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Jewish Weddings

Walking Around the Groom 7 Times

Does anyone truly understand the religious significance of this tradition?  My fiancee, who is Reform, thinks it is very important.  His sister walked around her husband.  However, I have not seen this performed at weddings other than those that were Orthodox. 

I'm a little put off by it and the descriptions of the tradition that I have found online.  One says that the groom is considered the King on the day of his wedding and that in ancient times everyone would walk around the King to show their respect. 

Hmmm... Help!
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Re: Walking Around the Groom 7 Times

  • masteralephmasteraleph member
    10 Comments
    edited December 2011
    There are a ton of explanations- descriptions of the chuppah as a home and building the walls for the home, for example.  There is no one reason for it, and any Jewish wedding would still be valid without it (I've been to an Orthodox wedding where they forgot to do it- everyone was a little amused, but it was no bigger an issue than that).
  • edited December 2011

    We were told by our Rabbi and I have read in a few books, that the circling means the bride is joining the grooms house (the chuppah) and that they are uniting their lives together.  If you're worried about it seeming all about him, there is nothing wrong with circling each other.  It means you're creating a house together and beginning your life together.

    There is no need to do it either.  It is completely up to you and your FI!

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  • edited December 2011
    If you are interested and your fi agrees you can put a little spin on it. My rabbi mentioned this and we both loved it- I circle fi 3x, fi circles me 3x and then we walk together in a circle once. Symbolically, we are coming together and building a home as a pair, not individually.
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  • LBRM_NJLBRM_NJ member
    Knottie Warrior 100 Comments
    edited December 2011
    I am conservative and I circled my husband 3 times.  I'm not sure why I did 3 and I wish now that I had done the traditional 7.  This is what I wrote in our program:

    Before entering the Chuppah, Lisa will circle Glenn three times. There are different explanations for the practice of the bride circling the groom. One is that she is creating the space they will share together. Another is that she possesses the ability to form a protective circle around her groom and herself.
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  • tenofcups4metenofcups4me member
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    edited December 2011
    In all the Jewish weddings I've been to, I've seen circling exactly twice -- one was an orthodox wedding and the other, oddly enough, was at a reform synagogue and interfaith. That one shocked me.

    I've personally never seen an explanation of just the woman circling that I'm comfortable with -- they all seem to somehow come back to the woman creating the home space, and that's simply not the way my marriage is or what I aspire to.

    If your FH has really strong feelings about it, I'd consider you circling him 3 times and him circling you 3 times -- at least that would symbolize the shared creation of the home space. If he won't do that and he were my FH, I'd just say no :-)
  • edited December 2011
    Circling the Chatan
    Just before we ascend the stairs to the chuppah, Shoshanah will
    circle Joel seven times. There are many explanations for this
    ritual; our favorite is that this act defines the space we alone will
    share together. The number seven is significant throughout
    Judaism, but most importantly, it is the number of days of
    creation. Just as God created the world in seven days, we create a
    new family with the seven circles.

    That''s from my program. I chose to do it,and had to ask because my Rabbi didn't mention it.
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  • edited December 2011
    Our rabbi discussed with us (and we put something in our program similar to this) that it symbolizes the mixing of the souls, the new family circle and the creation of a space for the couple to share.
  • Jeni35Jeni35 member
    100 Comments
    edited December 2011
    The earlier explanation is correct about G-d creating the earth in 7 days and the symbolism, of which there is many. Technically, the mothers of the bride and groom should hold your train as you circle. My mum said she would be dizzy after 7 spins, so I've decided to circle my beloved myself with a special song. Personally, I love that we have so many great traditions. 
  • Musicheals71Musicheals71 member
    Ninth Anniversary 5000 Comments Combo Breaker
    edited December 2011
    My FI and I decided that we are not going to do this practice and our Conservative rabbi was totally fine with our decision since it is not required.
  • RedZeeRedZee member
    100 Comments
    edited December 2011
    I've mostly seen the explanation that the bride is creating a space for the couple.

