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January 30, 1993 - Image 43

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-01-30

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Through the aged custom of the Ufruf, congregations honor their grooms with

prayers and aliteral shower of good wishes. By SHEILEY KAPNEK ROSENBERG

elegated to a minor role— almost a
s econd thought amid all the hoopla
surrounding a wedding— it is tra-
ditionally intended to honor that
most neglected member of the wedding par-
ty— the groom. The strange, barely pro-
nounceable name, that sounds more like a
dog's bark than a rite of religious passage,
isn't even Hebrew. This is the
Aufruf or Ufruf in German and
Yiddish, respectively). No Eng-
lish name for the ceremony has
ever been coined.
Ufruf is synonymous with
"aliyah" in Hebrew, which
means "ascending" or "going
up." It is the custom of "calling
up" a groom to the Torah pri-
or to his wedding to recite bless-
ings for the Torah reading and
receive a special blessing in
honor of the wedding. And it is
important enough that, accord-
ing to tradition, the groom has
preference over others, even a
bar mitzvah, who might be
called to the Torah.
The ceremony varies in Or-
thodox, Conservative and Re-
form synagogues as well as in
each congregation.
In many Orthodox congre-
gations there are several aliy-
ot for the Ufruf family.
The chatan (groom), may also read the Haf-
torah, the supplementary verses from the
Prophets. At some synagogues, all his im-
mediate male relatives dance around the
bimah (stage) while the congregation claps
and sings.
The Ufruf is a public acknowledgement of
a major change of responsibility and obliga-
tion in a person's life. It is almost parallel to
the bar mitzvah, when a boy goes from doing
nothing to doing everything for himself Now,
the man goes from doing everything for him-

self to doing everything for both of them. It is
moving from "I am important" to "We are im-
The groom also receives a special blessing,
a mishebayrach, for the forthcoming marriage.
Jewish tradition is careful to make sure that
any milestone in a person's life is connected
to the teachings of the Torah.

While the wedding itself is a private cere-
mony, reserved for invited family and friends,
the Ufruf is public, traditionally held in the
synagogue at any service during which the
Torah is read. This usually means Saturday
morning, but could be Monday or Thursday
morning or even Saturday afternoon. It should
be scheduled as close to the wedding as pos-
sible. Because Orthodox custom prescribes
that the groom not see his bride for seven
days prior to the wedding, some Orthodox
Jews schedule the Ufruf for the week before
the wedding, so that the bride can attend.

If the bride is not physically present, she
can be there symbolically in the form of a
prayer shawl. That symbolism is rooted in
Deuteronomy, where verses describing the
wearing of ritual fringes are followed imme-
diately by a verse saying that a man should
take a wife. The inference is that the bride's
wedding gift to her groom should be a tallit,
a prayer shawl. He wears it for
the first time at the Ufruf.
The public nature of the
ceremony is significant, rabbis
agree. "The broader Jewish
community has a stake in a
marriage," says Rabbi Amy
Scheinerman, of Baltimore.
"What we do in our personal
private life affects the com-
munity." The Ufruf acknowl-
edges that communal
The religious observance
can also serve as a reminder
to people caught up in the
stresses of planning a wed-
ding, that what is truly mean-
ingful about a marriage has
nothing to do with dresses,
caterers or dance bands, she
adds. Coming to synagogue in
the midst of bachelor parties,
bridal showers or last-minute
preparations signifies the im-
portance of their vows and of their identity as
a Jewish couple.
When the bride and groom come from dif-
ferent communities, or even different cities,
celebrating the Ufruf in the "non-chuppah"
synagogue (the one where the wedding itself
is not going to be held) is a lovely way of shar-
ing the simchah, or happy occasion, with that
The Ufruf is an age-old part of Jewish tra-
dition, so old that its exact origin is unknown,
and many non-Orthodox rabbis have chosen
to modernize aspects of it. In Conservative




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