Many less knowledgeable Jews, says Rabbi Yosef, are unaware of the roots of the custom. The breaking of the glass was originally instituted as a sign of mourning for the destroyed Holy Temple.
Former Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has sharply criticized one of the best-known rituals of Jewish weddings – the "breaking of the glass," which traditionally has capped the Jewish wedding ceremony. Rabbi Yosef believes that the custom leads in many cases to "foolishness and lightheadedness," and does not elicit the proper reaction – and, if not for the weight of Jewish tradition, should be eliminated altogether.
Many less knowledgeable Jews, says Rabbi Yosef, are unaware of the roots of the custom. The breaking of the glass was originally instituted as a sign of mourning for the destroyed Holy Temple, and was meant to show that even at the times of our greatest joy, Jews did not forsake their homeland and heritage. But an article in Friday's edition of the Shas-affiliated Yom l'Yom newspaper analyzes Rabbi Yosef's viewpoint on the matter, and quotes him at length as being highly critical of the custom.
Rabbi Yosef criticizes both guests, who cry out their good wishes for the happy couple right after the glass is broken – a most inappropriate reaction, given the reason for the custom – as well as the grooms, who often turn the glass-breaking ceremony into a contest of physical strength. "Many unknowledgeable people fill their mouths with laughter during the breaking of the glass, shouting 'mazal tov' and turning a beautiful custom meant to express our sorrow into an opportunity for lightheadedness."
Regarding the grooms, Rabbi Yosef writes "they try to show off their bravery, stepping on the glass to break it into tiny pieces, with those watching laughing and expressing their congratulations." Overall, he writes, "it would be better to do away with this custom altogether than to allow it to continue in this manner, which those with proper souls run away from as from a hot flame."
With that, he says, it would not be proper to do away with a custom that has such deep roots in Jewish history and tradition. By way of correcting the situation, Rabbi Yosef advocates adopting the Sephardic custom of the groom's repeating aloud the Biblical passage, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand whither," a passage that was traditionally associated with the breaking of the glass. With the repetition, he writes, the rabbi conducting the ceremony can prepare guests to react appropriately to the breaking of the glass.
Rabbi Yosef, former Chief Sephardic Rabbi and the author of dozens of books on all aspects of Jewish tradition, is considered to be one the senior decisors on Jewish law alive today.