    That said, any kind of circling is a CUSTOM. It is not a law and it is not required for a Jewish wedding. The Sephardic custom is not to circle at all so we had no circling at our wedding.

    My personal preference though: I don't like when the bride circles 3x, the groom circles 3x, and then they walk around each other at the same time. It looks like a dosy doe (sp?).
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  • edited December 2011
    I[m doing it and i feel like it's a lovely custome and I'm putting my own interpretation that invokes Judaic meaning and personal meaning for us - it's this latter part that should be the difference, so if your FI would like you to do it, have a discussion about it and each side should try to see the other.

    My rabbi was intrigued that I wanted to do it (it would have been more than okay if we didn't want to), and said I could do either 3 or 7 - though our shul and affliation is Conservative, my rabbi is more on the Orthodox side of practice, so I was surprised why he though I wouldn't and then would suggest 3.  I plan to circle 7 times.

    Since we are talking about this (so I can avoid starting another topic), was your rabbi adamant about you circling in a certain way?  Ours is insistent that both mothers circle with me.  I know this is tradition done by some, but I've always invisioned doing circling on my own.  My mom doesn't like being in the spotlight and while I like his mom, I wouldn't want her to circle me.  At first, he said just my mom and just yesterday told me both.  FI  isn't happy that we are being told how we should do something viewed as simply custom and says all the wedding he's attended (Orthodox and non-Orthodox), he's never seen the mothers do it and he isn't big on that idea either.  We are going to have our final meeting on Wednesday to hash out all issues.

    Seems everything has been going well up until the last few weeks - coincidentally as we are getting closer to the date.  And little things here and there have really begun to turn our feelings about our rabbi negatively.  I'm not a happy camper...
  • Jeni35Jeni35 member
    100 Comments
    edited December 2011
    The idea is for both mother of the bride and mother of the groom to hold your train as you circle. My mum indicated she would get very dizzy and I wouldn't want FI's mom without my own. I haven't spoken to the rabbi; but since it is a custom and not law- there should not be an issue. I am sorry your rabbi seems to annoy you. I would be very honest about it. I have asked my rabbi a ton of questions and I am sure that I have annoyed him; but it's our wedding and we haven't attended too many ourselves, so we want to feel comfortable. 
  • edited December 2011
    In Jewish Literacy Rabbi Telushkin talks about how the hakafot may have been derived by Joshua circling the walls ofJericho seven times before they came down and in circling the groom the bride will bring down any "walls" that may still be standing between them. I think that's a beautiful metaphor, but I've read a ton of different derivations.

    I think we will do the 3, 3, 1 modification at our ceremony...
  • edited December 2011
    we're also doing 3,3,1 for ours. i would have loved to do all 7, but FI insisted he wanted to do his own circling as well, and our rabbi discouraged us each doing 7, as it would take too long.

    v.
  • edited December 2011
    Thanks Jeni51 - and I can see needing help with my train, but that doesn't mean that I'd want both mothers (if anything, I'd just want my own).  I'm going to practice and see how well I can get around someone when I have my fitting this Friday.  If it looks like it'll get tangled up at times, then I'll have my MOH straighten it, when needed, but I'm just not into doing the circling with anyone.

