The Huppah, or Wedding Canopy

A Jewish wedding takes place under a huppah, which symbolizes the new Jewish home being created by the marriage.

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It is preferable for the huppah to be outdoors, under the stars, symbolizing the hopes that the couple will be blessed with a large family, in conformity with God's blessing to Abraham: "I will greatly bless you, and I will exceedingly multiply your children as the stars in heaven." [The huppah in the open air is also reminiscent of the sukkah, a temporary structure erected during the holiday of Sukkot. Like the sukkah, the huppah reminds bride and groom that they are protected by God alone and that God is their only haven and support.]

The sages find an allusion to weddings being held outdoors in biblical times in Jeremiah's reference to "the sound of the bridegroom and the sound of the bride... in the cities of Judaea and in the courtyards of Jerusalem."

Strong reservations have been raised in some circles about holding weddings in synagogues because irreverent revelry might result in the profanation of the sanctity of the synagogue. Nevertheless, it was customary in many areas for weddings to be held in the courtyard of synagogues. Indeed, many synagogues in Germany were constructed with a built-in treustein, or "marriage stone" at a corner of the structure facing the inner synagogue courtyard, which bore the initial Hebrew letters of the above verse from Jeremiah. In these communities, the culmination of the marriage ceremony was marked by the groom throwing a glass goblet and shattering it at the treustein.

Some synagogues and wedding halls have a skylight that opens to allow the huppah ceremony to be conducted under the sky.

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Dr. Michael Kaufman studied at Yeshiva and Mesivta Torah Vodaath, Telshe Yeshiva, Brookyn College, and the University of Louisville. His books include The Art of Judaism, A Timeless Judaism for Our Time, and A Guide to Jewish Art. He lives with his family in Jerusalem.