16.4 Balancing Physical Pleasure

What is the epitome of balancing pleasure in our physical lives? Perhaps the Jewish wedding custom, when the groom smashes a glass cup with an enthusiastic stomp, to wrap up the wedding ceremony! As with so many Jewish customs, these identifying traditions have survived through so many episodes of Jewish history around the world, and have accumulated many different symbolisms and interpretations. But at the core of the Jewish tradition of breaking the glass lies a lesson in balance.
The ceremony, the lights, the flowers, and the cheers of a wedding can be mesmerizing, and the excitement of a new family unit’s creation is certainly a cause for celebration. Here, lavish feasts, lively music and fashionable outfits are welcome and accepted– if not encouraged. Dancing the night away, enjoying fine liquor, and indulging in copious amounts of food and desserts can be welcome and expected at a wedding; these physical pleasures are a wonderful way to mark the truly happy occassion. So how does breaking a glass bring balance?
While under the chuppah (the wedding canopy), the rabbi instructs the groom to stomp down and break a glass under his foot. Why? The many interpretations for this custom still point back to one core concept– that even in our happiest moments, we must remember that our world is fragile, and that pain and suffering are a stranger to no one.
New couples go into their marriage with a reminder that life can never be pure pleasure, and that their conscious actions as a new unit are central to finding this balance, and most importantly, being fueled by all the good, to be a better force for good as they build their family and become a part of the community.

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