    I don't think it should be an issue, but it just seems that matters we were all pretty much concrete with before has for some reason been revisited.  For example, now he wants to call our witnesses to talk to them.  What is he going to ask?  It's a bit imposing and we are going to tell them ahead of time, but we can see at least one person (cause I know I would) getting perturbed if there was any suggestion that they aren't "Jewish" enough.  By that standard, many folk's marriages might be in trouble.  FI has been a witness many times and not once did the rabbi "interview" him - if anything, they just wanted to make sure he knew how to sign his name...
  • edited December 2011
    Shosh - I LOVE the explanation from your program and will probably ask permission to steal it if I decide to circle Ben!
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  • silversparkssilversparks member
    100 Comments
    edited December 2011
    We did 3, 3, 1 as well, I think our program said something about how we were both creating the sacred space of our home together. DH was also adamant about participating in the circling.
    Only my mom held my train... although I have always seen both moms help, I didn't ask my MIL because I was very particular about keeping the chuppah as clear of people and stuff as possible. I don't know if she felt left out, but I didn't get the impression that she has been to many weddings where this happens and that this was important to her. You know your FMIL and mom, so it's up to you whether you think having them do this is a good idea. And I recommend practicing whatever combination you decide on...
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  • Jeni35Jeni35 member
    100 Comments
    edited December 2011
    Ouch! Looks like you're dealing with an ultra conservative rabbi. Your witnesses need to be Jewish, over 18 and understand that they are signing a legal document and they cannot be related to you. They don't have to be ultra-religious. It is my understanding that all attendants should be Jewish as well and at the very least, the Best Man and MOH. We are having about 25-30 people at our wedding and i have picked out 2 wonderful ladies whom I tutored and are now over 18 and have known me since I met my beloved. The idea that they are not Jewish enough would be very insulting. Don't be afraid to challenge your rabbi. He may want to speak with your witnesses to get to know about you as a couple more; but I still think that is a bit much. Let me know how it goes...
  • edited December 2011

    Definitely... he had to cancel yesterday, so we may meet on Sunday.  No way could we have women sign; but even in our own congregation, there are folks that wouldn't be good witnesses if you were to follow the letter of the law.

    As for the circling, if he's still adamant, when I get up to the chuppah, I will just circle on my own - I can't imagine this will be an issue, but I'm a rebel and prepared to just go for broke... :D

  • Jeni35Jeni35 member
    100 Comments
    edited December 2011
    Wait a minute. Your rabbi is practicing under Conservative auspices and even if he is more on the Orthodox side- you can have women sign as witnesses and he cannot go against this. I am closer to my beliefs being Orthodox; but since FI was raised Liberal- we compromised. Since family cannot sign as witnesses and FI didn't have any close Jewish friends who will be attending the wedding (he is from Europe and I am from NY); that is why I chose the girls. I hope that your rabbi had a good reason for canceling on you at the last minute. I seriously think you all need to speak about this. Don't be afraid to be honest. A rabbi is a man (or a woman in certain cases) and not your direct link to G-d. 
  • edited December 2011
    Yes, that's become a bit of an issue at out synagogue - a crossroads, if you will, between those on the "right" and everyone else.  We recently elected a new president, so we are waiting to see how women will be incorporated into the fold going forward.  He actually asked us if I wanted to be on the bimah during FI's aufruf (that's quite the political hotbed).  Haven't decided on it yet, but may say yes if nothing else to wrinkle some feathers...

    We would up having a phone meeting, which I think made things a lot easier.  I think he realized he was over-stepping his bounds a bit and so I'll get to do the circling as I wish, along with the processional.  We still have to have male witnesses, but they aren't going to be interrogated regarding their "Jewishness" - we were able to live with that compromise.

    Bottom line, as so many of stated time and again, you just can't be scared and if you really want something, you have to stand your ground.  So now I can go back to being a lot happier (though still counting down until the big day...)...  Laughing
  • masteralephmasteraleph member
    10 Comments
    edited December 2011
    "Ouch! Looks like you're dealing with an ultra conservative rabbi. Your witnesses need to be Jewish, over 18 and understand that they are signing a legal document and they cannot be related to you." 

    One note- there's also a problem if they're related to each other.  Theoretically, there are also certain things that could invalidate them otherwise (being a professional gambler, for example).

    "Wait a minute. Your rabbi is practicing under Conservative auspices and even if he is more on the Orthodox side- you can have women sign as witnesses and he cannot go against this."

    I'm not entirely certain this is true.  It would be unusual, certainly, but there's nothing I've heard of in the Conservative movement that requires them to accept women as witnesses, even if it's pretty common in practice.
  • edited December 2011
    I got all I wanted, so I was happy.  But the issue with the congregants and our rabbi (along with the board) not quite sure what type of identity it wants has created problems - but I don't want to move this topic beyond having already done so.

    I'll be circling, alone, 7 times around my FI and I'm super happy about that.  :)
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