot reverse the process. Humpty Dumpty highlights the paradox that the breaking of an object stands for irreversibility and permanence.

Making a connection between Humpty Dumpty and wedding ceremonies is not arbitrary, because the children's verse is in fact a riddle (the answer is "an egg"), and there is an ancient connection between riddles and weddings. Samson presents a riddle to the Philistines to be solved by them on the occasion of his wedding (Judg. 14:12). In Italy and Holland in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, learned riddles were composed as an aspect of wedding festivities.143 Galit Hasan-Rokem, in reference to this practice and to riddles generally, stresses the quality of irreversibility as inherent in riddles as a literary form.144

The logic of these symbolic associations, including that of irreversibility, was not lost on rabbinic commentators. After the custom of breaking a glass and the explanation tying it to the destroyed Temple were incorporated into rabbinic codes in the sixteenth century, rabbinic discussion of the practice and others related to it grew. One development stressed the distinction between the two cups of wine drunk in the wedding ceremony, one in the kiddushin phase and the other as part of the nesuin. Most rabbis insisted that only the former cup be broken, because to break the latter—in the marriage phase—would be an omen that the newly established marriage bond might not survive. Above, I cited the insistence of the Gaon of Vilnius that couples smash a ceramic dish, which cannot be repaired, as part of their prenuptial agreement (tenaim). Even when the explanation with reference to the destroyed Temple was well established, rabbis continued to elaborate their understanding of the glass-breaking and related customs.

Thus far we have viewed the breaking of the glass at Jewish weddings in terms of popular beliefs and various social scientific explanations. These may be sufficient to account for the wide diffusion of the custom and its persistence in Jewish life. From this standpoint, the connection between the glass-breaking and its well-known rabbinic explanation appears arbitrary. The explanation seems to supply a Jewish veneer to universal social and symbolic processes. Building upon this analysis, however, I would also argue that the destroyed Temple explanation is not totally arbitrary. It involves an intricate latching-on of a powerful theme in Jewish culture to the abiding human concerns of individuals and families. This linkage takes place because internal Jewish symbolism and the panhuman symbolic elements we have considered share similar structures of opposing and paradoxical meanings.

In a book introducing the study of symbolism, the anthropologist Edmund Leach illustrated the principle that symbols within a culture must be understood in relation to one another by pointing to the logic of colors worn by brides and widows in European society. White stands for the entrance into marriage, and contrasts with black, which represents the exit from the married state upon the death of the husband.145 Examining Jewish tradition from this perspective leads to the observation that, more saliently than oppositions, one finds many parallels between the cultural markers of marriage and of mourning.

There are many examples of this parallel. The mishnaic rule that a groom on his wedding night is not obligated to recite the Shma{ay} Yisrael was cited above. The next chapter of the Mishna states that a person whose deceased relative has not yet been buried is also released from that obligation.146 In the Talmud, a discussion of the blessings recited at a wedding flows into a consideration of the blessings appropriate in the presence of mourners.147 In a different realm, there exists the custom, in diverse Jewish communities, of preparing an undergarment for a bride that is worn first at her wedding but ultimately is used as a shroud. The connection between marriage and funerals also was elaborated in Jewish mysticism.148 In some mystical traditions, the death of a righteous person was marked annually by a festive celebration called a hillula, because the return of his soul to its origin was perceived of as a kind of wedding.149

Returning to the practice of glass-smashing, symbols of breaking or severance are central both in Jewish weddings and in funerary ritual. Breaking a glass is standard in weddings, and tearing a garment is a required component of Jewish mourning. With regard to marriage, the prescribed nature of the act developed in the medieval period, but the act of rending a garment at the time of death has roots in biblical culture.150 In the case of mourning, the symbolic link between tearing a garment and the irreversible rupture of ties is apparent, and we have argued that this is a central signification of glass-breaking with reference to marriage. The now "semi-official" interpretation that links the joy of marriage to sadness over the destruction of the Temple raises the question as to whether a woeful setting, such as a funeral, can be designated as having some positive features.

I personally experienced this question more than a decade ago at the time of the death of my father. A rabbi friend151 explained to me and my family that the obligatory rending of our garments at the funeral signified the end of sorrow. This interpretation, pointing to an eventual return of gladness, did a somersault with the most obvious significance of the gesture, which resonates with the permanent breaking of a social bond. It is also obvious that my friend's consoling interpretation was more appropriate to the immediate human situation than were my own dubious anthropological ponderings. Religious thought in many societies is sensitive to unexpected reversals in human lives. In Jewish tradition, this is exemplified, and epitomized, in the close linkage between sorrow over the destruction of the Temple and the hope of rebuilding it.

The remembrance of the sorrow of Jerusalem by breaking a glass at weddings is a "recent" development in Jewish history, but it easily meshes with more ancient notions and texts. Bringing the topic of Jerusalem into the wedding celebration is not new. As already mentioned, two of the seven blessings from the Talmud that are recited at weddings express the hope that Jerusalem will be rebuilt. The wish of one of the blessings that speedily there will be heard "in the cities of Judah and the squares of Jerusalem, the sound of joy and the sound of happiness, the voices of bridegrooms and the voices of brides" is taken from Jeremiah 33:10-11, where it is to be understood as a reversal of the similarly phrased prophecy recorded earlier in Jeremiah 7:34, where it is warned that "the voices of bridegrooms and the voices of brides" will no longer be heard in Jerusalem. The fourteenth-century document that first invokes the destroyed Temple as an interpretation of the custom, and does so in the context of a discussion of the rules of the fast day commemorating that event, the laws of Tish{ay}ah be-Av, did not make this connection de novo, but built upon a long tradition of cultural associations.

