This blog post is a continuation of the previous one. If you haven’t read the first, see “Smashing the Wine Glass – the Angst, Part 1.”
In spite of J’s teases, Eileen finally agreed to include the glass stomping ritual at our Jewish wedding ceremony. And, she even vowed to uphold tradition when faced with an outlandish recommendation from several friends suggesting we use a light bulb because it’s easier to break. When we went shopping for glasses, the unknowing salesman at Ikea didn’t make it any easier. We asked for the most breakable wine glasses they had, and he showed us a stacked display of glassware, commenting, “These don’t break easily. Customers have reported that they’re sturdier than they look.” He had heard the question he expected, but not the one we asked…
As our wedding day approached, Eileen’s nervousness about breaking the glasses increased. She admitted that it was what worried her most about the wedding. (Secretly, I was grateful, as the “ordeal” diverted her attention away from such questions as whether I was the right person for her to marry.) She was going to wear thin sandals – glorified flip-flops, really – and feared they wouldn’t crush the glass. I applied logic (how can a stomp powered by over 100 lbs of biking, hiking and swimming muscle fail to crush thin glass??) and finally convinced her that she could do it.
But then began the dispute of how to wrap the glasses. I thought we should swathe each in its own cloth napkin, but she was sure our rabbi told us to wrap them together, side-by-side in opposite directions. To me, that was a recipe for disaster, begging us to stomp on each other’s foot and/or kick the whole package away from reach. We discussed the issue with a friend who came by a couple of days before the wedding. She expresses her anxiety easily and often, and as she watched us try out different glass wrapping styles, she asked, “Are you sure you’re going to be able to break those glasses? Maybe you should use a light bulb instead.” Ugh, not that idea again. Doesn’t she realize that Eileen is nervous enough as it is? Again, she had inadvertently fanned the flame of Eileen’s worry.
On the wedding day there were many details to consider, and Eileen’s concerns about the glass took a back seat. Throughout the ceremony, we were engrossed in the rabbi’s commentary, the reading of our ketubah (Jewish marriage certificate), the poems, songs and reciting of blessings, so Eileen did not see the rabbi carefully place the two glasses at our feet. When she did look down, she was surprised that they had magically appeared, but quickly remembered her trepidations – not my careful reasoning about how easily her foot would fracture glass. Her nervousness returned.
At the appropriate moment, the rabbi gave us a nod, and we each raised a leg and then slammed it down on the two cloth packages in front of us. Smash! The napkins lay flat and limp, leaving no doubt that both glasses had been pulverized. Our audience immediately burst into song, and Eileen continued to look at the floor, amazed at her power, stunned that she had annihilated the glass. She almost forgot to kiss me. At least that was my impression… The truth was that she was in shock and pain. Her foot had come down so hard on the floor that she injured her heel. For months afterwards, during our honeymoon and beyond, she recounted continuing soreness.
Maybe that’s where the saying about love hurting comes from. And, for we Jews who like multiple explanations for every phenomenon, we can add another explanation for the pain felt when the glass is smashed at a Jewish wedding.