Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Behind the Veil

Art: Sharon Tomlinson

Badeken is the ceremony where the groom veils the bride in a Jewish wedding.

Just prior to the actual wedding ceremony, which takes place under the Chuppah, the bridegroom covers the bride's face with a veil. The bride wears this veil until the conclusion of the chuppah ceremony.

The following story is attributed to Rabbi Yaakov Eizik Blatner of Tatrask, written by Rabbi Rafael Nachman Kahn, translated from the Hebrew by Basha Majerczyk

The Mitteler Rebbe's daughter was betrothed to the son of Reb Mordechai of Chernobyl.  During the wedding, when Reb Mordechai asked the Rebbe to present a Torah insight, the Rebbe declined, suggesting that Reb Mordechai himself say something.  This is what he said:

We find that our Matriarch Rivka covered herself with a veil when she first met her groom, the Patriarch Yaakov.  Rashi translates the verse as "vatiskos [she veiled herself] in the reflexive form, as in vatiskover [she was buried] and vatishover."

Now, there are three stages in life - birth, marriage and death. These times always cause a tumult; joyful merriment when one is born and marries, mournful bereavement when one passes away.  During birth and death, the one responsible for all the attention is indifferent to the commotion he is causing.  It is only in marriage when one appreciates the tumult being generated, and it is probable that this will bring him to arrogance and make him haughty.

"Rivka, however, was different. Even during her marriage she veiled herself, exemplifying humility and modesty. She was indifferent to all the commotion - as if she were being born or buried."

Learn more about the Badeken veiling ceremony at: The Veiling Ceremony and Wedding Rituals and Customs

Question of the Week:

I recently attended a Chassidic wedding. It was a very different experience. One thing I had never seen before is that the bride wears a veil at the Chuppah that is so thick she can't see anything at all, and no one can see her face at all. What is the reason behind this?


There's an old stereotype when it comes to marriage. Men marry women for their looks. Women marry men for their money. As cynical as this view may be, there is some truth to it.

Men fall for beauty. The fact that there are plenty of pretty girls with rotten character does nothing to stop the male quest for a beauty queen. And so, many wonderful girls are overlooked simply because they do not fit into today's narrow and superficial definition of beauty.

Meanwhile, women say they want a man who is financially stable, which is often just a euphemism for a rich guy. Somehow she thinks that if he has a seven digit bank balance he will know how to look after her. As if buying expensive jewellery and luxurious holidays is the only way to show her he really cares. And the really nice guys who are not such high flyers are often left behind.

Of course we need to be attracted to our spouse. And of course we all need money to survive. But these are not the most essential ingredients for a happy marriage. Too often people fall for the outer version of what they truly seek. Rather than physical beauty, what we are really looking for is inner beauty and a sweet heart. It is not wealth we seek, what we really want is a steadfast and dependable source of moral support. Looks and money are poor substitutes for good character and emotional supportiveness. It is only when we see beyond these external features and meet a real person that we have a chance of finding and keeping our soulmate.

This is the message behind the thick veil. When the groom veils his bride, he is telling her, "I am not marrying you for your pretty face. I am marring you for the beautiful person you are. So I can marry you with your face covered. Your beauty shines from within." And the bride being veiled is telling him, "This veil will prevent me from seeing what type of wedding ring you place on my finger. I don't care. I will accept whatever ring you give, because along with it I get you. It is you I want to marry, not your money or the jewellery you buy me."

A rich guy can lose his money, a pretty girl her looks. But inner beauty and spiritual wealth are ours forever. A marriage based on such eternal values will conquer just about anything. The bride's face may be veiled, but her vision is clearer than ever.

Rabbi Aron Moss - Nefesh


in the vanguard said...

I'm sure the veil custom also relates to the incident where Yaakov found Leah exchanged for Rachel - somehow.

Devorah said...

I think the tradition is for the man to put the veil on the bride, before the chuppah, in the presence of two witnesses.
Otherwise.... he too could feasibly end up with the wrong woman, just like Yaakov did.