Friday, August 28, 2015

Celebrating the Groom

A great deal of the wedding seems to focus on the bride. In fact, it is not uncommon to hear of a wedding referred to as “her day.”  In Jewish tradition, however, there is one wedding-oriented event that is specifically celebrated in honor of the chatan, the groom. The actual day of the event, however, depends on whether one is Ashkenazi or Sephardi.

Among Ashkenazim, it is customary for the chatan to celebrate his aufruf, as it is known, on the Shabbat before the wedding (although circumstances sometimes cause the aufruf to be held two Shabbatot before the wedding or at one of the weekday Torah reading services). Aufruf is the Yiddish term for being called up for an aliyah, when the chatan makes the blessing over the reading of the Torah.

Among the Sephardim, the honor of a special aliyah to the Torah is reserved for the Shabbat after the wedding. This Shabbat is referred to as the Shabbat Chatan.

The primary purpose of both the aufruf and the Shabbat Chatan is that the chatan receives an aliyah to the Torah. Different synagogues have different customs on how this honor is celebrated. Often the family of the chatan will sponsor a kiddush (generally a festive buffet following the Shabbat morning service) in honor of the chatan. In some congregations, it is customary to throw candy (or sometimes nuts or raisins) at the chatan.

Some scholars have connected aufruf/Shabbat chatan back to a Midrash Pirkei d’Rebbe Eliezer, which describes how on Shabbat, in the era of the First Temple, people would congregate between two special gates of the Temple. One gate was for mourners, who would receive words of comfort, and the other was for grooms, who would be greeted with rejoicing and receive a blessing “May the One Who dwells in this house (the Temple) gladden you with sons and daughters.”

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