Sorrow And Joy
‘Proclaim Your Troubles So That Your Friends Pray For You’
Our Gemara discusses women who have difficulties and menstruate immediately after immersion. R. Yochanan suggested that such women should announce their difficulty to their friends so that they may pray for mercy on their behalf.
In a collective sense, the Jewish people are likened to a menstruant woman due to the destruction of Yerushalayim and the Beis Hamikdash. The Gemara (61b) states that after the destruction of the Temple, Chazalprescribed that chassanim not don crowns and brides not wear gold or silver crowns as it is not fitting to show excessive joy while our Temple remains destroyed.
‘Mazal Tov’ At A Chupah?
Among the many customs designed to remember the destruction of the Temple is the widespread custom to break a glass at a chupah (Kolbo, cited by the Rema in Shulchan Aruch O.C. 560:2). In our era, it is customary that the audience shouts, “Mazal tov!” immediately after the chassan breaks the glass.
However, some authorities regard this custom disapprovingly. The Sdei Chemed (Y.D. ma’areches zayin, os 12) writes: “For many ignorant people, mourning has become a joy and when the glass is broken, they laugh aloud and cry out, ‘Mazal Tov.’ They do not know that where there is joy, there should be trembling to remember the destruction of our Temple, and what is this joy doing here?”
The Shulchan Ha’Ezer (II, p. 3) tries to justify the common custom by explaining that the cries of “Mazal tov” stem from the wish to end the marriage ceremony with a good siman. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, explained further that perhaps once the memory of the destruction of the Temple and Yerushalayim has been mentioned, it is permitted to observe the mitzvah to rejoice with the groom and bride, which is why the cry of “Mazal tov” follows immediately after breaking the glass. Nonetheless, Rav Auerbach writes that he has yet to understand this custom properly (Yismach Lev, p. 159).
The Vilna Gaon (Beiur HaGra on Shulchan Aruch, ibid.) writes that breaking a glass at a wedding is not related to the churban. Rather, its purpose is so that attendants not be too joyful and appear rebellious. The Gaon cites Berachos 31a, which recounts that an amora once broke an expensive glass at a party when he thought the rejoicing excessive. Tosafos write on this Gemara (s.v. “Aisi”), “From here they have the custom to break a glass at a wedding.”
Some note that according to the Vilna Gaon, we should not wonder why people shout “Mazal tov” after the chassan breaks the glass since this custom, after all, has nothing to do with the destruction of the Temple, and there is nothing wrong, therefore, with proclaiming a thundering blessing of “Mazal tov” afterwards.
Returning to our Gemara: Perhaps breaking a glass at a wedding is a way of proclaiming our sorrow at the destruction of the Temple (like the menstruant woman who proclaims her sorrows) so that everyone at the wedding will pray for Hashem’s mercy – which at so solemn an occasion they will surely do. With these assurances, we then turn to the mitzvah at hand of simchas chassan v’kallah and call out with joy, “Mazal tov!”
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