New poem by: Deborah bat Shaul (Dedicated to the Couples)
Chupah (which means Jewish wedding) is unique among every other form of religious marital ceremonies. Not only is it characterized in its splendor and the order of service that must be strictly followed- traditionally, the seven blessings (Sheva Brakhot) are recited twice during the occasion. Another remarkable thing, unlike in other wedding ceremonies; there’s only one ring, which is given to the bride alone- regarded not just as an object used in a symbolic act, but rather a precious gift from the groom.
Interestingly, this will be my first experience attending a Nigerian Jewish wedding. But that’s certainly not on purpose so to speak. During the last one that took place in Imo State a couple of months ago, coincidentally I was in Abia State as two Jewish Synagogues in South Eastern Nigeria received two mezuzot from Rabbi Wayne Franklin. Hence, it was absolutely necessary to witness a typical event- as Eri and Tamar were joined together in Lagos.
All Roads Lead To Lagos (South Western Nigeria)
Call it the gathering of all the Nigerian Jews? Yes, that’s exactly what it was on that day at the Rumors event center in Festac town Lagos. They came in great numbers, traveling from all corners of Jewish Nigeria to celebrate and witness the mitzvah of consummating the marriage ceremony of the newest Jewish-wedded couples in the country. Heads of Synagogues and their wives, other delegates and women groups, cantors of different Knessets, youths (both male and female), children and scores of invited friends and family members all made-up the list of guests in attendance.
The colorful occasion, which took place on Sunday, 26th of May, witnessed a venue-studded with over 600 happily seated guests. It was indeed a day of colors and roses, signifying the beauty of love and the radiance of Jewish heritage and traditions.
From my findings, some of the traveling guests had arrived Lagos since the previous week. This was majorly because of two reasons that include:
- To observe the Shabbat with the couples prior to their wedding day
- The long road from the East and South makes it a bit inconvenient to travel same day on Sunday
For few others, the only option left was to travel overland the night preceding the wedding, just immediately after Sabbath.
Brief Profile of the Groom:
- Founder and Rosh of Beit Eri Lagos
- Secular Name: Chief Chukwudi Ivediegwu
- Jewish Name: Eri ben Avraham
- State of Origin: Anambra
- Traditional title: The Erijiovo na Iddu Eri Kingdom
- Successful businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist.
- Notable Donation: A Sefer Torah to Ohr Torah Synagogue (now Olam Torah Synagogue)
Mazal Tov, my teacher, my Rosh, my Boss!
Lined Up To Receive The Blessing, According To The Custom Of Kabbalat Panim
Prior to the start of the occasion, in a pre-wedding reception, this first compulsory ritual was announced by one of the speakers. The instructions were specific- all male and female guests should go to the groom and bride respectively, to receive blessings from the about-to-wed couples. This tradition, known as Kabbalat Panim, is exercised mostly during Jewish weddings- putting the celebrants in a position of blessing all their guests’ one after the other that particular day.
So, like every other male around, I patiently lined up to receive the blessings from the groom, according to the custom of Kabbalat Panim. Queuing up behind some brothers and friends from the East, we followed the staircase to an upper room where Eri was seated with one or two relatives.
After receiving my own blessings, I decided to spend some few moments at the upper room to monitor the proceedings. The groom was audible enough, full of smiles as he blesses, and called every man by his name. Some of the prayers he made contain the following blessings:
- May HASHEM bless you
- May HASHEM reward your efforts
- May HASHEM protect you
- May HASHEM give you more knowledge
- May HASHEM open more financial doors for you
- May HASHEM guide you
At the end of the blessing session, it was time for the next wedding ritual known as the custom of Badeken. But this time around, the instruction was meant for the elders alone. So in fulfillment of this tradition, the elders escorted the groom as he goes to meet the bride in the opposite room. In the presence of the elders, he removes the veil over her beautiful face- therefore- completing the requirements of the Jewish pre-wedding traditions.
Standing Ovation As The Bridal Train Leads The Couples To The Chupah
The Jewish wedding, pronounced as Chupah in Hebrew simply means “Canopy,” because it usually takes place under a canopy held aloft on four posts. The marriage canopy (which looks like a house) signifies the new household being formed by the union of the new couples. And on top of the canopy, a Tallit (prayer shawl) is hung, indicating that the new house is a typical Jewish home.