In fact, glass-breaking as Temple remembrance appears to have supplanted another custom recalling the Temple's destruction. Rabbi Jacob ben Asher of fourteenth-century Toledo, whose father moved from Ashkenaz to Spain, records that in the latter region, ashes were rubbed on the forehead of the groom, on the place where head-tefillin are placed, as a sign of Temple mourning.152 The verse cited as explaining that custom, taken from Isaiah 61:3, addresses the mourners of Zion and speaks of replacing their ashes with glory. The phrase constitutes a play on words, in which pe{al}er (glory) takes the place of {al}epher (ashes).153 The logic of a text-based reversal inserted into a wedding context thus existed prior to the emergence of the structured glass-breaking ceremony. Another medieval source suggests that the practice of applying ashes to the groom's forehead was relinquished on principle, because many grooms did not regularly don tefillin.154 I suspect that it fell into relative disuse (it continued in Yemen as part of the ceremony of placing a prayer shawl on the groom)155 because the glass-breaking custom, carrying with it the energy of popular roots, more powerfully encapsulated the multileveled message of reversal.

In Jewish tradition, remembrance of the destroyed Temple is typically intertwined with the hope of its rebuilding. This is expressed, for example, in the idea that the day of the destruction of the Temple, marked by the fast of Tish{ay}ah be-Av, is also the day on which the Messiah, who is to rebuild the Temple, was born.156 The same idea is found in a talmudic story about the sage Rabbi Akiba, who laughed upon seeing foxes run through the ruins of the Temple, while his colleagues cried. Akiba explained that now that he had seen the prophecies of destruction fulfilled, he could be certain that the predictions of redemption would be realized.157 The paired elements of destruction and reconstruction have become so closely tied together in Jewish tradition that the one, pointing to the other, can also stand for its opposite. Given these associations in Jewish lore, the application of the destroyed Temple explanation to glass-breaking appears, not as an arbitrary choice assigning a meaning to a custom based on "superstition," but as a "natural" and persuasive development.

The seemingly effortless step that links a rabbinic interpretation to general symbolic processes connected with the breaking of vessels reflects the parallel logical structure found in both sets of associations. Universal glass-smashing symbolism, which startlingly proclaims that shattering can point to permanence, absorbs another bundle of symbols in which opposites are intertwined that is particularly and intensely Jewish. In addition, the paradoxical dimension of the ritual may function as an interpretive engine pushing towards further elaboration of ritual action and thought.

It is precisely the human conundrum that destroying and creating can be tightly interlocked, and even symbolize each other, that is ostensibly "resolved" by re-presenting familiar cultural content that shows that this connection appears again and again in a valued sphere of Jewish life. In this manner, a widespread symbolic association found in many societies becomes a vehicle for more culturally specific symbols.

The successful linking of culturally specific and universal symbolism has an impact upon individuals and ties them to the collectivity and its traditions, as seen in Jewish mourning ceremonies. Mourning ritual expresses the irreversible breaking of social ties, but the individual mourner is also reminded, in conventionalized fashion, of the mourning for Jerusalem. Upon exiting a cemetery after burial, or upon concluding a visit to a house of bereavement, visitors take leave of mourners with phrases such as: "May the All-Present console you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem." Taken at face value, this is not a felicitous formula, for the memory of destroyed Jerusalem could just as easily compound the mourner's anguish!158 Characteristically however, the memory of Jerusalem's desolation is utilized to constitute a gesture of consolation. This can only be understood on the assumption that the destruction of Jerusalem assures its eventual restoration. Just as remembering the destroyed Temple intrudes into the mirth of a wedding, so recalling Jerusalem's sadness points to the eventual return of joyfulness to a mourning family. The symbolic processes seeking to connect the person to the group are parallel to what is stated explicitly in the Passover Haggadah, in which each individual is required to view himself as if he had left Egypt. Breaking the glass at weddings utilizes widespread folk symbolism to create a deep sense of identification between the newly formed family and the saga of the Jewish people.

In addition to the contexts of weddings and funerals, glass-breaking and its interpretation also held their grasp because similar cultural associations were reiterated in other realms of Jewish life. One salient realm is that of the Friday night service and liturgy, in which some of the oppositional symbolism we have discussed may be found. The Friday night hymn "Lekhah Dodi," which treats the Sabbath as a bride, is also a product of the sixteenth century, like the widely printed Shulhan Arukh, which includes the glass-breaking interpretation.159 That hymn richly draws upon imagery from the latter part of the book of Isaiah, which celebrates the radical reversal in the status of the exiled Israelites in ancient Babylon and heralds the return of the Jews to Jerusalem. In one verse, for example, an image of Zion as a bride is addressed:

Those that trampled you shall be trampled
All those that despoiled you shall be routed
Your God shall rejoice in you
As a groom is joyful over his bride160

Moreover, in Jewish life, this set of textual associations may be woven into ritual situations connected to mourning.

