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Jewish view of marriage
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Judaism considers marriage to be the ideal state of existence; a man without
a wife, or a woman without a husband, are considered incomplete.
1 Classical customs
from the Mishnah and Talmud
2 Marriage ceremony
2.1 Reform and Conservative adaptations
3 The Ketubah
Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist changes
5 Ritual purity in family life
6 Controversy over
6.1 Civil versus religious marriages, and inter-faith marriages
6.2 Converting to Judaism before a marriage
7.1 Conservative Law & Reform Judaism
8 Marriage in Israel
9 See also
9.1 Judaism's view
9.2 Non-Jewish views
10 External links
 Classical customs
In traditional Jewish society,
from the era of the Talmud up to the enlightenment, social association of the sexes was usually restricted (tzeniut). In Orthodox
Jewish communities these social restrictions are still practiced.
 Betrothal from the Mishnah and Talmud
The Mishna describes three ways of contracting betrothal (tractate Kiddushin 1:1):
With money (as when a man hands
a woman an object of value, such as a ring or a coin, for the purpose of contracted marriage, and in the presence of two witnesses,
and she actively accepts);
Through a shtar, a contract containing the betrothal declaration phrased as "through this contract";
By sexual intercourse with the intention of creating a bond of marriage, a method strongly discouraged by the rabbinic
Today only the betrothal ceremony involving the object of value (i.e. the equivalent of "with money"), almost always
a ring, is practiced, but the others may be fallen back upon should a halachic dispute occur.
Engagement for marriage
was generally brought about by a third person, often a professional match-maker ("shadchan"). The process is called Shidduchim
(Hebrew: matches). The shadchan received a "brokerage-fee" fixed by law or agreed upon by custom, as a rule a small percentage
of the dowry. It was paid by either of the parties, or each paid one-half, at the betrothal or after the wedding. The rabbi,
as a person enjoying special confidence, was also often employed as intermediary. Although the marriage preliminaries were
the concern of the parents, their children were not forced into marriage over their objections.
The marriage ceremony is based on the rules for transfer of property or of rights in antiquity. In marriage,
the woman accepts a ring (or something of value) from the man, accepting the terms of the marriage. This is called betrothal,
or kiddushin or erusin. A ketubah ("[marriage] contract") is read publicly. Witnesses are required for both the signing of
the ketubah and the ceremonies.
At the giving of the ring the groom (chatan) makes a declaration "You are consecrated
to me, through this ring, according to the religion of Moses and Israel." Traditionally there is no verbal response on the
part of the bride. She accepts the ring on her finger, and closes her hand, signifying acceptance.
Finally the couple
are joined in matrimony under the chuppah, in the ceremony of nissuin, symbolizing their setting up house together. Very often
the chuppah is made of an outstretched tallit (Jewish prayer shawl), but it can be any sort of canopy.
reaches its climax with both the bride and groom drinking wine. The groom then steps on the wine glass to break it. The origin
of this custom is shrouded in mystery, and various understandings of this custom exist:
The oldest source seems to
be from the Babylonian Talmud, tractate Berakhot 31a; it has a story about the wedding of Rav Ashi's son. When the celebrants
began to get carried away, Rav Ashi brought out and broke a crystal glass in front of them. The interpretation by the Tosafot
(early medieval Talmudic commentators) is that even during moments of great celebration, one must maintain proper decorum.
It may be related to the belief that it is best to temper one's joy, in order to avert inviting bad fortune.
of the glass represents the Jewish community's continuing sorrow of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem; no celebration
is totally complete without the Temple.
Among Kabbalists (adherents of Jewish mysticism), this custom is said to be a
reminder of the broken fragments of Creation, and our need to engage in Tikkun Olam, the repairing of the world on a spiritual
 Reform and Conservative adaptations
Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism have created new customs
governing the wedding ceremony. Today most non-traditional Jewish women respond by giving a ring to the groom, and recite
an appropriate passage, such as the famous verse from the Song of Songs, Ani l'dodi v'dodi Li ("I am for my beloved, and my
beloved is for me", Song of Songs 6:3). Objections to the Talmudic formulation center around the idea that marriage is the
purchase of a wife by a man.
 The Ketubah
Main article: Ketubah
The ketubah lays out rights of the
wife (to monetary payments upon termination of the marriage by death or divorce), and obligations of the husband (providing
food, shelter, clothing, and sexual satisfaction to the wife). Due to its overriding importance, it was not written in the
Hebrew language, but in Aramaic, the lingua franca of Jews at the time the first Ketubot became standardized.