Then came the moment everyone has been waiting for- as the master of the ceremony announced the entrance of the couples into the hall, starting from the groom. He walked in handsomely, looking like a king and dressed in blazing white suit. Flanked on both sides by the fathers of the day, and followed by two groups of men, comprising of:
- The men in colored suit
- The men in reddish Igbo traditional attire
By the time the groom finally reached the Chupah, the young chazzan of the occasion, Eliyahu ben Avraham, from Adat Emunat Ha Yehudim in Ebonyi State, pronounced the following prayers:
“Blessed is he who has come! He Who is powerful above all, He Who is blessed above all, He Who is great above all, He Who is supreme above all- may He bless the groom and bride...”
By the moment the queen of the day walked in majestically, everyone stood up again, giving her a standing ovation just like the king. Moving slowly one step at a time, the crowd marveled at her adorable beauty as she closed in on the marriage canopy.
He (the groom) took two steps forward as he welcomed her into the canopy. Then as the tradition demands- the bride must circle around the groom seven times, which she did in a stylish way! Click here to watch the clip on YouTube. According to the sages, this particular ritual is believed to be a protection exercise against any form of evil spirit.
Again, the chazzan recites the following prayers as the beautiful bride moves in circles under the canopy.
“Blessed is she who has come! He Who understands the speech of the rose among the thorns, the love of a bride, who is the joy of the beloved ones- may He bless the groom and bride...”
Brief Profile of the Bride:
- Ima of Beit Eri Lagos
- Secular Name: Uju Madubuko
- Jewish Name: Tamar marat Eri
- Traditional Title: The osinachi na Iddu Eri Kingdom
Mazal Tov, my Ima, our Queen!
Sanctification of Bride and Groom (Kiddushin)
The Kiddushin is another important service in the order of Jewish weddings, during which the bride is betrothed to the groom as he places a ring upon her finger. But before getting to this part, a cup of wine is raised up by one of the officiating members and the following prayers recited.
Blessed are you, HASHEM, our God, King of the universe, Who creates the fruit of the wine.
Blessed are You, HASHEM, our God, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has command us regarding forbidden unions; Who forbade betrothed woman to us, and permitted women who are married to us through canopy and consecration. Blessed are you, HASHEM, Who sanctifies His people Israel through canopy and consecration.
At the end of these prayers, the groom and bride each shares from the cup of wine.
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Immediately after the Kiddushin, the next exercise is known as Betrodal (giving the ring to the bride). Ben Shem Tov, the Rosh of Israel in Africa Synagogue (Uke, Anambra State) approached the groom and asked him a question before handing over the ring. He said, “Is this your property?”
Eri responded, collected the ring, and then placed it on the bride’s right index finger. However, before giving her the ring, he said the following:
Behold, you are consecrated to me by means of this ring in accordance with the Law of Moses and Israel.
Next Action: Signing the Marriage Certificate
Just like every other wedding ceremonies, the occasion is never completed without signing a form of marriage contract agreement. In some cases, marriage registry is signed by both the couples and their parents or guardians. But for the typical Jewish setting, things look pretty much differentiated and unique.
The Ketubah (marriage contract) is read aloud, in line with the tradition, so the people around can hear the details of the marital obligation. Upon hearing all that was read, the contract certificate is first handed over to the groom, who in turn hands it over to the bride. And the groom must also accept the agreement by signing the contract, before presenting it to the bride who is also required to counter-sign, and then keep this important document forever save.
On the 26th of May 2019, at the Rumors Center festival village in Festac, hundreds of Nigerian Jews witnessed the signing of the marriage contract between Eri ben Avraham and Tamar marat Eri.
The Seven Blessings (Sheva Brachot)
Blessings are powerful prayers pronounced to affirm positive expectations, or change the cause of a situation from negative to good. During Jewish weddings, couples receive tons of blessings to help launch them on the path of progress and meaningful success. Apart from all the blessings pronounced so far, the Sheva Brachot (seven blessings) is said with the bride and groom standing beneath the chupah (marriage canopy). The number seven in Jewish thoughts signifies completions, as can be seen in the following notable historic events:
- Seven days in a week.
- Seven days in the Sabbatical year circle.
- Seven days to inaugurate the Tabernacle.
To recite these seven benedictions, the chazzan will pour the second cup of wine, before the following blessings are recited aloud:
- Blessed are You, HASHEM, our God, King of the universe, Who has created everything for His glory.
- Blessed are You, HASHEM, our God, King of the universe, Who fashioned the Man.
- Blessed are You, HASHEM, our God, King of the universe, Who fashioned the Man in His image, in the image of his likeness and prepared for him-from himself- a building for eternity. Blessed are You, HASHEM, our God, King of the universe, Who fashioned the Man.
- Bring intense joy and exultation to the barren one through the in-gathering of her children amidst her in gladness. Blessed are You, HASHEM, our God, King of the universe, Who gladdens Zion through her children.
