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From: Dean and Susan Wheelock
To:      heb_roots_chr@hebroots.org
Subject: The Bride of Messiah and Jewish wedding customs

                              From the website:


                                   Hebrew Roots
                                      P.O. Box 98
                               Lakewood, WI 54138


            The Bride of Messiah and Jewish wedding customs
                                     (Part 1 of 2)

     The modern wedding is usually quite an event. It requires large
amounts of planning, time, energy and money. A date is set, a church
or hall is rented, a person is contracted to officiate, invitations
are printed, reception plans made, a guest list is prepared, flowers
and decorations are selected, tuxedos and dresses are ordered for the
attendants, and a wedding gown is chosen. It can be an extremely busy,
and sometimes frustrating, experience to say the least. Then there are
the various roles played by the parents of the couple. The chief
duties fall to the mother of the Bride. She is responsible for
assisting the Bride in all of the many plans and preparations. The
father of the Bride is also quite involved for he gives the Bride away
at the ceremony. Also, he is usually the one who provides the funds
needed for the wedding celebration. Meanwhile, the mother of the
Bridegroom may assist to some degree with the wedding plans, while the
father of the Bridegroom is expected to provide funds for a rehearsal
dinner, show up for the wedding, and not cause any trouble.

                                  ~ The Ancient Wedding ~

     Ancient Hebrew weddings were quite different. First the couple
was matched. The parents of both the Bridegroom and Bride were
intimately involved in this process, which could take place long
before the couple were of marriageable age. Then, when the
prospective couple came of age, the Bridegroom would go to the father
of the prospective Bride to make the necessary arrangements. However,
these were not the kinds of arrangements common to a modern wedding.
Rather, they worked out a marriage contract or covenant, called a
Ketuvah (Keh-two-vah). Once the details were agreed upon, the father
of the prospective Bride called his daughter into the room. A cup of
wine was poured and the Bridegroom offered it to her. If she accepted
the cup, and drank from it, they were officially betrothed. In the
eyes of Hebrew law they were then considered married and only a legal
divorce could separate them.

     However, they could not yet live together as husband and wife.
Instead, the Bridegroom went back to his father's house to prepare a
wedding chamber for his Bride. This chamber was
called a Chuppah (Who-pah). It was located on the property of the
father of the Bridegroom, usually within the father's house. It was
the responsibility of the Bridegroom to prepare the Chuppah in a way
that would be pleasing to his Bride, and it was the responsibility of
his father to examine it at regular intervals and make suggestions on
how it could be improved. Also, it had to be well stocked with
provisions, for once the couple entered the Chuppah they remained in
it for seven days.

     The wedding was not announced ahead of time. In fact, only the
father of the Bridegroom knew the day or the hour in which the
wedding would take place because it was his responsibility to
determine when the Chuppah, his son, and the bride
were ready. When the father felt all was in order, he would say to his
son; "The hour has come, go and get your Bride."

     The time span between the Betrothal and the final wedding
ceremony was usually about one year. It could be longer if
circumstances demanded, but it was usually not shorter
unless the Bride was a widow. During the betrothal time the couple
(although officially married) normally did not see one another. One
can only imagine the anticipation that must have existed in the hearts
of both the Bride and her Husband, as they awaited the final approval
of his father. When that day and hour finally came, the couple would
enter the Chuppah to consummate their marriage. Then they would truly
be able to say:

          "I am my beloved's,
          And my beloved is mine."
          (Song of Songs 6:3)

                                 ~ The Bride's Preparation ~

     During the time while the Bridegroom was preparing the Chuppah,
the Bride also had some important things to accomplish. She needed to
begin collecting those items she would need to run the household once
they were fully married and living together. This would be the
trousseau which she would bring to their permanent
home once the seven days in the Chuppah had been accomplished. The
Bride also had to prepare her wedding dress and other appropriate
articles of clothing. In addition it was an ancient custom for the
Bride to learn how to make herself physically beautiful for her
husband through the application of cosmetics and perfumes. So, it was
during this year of preparation that she learned these arts as well.
This practice is mentioned in the book of Esther, the beautiful young
Jewess who became the Queen of Persia.

