The huppah – a beloved object of Jewish art – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on July 9, 2020

The huppah, the Jewish bridal canopy, is one of the most beloved objects of Jewish art. It is steeped in history, customs, symbolism and beauty. It is both the actual bridal canopy and the ceremony. Here we will focus on the huppah as an object of Jewish art. The Hebrew word huppah means covering, or that which floats above. It is based on the root word hafah, which means to cover or hide, similar to the word hafaf, meaning to protect. It intended as a roof or covering for the bride and groom at their wedding. It is open on all four sides as Abrahams tent was, to welcome strangers from all directions.Originally, the wedding ceremony was held outdoors, with the hope that the couple would be blessed with a large family, as Gods blessing to Abraham. I will greatly bless you, and I will exceedingly multiply your children as the stars in heaven. It is also reminiscent of the sukkah the temporary structure erected for Sukkot. Like the sukkah, the huppah reminds the bride and groom that they are protected by God alone and that God is their only haven and support.In the Talmudic period, the grooms fathers would set up a royal purple tent or use gold and luxurious scarlet cloth for their sons huppot. An especially moving ceremony involved planting a cedar tree on the occasion of a sons birth, and a pine tree when a daughter was born. When the child married, the branches and leaves from the tree were then used to make the huppah.The medieval community often used a parochet, the embroidered curtain covering the Torah ark. But over time, it was felt to be inappropriate to use a sacred object for the bridal chamber. It then became the custom to marry under a tallit, the prayer shawl, which was frequently a gift from the brides family to the groom.To define the space as sacred, a covering was used to avoid the appearance that the bridal couple were marrying in the marketplace, which was considered indelicate and unacceptable at that time.Prior to the 16th century, the huppah consisted of a veil worn by the bride. Later, it was a cloth spread over the shoulders of the bride and groom. An eminent Polish rabbi in the 16th century wrote the portable marriage canopy was widely adopted by Ashkenazi Jews as a symbol of the chamber where marriages originally took place.It is an ancient concept, and the Talmud considered it biblically required for marriage. THERE IS great symbolism in the huppah as attested in the Bible, Chabad, hassidim and Kabbalah.God constructed 10 huppot for Adam and Eves wedding, according to the Midrash. Ten is a mystical number in Kabbala referring to the 10 divine attributes through which God relates to the physical world. The huppah is considered a symbol of Gods love above the married couple. The traditional huppah features an open sky above acknowledging God as Creator, who infuses marriage with deep spirituality and cosmic significance.It is said that the couples ancestors are present at the huppah ceremony and that the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, graces every huppah ceremony. Unlike many other Jewish ritual objects such as the tallit or mezuzah that follow strict Biblical instructions, the only rule about the huppahs construction is that it be a temporary structure made by human hands. The cloth huppah was originally draped around the bride and groom but was later spread out over their heads. The single cloth under which the couple are joined thus symbolizes both the new household they are forming and represents the public recognition of their new status as man and wife.Huppot are diverse and reflect personal taste, budget, community influence, season and settings. Huppot vary from simple cloths to elaborate tapestries and embroideries, quilts sewn by family members, to spectacular floral creations. The materials depend on taste, budget and the ceremonys location. Over centuries, the appearance of huppot has changed dramatically. While some abroad are totally floral, normally they are fashioned from fabric: cotton, lace, organza, wool, silk, satin or velvet. White, symbolizing purity, is the most accepted color, while hassidic weddings utilize dark blue velvet. Some huppot are embellished with popular motifs in Jewish art, including Stars of David, pomegranates representing abundance, scenes of Jerusalem and texts and images from the sheva brachot (seven marriage blessings).The Great Synagogue of Rome boasts a majestic huppah in pale green floral brocade, lined in satin with a scalloped valance trimmed in gold fringe. HAND-HELD HUPPOT can be used in the processional, the poles carried by four friends or relatives represent the communitys support in years to come. Poles can be made of metal or wood and can be carved, painted or wrapped in ribbons or flowers and greenery. Wedding halls, caterers and many synagogues generally provide a large huppah, often raised on a stage. Huppot can be rented online, complete with poles and stands. It is a mitzvah to beautify all Jewish ritual objects (hiddur mitzvot), and the huppah is no exception. After the wedding, a huppah can become a wall hanging, a bed canopy or a bedspread. Some couples loan theirs for weddings of family and friends, and some have raised their huppah for a baby-naming or brit milah ceremony. Customs too have changed over time and in Jewish communities around the world. Many of the customs are still cherished and practiced today.In Yemen, the Jewish practice was not for the groom and his bride to be secluded under a canopy (huppah) hung on four poles, as is widely practiced today in Jewish weddings, but rather in a bridal chamber that was, in effect, a highly decorated room in the house of the groom. This room was traditionally decorated with large hanging sheets of colored, patterned cloth, replete with wall cushions and short-length mattresses for reclining. Their marriage is consummated when they have been left together alone in this room.In the Italian Jewish wedding it is traditional to use a crocheted tablecloth or a bed covering which, after the ceremony, will be used in the couples home. In fact, the Italian phrase, sotto la coperta, (or under the covering) signifies the bridal canopy from ancient times.Let the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride be heard.The writer is an American interior and textile designer and Judaica artist, based in Jerusalem. joetob@netvision.net.il

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The huppah - a beloved object of Jewish art - The Jerusalem Post

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