Renew Your Wedding Vows in Bella Italia
Imagine a beautiful blue Italian sky, rolling green hills and huge sunflowers (the traditional Italian wedding flower) gracing each pole of the chuppah, the bridal canopy. As couples renew their wedding vows with Rabbi Barbara, brides and grooms, some married for 25 years or more, stand together and renew their promises as they enjoy all the rituals that are part of the traditional Jewish wedding.
Each year couples from around the world join Rabbi Barbara for their Jewish wedding vow renewal to refresh their promises to each other. Combined with a beautiful Italian second honeymoon, the experience is “bellissima!”
Renewing Your Wedding Vows – “It’s Tradition”
In an article by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg, the rabbi examines halachic sources (sources in Jewish law) that underscore the Jewish tradition found in the beauty of renewing wedding vows. Silberberg refers to the renowned Talmudic scholar, Rabbi Yosef Rosen (1858-1936) who wrote that a wedding is not a “one time event.” Instead the wedding ceremony is the initial event that “reverberates and repeats itself every moment for the duration of the couple’s married life.”
Silberberg makes the case for renewing one’s marriage vows when he emphasizes that the “Shevah Brachot” (Seven Wedding Blessings) are recited after the marriage has been “finalized, ” meaning that the couple and their witnesses have signed the ketubah (the Jewish wedding document) and the rings have been exchanged. The chanting of these blessings and their place in the ceremony symbolize that the marriage is not a static event but one that grows, changes and adapts throughout the couple’s life together. Silberberg puts it best when he states, “Marriage is actually renewed at every moment!”
“It was ‘b’shert’ that I found her,” one husband says of his wife of 40 years.” “The Spirit of the Universe brought our souls together,” says a wife who recalls, “I knew when we met as seatmates on a subway train that he was the one for me!”
The Kabbalists, the Jewish mystics, would agree. In fact it is Kabbalistic teaching that uses delicate imagery to explain the relationship between Jewish tradition and the love that couples have for one another. Referring to the first “wedding” held more than 3300 years ago in the Sinai Desert, Kabbalists say that God became “bridegroom” to the mystical bride, the Jewish people, and presented us with Torah as our wedding ring!
We Always Wanted A Jewish Wedding
Years ago it was often difficult for interfaith couples to have their wedding ceremony under the chuppah. When rabbis would not officiate or co-officiate, Jewish interfaith couples often opted for a civil ceremony – all the while hoping for the spiritual experience that a wedding under the chuppah brings.
“My husband is Jewish and I was brought up Catholic,” says Donna who fell in love with Max when they were chemistry lab partners in college 45 years ago. Two years later Max proposed, Donna accepted and the both families were thrilled about the match. “It was 1974 and we were hoping that we could find a rabbi who would marry us. But it wasn’t to be. Max always wanted a wedding under the chuppah, and I supported that, but times were different then. We were married in City Hall.”
Max and Donna’s story is not unique. “Back in the Day” most rabbis believed that interfaith weddings diminished Judaism (current research refutes that premise) and few rabbis would officiate for interfaith couples. But over the years, couples like Max and Donna, never lost their enthusiasm for a “wedding under the chuppah.”
Max says, “For me and Donna, renewing our vows with Rabbi Barbara gave us our ceremony under the chuppah. Our sons and grandson escorted me to the chuppah. Our daughter and granddaughters escorted Donna up the aisle. Our family stood under the chuppah together. We signed an interfaith ketubah and I broke the glass.”
Donna chimes in. “Finally I could give Max his Jewish wedding!”
The Ceremony to Renew Marriage Vows
“The Vows Renewal ceremony is truly a “L’Dor v’ Dor” or generational event ,” says Rabbi Barbara who encourages all couples – from those who have always wanted a Jewish wedding, to those who recall their own ceremony under the chuppah and want to recreate the spiritual experience – to join her at Sinagoga Ner Tamid del Sud.
The synagogue, which is south of Naples, is a short distance from the town of Lamezia Terme which boasts a central train station and international airport. Located in a beautiful mountain-top setting, Ner Tamid del Sud is the first active synagogue in the southern Italian region of Calabria in 500 years since Inquisition times. The town itself, Serrastretta, was founded by Jewish families and features lush green gardens and flowers in bloom everywhere. The town is often called the “Little Switzerland” of Italy, and for this reason the synagogue building was designed to include a facade that recalls a mountain-top Swiss chalet.
The ceremony can be held inside the synagogue sanctuary or in the synagogue’s spacious garden. The chuppah is a free-standing structure with a traditional blue velvet covering complete with gold fringe and a gold “Magen David,” or Star of David.
On one occasion the wedding couple’s children created a personalized chuppah that featured the names of the children and grandchildren embroidered inside. Others have purchased delicate lace tablecloths, often made in Italy to create a chuppah that can be taken home and used to grace the family table.
The ceremony itself includes those elements symbolic of the Jewish wedding ceremony. Rabbi Barbara welcomes the couple
under the chuppah and provides them with special statements to renew their promises, or the couple writes their own personal words and repeats these to each other while wrapped in a family tallit.
Rings are exchanged, either the original wedding rings or new ones purchased for the occasion, and family members are encouraged to prepare special statements or readings to memorialize the day. The rabbi recites the Shevah Brachot, The Seven Wedding Blessings symbolic of the continuity of married life.
Rabbi Barbara provides the couple with a Renewal Certificate or, if the couple desires it, a Jewish Interfaith Ketubah (Jewish wedding document). In the Italian Jewish wedding it is a green glass that is placed under the groom’s heel, symbolizing “life renewed.” The green glass and bridal bouquet are provided as well.
In addition to the ketubah or renewal certificate and the green glass to break, the ceremony includes instrumental music along with Kiddush wine and challah and “oneg” treats and beverages. A professional photographer is available for ceremony photos for a reasonable rate.
Rabbi Barbara on Renewing Marriage Vows
In our ancient tradition the Ba’al Shem Tov, a wise rabbinic sage and 18th century Jewish mystic said this: “In every human being there rises a light that reaches straight to heaven. And when two souls that are destined to be together, when they find each other, their streams of light flow together and a single brighter light goes forth from their united being.”
In the Jewish tradition, we have a word for this: “B’shert,” which means, “meant to be.” And it was “meant to be” that you two should be together. You have so much in common. So much that you share. Your ideals, your values, your hopes and your commitment to each other, to your family and to the world – these qualities brought you together and they have sustained you throughout your married life together.
Your married life encompasses wonderful years and challenging years – years that brought simcha (great joy) and years that brought tsuris (difficulties and challenges) but from simcha to tsuris to simcha again, your love and dedication to each other and to your partnership has carried you through. May the joy you felt on your wedding day and the joy you feel as you renew your vows – may that joy be with you always. As it is said so beautifully in the Book of Ruth:
If you are looking for that once in a lifetime experience for yourself and the love of your life, you won’t be disappointed when you choose this historic Jewish location in the beautiful mountains of Calabria, Italy. Having your renewal officiated by Rabbi Barbara Aiello only adds to the uniqueness of this very special life cycle event.
To secure your date to Renew Your Marriage Vows in Serrastretta, Italy w/Rabbi Barbara email her @ Rabbi@RabbiBarbara.com.
“The renewal ceremony was a surprise for my wife, Janne. I want you to know that I adopted our daughter when she was 7 and she was raised as a Jew. Thank you for involving her in the ceremony, as I feel that I committed to her as well as her mother when we married. Thank you for making the day unforgettable! I am so blessed to have the family I do and to be able to share them with you is a blessing.” ~Scott T
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