         "Each young woman's turn came to go in to King
          Ahasuerus after she had
          completed twelve months' preparation, according to the
          regulations for the women, for thus were the days of their
          preparation apportioned: six months with oil of myrrh, and
          six months with perfumes and preparations for beautifying
          women. Thus prepared, each young woman went to the king, and
          she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the
          women's quarters to the king's palace. In the evening she
          went, and in the morning she returned to the second house of
          the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch
          who kept the concubines. She would not go in to the king
          again unless the king delighted in her and called for her by
          name." (Est. 2:12)

     It must be remembered that each of these women who came to King
Ahasuerus' chamber became his legal wife. They were called concubines
and were considered to be of lower status
than a full wife. Esther was not relegated to the status of concubine,
rather, she became the highest ranking wife, the Queen of Persia.

                                     ~ The Betrothed ~
                                    ~ Bride of Messiah ~

     At this very moment in time, the Bride of Messiah (the Church of
called out ones) finds herself in the same situation
as the ancient betrothed Bride. She is in a state of full betrothal to
Yeshua, her legal Husband. However, instead of the normal one year
wait, the Bride of Messiah has now been waiting almost two thousand
physical years for her husband to return and take her to the Chuppah
for the consummation of their marriage. We can be assured that Yeshua
will come for us, for He promised to do so at the Last Supper when He
made His typically Jewish betrothal speech:

          "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God,
          believe also in Me. In My
          Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would
          have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go
          and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive
          you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And
          where 1 go you know, and the way you know." (John 14:1-4)

     Right now Yeshua is at His Father's house in heaven, awaiting
word from His Father as to when He can come back to this earth for
his beloved Bride, the Church. Meanwhile the
Bride is on earth, waiting for Her Betrothed to return and take her to
the Chuppah. (For more complete information on the ancient Hebrew
wedding write for the tape series; The Wedding of the Messiah.)

                                ~ Our Wedding Preparations ~

     What should we (the Bride) be doing while we wait? Prepare
ourselves for our wedding, of course. Since the
wedding ceremony itself requires no preparation on our part; (i.e. we
need not worry about securing a minister, reserving a hall, ordering
flowers, etc.), we need only concern ourselves with becoming a
beautiful and acceptable vessel for our Husband, Yeshua.

     All analogies begin to break down to some degree at some point.
he ancient wedding is no exception, for the
Bride of Messiah consists of a multitude of `called out ones.' Many
members of the Bride have already lived their lives and died in the
unwavering faith that their Savior--Husband Yeshua will resurrect them
from their graves when He returns. Also, the Bride of Messiah will not
require a physical wedding gown, or a trousseau of household items for
setting up housekeeping. Rather, the preparation for our wedding must
be of a spiritual nature.

     As it is written:

          "Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the
          marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself
          "And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen,
          clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the
          (Rev. 19:7-8)

     Three important points, concerning the Bride, leap out from these
verses: 1.) "... His wife has made herself ready." 2.) She is; "...
arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright..." and
3.) "... the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints."

     The Bride of Messiah is to be doing a work while she awaits
Yeshua's return. That work is; 1.) to learn what
constitutes righteousness, and 2.) to perform righteous acts. In other
words, we must learn to live righteously, for it will be the righteous
acts of the Saints which will form the Bride's proper wedding gown.
Surely, none of us wishes to attend the greatest wedding of all time
without a suitable wedding garment, for that could be dangerous, as we
can see from the following parable:

           "`The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who
arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call
those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to
come. "`Again, he sent out other servants, saying, "Tell
those who are invited, `See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and
fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.'"
"`But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm,
another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them
spitefully, and killed them.  "`But when the king heard about it, he
was furious, and he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers,
and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, "The wedding
is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go
into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding."
"`So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together
all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was
filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the
guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding
garment. So he said to him, "Friend, how did you come in
here without a wedding garment?" And he was speechless.
"`Then the king said to the servants, "Bind him had and foot, take
him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and
gnashing of teeth." For many are called, but few are chosen.'"
(Matt. 22:2-14)

     How we are dressed is very important, since we will not be
allowed to participate in the wedding if we do not
come wearing our gown of righteousness.