Jewish law forbids mourning on the Sabbath. Even those who have lost a close relative are to refrain from sitting at home and observing the laws of mourning on the Sabbath that falls in the first week after death. Rather, mourners are expected to join in public worship; coming to the synagogue on Friday night constitutes one of the first acts of reintegration into normal communal life. It became customary, in Ashkenazi tradition, for their entrance into the synagogue to be coordinated with the end of the singing of the "Lekhah Dodi" hymn. When that hymn is concluded, according to widespread Ashkenazi practice (there is variation among Sephardim in this matter), worshipers turn to the entrance of the synagogue and mildly bow, as if greeting someone, while the concluding words of the hymn, "Come, O bride; come, O bride," are recited. At this point, the entering mourners are greeted with the phrase cited above: "May the All-Present console you amidst the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem." The meeting of the sadness of mourning, and the joy of the image of the Sabbath as a bride, both linked to the memory of Jerusalem, have thus been inserted into the weekly liturgical cycle, sinking into the consciousness of many Jews. When similar associations arise in wedding ceremonies, far from appearing as an arbitrary interpretation pasted on to the glass-breaking custom, these meanings are sensed as appropriate, as if they have been inherent in the situation from time immemorial.

The long and intricate story of the glass-breaking continues today. We now find the custom in popular films serving as a sign of Jewish weddings, thereby adding new "textual" dimensions to Jewish practice. The presence of non-Jews at contemporary Jewish weddings also encourages interpretations that are not specifically Jewish. At a wedding in the United States that I attended several years ago, the officiating rabbi, while not ignoring other explanations, claimed that the gesture reminds us of the fragility of life and its vicissitudes. This interpretation appears in a seventeenth-century work by Leon de Modena (in Italy), the first book written in a European vernacular by a Jew aiming to explain Judaism to Christians.161 At the same wedding, the young couple themselves distributed a decorative brochure, prepared on a word processor, explaining various "laws and customs of the Jewish marriage ceremony." Included was "the breaking of the glass." It pointed out that the destruction of six million Jews is now included among the sobering thoughts that one must keep in mind, even at the hour of "greatest happiness." A variety of appreciations of the custom, stemming from both ancient wisdom and current sensibilities, still reinvigorate one another as modern technology abets the linkage of panhuman concerns that emerge in weddings to rabbinic texts and traditions.

Marriage thus appears as one of the most stable institutions of Jewish tradition, while, at the same time, the practices and understandings composing it have responded to the material reality and cultural sensibilities of different regions and periods. The interplay of rabbinic law and popular custom is evident from ancient times through the Middle Ages up to the present. Always a scene of opposites, between the genders, between aspirations and anxiety, or between joy and sorrow, weddings continue to merge the desires of individuals, the institutions of family and community, and religious traditions in their official and vernacular forms. They also constitute a sort of midpoint along the path of personal lives, where the family of childhood is left behind and new routes of travel must be charted and navigated. Marriage turns this journey into a joint effort, but does not obliterate the process of self-definition or the realm of private visions.



Chapter 4. Marriage

1. See "Tensions in Marriage" in this chapter for an explanation of the possibly controversial nature of that ketubba, and also "Religion in Israeli Society" in chapter 7.

2. Abraham Chill, The Minhagim: The Customs and Ceremonies of Judaism, Their Origins and Rationale (New York: Sepher-Hermon Press, 1979), p. 275.

3. See chapter 2, "Birth, the Firstborn, and Naming."

4. Rahel Rosen [Wasserfall], "Le symbolisme féminin ou la femme dans le système de représentation judéo-marocain dans un mochav en Israel" (in Hebrew) (M.A. thesis, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1981); Lucette Valensi, "Religious Orthodoxy or Local Tradition: Marriage Celebration in Southern Tunisia," in Jews among Arabs: Contacts and Boundaries, ed. M.R. Cohen and A.L. Udovitch (Princeton, N.J.: Darwin Press, 1989), p. 66.

5. TB Ketubbot 8a, and Rashi ad loc.

6. Jeremy Cohen, Be Fertile and Increase: Fill the Earth and Master It: The Ancient and Medieval Career of a Biblical Text (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1989).

7. Debra Orenstein, ed., Lifecycles: Jewish Women on Life Passages and Personal Milestones (Woodstock, Vt.: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1994), pp. 94-95.

8. Mark Zborowski and Elizabeth Herzog, Life Is with People: The Culture of the Shtetl (New York: Schocken Books, 1996), pp. 347-48; Elizabeth Ehrlich, Miriam's Kitchen: A Memoir (New York: Viking, 1997), p. 205.

9. Esther Schely-Newman, Our Lives Are but Stories: Narratives of Tunisian-Israeli Women (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2002), pp. 30-32; Alana Suskin, H-Judaic list (, 22 January 2000.

10. Irene Awret, Days of Honey: The Tunisian Boyhood of Rafael Uzan (New York: Schocken Books, 1984), p. 156, also refers to the marking of menarche in the Tunisian community of Nabeul by a feast prepared by the mother. There is no mention of the use of oil. A study of Jerba in southern Tunisia states that there was no ceremonial recognition of menarche there, but notes that customs on that occasion were known in other North African communities. See Abraham Udovitch and Lucette Valensi, The Last Arab Jews: The Communities of Jerba, Tunisia (New York: Harwood Academic, 1984), p. 46.

11. Yehoshua Yonatan Rubinstein, Zikhron Ya{ay}aqov Yosef (Jerusalem: n.d. [1930]), p. 54b. For other traditional remedies, some of which seem to fly in the face of human sensibilities and rabbinic rules, see Sylvie-Anne Goldberg, Crossing the Jabbok: Illness and Death in Ashkenazi Judaism in Sixteenth- through Nineteenth-Century Prague, trans. Carol Cosman (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996 [orig. 1989]), pp. 151-58, and Raphael Patai, On Jewish Folklore (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1983), pp. 302-13.

