Why Break a Glass at a Jewish Wedding?
The destruction of the Holy Temple has extreme personal relevance. It happened to you. It is true that shattering the glass primarily commemorates the fall of Jerusalem; however, it is also a reminder of another cataclysmic shattering—that of your very own temple, your soul.
Before you were born, you and your soulmate were one, a single soul.
Then, as your time to enter this world approached, God shattered that single soul into two parts, one male and one female. These two half-souls were then born into the world with a mission to try to find each other and reunite.
At the time, the split seemed tragic and incomprehensible. Why create fragmentation where there was once completion? Why break something just so it could be fixed? And if you were meant to be together, why didn’t God leave you together?
It is under the chupah, the wedding canopy, that these questions can be answered. With marriage, two halves are reuniting, never to part again. Not only that, but you can look back at the painful experience of being separated and actually celebrate it. For now it is clear that the separation brought you closer than you would otherwise have been.
Ironically, it was only by being torn apart and living lives away from each other that were you able to develop as individuals, to mature and grow. Your coming together is something you had to achieve and choose, and therefore it is appreciated deeply. With the joyous reunion at the wedding, it becomes clear that your soul was split only in order to reunite and become one on a higher and deeper level.
And so you break a glass under the chupah and immediately say the congratulatory wish of “Mazel Tov!” Because now, in retrospect, even the splitting of souls is reason to be joyous, for it gave your connection the possibility for real depth and meaning.
We see a parallel story in the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Temple was not merely a building; it was the meeting place of heaven and earth, the ideal and the real, God and creation. When the Temple was lost, so was the open relationship between God and the world. Our souls were ripped away from our Soulmate.
The only antidote to fragmentation is unity. And the deepest unity is experienced at a wedding. Every wedding is a healing, a mending of one fragmented soul, a rebuilding of Jerusalem in miniature. Our sages teach us, “Whoever celebrates with a bride and groom, it is as if he rebuilt one of the ruins of Jerusalem.” When soulmates reunite in a holy marriage, an energy of love and oneness is generated, elevating the world and bringing it one step closer to mending its broken relationship with God.
So you see, your personal story and the story of Jerusalem’s destruction are inextricably linked. The shattering that happened to Jerusalem happened to your soul, and the joy you are experiencing now will one day be experienced by Jerusalem, too.
One day soon, when the Temple is rebuilt, our souls will reunite with God, our Soulmate, in a true relationship that we built together. We will no longer mourn the destruction, but looking back we will finally understand its purpose, and we will celebrate.
Then, even the shattering will deserve the blessing of “Mazel Tov.”