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Marriage and the Day of Atonement

Day of Atonement

The last pasuk [verse] of the parsha [Torah portion of the week]: “So Eisav went to Yishmael and took Machalas, the daughter of Yishmael son of Avraham, sister of Nebaioth, in addition to his wives, as a wife for himself” [Bereshis 28:9].

Our Sages relate the name Machalas to the word Mechilah [forgiveness]. They say that we see from here that on the day a person gets married, all his sins are forgiven and the wedding day is considered a personal Yom Kippur This is the reason it is customary for the bride groom and bride to fast until the ceremony; on their wedding day. Abstaining from food and drink on this day focuses the bride and groom on the needs of the soul, rather the body. This is an appropriate preparation for the wedding, whose crux is the spiritual union of souls and assists the couple to come to the ceremony in a spirit of solemnity akin to Yom Kippur. It is considered important to enter upon marriage as a new chapter in life with one’s conscience cleared of the errors or lapses of the past. On the day when a man and woman enter the greatest commitment of their lifetime, selflessly resolving to making their own interests secondary to the welfare of their spouse and the needs of their marriage, they are worthy of being forgiven for all “selfish” sins committed in their past.

The Mincha [afternoon prayer] that a Chosson [groom] and Kallah [bride] recite on the day of their marriage includes the vidui [confession] recited on Yom Kippur and couple each ask forgiveness for the wrongdoings of their youth, committed knowingly or unknowingly, before starting their new life together It is a common custom that the groom prays this mincha privately – not with a minyan – in order to heighten his ability to focus and concentrate

The fast concludes when the bride and groom sip from the cup of wine beneath the Chupah [ceremony]. Thus, in the event of a morning or afternoon Chupah, the fast is actually quite short. Even if the Chupah is scheduled to take place after nightfall, it is preferable for the bride and groom to abstain from eating or drinking until the Chupah.  If the bride and groom are fasting (even if they will be breaking their fast at an afternoon Chupah) the aneinu prayer is inserted in the amidah. Before stepping backwards at the conclusion of the amidah, the bride and groom recite the vidui (even if they are not fasting). If the Chupah will be held in the morning, the vidui can be recited after the Shacharis [Morning Prayer] amidah.

If the marriage takes place on a day of public celebration (Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah, Tu B’Shevat, or Purim) then the fast is suspended.

Thus, the couple enters into their marriage fully cleansed.

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