Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Why can’t we keep happy occasions ash-free?

Right before my chuppah, my brother stopped me and proceeded to place ash on my forehead, on the very place where I place my tefillin.


The ash, like the broken glass beneath the groom’s feet, is there for a meaningful purpose – to remember the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. I’ve never asked, “Why do we carry out these customs?” Of course we need to remember the Holy Temple. The question is “Why now?” We don’t interrupt the dancing to play an “In Memoriam” montage of all the relatives we’ve lost. We don’t pause dessert to pay respect to fallen soldiers or holy martyrs.

Perhaps it’s not only about what is lost, but what we remain committed to.

As a husband and wife stand beneath the chuppah, they make the ultimate commitment to each other, their faith, and their tradition. If we look at the ash as merely a remembrance of what was lost, surely we will look for another time to focus on it. But if we recognize that it’s about reaffirming our commitment to Hashem, to our People, and to Jerusalem – present and future – we will understand that it must be then, when our most important and lasting commitments are made.

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Solly Hess is the chief development officer at Southern NCSY, a motivational speaker, and the co-host of the "It's OK, We're Jewish" podcast.