Day 11--First Look!! "Without God" (Gen 28:10-30:43)
January 11, 2021, 7:00 AM

Day 11: “Without God” (Gen 28:10-30:43)

“First Look”

A common tradition for contemporary weddings is the ‘first look’. This referred to the look on the faces of the bride and groom as they saw each other for the first time as she came up the aisle. At St. John's there is a big flouish of the doors opening and 'revealing' the bride to the congregation and to the groom, a fanfare of music swells, and she begins her walk down the aisle, often accompanied by her father or other close relative.  Now, couples often arrange special ‘first look’ pictures and appointments just for the wedding couple prior to the service.

In traditional Jewish weddings, there is no first look because Jewish couples always see each other prior to the wedding ceremony. My nieces are both practicing Jews and have Jewish households. When we were invited to their weddings, all the wedding pictures with the couple and their families took place before the service. We were also invited to the ketubah signing before the service—a marriage contract written in Hebrew that details the hopes and promises that the couple have for their marriage. (It used to include mortgages, land deeds and exchanges of money, but contemporary Jewish weddings do not include these. I am not familiar with Orthodox Jewish traditions, so the ketubah for those weddings may still contain some of those elements today.)

In other words, Jewish couples have seen each other extensively before their wedding ceremony. Why?

Look at our reading for today—Jacob and Rachel. They fell in love. Jacob arranged to marry her. The big day came. The veiled bride appeared at the ceremony. They got married! And when Jacob saw the face of his bride in the light of day—it was her sister Leah that he had married and slept with!!  Laban, Rachel’s father, tricked Jacob (hmmm…there’s something to think about—the trickster getting tricked.) Jacob was still able to marry Rachel, but he had to work for seven more years in order to legally gain her hand. You’ll notice that Laban ‘gave’ Rachel to Jacob the same week he married, Leah, but the marriage would not be binding for seven years.

For this reason, a Jewish husband always sees his bride before the wedding, and it is groom who puts the veil over the bride's face before the ceremony begins—he wants to be sure he’s marrying the right person! This part of the service is called bedeken—the veiling. The bible reading for today helps us understand contemporary marriage practices that differ from our own, and they all stem from the marriage of Jacob and Leah/Rachel.