The Many Meanings of the Chuppah

The Chuppah is a marriage canopy that symbolizes Jewish life through biblical precepts.  The Chuppah is mentioned in Joel/Yo’el 2:16: "Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride the bridal chamber." and in Psalms/Tehillim 19:5: “like a bridegroom from the bridal chamber (Chuppah)."

The quintessential meaning behind the mitzvah of the Chuppah is its representation of G-d’s eternal covenant with His people Israel.   The Chuppah  illustrates  G-d’s promise to Abraham, His eternal protection over His people Israel, and His promise for a future Kingdom.  The future promise for peace. A time when the Bride (people of Israel) will be betrothed to their G-d, they will no longer know war.  Isaiah 2: 4  “...nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” 

The Song of Solomon/ Shir Ha-Shirim illustrates this future day as it describes the coming betrothal between the Bride and Bridegroom.    These verses illuminate the divine providence of the Jewish wedding ceremony. 

The Chuppah is a temporary structure with four open sides, and is reminiscent of the sukkah, erected during the holiday of Sukkot (Festival of Booths) which the ancient Israelites dwelt in during their 40 years of wandering in the desert after their exodus from Egypt.   Like the sukkah, the Chuppah reminds the bride and groom they are protected by G-d and He alone is their refuge and redeemer. 

The Chuppah also represents the tent of Abraham, and is a  symbol of the loving kindness and hospitality Abraham and Sarah showed their guests.  It serves as a reminder that Abraham was a foreigner in a strange land, looking for the place G-d had promised him.  Therefore, the Chuppah, like the tent of Abraham represents the Jewish home which is to be filled with loving kindness (chesed), and hospitality to strangers (chakhnasat orhim), just as the patriarch Abraham did 3500 years ago.  

The Chuppah is usually held up by Chuppah holders, under the stars, just prior to sundown, as a reminder of  G-d’s eternal covenant to Abraham, which proclaims that his descendants will be as numerous "as the stars of heaven." Genesis/Bereshis  26:4. 

Chuppah Design:  A Glorification to G-d

The Jewish principle of enhancing a mitzvah through aesthetics is called hiddur mitzvah, which comes directly from the Torah, namely Exodus/Sh’mot 15:2, where it is written: "This is my G-d and I will glorify Him."  A Rabbi who commented on the Exodus verse, (Midrash Mechilta) asks "Is it possible for a human being to add glory to his Creator? What this really means is: I shall glorify Him in the way I perform mitzvot. I shall prepare before Him a beautiful  lulav, beautiful sukkah, beautiful fringes (Tzitzit), and beautiful phylacteries (Tefillin).”  In essence, the Jewish concept of beautifying your wedding-day canopy will bring glory to G-d.   

Chuppah Celebration by Alex Levin

The wedding canopy is considered an object of Jewish ceremonial art and can be made of any fabric. 

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