Baruch habah! May he who cometh be blessed! Mi adir al hakol, mi baruch al hakol, y’vorech chatan v’kalah. He who is supremely mighty; He who is supremely praised; He who is supremely great; May he bless this bridegroom and bride…
Beneath the embroidered velvet chupah we listened to the words of this ancient benediction, unaware of all but the clergyman and the cantor before us. The royal blue wedding canopy moved gently in the early evening breeze. We stood on a grassy knoll by a peaceful lake, a setting much like those described in fairy tales. And though my prince” and I had met and fallen in love in storybook fashion, we had come to the chupah out of a serious commitment born of something greater than even the greatest of human loves.
My hands trembled as I placed the slender gold band on my young groom’s finger. Within me and about me I felt a hushed sense of awe and reverence for this ceremony. We had not approached this moment casually; it was the outcome of many days of prayer and consideration. We knew that this marriage was more than just an earthly union. Our commitment was not only to each other; it was a promise to God that we would serve Him together in our new relationship. We knew that His love had brought us to this day, and His love could enable us to love each other and those around us in ways that are not humanly possible.
The awe and the joy that I felt that day came from knowing that somehow the God of this universe had decided that my new husband and I should meet and marry. Born of Jewish parents, we both had been raised in the ways and traditions of Judaism. We both had known the delight and occasional pain of being Jewish. And at different times, and in different places we had both become believers in the Jewish Messiah, Jesus. We had met and worked together to let others know the beauty of having this same kind of relationship with God. And now we desired that our love for each other would be blessed by Him as we publicly acknowledged our commitment before friends and family.
If you had passed our wedding party that cool August evening, you would have recognized all the accouterments of a typical Jewish wedding. The chupah, the deep, resonant voice of the cantor, the Hebraic melodies that wafted through the air—these were accompanied by the traditional partaking of the kiddush cup, the breaking of the glass, and the joyous exclamations of, “Mazel tov!” as the service came to an end. There was every reason that our wedding should include all these things, for we had not become nor felt any less Jewish because of our belief in Jesus. In fact, these outward symbols were merely an indication of our inner convictions and our desire to honor and perpetuate our Jewish heritage.
Yet, if you had stopped to listen that day, you would have heard things that are not part of a traditional Jewish service. In addition to the vows we exchanged, we also had chosen carefully the words spoken to our guests:
…We came to the chupah today to re-enact a pageant, a ceremony, as did our ancestors from ancient times. The pageantry of this ceremony and the symbol of the canopy are intended to be a dramatic representation of lives being joined together under the soft roof which the Almighty, blessed be His Name, provides. Like all drama, this ceremony is intended for the purpose of depicting reality: the reality of a blessed relationship between a husband and a wife. It shows the reality of the blessings that God can bestow upon those who love Him, and the realization that God is love.
Prayers for the bride and groom were offered in the name of the Messiah. We made our pledges to one another, attesting to our belief that it was God’s will for us to marry. My groom promised to love me as our Messiah loves those who are His, and I promised to submit myself to my husband as unto God Himself. We also committed ourselves that day to live together all the days of our lives, knowing that we could never destroy that union because God has ordained marriage to be an unbroken bond.
Five years earlier, none of this would have been possible. If you had met us then, before we both became believers in Jesus, you would have found our views on marriage quite different. In fact, we probably never would have married at all. This day under the chupah was our attestation to family and friends of God’s power to change hearts.
Because of our faith in Him, we both now understood the sanctity and purpose of marriage. As believers in the Messiah, we could see how God ordained this human relationship as a graphic portrayal of His love and commitment to His creation. We also were deeply aware that men and women can destroy that love relationship with each other by treating it lightly—just as they can ignore or turn their backs on God, who loves them in a greater way than they could ever love themselves or others.
Through our faith in Jesus, the Messiah, we had been reunited with the God who loves us. We had gained an even deeper sense of our Jewish identity through a new understanding of what it means to be chosen by God and to be known by Him. As my groom and I repeated our wedding vows that day, we both were aware that the commitment we were making went beyond flesh and blood. Yes, we desired to be married in a Jewish setting and ceremony, for our hearts were forever aligned with our Jewish people. But greater than our desire for a beautiful ceremony that day was our hope that our love for God would be a story to our family and our friends—that those who were assembled there to witness our joy might also know the joy and wonder of being Jewish and believing in Jesus.
As the final words of the ceremony were pronounced, I prayed that through the love my new husband and I shared in our marriage many of our people would come to know what we knew—that there is a God in Israel, that He loves all men freely, and He desires them to come to Him, so that He can activate His love in their lives.