Rituals of marriage and communal prestige: The Breileft in medieval and early modern Germany

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The Breileft was a ceremony that took place on the Sabbath following a Friday wedding. This article examines the evolution of one of the rituals from that festivity, namely, the transfer of a prayer shawl between the new husband and wife. Utilizing anthropology, comparative history, and archival research, this article explores the design and practice of the ritual over time. Pointing to several parallel Christian ceremonies, it demonstrates that marriage rituals developed, and must be understood, in a local context. It further argues that the Breileft reflected some of the changes that marriage underwent from the sixteenth century onward, including the explicit link between marital status and public legal and economic standing. Finally, it contends that to the extent the Breileft was practiced, it was used as a means to assert prestige and hierarchy, particularly in the case of one early modern wedding that united the children of David Oppenheim and Aaron Beer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-300
Number of pages28
JournalJewish History
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015.


  • Anthropology
  • Breileft
  • Court Jews
  • David Oppenheim
  • Early modern
  • Frankfurt am Main
  • Gender
  • Germany
  • Marriage
  • Medieval
  • Minhag books
  • Print
  • Ritual
  • Worms


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