12. On some traditional views of menstruation, see Chava Weissler, Voices of the Matriarchs: Listening to the Prayers of Early Modern Jewish Women (Boston: Beacon, 1998), pp. 68-70. See also Rahel Wasserfall, ed., Women and Water: Menstruation in Jewish Life and Law (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1999), including articles cited in chapter 1 above.

13. Howard Eilberg-Schwartz, The Savage in Judaism: An Anthropology of Israelite Religion and Ancient Judaism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990); Nissan Rubin, The Beginning of Life: Rites of Birth, Circumcision, and Redemption of the Firstborn in the Talmud and Midrash (in Hebrew) (Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1995); Lawrence A. Hoffman, Covenant of Blood: Circumcision and Gender in Rabbinic Judaism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).

14. The "shekhina." See Moshe Idel, "Sexual Metaphors and Praxis in the Kabbalah," in The Jewish Family: Metaphor and Memory, ed. David Kraemer (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. 201-2.

15. Everett Gendler, "On the Judaism of Nature," in The New Jews, ed. James A. Sleeper and Alan C. Mintz (New York: Random House, 1971), pp. 235-38. For recent elaborations of this theme in contemporary rituals for women, see Arlene Agus, "This Month Is for You: Observing Rosh Hodesh as a Woman's Holiday," in The Jewish Woman: New Perspectives, ed. E. Koltun (New York: Schocken Books, 1976), pp. 84-93; Shulamit Magnus, "Re-inventing Miriam's Well: Feminist Jewish Ceremonials," in The Uses of Tradition: Jewish Continuity in the Modern Era, ed. Jack Wertheimer (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America with Harvard University Press, 1992), pp. 331-47; David M. Rosen and Victoria P. Rosen, "New Myths and Meanings in Jewish New Moon Rituals," Ethnology 39 (2000): 263-77.

16. The stem only appears once in the interim, with regard to Abraham's servant, the "ruler" of his household (Gen. 24:2).

17. Gershom Scholem, On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism (New York: Schocken Books, 1965), pp. 151-53. The relevant sources are presented in Dan Siegel, "Moon: White Silver of Shekhinah's Return," in Worlds of Jewish Prayer, ed. Shohama Harris Wiener and Jonathan Omer-man (Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson, 1993), pp. 231-55. See chapter 7, "Mysticism, the Genders, and the Individual," for further discussion of this imagery.

18. Rubin, Beginning, pp. 22-25.

19. Yedidyah Dinari, "The Impurity Customs of the Menstruate Woman—Sources and Development" (in Hebrew), Tarbiz 49 (1980): 302-34; Rubin, Beginning, pp. 38-70.

20. Hagar Salamon, The Hyena People: Ethiopian Jews in Christian Ethiopia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), pp. 97-100; Rachel Qimur, "The Samaritan Family: Traditionality and Modernity" (in Hebrew), in Families in Israel, ed. L. Shamgar-Handelman and R. Bar-Yosef (Jerusalem: Academon, 1991), pp. 211-39.

21. Erich Brauer, The Jews of Kurdistan, completed and ed. Raphael Patai (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1993), pp. 158-59, 182.

22. Mordecaï Ha-Cohen, The Book of Mordechai, trans. and ed. H.E. Goldberg (London: Darf, 1993), p. 120.

23. Ibid., p. 128.

24. Rahel Wasserfall, "Menstruation and Identity: The Meaning of Niddah for Moroccan Women Immigrants to Israel," in People of the Body: Jews and Judaism from an Embodied Perspective, ed. H. Eilberg-Schwartz (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), pp. 309-27.

25. Ha-Cohen, Book, p. 119.

26. This continues to be practiced today by many Karaites. See Sumi Colligan, "Religion, Nationalism, and Ethnicity in Israel: The Case of the Karaite Jews" (Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 1980). The attitude can also be documented in Jewish communities. See Paula Hyman, The Emancipation of the Jews of Alsace: Acculturation and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1991), pp. 127-28.

27. See Yosef Caro's Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh De{ay}ah 282:9, which presents the Sephardi rabbinic norm of the sixteenth century, and the glosses of Moshe Isserles ad loc., which cite variant Ashkenazi practice. For a historical survey of the issue, see Shaye J.D. Cohen, "Purity and Piety: The Separation of Menstruants from the Sancta," in Daughters of the King: Women and the Synagogue, ed. Susan Grossman and Rivka Haut (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1992), pp. 103-15. For a recent rabbinic reiteration of Caro's rule, which suggests that popular norms may have been otherwise in North Africa, see Avraham Hai Adadi, Ha-shomer emet (Leghorn: Ben-Amozag, 1849), 4:24, 7:3; reprint, Tel Aviv: Va{ay}ad Qehillot Luv Be-Yisrael, 1986, pp. 22, 35.

28. Awret, Days of Honey, p. 50; chapter 5, "Hillulot and the Zohar in Morocco."

29. Louis Jacobs, "The Responsa of Rabbi Joseph Hayyim of Baghdad," in Perspectives on Jews and Judaism, ed. A.A. Chiel (New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 1978), pp. 190-91 n. 3.

30. Judith Hauptman, "Feminist Perspectives on Rabbinic Texts," in Feminist Perspectives on Jewish Studies, ed. Lynn Davidman and Shelly Tenenbaum (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1994), pp. 40-61. See also Judith Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1991), pp. 63-64.

