Why does a bride wear a veil at her wedding?

July 5, 2021 by Rabbi Raymond Apple
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Ask the rabbi…

Rabbi Raymond Apple


Q. Did Shakespeare really write his plays?

A. I was tempted to say, “How should I know?” – and to add that this isn’t a question for a rabbi.

Then I decided that it is part of a problem that has plagued Jews and Judaism for centuries. Put simply, the problem is, “Are things always what they seem?”

Satan hauls Job up before God and says the supposed righteous man is only a fair-weather tzaddik.

God Himself doesn’t get off scot-free since long before Job, Abraham wonders if the Judge of all the earth isn’t really rather unjust.

Solomon is accused of lending his name to various books which were only included in the scriptures because of his supposed authorship.

Shakespeare’s plays were, some say, really by Christopher Marlowe (I don’t know whether it makes it better or worse to hear some Jews say that Marlowe was really Jewish). A famous cantor was really a womaniser. It goes on and on. Then come the revisionists: the Jews are an inferior race, there never was a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, there wasn’t a Holocaust, the Zionists plotted 9/11.

The Jews and Israel suffer constantly from propagandist distorters who peddle their stuff all over the world and so many people believe them.

Did Shakespeare write his plays? Are things what they seem?

An educated generation should look into the facts for themselves, and not listen to those who say, “Don’t confuse me with the facts – my mind’s made up!”


Q. Is it true that every Jew is supposed to be a letter in the Torah?

A. It is a lovely idea – the number of Israelites who left Egypt is more or less the same as the number of Hebrew letters in the Torah.

The Baal Shem Tov tells us that every Jew is a letter, and a Jew who fails to be a letter harms the Jewish people in the same way in which a missing letter disqualifies a Torah.

Quoting this saying, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks asks in his book, “Radical Then, Radical Now”: “Will we, in our lifetime, be letters in the scroll of the Jewish people?” (page 38).

When we speak of being letters in the Torah, which Torah do we have in mind?

Naturally there is only one Torah. But are we talking about the parchment Torah of today, or the stone tablets of Moses’ Torah?

This question worried Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch. He was concerned about a Jew being a letter written on parchment, since letters in ink on parchment can fade and become illegible.

He preferred to say, “Every Jew is like a letter carved in tablets of stone. At times, the grime of neglect may accumulate, and distort or even completely conceal the letter’s true form, but underneath it all the letter remains whole.

“We need only brush away the surface grit, and the letter, in all its perfection and beauty, will be revealed.”


Q. Why does a bride wear a veil at her wedding?

A. It originated with Rebekah, who covered her face with a veil when she saw Isaac, her husband-to-be (Gen. 24:65).

As with almost every custom, one hears a range of rationalisations of the veil. Perhaps it shows that the bride’s beauty is only for her husband to see. Others see it as a mark of modesty.

It might even be connected with the practice of covering the eyes with the hand when saying the first line of the Shema, which enables a person to concentrate on the holiness of the moment and to prevent distractions. The wedding is a sacred experience, not to be intruded upon by anything extraneous.

There are times when the moments before the ceremony are disturbed by people bothering the bride with questions about hair-do, make-up and flowers as if all that mattered was the superficialities of appearance and stage management.

Rabbi Raymond Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem where he answers interesting questions.

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