                                 ~ What Is Righteousness? ~

     Before going any further we must come to an understanding of what
constitutes righteousness. We can determine the nature of
righteousness by looking at a number of verses that tell us about it.

    "`And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to
      fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might
      preserve us alive, as it is this day, Then it will be righteousness
      us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments
      before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.'" (Deut.

     It is clear from this passage that in order to be righteous it is
necessary for one to be "... careful to observe all
these commandments ..." that have been given in the Torah. This
concept is confirmed by the Psalmist in the following verse:

          "My lips shall utter praise,
          For you teach me your statutes.
          My tongue shall speak of Your word,
          For all Your commandments are righteousness.
          (Psalm 119:171-172)

     All of God's commandments are considered to be righteousness. Not
just the big Ten. Not just those which have to do with how we should
relate to each other, but also those which teach
us how we should relate to God in all facets of our life. All of God's
commandments are righteousness.

     The Hebrew word translated as commandment is mitzvah (meets-vah,
Strong's #4687). It is; "a command whether human or divine." The word
can also mean a `good deed.' In other words, to help someone in need
is not only a command, it is also a good deed and to perform any of
God's mitzvaot (meets-vah-oat  plural form) is also to perform good

     The Hebrew word for statutes is chok (hohk, Strong's #2706). It
means; "an enactment; hence an appointment (of time, space, quantity,
labor or usage)." Thus, it can also be a reference to the `appointed
times' or festivals set forth in Leviticus 23.

     The two previously mentioned verses (Psalm 119:171,172) are a
prime example of what is known as `Hebrew parallelism.' The first
line of each verse refers to the willingness of the Psalmist to speak
about the glory of God:

          "My lips shall utter praise,"
          "My tongue shall speak of Your word,"

     These two introductory lines are then followed by phrases in
which the Psalmist tells us why he is so willing to
praise God and teach His word:

          "For You teach me Your statutes."
          "For all Your commandments are righteousness."

     Hebrew parallelism is used to add emphasis to a thought or
concept. In this case the thought being emphasized is
the greatness and righteousness of God's statutes and commandments, in
other words, the greatness of His instructions (Torah) on how to live
a righteous life. The Psalmist proclaims his desire to praise God
publicly because God's commandments and statutes are so completely

     Not only are God's commandments and statutes righteous, His
     judgments are as well. As the Psalmist says:

          "I will praise You with uprightness of heart,
          When I learn Your righteous judgments."
          (Psalm 119:7)

          "I have sworn and confirmed
          That I will keep Your righteous judgments."
          (Psalm 119:106)

     The apostle Shaul (Shaw-ool = Paul) taught us that the Torah was
righteous when he said:

      "Therefore the law (Torah) is holy, and the commandment
       holy and just and good."
        (Rom. 7:12)

     That which the Psalmist called righteous in Psalm 119 (God's
commandments) is now called "holy and just and
good" by Shaul. In fact, Shaul went so far as to equate obedience with
righteousness when he said:

     "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under
      grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present
      yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom
      you obey, whether of sin to death, or of obedience to
      righteousness?" (Rom. 6:15-16)

     According to Shaul, not only must we, as Believers, be obedient
to God's commandments, we must become actual slaves to righteousness:

      "And having been set free from sin, you became slaves
       of righteousness."
      (Rom. 6:18)

     In other words, we must continually practice righteousness, for a
slave must always do what his master bids.

     What then is righteousness? Deuteronomy 6 and Psalm 119 tell us
that the commandments, statutes and judgments
are all righteous. Therefore, when we perform them in the manner in
which they were intended, we become righteous because we are living
righteously through them.

     Now, in order to learn what the commandments, statutes and
judgments are, we must turn to the Torah. Therein
are contained the 613 mitzvaot (commandments), the chok (statutes),
and the many judgments. The Writings,* and the Prophets** also
instruct us in the ways and desires of our righteous God, as they
contain many applications and amplifications on the instructions of
God given to Moshe.