31. See also Moshe Halbertal, Interpretative Revolutions in the Making: Values as Interpretative Considerations in Midrashei Halakhah (in Hebrew) (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1997), ch. 3.

32. The earliest known ketubba-like document linked to Jewish tradition is from the colony of Jewish mercenaries in Elephantine in southern Egypt (near contemporary Aswan), 5th century b.c.e. See Hayyim Schauss, The Lifetime of a Jew: Throughout the Ages of Jewish History (Cincinnati: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1950), pp. 139-41. An extensive study of the development of the ketubba is found in Mordechai Akiva Friedman, Jewish Marriage in Palestine: A Cairo Geniza Study, vol. 1, The Ketubba Traditions of Eretz Israel (Tel-Aviv: Tel-Aviv University; New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1980). For a broad view of marriage among Jews in ancient times, see Michael Satlow, Jewish Marriage in Antiquity (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001).

33. TB Qiddushin 2b.

34. See "Tensions in Marriages" in this chapter.

35. Ze{al}ev W. Falk, Jewish Matrimonial Law in the Middle Ages (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), pp. 43-44; S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza, vol. 3: The Family (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), p. 70.

36. Yitzhak Avishur, The Jewish Wedding in Baghdad and Its Filiations: Customs and Ceremonies, Documents and Songs, Costumes and Jewelry, vol. 2 (in Hebrew) (Haifa: University of Haifa, 1990), p. 67.

37. For an analysis that seeks to decode overall conceptions of this part of the Mishna, over and above the specific rules, see Noam Zohar, "Women, Men and Religious Status: Deciphering a Chapter in Mishna," in Approaches to Ancient Judaism, n.s., 5, ed. H.W. Basser and S. Fishbane (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993), pp. 33-54.

38. Joseph Kafih, Jewish Life in San{ay}a (in Hebrew) (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 1969), p. 139.

39. Herbert Dobrinsky, A Treasury of Sephardic Laws and Customs (Hoboken, N.J.: Ktav, 1988), p. 44.

40. Yokhi Brandes and Ruhama Weiss-Goldman, Lirqod {ay}al kamah hatunot [To Dance at Several Weddings]: The Complete Guide for Registering Marriages and Arranging Alternative Wedding Ceremonies (Jerusalem: Hidush, 1996), pp. 33-34.

41. See appendix 4. Among Syrian Jews, there is a third blessing over spices.

42. The possible textual background to this custom is suggested in Daniel Sperber, Minhagei Yisrael: Meqorot ve-toladot [Jewish Customs: Sources and History] (Jerusalem: Mosad Ha-Rav Kook, 1989-95), 2: 222-26.

43. Dobrinsky, Treasury, pp. 44, 58. See "Tensions in Marriages" in this chapter.

44. Shalom Sabar, Ketubbah: Jewish Marriage Contracts in the Hebrew Union College Skirball Museum and Klau Library (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1990); id., Mazal Tov: Illuminated Jewish Marriage Contracts from the Israel Museum Collection (Jerusalem: Israel Museum, 1993).

45. Schauss, Lifetime, pp. 162-64; Frija Zuaretz et al., eds., Sefer Yahadut Luv [Libyan Jewry] (Tel Aviv: Va{ay}ad Qehillot Luv Be-Yisrael, 1960), p. 393; Joseph Guttman, "Jewish Medieval Marriage Customs in Art: Creativity and Adaptation," in The Jewish Family, ed. David Kraemer (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. 48-49.

46. TB Qiddushin 7a. See also TB Yebamot 63a: "A man who has no wife is not a man."

47. Midrash Bereshit Rabbah 68:4.

48. Harvey E. Goldberg, "Torah and Children: Symbolic Aspects of the Reproduction of Jews and Judaism," in Judaism Viewed from Within and from Without: Anthropological Studies, ed. Harvey E. Goldberg (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987), pp. 113-14, 125; Dobrinsky, Treasury, p. 59. That is also current practice in the Etz Ha-hayyim synagogue in Ortakoy, Istanbul. The Sephardi custom, in various forms, was once more widespread than it is today, and also existed in some regions in Ashkenaz. See Naphtali Wieder, The Formation of Jewish Liturgy in the East and in the West, vol. 2 (in Hebrew) (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 1998), pp. 631-34.

49. See comment of Rashi on Gen. 25:20, citing Seder Olam [The Order of the World].

50. The image of Rebecca as being very young may be reinforced by reference to her nursemaid who accompanied her (Gen. 24:59).

51. Mishna Qiddushin 2:1; TB Qiddushin 41a.

52. See the comments of the Tosafot (previous note), ad loc. (beginning with the word asur). For a general discussion, see Avraham Grossman, "Child Marriage in Jewish Society in the Middle Ages until the Thirteenth Century" (in Hebrew), Pe{ay}amim 45 (1990): 108-25.

53. I am indebted to Susan Sered for pointing out that a wedding ceremony may take place without the bride saying a word.

54. Gen. 38:11.

55. Shaul Stampfer, "The Social Implications of Very Early Marriage in Eastern Europe in the Nineteenth Century" (in Hebrew), in Studies on Polish Jewry: Paul Glikson Memorial Volume, ed. E. Mendelsohn and Ch. Shmeruk (Jerusalem: Institute of Contemporary Jewry, 1987), pp. 65-77; Steven M. Lowenstein, "Ashkenazic Jewry and the European Marriage Pattern: A Preliminary Survey of Jewish Marriage Age," Jewish History 8 (1994): 155-75.

