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Are you aware of any literature that either provides a source for or discusses the significance of the two mothers breaking a plate at the "Tisch" at a wedding?

It's not hard to find mentions of this custom on the Internet along with various supposed meanings, and I suspect that it may be a purely mimetic tradition whose meaning is whatever people make of it. However, if there's serious discussion of it in the literature, I'd like to read about it.

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Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/9365/… –  Isaac Moses Aug 2 '12 at 14:48
    
Just to clarify you're looking for sources for breaking a plate at Tnaim, but not about the glass at Sheva Brachot. –  Double AA Aug 2 '12 at 15:13
    
@DoubleAA Correct. –  Isaac Moses Aug 2 '12 at 15:31
    
I have a copy of this I can send to you. –  Seth J Nov 15 '12 at 21:09
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5 Answers

Start with the Pri Megadim in Orach Chaim 560: פרי מגדים, שו"ע או"ח ס' תק"ס.

(The פרי מגדים can be found at the back of standard volumes of the Shulchan Aruch. In this case, the last volume of אורח חיים. The פרי מגדים is split into 2 columns: משבצות זהב and אשל אברהם.)

The פרי מגדים discusses it twice in siman תק"ס:

  • In the משבצות זהב in אות ד (on page :לו in my edition) — where he refers you to numerous other sources, including some in אה"ע.

  • Also briefly in אשל אברהם in אות ז (on page :לז in my edition).

BTW: The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (126:2 - Hilchot Zecher LeChurban) says:

... After reading the Tana'im one breaks a vessel - קדרה - in order to do a Zecher Lechurban, but one should use a damaged vessel for this. And under the Chuppa the Chosson breaks a glass utensil, and this can be an undamaged cup.

Note that he does not mention anything about who should break the plate. Also, he doesn't specify that it must be a plate.

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Perhaps the minhag is connected to Brit bien habetarim.

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A creative suggestion. If you have any basis for this suggestion please edit it into your post. Welcome to Mi Yodeya; I hope you register your account and stick around! –  Double AA Nov 15 '12 at 21:04
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Nit'e Gavriel: Shiduchim Us'naim has a whole chapter devoted to the breaking of the receptacle. Selected excerpts:

1. We break a receptacle immediately after reading the t'naim (deal)[1]

[1] Thus in Minhage Vermayza (=Customs of Worms) 227. See also the book Marg'nisa D've Rabanan… that they broke plates as was customary and he told us "Know why we break plates at the time of the betrothal: It says in Koheles Raba 3:13 that before creating this world God would build worlds and destroy them in the sod of breaking receptacles, so at a betrothal, which is a building forever, we must have, prior to it, the breaking of receptacles, and understand".…

2. The custom is to break a… receptacle of earthenware[3] because of the mourning for Jerusalem.…

[3]P'ri M'gadim, Mishb'tzos Zahav 560:4, from the Elya Raba :7, so the joy not be complete; it's cited in Mishna B'rura :9.

[4]Shefa Chayim Nisuin writes a reason we break an earthen plate at the t'naim: Since it's a day of t'shuva and forgiveness, we hint to this with breaking earthenware, "mashul k'cheres hanishbar". And as a way of interpreting the practice of breaking receptacles at the time of the t'naim and also at the chupa (marriage), it seems it's like what they say (B'reshis Raba 73:5) on the verse (B'reshis 30:23) "God gathered my shame", "so long as a woman has no child, she has no one to pin her fault on; once she has one, she pins it on him"… so we break a receptacle, to show that from this match will come many generations of offspring, so that, even if she breaks a receptacle, no harm will befall her, as she can pin it on her child.

3. Some say the breaking of the receptacle is a sign that the match is made….

However:

[16] …the main reason we have the custom of breaking a receptacle is to raise a memorial to the destruction at a time of joy…

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The Mishna Brurah 560:9 says it is because of zecher l'churban. The Sharei Tzion 19,20 brings the Pri Megadim to use a K'deira(pot) .

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You translate 'Kedeirah' as 'plate'? Isn't it more like a pot? –  Double AA Aug 2 '12 at 16:31
    
@DoubleAA ,I was just going to explain that in my answer. Kedeira does mean pot but I think it means a utensil stam(not sure though. –  sam Aug 2 '12 at 16:34
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I heard that the source is the last gemara in the second chapter of כתובות ‎(28b).

מאי קצצה דתנו רבנן כיצד קצצה אחד מן האחין שנשא אשה שאינה הוגנת לו באין בני משפחה ומביאין חבית מליאה פירות ושוברין אותה באמצע רחבה ואומרים אחינו בית ישראל שמעו אחינו פלוני נשא אשה שאינה הוגנת לו ומתייראים אנו שמא יתערב זרעו בזרעינו בואו וקחו לכם דוגמא לדורות שלא יתערב זרעו בזרעינו וזו היא קצצה שהתינוק נאמן להעיד עליה:‏

What is KEZAZAH? — The Rabbis taught: In what manner does Kezazah take place? If one of the brothers has married a woman who is unworthy of him, the members of the family come together, bring a cask full of fruit, break it in the middle of the open place and say. Brethren of the house of Israel, hear. Our brother So-and-so has married a woman who is not worthy of him, and we are afraid lest his descendants will be united with our descendants. Come and take for yourselves a sign for future generations, that his descendants shall not be united with our descendants'. This is Kezazah with regard to which a child is believed when he testifies. (Soncino translation)

This seems to be a bit counterintuitive, being that most weddings are not actually like the one described in this ברייתא. However, it is possible that from this ברייתא is the source to break things at weddings.

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Interesting suggestion, but like you say the cases seem to be quite different. –  Double AA Aug 2 '12 at 15:51
    
I asked R' Dovid Feinstein at a wedding and he said that it's like a segula that this should be the worst of this couple's צרות. –  moses Aug 2 '12 at 15:54
    
If you are looking for the original source of breaking things at the wedding, it would be Berachos 30b-31a which tells several stories of rabbis who shattered things at weddings when they felt the atmosphere was to joyful for the post-churban era, or too wild. –  Dov F Aug 2 '12 at 22:15
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