[* The Writings include: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, The Song of Songs,
Ruth, Lamentations, Ecelesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, I &
II Chronicles.] [** The Prophets include: Joshua, Judges, I & II
Samuel, I & II Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Twelve Minor
Prophets. Taken together, the Torah, the Writings and the Prophets
make up the `Old Testament, which the Jews call the Tanakh.]

     But let us not forget the Brit Chadasha (Renewed Covenant or New
Testament) which is said to contain over one
thousand commandments, most of them reiterations or amplifications of
those found in the Torah. Combined together (codified), we have a
complete body of instruction (the Bible) which teaches us the
righteousness of God.

                       ~ Who Is Righteous? ~

          "As it is written:
          `There is none righteous, no, not one;
          There is none who understands;
          There is none who seeks after God.
          They have all gone out of the way;
          They have together become unprofitable;
          There is none who does good, no, not one."
          (Rom. 3:10-12)

     We must understand that what mankind considers righteousness does
     not hold a whole lot of weight with God.

          "But we are all like an unclean thing,
          And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
          We all fade as a leaf,
          And our iniquities, like the wind,
          Have taken us away.

          "And there is no one who calls on Your name,
          Who stirs himself up to take hold of You;
          For you have hidden your face from us,
          And have consumed us because of our iniquities."
          (Isa. 64:6-7)

     The expression "filthy rags" literally means "menstrual cloths."
(See Strong's #5708). The righteousness of men,
apart from God, and as contrasted to God's righteousness, is like the
difference between the menstrual cloth and the wedding gown.

     While man is inherently unrighteous, God, on the other hand, is
completely righteous. The scriptures abound with
verses which speak about the righteousness of YHVH. For example:

          "The LORD is righteous in all His ways,
          Gracious in all His works."
          (Psalm 145:17)

          "For the LORD is righteous,
          He loves righteousness;
          His countenance beholds the upright."
          (Psalm 11:7)

     The Scriptures also teach about the righteousness of the Messiah:

          "`Behold, the days are coming,' says the LORD,
          `That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness;
          A King shall reign and prosper,
          And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
          In His days Judah will be saved,
          And Israel will dwell safely;
          Now this is His name by which He will be called:
          (Jer. 23:5-6)

          "And I heard the angel of the waters saying:
          `You are righteous, O Lord,
          The One who is and who was and who is to be,
          Because You have judged these things."
          (Rev. 16:5)

                                    ~ Unequally Yoked ~

     This presents us with a dilemma. if God the Father is righteous,
and His Son, Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the
Messiah) is righteous, but the Bride is unrighteous (because she is
made up of sinful people); how can Yeshua ever even begin to think
that He can marry her? Can righteousness be yoked to unrighteousness?

     This was the very same problem that occurred when God married the
nation of Israel at Mt. Sinai. The Bridegroom
was perfect and righteous, while the Bride was imperfect and
unrighteous. She proved that very quickly while they were still in the
Chuppah at Mt. Sinai, when she went whoring after the golden calf. The
results were disastrous. After the bride (Israel) divided into two
warring parts (the house of Israel, and the house of Judah), God
divorced the house of Israel because of her unrighteousness, and
consequent unfaithfulness, through her acts of spiritual idolatry. The
only reason He remained married to the house of Judah was so that the
prophesied Messiah could be born of that lineage and into their
culture, which was primarily derived from God through Torah, Temple
Avodah (ah-voh-dah service) and the Synagogue system established by

     Idolatry was not a major problem during the period of the second
Temple. Neither was the breaking of the
Sabbath, for the vast majority of the foundational values of Jewish
culture were primarily based on Scriptural values, although the
Pharisees tended to teach traditions with an over zealous strictness.
The primary sins of the house of Judah, during the second Temple
period, had to do with uncharitable attitudes toward the poor and
downtrodden of their society. Thus, the rules of tradition became more
important, to many of the religious leaders, than did expressions of
love and charity for those in need.