56. Flower Elias Cooper and Judith E. Cooper, The Jews of Calcutta: The Autobiography of a Community (Calcutta: Jewish Association of Calcutta, 1974), p. 47.

57. Avishur, Jewish Wedding, pp. 32-35.

58. Aron Rodrigue, Images of Sephardi and Eastern Jewries in Transition: The Teachers of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, 1860-1939 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1993), pp. 83-84.

59. For example: "Happy is he with male children, and woe unto him with female children" (TB Qiddushin 82b); "Whoever has no son, it is as if he is dead, as if he is destroyed" (Midrash Bereshit Rabbah 45:3). See also Blu Greenberg, On Women and Judaism: A View from Tradition (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1981), p. 63.

60. See chapter 3, "Torah and Women."

61. See Rubin, Beginning, p. 38, citing TB Niddah 31b.

62. Avishur, Jewish Wedding, p. 28, citing a paper published by Baghdadi Jews in Calcutta. I have not been able to identify a rabbinic source for this; perhaps it is of Muslim origin. A parallel figure of speech appears in the Talmud with regard to divorce. See n. 105 below.

63. Mardocheo Cohen, Usi, costumi e istituti degli Ebrei libici, trans. M.M. Moreno, 2d ed. (London: Darf, 1987 [orig. 1924]), pp. 117-21.

64. Cooper and Cooper, Jews of Calcutta, p. 35.

65. Kafih, Jewish Life, p. 108.

66. Laurence Loeb, Outcaste: Jewish Life in Southern Iran (London: Gordon & Breach, 1977), pp. 224-30. On pilgrimages, see chapter 5.

67. Cooper and Cooper, Jews of Calcutta, p. 5, citing Alexander Russel, The Natural History of Aleppo (London: G.G. an J. Robinson, 1794); Azriel Qamon, ed., The Duar and Seqel Families: Damascus Jews (in Hebrew) (Ramat Efal: Yad Tabenkin, 1995), pp. 31-32.

68. Harvey E. Goldberg, "The Jewish Wedding in Tripolitania: A Study in Cultural Sources," Maghreb Review 9, 3 (1978): 1-6.

69. Avishur, Jewish Wedding, pp. 51-52.

70. Mordecaï Ha-Cohen, Higgid Mordecaï: The History, Institutions and Customs of the Jews of Libya (in Hebrew), ed. and annotated by H. Goldberg (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 1979), p. 275.

71. Maya Meltzer-Geva, "The Choice of a Mate among Georgian Jews" (in Hebrew) (M.A. thesis, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1983). The clash of values between modes of marriage that were common among Georgian Jews and those widespread in contemporary Israel is the subject of Dover Kovashvili's film Late Marriage (2001).

72. Abraham Marcus, The Middle East on the Eve of Modernity: Aleppo in the Eighteenth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989), p. 204.

73. See Mishna Ketubbot 6:5.

74. Mark Glazer, "The Dowry as Capital Accumulation among Sephardic Jews of Istanbul, Turkey," International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 10 (1979): 373-80.

75. Joëlle Bahloul, Parenté et ethnicité: La famille juive nord-africaine en France (Paris: Mission du patrimoine ethnologique de la France, 1984), pp. 135-64.

76. Goldberg, "Jewish Wedding in Tripolitania"; Kafih, Jewish Life, p. 109.

77. Jacob Lauterbach, "The Ceremony of Breaking a Glass at Weddings," Hebrew Union College Annual 2 (1925): 377 n. 38.

78. TB Pesahim 49a.

79. Udovitch and Valensi, Last, p. 48.

80. The bedekn was also carried out in other manners, and sometimes linked to the blessing of children found in Gen. 24:60. A consideration of the custom from a rabbinic perspective is found in Sperber, Minhagei Yisrael, 2: 66 n. 34.

81. Kafih, Jewish Life, p. 123.

82. Mishna Ketubbot 1:2.

83. Ibid., 2:1.

84. TB Ketubbot 16b-17b.

85. Raphael Patai, Sex and Family in the Bible and Middle East (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1959), pp. 66-70; Issachar Ben-Ami, "Le mariage traditionnel chez les Juifs marocains," in Studies in Marriage Customs, ed. I. Ben-Ami and D. Noy (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1974); Dobrinsky, Treasury, p. 54. Jeffrey Tigay, "Examination of the Accused Bride in 4Q159: Forensic Medicine at Qumran," Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society 22 (1993): 129-34.

86. Wieder, Formation, pp. 619-21. Sa{ay}adya Gaon (882-942) was born in Egypt, and headed one of the academies in Baghdad. Maimonides (1135-1205) was born in Spain and became head of the Jewish community in Cairo.

87. Robert Bonfil, Rabbis and Jewish Communities in Renaissance Italy (London: Littman Library, 1993), p. 77. Yehudah Mintz, Teshuvot, sec. 6. Italy, at the time, was a region in which Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions met.

88. Gen. 1:10; Lev. 11:36.

89. An introduction to the topic of miqveh written from the perspective of modern American orthodoxy is found in Norman Lamm, A Hedge of Roses: Jewish Insights into Marriage and Married Life (New York: Feldheim, 1966). Basic laws may be found in Isaac Klein, A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1979), pp. 513-22. See also Wasserfall, Women and Water.

