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Object of the Month - June 2017

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June 2017

Heaven and Earth, A Chuppah of Celebration (Ezekiel 1:28) - Corinne Soiken Strauss (b. 1946) - Painted Silk - USA, 1990 - Museum purchase with funds provided by friends of Sue and Jerry Teller in honor of Sue’s birthday

Heaven and Earth, A Chuppah of Celebration (Ezekiel 1:28) - Corinne Soiken Strauss (b. 1946) - Painted Silk - USA, 1990 - Museum purchase with funds provided by friends of Sue and Jerry Teller in honor of Sue’s birthday

The Jewish wedding ceremony takes place beneath the chuppah, or wedding canopy. The chuppah is a temporary, handmade structure which represents a symbolic roof, a shelter under which the couple stands as they become married. This wedding canopy becomes their symbolic home as they stand together to be united among the families of Israel. The canopy can be as simple as a tallit (prayer shawl) supported by four poles or as elaborate as a handwoven tapestry. The chuppah being open on all sides recalls the tent of Abraham, which had openings on all four sides, so visitors would always know that they were welcome.

Jewish wedding ceremonies were traditionally held outside in the hope that the marriage would be blessed by as many children as “the stars of the heavens.” Many canopies feature sky motifs to recall the outside tradition. The chuppah is understood as a sign of God’s presence at the wedding and in the home being established under the canopy. Chuppah means “that which covers or floats above.” The space beneath the chuppah is sometimes described as a spiritually charged place, a place made sacred by the presence of love, community, and God. 

The appearance of a chuppah is entirely a matter of taste, but as Jews we have a commandment of hiddur mitzvah, the beautification of piety. The design of this chuppah reflects the artist’s interpretation of a biblical passage from Ezekiel, who likened God to a rainbow: “As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness roundabout. That was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” Strauss trained at Pratt Institute and has won numerous awards.