- Gladden the beloved companions as You gladden Your creature in the Garden of Eden from aforetime. Blessed are You, HASHEM, our God, King of the universe, Who gladdens the groom and bride.
- Blessed are You, HASHEM, our God, King of the universe, Who created joy and gladness, groom and bride, mirth, glad song, pleasure, delight, love, brotherhood, peace, and companionship. HASHEM, our God, let there soon be heard in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and the sound of gladness, the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the groom’s jubilance from their canopies and the youths from their song-filled feasts. Blessed are You, Who gladden the groom with the bride.
- Blessed are You, HASHEM, our God, King of the universe, Who creates the fruit of the wine.
It is customary to divide the recitation of the Sheva Brakhot among a number of people. The following people were called to recite different parts of the seven blessings in Hebrew language:
- Zered ben Avraham, Rosh of Alef Orthodox Jewish Synagogue, Amichi, Anambra State
- Chanuk ben Avraham (Doctor Nwosu), Rosh of Olam Yisrael Synagogue, Lagos
- Rabbi Shadrach Levi, Abayudaya Jewish Community, Uganda, East Africa
Then the wine from two cups is mixed together after the recitation is completed, one given to both couples. Some of the people around also shared in the cup of the blessing.
The Jewish Tradition Of Breaking The Glass
Jews never complete their wedding ceremonies without breaking the glass. This action is usually carried out by the groom before the conclusion of the occasion.
When it was time to perform this important spiritual exercise, Kish ben Onyia, Rosh of Adat Yisrael Synagogue stepped forward and dropped the small glass in front of the groom. The glass was wrapped in a piece of white clothing to avoid direct contact with the body when it is smashed.
Some of the guest left their sitting positions and moved forward, to catch a glimpse of the action. The reason for the breaking of the glass is to recall the destruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E.
Shouts of Mazal Tov and Mazal Tov erupted in the audience as Eri ben Avraham smashed the glass beneath his feet.
Then quickly after this, the challa (bread) was blessed and distributed among both Jews and non-Jews by the following brothers:
- Yoseph Gamliel ben Yisrael, moreh of Aaron Hakodesh Knesset, Port Harcourt
- Nathan ben Avraham, chief chazzan, Ohr Hakodesh Synagogue, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State
The first part of the Jewish wedding ceremony usually ends with the Yichud (in which the newly-wed couples are escorted out of the venue, to allow them have some private time). But before Eri and Tamar exited the great hall, the Brikat Hamazon (Grace after Meal) was chorused by the guests, lead by:
- Kish ben Onyia, and
- Eliyahu ben Avraham
Chanuk ben Avraham (Doctor Nwosu) Amuses The Audience With His Teachings on Marriages
Hardly will Jews gather in any event without discussing at least some portions of the Torah. So it didn’t come as a surprise when Eliyahu called upon Doctor Nwosu, one of the founding fathers of Judaism in Lagos State, to deliver some words of the Torah. Since the new couples where observing the Yichud (complete privacy), no other time was more perfect than now!
He is an elder knowledgeable in the wisdom of the Torah, with many years of active work and experience- this is certainly how most people view Doctor Nwosu. And being a great teacher, he knows what to say, how to say it, and when to say it as well. Looking at the large listening audience, which comprises of different categories of individuals ranging from young to the eldest, and the married and single- he carried everyone along, no doubt.
The focus of the whole teaching was centered on how to make a marriage successful. He also highlighted the responsibilities and obligations of couples to each other in ensuring their marriage grows stronger.
Three Notable Facts About A Jewish Wedding
Fact- #NumberOne: It is customary that the couples fast on the day of their wedding, because their sins are forgiven on that day.
Fact- #NumberTwo: Jewish Weddings cannot be held on the following period:
- Weekly Sabbath
- Tisha B’AV
- During the 1st thirty three days of counting the Omer
- On regular fast days
Fact- #NumberThree: It is forbidden to marry the wife of another man who has not been divorced by a valid Jewish divorce
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Special Wedding Poem In Honor Of The Bride & Groom
A SONG BY THE CHUPPAH.. Composed by: Deborah bat Shaul (Beit Yaakov, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State)
TO MY LADY..
To one whose beauty transcends beyond time,
And her smell the spice of thyme.
To her who’s eyes are bright,
And goodness in form of heart.
To her who makes me smile
And to make her smile I would run thousand miles.
To her who is tall and fair,
And to humanity, her actions are fair,
To her who carries the children,
And Torah and mitzvot she adheres
Children of men praise her,
And Torah speaks of her.