90. Patricia Hidiroglou, "Du Hammam Maghrébin au Mikveh Parisien," Journal of Mediterranean Studies 4 (1994): 241-62; Susan Starr Sered with Romi Kaplan and Samuel Cooper, "Talking about Miqveh Parties, or Discourses of Gender, Hierarchy and Control," in Women and Water: Menstruation in Jewish Life and Law, ed. Rahel Wasserfall (Hanover, N.H.: Brandeis University Press, 1999), pp. 145-65.

91. The standard length of seven also appears in the Talmud, for example TB Baba Batra 145a. Examples of longer prenuptial periods are found in Valensi, "Religious," pp. 65-84, and Kafih, Jewish Life, pp. 110-53.

92. Marcel Cohen, Le parler arabe des Juifs d'Alger (Paris: Champion, 1912), pp. 504-5 n. 9.

93. Valensi, "Religious," pp. 76-77.

94. Kafih, Jewish Life, p. 128.

95. Goldberg, "Jewish Wedding in Tripolitania."

96. Valensi, "Religious," p. 77.

97. Eric R. Wolf, Peasants (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1966), pp. 97-98.

98. Ben-Ami, "Mariage," p. 92.

99. See also Isa. 50:1 and Jer. 3:8.

100. TB Qiddushin 5a.

101. Various symmetries between Jewish marriage and divorce are pointed out by Rivka Haut, "The Agunah and Divorce" in Orenstein, Lifecycles, pp. 188-200. Her discussion highlights similarities and differences in the two formal procedures.

102. The name of Gershom ben Yehudah—widely known as "Rabbeinu Gershom, Meor ha-Golah" ("Our Rabbi Gershom, Light of the Exile")—is associated with many rulings formative of communal life in the Ashkenazi communities of the Rhineland and France. See the discussion of polygyny in this chapter.

103Get technically means a legal document, but commonly refers to a writ of divorce.

104. Some basic rabbinic principles of divorce are found in Klein, Guide, pp. 475-508.

105. TB Gitin 90b.

106Shulhan Arukh, Even Ha-{ay}ezer 1:3.

107. See the lists of forbidden relatives in Leviticus. 18 and 20.

108. The rabbinic term reflects the usage in Ruth 1:13. A concise picture of legal aspects of the status of aguna is found in EJ, 2: 429-34.

109. For example, Goitein, Mediterranean Society, 3: 144; id., Letters of Medieval Jewish Traders Translated from the Arabic (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1973), pp. 316-19.

110. Zvi Zohar, "The Halakhic Teaching of Egyptian Rabbis in Modern Times" (in Hebrew), Pe{ay}amim 16 (1983): 65-88; id., "Halakhic Responses of Syrian and Egyptian Rabbinical Authorities to Social and Technological Change," in Studies in Contemporary Judaism, vol. 2, ed. P. Medding (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), pp. 18-51.

111. For a fuller explanation see Klein, Guide, pp. 393-94.

112. Greenberg, On Women, pp. 35, 136.

113. Norma Joseph, H-Judaic list (, 24-25 June 1997. See also International Jewish Women's Human Rights Watch (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the International Council of Jewish Women) newsletter no. 11 (Fall 2001) and Jewish Law Watch: The Agunah Dilemma (Jerusalem: Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, 2001). This is an example of a recent issue that brings together the religious concerns of Diaspora and Israeli Jews. See chapter 7, "Israel and Diaspora Links."

114. Haut, "Agunah," pp. 197-99.

115. Ronen Shamir, Michal Shitrai and Nelly Elias, "Religion, Feminism, and Professionalism," Jewish Journal of Sociology 38 (1996): 73-88.

116. Mordechai Friedman, "Polygamy in Jewish Society—New Sources from the Cairo Geniza; the State of Research" (in Hebrew), Pe{ay}amim 25 (1985): 3-12; A. Laredo, "Las Taqqanot de los expulsados de Castilla en Marruecos y su regimen matrimonial y successoral," Sefarad 8 (1948): 245-76.

117. Ha-Cohen, Higgid, p. 117.

118. Avishur, Jewish Wedding, p. 66.

119. Harvey E. Goldberg, Cave-Dwellers and Citrus-Growers: A Jewish Community in Libya and Israel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972), pp. 24-25, 44; The venerated Moroccan rabbi Yisrael Abihatsira, popularly known as Baba Sali, was married to two wives when he migrated to Israel in the 1960s. On Yemen, see Laurence Loeb, "Gender, Marriage, and Social Conflict in Habban," in Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries: History and Culture in the Modern Era, ed. Harvey E. Goldberg (Bloomington: Indiana University Press; New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1996), pp. 267-68.

120. Reuben Ahroni, The Jews of the British Crown Colony of Aden: History, Culture, and Ethnic Relations (Leiden: Brill, 1994), p. 146, n. 1. On the kaddish prayer, see chapter 6, "The Middle Ages."

121. Udovitch and Valensi, Last, p. 49.

122. Israeli law, as it developed after statehood (in 1948), allowed existing plural marriages to remain intact, both among local Arabs and among Jews immigrating from the Middle Eastern countries. It did not allow new polygynous marriages to take place, but the law was sometimes discreetly ignored by certain groups.

123. Goitein, Mediterranean Society, 3: 149.

124. Loeb, "Gender," pp. 267-68.

125. Ibid., p. 273.

126. A description of a tish is found in Samuel Heilman, Defenders of the Faith: Inside Ultra-Orthodox Judaism (New York: Schocken Books, 1992), pp. 85-93. An example of a tish turning into a different kind of celebratory occasion is found in Shifra Epstein, "Drama on a Table: The Bobover Hasidim Piremshpiyl," in Judaism Viewed, ed. H.E. Goldberg (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987), pp. 195-217.

