Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Romain responds to the question: I enjoyed watching the Royal Wedding on television, but was very disappointed to see that Prince William did not break a glass, as had been suggested by the media that he would; why not?
The rumour that Buckingham Palace would take account of the multi-cultural nature of modern Britain and incorporate wedding customs from Jewish and other faiths in the ceremony originated in the Jewish Chronicle. However, what many people failed to realise, including national journalists, was that the item appeared in the Purim edition of the paper, the Jewish equivalent of April Fools Day. As a result the spoof ‘news’ was reproduced in the general media and puzzled palace officials were inundated with calls for more details.
As for the origins of the custom, it is an ancient one that reveals much about the Jewish concept of marriage. It dates back to the period immediately after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70. A wedding was taking place, but the rabbi present felt that the festivities were getting out of hand. He picked up a glass – a valuable item in those days – and smashed it to the ground, shocking everyone into silence, and said: “How dare you behave so indecorously and forget that the Temple ruins are still smouldering nearby!”
Ever since then it has been a traditional ritual at Jewish weddings, intended to remind us that whilst it is entirely right to celebrate our own personal joy, we should not forget the sufferings of others around us. It is a delicate compromise – we should neither be self-engrossed nor self-denying – and is impressed on every new couple at the very start of their nuptials. Still, despite being a very worthy message, its sombre overtone are at odds with the upbeat nature of a marriage, and so a variety of other interpretations have developed on top of its original meaning.