The Difference Between Sephardic Jews and Ashkenazi Jews. Inherent Wedding Traditions

. The difference between Sephardic Jews and Ashkenazi Jews. Inherent wedding traditions

Jews were originally divided up into twelve tribes. The Levites were holy and did not inherit land. A small proportion of Levites were Cohens (priests). When the Jews were exiled from the land of Israel, most of the tribes were lost and the Jews lost their lineage to a specific tribe. The only dividers were Israelite (belonging to one of the original tribes), Levite and Cohen.

Throughout the lasts two millennia, as the Jews dispersed from Israel and Babylon to Europe and North Africa, new communities formed and each developed their own Rabbinical traditions.  These communities were often in geographic isolation. Thus, another distinguishing divider was introduced, namely “Ashkenazi Jews” of European descent, and “Sephardi Jews” of Spanish speaking/North African descent.

The diverse traditions of Ashkenazi/Sephardi communities related to, inter alia, included dress and modesty, kosher food and beverage, laws associated with betrothal, marriage and divorce, burial and Passover traditions. For example, on Passover the European Jews or Ashkenazi Jews, refrained from eating flour of pulses “kitniyot”, such as corn, soy, lentils and the like, which could be mistaken for flour of one of the five grains (wheat, barley, oats, millet and rye).  In contrast, the Sephardi Jews of Spanish speaking/North African descent, were permitted to eat kitniyot on Passover. Some communities further prohibited the use of Matzah meal. Thereafter, the oils made from pulses were prohibited on Passover, by some Ashkenazi communities.

Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities developed different wedding traditions. North African Sephardim developed traditions in which a wedding celebration begins several days before the chuppah ceremony.  This begins with a large party, at which the bride wears a velvet dress, embroidered adorned with pearls and other precious stones.

After the bride is purified at the Mikveh, close relatives throw sweets and partake of confectionary and cakes. The wedding guests share a meal, henna dye is painted on each woman’s palm, symbolizing both fertility and protection against the evil eye and the women shriek out high-pitched guttural noises.

On the wedding day, the Sephardic groom and bride do not fast, in sharp contrast to their Ashkenazi counterpart. The Sephardic bride and groom are expected have a festive meal to honor the occasion.  Sephardic Jews do not have a custom of covering the bride in a veil (bedeken). Some Sephardic communities do not have the tradition of “cheder yichud”, a room to which the new couple are led after the marriage ceremony.

In Sephardic communities, the groom’s Sabbath follows the wedding, whereas in Ashkenazi circles, the groom’s Sabbath precedes the wedding. At the groom’s Sabbath, he is called up to recite a blessing over the Torah portion (Sedrah) and often, local custom whether Sephardi or Ashkenazi, is to throw sweets on the Groom to symbolize a happy future.

Many different traditions exist in the period preceding the wedding. In some Ashkenazi communities, the bride and groom do not meet for a fortnight before the wedding. In others, a week suffices. Some do not communicate by phone, email or SMS.

When the Messiah comes, it is hoped that all these traditions will be unified, all dividers removed!

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