How happy I am I found you
And the Almighty keep me, I will keep you.
This goes to my newly wedded lady, and mother to my children.
TO MY NOBLE MAN
To the one who is humble,
Endowed with good heart that never fumbles
To him whom the Torah call praiseworthy,
And gets favours for his worthy.
To him I could go around seven times,
To the seven blessing we receive in times.
To him who makes my heart skip,
And hush children I want to keep.
How happy I am being your bride,
And those dreams, together we will ride.
To get to the peak of our heights
And until we get our bright
Relentless I will be
And if the Almighty keeps us alive and healthy,
Our home I will build healthy,
With Torah and mitzvot our lamp.
And besides you my husband I camp.
This goes to my newly wedded groom and father to my children
The Seudat Mitzvah: Now The Party Begins!
As they made their way back into the great hall, everyone rose and welcomed them back with cheers and clapping. It was time for the main reception, a moment most of the guests have patiently waited for. But before the festive meal was served, the couple must first entertain the guests with dancing. And there are other special reception dances common with Jewish weddings all over the world.
One of the actions involves dancing in circles, and then later the men formed a long narrow passage standing next to each other, with hands stretched out towards the other man facing the opposite direction. How exciting to see the groom moving through the long passage which extended across a length. The other joyful dance is known as the horah– with the couples seated in two separate seats and hoisted into the air, amidst the cheering from the crowd.
However, by the time we returned back to our tables to enjoy the feast, a new master of ceremony suddenly appeared. He automatically changed the whole atmosphere and got the entire guest laughing out loudly with his creative style of talking and series of coordinated plays he staged while anchoring the rest of the program.
So while we listened to the master of ceremony/comedian, we enjoyed the banquet to the fullest. Guests were treated to a sumptuous meal of different kinds, and there were enough drinks to go round.
And as mentioned earlier, the Sheva Brachot would be repeated at the conclusion of the wedding dinner as well. But this time around, the Tallit was spread out over the heads of the couples as the seven blessings were pronounced. It was performed by Kish who blessed Eri, and then Doctor Nwosu completed the remaining, with his hands placed on Tamar’s forehead as he prayed.
Synagogues in Attendance
At the concluding part of the ceremony, it was time to exchange gifts. The newly-wed couples received tons of gifts from both individuals and representatives. Some of the Synagogues were also spotted presenting their wedding gifts collectively as a group.
Summary of List of Synagogues Present
- Aaron Hakodesh Knesset, Port Harcourt
- Abayudaya Jewish Community, Uganda, East Africa
- Adat Emunat Ha Yehudim, Ezzamgbo, Ebonyi State
- Adat Yisrael Synagogue, Lagos
- Alef Orthodox Jewish Synagogue, Amichi, Anambra
- Beit Eri, Lagos
- B’nai Yisrael Congregation, Onitsha
- Igbo Jewish Community Synagogue, Ogidi
- Jewish Africa Synagogue, Delta State
- Kehilat Melek Yisrael (“Gambia”), Port Harcourt
- Kehilath Yisrael Synagogue, Burkunor, Lagos
- Tikvat Yisrael Synagogue Abuja
Certainly, this proves beyond any doubt the unity and cooperation of Nigerian Jews and their commitment to continue to strengthen the Judaism Network in the country.
Vote of Thanks
In appreciation for attending their Jewish wedding, the bride and groom had few words to say before the end of the celebration. Eri took the podium, addressing the remaining audience on behalf of his family.
He expressed his gratitude first to HASHEM Who made the whole event successful without any unforeseen troubles. And knowing full well that many guests had to travel hundreds of kilometers overland to attend- he prayed for a safe return to their various destinations in peace. The organizing committees (most especially Jewish Africa Foundation) were also not left out, after their extraordinary input in ensuring the wedding events went smoothly according to plan.
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Check out some of the joyful moments of some guests during the occasion.
Wishing The Couples A Happy Married Life! Selah!
What G-d has joined together, let no man or woman ever put any asunder. As we celebrate the newly established Jewish union between the couples, we look forward to joining them in their future wedding anniversaries as well. Ultimately, the focus has always been to strengthen and expand the Judaism Network in Nigeria, by encouraging the formation of new Jewish families. May this colorful event of our time therefore continue to act as a catalyst that would put Jews on track in achieving growth and expansion of the population of Jewish Nigeria.
Upcoming Stories on Jewish Nigeria
- #Pesach2019: Maiden visit to Jewish Communities in Ebonyi State
- Ordination of the Elders and Mothers council in The Divine Seed of Adonai Synagogue Int. inc
- The Feast of Shavout in Lagos