Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What Kind of Chuppah?

I have frequently been asked what the requirements of a chuppah's construction are. There is a very simple answer, there really aren't any requirements. The only people who absolutely have to be under the chuppah are the couple. There are authorities who also require the officiant to be under the chuppah as well. The officiant is defined in this context as someone knowledgeable in the laws of Jewish marriage and who "performs" the ceremony. Therefore, the minimal size of a chuppah is big enough to be over the couple and the officiant. In many traditions, a tallit is used as a chuppah. A chuppah can be as large as to cover the entire wedding party as well. It can be made of any type of cloth and should be open on all four sides. A chuppah made entirely of flowers is not considered a chuppah. One of the major concerns of Jewish art is to beautify and enhance the performance of a mitzvah. As a result, beautifully decorated chuppahs rising to the standard of pieces of art have been used throughout history.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Why a Chuppah?

I am so excited to have figured out this blogging thing. This first post will begin by discussing - Why do Jews use a chuppah? It is a beautiful tradition which goes back to ancient times and is common in some form or another to Jewish communities throughout the world. A chuppah is a canopy that is usually supported by poles or even suspended from a ceiling. It represents the couple's future home and is open on all sides. Why is it open on all sides? It goes back to Avraham Avenu ("Abraham our father") from Torah. One of Avraham's most distinguishing characteristics (or "middot") was his pursuit of any opportunity to perform the mitzvah of Hachnoset Orchim or hospitality to guests. To that end, his tent was open on all four sides so that he could see a guest approaching from any direction. As a matter of fact to illustrate this, we read in this past Shabbat's pa'arsha, Lech L'cha, that Avraham was given the word from G-d that he would have to circumcise himself and all the men in his camp (Brit Milah). In this upcoming week's pa'arsha, Vayeira, he was laying in his tent recovering and he sees approaching men in the distance. Avraham actually gets up and, with his wife Sarah and son Ishmael, prepares food for them and entertains them! It isn't easy to beat that for hospitality! To top it off, the guests didn't even eat - they were malachim or angels (they don't eat) sent to tell Avraham that Sarah was going to finally have a child which was pretty miraculous considering that she was already in her 90s. The malachim also give Avraham the news that his descendents would be as numerous as the stars in the Heavens. A chuppah is open on four sides to remember Avraham's performance of that mitzvah so that the newly married couple will also have a home open to guests and reminiscent of Avraham's hospitality. Often a chuppah is placed outside or under a skylight so that the marriage occurs under those stars representing countless descendants. I often include stars on the chuppahs that I design for precisely that reason. My chuppahs can be seen on Please visit and let me know what you think!!