     Yeshua addressed this problem when He said:

     "... they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men s
     shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of
     their fingers." (Matt. 23:4)

                               ~ Can Men Become Righteous? ~

     We have already shown from the scriptures how man's righteousness
is nothing more to God than `filthy rags. Yet
the scriptures also abound with passages that extol the virtues of the
`righteous' man, such as:

          "Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous!
          For praise from the upright is beautiful."
          (Psalm 33:1)

          "The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
          And His ears are open to their cry."
          (Psalm 34:15)

          "The wicked borrows and does not repay,
          But the righteous shows mercy and gives."
          (Psalm 37:2 1)

               "... The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man
               avails much."  (James 5:16b)

     It is obvious from these verses that man can be considered
righteous if he performs righteous acts. However, this
can only be accomplished by correctly understanding and practicing the
righteous commandments, statutes and judgments of God as found in the
Scriptures. Man's righteousness, on the other hand, can never make a
man righteous in the sight of God.

                                  ~ Man's Righteousness ~
                                 ~ vs. God's Righteousness ~

     Man's righteousness is a mixture of good and evil. It can be
found in the laws and traditions of all races, nationalities
and cultures. Sometimes it is more good, sometimes it is more evil. It
is the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that our
first parents partook of in the Garden of Eden, and which each of us
has partaken of in our own individual lives. This is not the
righteousness God is referring to in the passages above.

     The righteousness of God, on the other hand, is defined in the
pages of the Torah. However, even if a person was
able to keep all of these instructions (laws) of God perfectly, he
still would not attain a righteousness that would make him eligible
for eternal life by his own merits, for that is impossible. These
instructions were set forth to give great blessings and an abundant
life to those who would observe them. Even so, it was an impossible
goal for anyone to expect to be able to keep all of the instructions
perfectly for an entire lifetime.

     It was because of this impossibility, that the instructions took
on another, even more important function, They now
became a `schoolmaster' or `tutor' to lead men into the realization of
their deep need for a Redeemer; one who could save them from their
inability to live totally righteous lives before God.

      "But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the
       law (Torah), kept for the faith which would afterward be
       revealed. Therefore the law (Torah) was our tutor to bring us
       to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after
       faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are
       all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:23-26)

     One (and only one) of the benefits of the Torah was to bring us
to an understanding that we need to have our
Husband's help in order to keep all the instructions of the Torah.
Once we have that understanding, we no longer need to keep learning
that fact. This is not to say that, as the Betrothed Bride of Messiah,
we are to throw out the Torah, for that document is also our Ketuvah
or marriage covenant, now written on our hearts.

     The instructions of the Torah teach us how live. To follow them
is to "choose life."

      "For this commandment which I command you today, it is
        not too mysterious for
        you nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should
        say, `Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us,
        that we may hear it and do it?' Nor is it beyond the sea,
        that you should say, `Who will go over the sea for us and
        bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?'
        "But the word is very near to you, in your mouth and in
         your heart, that you may
         do it. See, I have set before you today life and good, death
         and evil, in that I command you today to love the LORD your
         God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments, His
         statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply;
         and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you
         go to possess.

         "But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear,
         and are drawn away, and
          worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today
          that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your
          days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in
          and possess.

         "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against
          you, that I have set before
          you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose
          life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you
          may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and
          that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the
          length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land
          which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and
          Jacob to give them." (Deut. 30:11-20)

     While it is possible for a man to be considered righteous
according to the standards of man's righteousness, no one
can ever be considered fully righteous according to God's standard of
righteousness through their own merits. For to do so would require the
attainment, of the lofty goal of keeping all of God's commandments,
statutes and judgments perfectly throughout one's entire life, never
slipping up even once. It is just plain impossible, for sinful,
fleshly man to accomplish, for as it is written:

               "... all have sinned and fall short of the glory of
               God." (Rom. 3:23)

               "If we say they we have not sinned, we make Him a liar,
               and His word is not in us." (I John 1:10)

               "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin
               is lawlessness." (I John 3:4)

     To be `lawless' is to be without law, or outside of the law; in
other words, an `outlaw.' When one is following
faithfully the `law' or instruction of God, he is within the law and
is `law abiding.' So people can and should do their very best to abide
by the law (Torah or instruction) of God.

     "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His
     commandments. He who says, `I know Him,' and does not keep His
     commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But
     whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in
     him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides
     in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked." (1 John

                                         (End Part 1 of 2)


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