127. Israel Yuval, personal communication.

128. Mishna Berakhot 2:5 and 3:1. On the Shma{ay} Yisrael, see chapter 3, "Receiving the Torah and Access to It."

129. Edward Westermarck, A History of Human Marriage, 5th ed., rewritten (New York: Allerton, 1922), 2: 462. The work originally appeared in part as Westermarck's thesis (Helsingfors, 1889).

130. TB Berakhot 30b-31a. A zuz is a monetary unit.

131. Lauterbach, "Ceremony."

132. A perspective stemming from the classic study of Arnold van Gennep, The Rites of Passage, trans. M.B. Vizedom and G.L. Caffee (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1960 [orig. 1909]). See also "Henna and Transitions" earlier in this chapter.

133. Ruth Gladstein-Kestenberg, "The Breaking of a Glass at a Wedding" (in Hebrew), Studies in the History of the Jewish People and the Land of Israel 4 (1978): 205-8.

134. TB Ketubbot 16b.

135. Lancelot Addison, The Present State of the Jews (More Particularly Relating to Those in Barbary), (London, 1675), p. 53. That Addison included material taken from the work of the Swiss author Johannes Buxtorf has been discussed by Elliot Horowitz, "'A Different Mode of Civility': Lancelot Addison on the Jews of Barbary," Studies in Church History 29 (1992): 309-25. See the English translation of Johannes Buxtorf, The Jewish Synagogue, or an Historical Narration of the State of the Jewes (London, 1657), p. 292.

136. Benzion Meir Hai Uzziel, Mishpetei Uzziel [The Laws of Uzziel], 3 vols. (Jerusalem, 1950-1964), 2: 431-32; Maurice Lamm, The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980), p. 230.

137. Guttman, "Jewish Medieval Marriage," p. 50.

138. The custom was known to an Ashkenazi rabbi in Italy; see n. 87 above.

139. See Valensi, "Religious," p. 76.

140. For other examples, and parallels among Muslims, see Ben-Ami, "Mariage."

141. Westermarck, History, pp. 456-64.

142. Jamil Hilal, "Meaning and Symbol in Some Marriage Ceremonies in Arab Rural Communities: A Case Study from Tripolitania, Libya," A Monthly Journal and Record of the Departmental Societies of the Faculty of Arts and Education 4 (1969): 14-17; John Mason, "Sex and Symbol in the Treatment of Women: The Wedding Rite in a Libyan Oasis Community," American Ethnologist 2 (1975): 649-61.

143. Dan Pagis, A Secret Sealed: Hebrew Baroque Emblem-Riddles from Italy and Holland (in Hebrew) (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1986), pp. 65-81.

144. Galit Hasan-Rokem, Web of Life: Folklore and Midrash in Rabbinic Literature, trans. Batya Stein (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2000), p. 65.

145. Edmund Leach, Culture and Communication: The Logic by Which Symbols Are Connected (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), pp. 19, 27. There is some indication of a white-black contrast paralleling marriage and mourning in the Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 114a.

146. Mishna Berakhot 3:1.

147. TB Ketubbot 7a-8b.

148. One text which may provide the basis of this association may be found in the Zohar. See Isaiah Tishby and Fishel Lachower, trans. and ed., The Wisdom of the Zohar, 3 vols. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 1: 158-59. See also Michael Fishbane, The Kiss of God: Spiritual and Mystical Death in Judaism (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994), p. 37. For other customs that bring together weddings and the awareness of death, see Herman Pollack, Jewish Folkways in Germanic Lands: Studies in Aspects of Daily Life (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1971), pp. 36-38; S.-A. Goldberg, Crossing the Jabbok, pp. 119, 145.

149. See chapter 5, "Popular Pilgrimages."

150. For example, Gen. 37:34, 2 Sam. 1:11, and Job 1:20.

151. Rabbi Joseph Brodie.

152Arba{ay}ah Turim, Even Ha-{ay}ezer 65:3.

153. In Hebrew orthography, the wordplay simply entails the reversal of the first two letters of the words.

154Arba{ay}ah Turim, Even Ha-{ay}ezer 65:3, Perisha commentary ad loc. citing the Kol Bo.

155. Kafih, Halikhot, p. 139.

156. Midrash Eikha Rabbah, ed. S. Buber (Vilnius: Ram, 1899), pp. 89-90 (on Lam. 1:16).

157. TB Makkot 24b.

158. I follow the logic of a story about Rabban Yohanan Ben-Zakkai who, after losing a son, criticized colleagues for trying to comfort him by mentioning the losses of biblical characters, an attempt at consolation that only compounded his own sorrow. See The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan 14:6, trans. and ed. Judah Goldin (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1955), pp. 76-77.

159. Solomon Schechter, "Safed in the Sixteenth Century," in Studies in Judaism (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1958) pp. 231-97; Scholem, On the Kabbalah, pp. 138-45.

160. For the sources, see Isa. 49:19; 62:5. The Lekha Dodi hymn was translated into German by J.G. von Herder in the eighteenth century and Heinrich Heine in the nineteenth century.

161. Leone Modena, Historia dei riti hebraici (The History of the Rites, Customs, and Manner of Life of the Present Jews throughout the World), trans. E. Chilmead (London, 1650), pp. 178ff.

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