By: Kaufmann Kohler
A Hebrew word signifying a canopy (Isa. iv. 5; Lev. R. xxv.; Eccl. R. vii. 11), especially the bridal canopy. Subsequently it became also the term for a wedding. Originally the ḥuppah was the chamber in which the bride awaited the groom for the marital union; hence the Biblical statement that the sun comes out of his tabernacle in the morning "as a bridegroom cometh out of his chamber [ḥuppah]" (Ps. xix. 6 [A. V. 5]; comp. Joel ii. 16). The bridal procession—a festal affair in which the whole town participated—culminated in the ushering into the ḥuppah of the bride and bridegroom, this act signifying the actual surrender of the daughter by her father to the man who was henceforth to be her lord as well as her husband (Tobit viii. 4; Ḳid. 5a; Yer. Ket. iv. 7, 28d; Maimonides, "Yad," Ishut, x. 1-2). Before entering the ḥuppah the bridegroom had to recite the seven nuptial benedictions (Tobit viii. 5; Ket.7b; "Yad," l.c. 4; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Eben ha-'Ezer, 34, 1). Outside the ḥuppah (in former times inside) the groomsmen and bridesmaids stood as guards awaiting the good tidings that the union had been happily consummated with reference to Deut. xxii. 17 (see Yer. Ket. i. 25a; Tan., Ḳoraḥ, ed. Buber, p. 96; Pirḳe R. El. xii.), while the people indulged in dancing, singing, and especially in praises of the bride (comp. John iii. 29; Matt. xxv. 1-13). The bride had to remain in the ḥuppah for seven days, as long as the wedding festivities lasted (Judges xiv. 15); hence the name of these festivities, "the seven days of her" or "of the ḥuppah" (Pesiḳ. 149b).
The wedding party was called "bene ḥuppah," and could dispense with the performance of otherreligious obligations, such as sitting in the sukkah (Yer. Suk. ii. 53a). To it belonged, besides the groomsmen ("sushbinim"), the respective fathers of the bride and bridegroom. The bridegroom's father was required to build and adorn the bridal canopy for his son and to lead him into it (Sanh. 108a; Ber. 25b; Lev. R. xx.). At times the mother built the ḥuppah for her son (Soṭah 12b). When a young man reached his eighteenth year the father was obliged to lead him into the ḥuppah (Ab. v. 21). At the circumcision ceremony the people blessed the father, wishing him to be privileged also to lead his son to the ḥuppah (Yer. Ber. ix. 14a).
The ḥuppah was a baldachin made of precious purple cloth adorned with golden jewels of a moon-like shape (Soṭah 49b; Yer. Soṭah ix. 24c); later it was in the form of a bower, made of roses and myrtles ("Tanya," 90). For Adam's wedding with Eve God built, one above the other, ten (Kol Bo lv. reads "seven") baldachins of precious stones (Pirḳe R. El. xii.), the angels keeping watch outside and dancing (comp. Gen. R. xviii.).
When in the course of time the character of the wedding ceremony changed, the ḥuppah changed with it, and was transformed into a portable canopy resting on four poles carried by four youths. Under it the bridal couple stood during the performance of the wedding ceremony by the rabbi (Shulḥan 'Aruk, l.c.), the real idea of the marital union being expressed symbolically by the spreading of the ṭallit over them (Ibn Yarḥi, "Ha-Manhig," pp. 109-110; Kol Bo lxxv.; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Eben ha-'Ezer, lv. 1). Even this essential custom, expressing the symbolic union, has been discarded by many Orthodox Jews, while the Reform rabbis have given up the ḥuppah, regarding it as an empty form void of meaning. The portable canopy came into use owing to the fact that formerly weddings took place in front of the synagogue, as it was considered to be especially auspicious to be married under the canopy of heaven (Jacob Mölin, "Minhage Maharil," ch. "Minhag ha-Nissu'im"; Mordecai Jafe, in "Lebush," Hilk. Ḳiddushin, p. 59). See Marriage Ceremonies.
- M. Brück, Pharisäische Volkssitten und Ritualien. pp. 28-39, Breslau, 1840;
- Löw, Lebensalter, pp. 188-190. Szegedin, 1875.