What makes the Shabbos before the wedding so special?
It’s said that when a girl’s family prepares for a wedding, it’s like Erev Pesach, and for the boy’s family, it’s like Erev Shabbos. But because the chassan’s family hosts an aufruf (in Ashkenazi tradition), the Shabbos before the wedding isn’t just any Erev Shabbos, it’s like Erev Shabbos Hagadol.
What makes the Shabbos before the wedding so special? What does aufruf mean? And how does the kallah celebrate on this Shabbos?
The Call Up
Aufruf is a Yiddish word that means “to be called up.” On the Shabbos before the wedding (or the last Shabbos a chassan is in his hometown, if he’s traveling for the wedding), the chassan is called up to the Torah for an aliyah.
This is replete with symbolism. Pnei Menachem explains that Yaakov Avinu learned Torah for 14 years prior to his marriage. Torah is the foundation upon which a Jewish person builds his or her future home. In receiving an aliyah to the Torah, the chassan is reminded that the Torah needs to be the bedrock of his future home.
Chiddushei Harim adds that when a chassan is infused with the sanctity of Shabbos, coupled with the sanctity of Torah, it’s a protection for him not to become subsumed in a world of physical pleasure, as well as encouragement to live a life of spiritual elevation.
Shevet Yehudah offers a deeper meaning for the word aufruf — to be called up. We find two seminal times in the Chumash that Moshe Rabbeinu “was called” by Hashem. At the beginning of Sefer Vayikra, the pasuk tells us “Vayikra el Moshe” when Moshe was called to the Azarah, a place of purity and sanctity. The other was at Har Sinai, when Moshe Rabbeinu ascended the mountain, and Hashem called to him to prepare the people to receive the Torah.
In referring to this Shabbos as the “Shabbos aufruf,” we’re reminded of the times Hashem called Moshe Rabbeinu, moments infused with kedushah. This is a message to the chassan, exhorting him to build a home of holiness and purity on the foundations of Torah values and thoughts.
On the Shabbos aufruf, the chassan wears clothes appropriate for a wedding and is considered like a king. Rav Aryeh Kaplan notes that the chassan is compared to Adam Harishon, who was king over the whole world when he got married. Each chassan should feel like he’s in Adam Harishon’s place.
Nitei Gavriel points out that a king is commanded to have two Torah scrolls with him at all times. Likewise, a chassan gets two aliyos, one prior to his marriage, and one during the week of sheva brachos. Rav Schorr adds that the power of a king comes from the Torah, and the chassan needs to take that lesson with him as he enters into marriage.
The chassan is called to the Torah accompanied by song before and after the aliyah. It’s customary to sing the song “Echad Yachid Umeyuchad” before his aliyah. Rav Yaakov Meir Shechter explains that since reading the Torah is akin to the Har Sinai experience, when saying the brachos on the Torah, the chassan should feel this deep connection with the Torah, and recommit to learning and upholding it with love. Saying the brachos with joy is a segulah to have children who will be righteous and talmidei chachamim.
It’s customary that the women throw nuts, almonds, and sweets at the chassan. Almonds ripen quickly, and it’s a propitious sign that the couple should be blessed quickly with children. Throughout Shir Hashirim, the Jewish People are compared to nuts. They’re also a sign of the modesty of the kallah.
Rav Kaplan notes that the sweets symbolize our hope that the couple should have a sweet life together. The nuts are a sign that the couple should be able to break down the barriers that separate them, and they should get to know and respect each other at their core level. The kids who gather the sweets are being shown that marriage is a beautiful and sweet endeavor, something they should look forward to.
It’s customary after shul to make a kiddush in honor of the chassan and to rejoice with him.
A Source of Blessing
One of the earliest sources for the concept of an aufruf is rooted in the times of Shlomo Hamelech. When Shlomo Hamelech built the Beis Hamikdash, he furnished two special gates: one gate was an entrance point for chassanim, and the other for mourners. People who saw them entering through these gates would bless each one with the appropriate blessings. Hence, the aufruf affords the community with the opportunity to bless the chassan that he’ll be zocheh to build a house of Torah.
It’s customary for women to go to the home of the kallah, to rejoice with her, and bless her as well.
Shabbos is the source of all blessing. Imrei Pinchas explains that the Shabbos before the wedding encapsulates the entire wedding and is the source of blessing for this new home. The Shabbos before the wedding is therefore not only about the aliyah to the Torah, it’s about tapping into the wellsprings of Shabbos to bring blessing into the new marriage. It therefore behooves both the chassan and kallah to make the most of this Shabbos.
Rabbi Yaakov Meir Schechter, in Uv’yom Simchas Libo expounds on some of the themes to focus upon on this special Shabbos. He notes that the chassan and kallah should look forward to and prepare for this Shabbos, as it’s the source for so much brachah in their lives.
One of the main themes of Shabbos is emunah. Shabbos is testimony to Hashem’s creation of the world in six days, and his resting on the seventh. Shabbos represents our ability to see that Hashem is the Master of the world, and all that He does is good.
Rav Schorr notes that this is another message found in the candy thrown at the chassan. From the vantage point of the chassan, he feels like he’s is being pelted with stones. But really, the pekelach are full of sweets and good things. The message is clear: All challenges that will be thrown at the young couple have to be seen as coming from a place of Divine Hashgachah and love. This is the bedrock emunah the chassan and kallah need to integrate into their life and into their future home and offspring.
Parents are charged with inspiring their children to live a life totally dedicated to the Will of Hashem, and to bring nachas ruach to His Name. Therefore, both the chassan and kallah need to pay special attention to the davening, allowing the words to permeate their being and to inspire them to this high level of emunah. They should also focus on the zemiros, and immerse themselves in the kedushah of the day.
A Source of Joy
Shabbos is the wellspring of joy. The joy of Shabbos becomes the fuel to infuse their wedding day, the week of sheva brachos, the entire first year of their marriage, and indeed, their entire lives, with joy.
There’s a minhag for the friends of the chassan to escort him from his home to the shul with singing; the chassan should try to capture this special feeling of friendship and build on this joy throughout Shabbos. The time that the chassan is escorted to shul is a time of eis ratzon, and the chassan can daven that he merit to live a life of Torah and true simchah.
Likewise, the kallah should relish the attention she receives and allow her feelings of joy to overflow within her as well. The couple needs to take this wellspring of simchah and water their home with it. The plague of our generation is depression and not being happy with what we have. The joy of this unique Shabbos has the power to offset a cycle of negativity in the future, and to help one focus on the tremendous blessings that Hashem showers upon each of us.
This Shabbos is gifted with a special countenance from Above, ready to bestow tremendous blessing on the young couple. The entire Shabbos should be celebrated with tremendous joy and appreciation of all the kindnesses Hashem has bestowed upon them, so they’ll be zocheh that this flow of blessing continue for many years to come.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 778)
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