By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
The Shabbat before a man is to be married is known as the “Shabbat Chatan” (lit: the groom’s Shabbat). The central event of this Shabbat is frequently referred to as the “Aufruf”, referring to the custom of calling a man to the Torah on the Shabbat prior to his wedding. The Aufruf is as ancient as it is exciting among Ashkenazi Jewry and is often accompanied with an elaborate festive meal, as well.
On this particular Shabbat, the future groom takes priority above all others in the congregation for receiving an Aliya. In the event that a groom will be leaving his city some time before the wedding is to take place, such as in order to travel to the place where the wedding will be held, these privileges apply on the Shabbat before he leaves town. He may even choose which of the seven Aliyot he would like to receive. According to Sefardic tradition, it is usually the Shabbat following the wedding when these festivities take place.
It is reported that the Aufruf custom actually derives from none other than King Solomon himself. When Solomon built the Temple, he intentionally prepared two entranceways for distinct events. One was to provide entry for grooms and the other was to provide entry for mourners. When onlookers would see someone enter through the opening reserved for grooms they would shower blessings upon him, especially that he be blessed with children. Similarly, when someone was seen entering the gate reserved for mourners, that person was offered condolences. Once the Temple was destroyed, the synagogue became the new venue for blessing both grooms and mourners.
The significance of calling a man to the Torah on the Shabbat before his wedding originates in the Talmud. It is taught that a man who lacks a wife is “without happiness, without blessing, and without Torah.” The maturity that comes with marriage forces a fresh outlook to both the quality and application of one’s Torah studies. To cite but one example, a person is required to teach his family what he himself as learned.
Many authorities insist that the groom receive an Aliya on the Shabbat following his wedding, as well. This is intended to parallel the idea that a groom is to be treated like a king. Just as a king is required to write for himself two Torah scrolls, we similarly call a groom up to the Torah twice, both before and after his wedding.
It appears from several sources that the elevated status that a groom enjoys throughout the week following his wedding actually commences from the Aufruf. Indeed, rabbinic literature compares a groom to a king in a number of different ways: both a king and groom are forbidden to appear in public unaccompanied, both are subject to much praise, they both wear lavish clothing, both are in a constant state of celebration, and their faces seem to shine. As such, a bride or groom should not be left unaccompanied in public from the time of the Aufruf until after the week of Sheva Berachot. Some authorities only require this ‘guarding’ of the bride and groom from their wedding day.
The custom of throwing sweets upon a groom after he has been called to the Torah likely originates from the Talmudic practice of throwing foodstuffs at a bride and groom at their wedding. Perhaps at some point in history social attitudes had changed rendering throwing food at a wedding ceremony unacceptable. As such, the custom was shifted to the Aufruf.
While on the topic of throwing food at a groom, it is interesting to note that the idea of throwing candies is not to be found in any of the classical literature. The candidate foods mentioned include nuts, almonds, and raisons, each with their own respective symbolism. For example, nuts, egoz in Hebrew, have the same numerical value as the word “sin” reflecting the idea that all of person’s sins are forgiven on the day they get married. An almond, being the fruit that ripens fastest, represents the blessing for children without delay.
 Biur Halacha 136
 Ta’amei Haminhagim 402
 Shita Mekubetzet;Ketubot 5a, Pirkei D’rabbi Eliezer 17, Tur Y.D. 393, Ta’amei Haminhagim
 This is likely the source of the custom for mourners to be formally welcomed into the congregation after the Kabbalat Shabbat service.
 Yevamot 62b
 Biur Halacha 136
 Midrash Talpiot p.223
 Pirkei D’rabbi Eliezer ibid.
 Minhag Yisrael Torah O.C. 239:4
 Berachot 54b
 Berachot 50b
 Ta’amei Haminhagim