Judaism uses a traditional ketubah based on the forms that have evolved and standardized over the past millennium. There are
minor variations between Orthodox groups, but none of major legal or theological difference. While Jews today no longer speak
Aramaic, Orthodox ketubot are still written in this tongue. Nowadays many Orthodox ketubot also have translations into English
or other vernacular languages.
 Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist changes
uses a traditional ketubah, but has incorporated two changes. Aramaic ketubot (pl.) are still used, but since Hebrew has been
reborn as a living language, an official Hebrew version of the Ketubah is now sometimes used. A second change is that a new
paragraph is allowed as an option as a "prenuptial agreement"; this paragraph includes a directive that if the couple ever
gets a civil (non-religious) divorce, they must go to a Bet Din ("[rabbinical] court") and follow its directives, which tells
the husband that he must give his wife a get, a Jewish divorce. This known as the "Lieberman Clause."
The Reform and
Reconstructionist movements use both more equalized versions of the ketubah, and also use documents that are essentially not
a ketubah at all, but rather a new form of wedding celebration document.
Main article: Chuppah
An elaborate chupahA chuppah (also spelled huppa, chupah, or chuppa - plural chuppot) is a canopy traditionally used
in Jewish weddings. It consists of a cloth or sheet — sometimes a tallit ("prayershawl") — stretched or supported
over four poles, and is sometimes carried by attendants to the ceremony location. It is meant to symbolize the home which
the couple will build together.
A traditional chuppah, especially within Orthodox Judaism, recommends that there be
open sky exactly above the chuppah. If the wedding ceremony is held indoors in a hall, sometimes a special opening is built
to be opened during the ceremony. Many Hasidim prefer to conduct the entire ceremony outdoors.
In a spiritual sense,
the covering of the chuppah represents the presence of God over the covenant of marriage. As a man's kipa (skull cap) served
as a reminder of the Creator above all, (also a symbol of separation from God), so the chuppah was erected to signify that
the ceremony and institution of marriage has divine origins.
Before going under the chuppah the groom, amidst joyous
singing of the guests, covers the bride's face with a veil. This ceremony is called Badeken or Bedekung, and is at least 600
years old. The origin of this tradition is in the dispute of what exactly is the chuppah. There are opinions that the chuppah
means covering the bride's face, and that by this covering the couple is getting married. This opinion is based on the Verse:
“[T]hen she took her veil and covered herself.” (Genesis, 24, 65) in which Rebekah meets Isaac. Some are strict
to make sure that the witnesses will see the covering, for them to actually be considered as witnessing the marriage.
Ritual purity in family life
Main article: Niddah
The Laws of "Family Purity" (taharas hamishpacha) have always been
a pre-requisite of the Orthodox Jewish marriage. This requires a knowledge of the menstrual Niddah laws which all Jewish brides
and grooms should have studied prior to the wedding.
 Controversy over intermarriage
The Jewish concept
of marriage is based on kiddushin (sanctification). The wife and husband are publicly sanctified to each other in an exclusive
relationship. The rules regarding such sanctification, by definition, are for a relationship between the Jews. The Jewish
declaration of marriage includes the phrase that the marriage is being carried out by the laws of Moses and Israel; such a
declaration has no meaning for a marriage ceremony between a Jew and a gentile. If any such marriage is carried out Jews are
aware of the civil legitimacy of such a ceremony, but accord it no religious legitimacy.
 Civil versus religious
marriages, and inter-faith marriages
There is an ongoing debate about inter-faith marriage in especially the Jewish community.
Orthodoxy argues from the biblical prohibition on the ancient Israelites against permitting their children to marry the children
of gentiles (Deuteronomy 7:3); Moses warns that on transgression, their children will follow other gods, and they themselves
will consequently be destroyed. Some traditionalists speak metaphorically of intermarriage in the modern era as a "Silent
Holocaust." Modernists see inter-faith marriages as a contribution to a multicultural society that enriches lives. Children
from intermarriages identify as Jewish significantly less frequently than children of marriages with two Jewish partners.[citation
According to the National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01, only 17 percent of marriages involving Jews in
the United States prior to 1970 were intermarriages. From 1996-2001, 47 percent of marriages involving Jews in the United
States were intermarriages. Overall, the U.S. rate of intermarriage for all married Jewish couples is 31 percent.
branches of Orthodox Judaism, both Haredi and non-Haredi and Conservative Judaism refuse to accept any validity or legitimacy
of intermarriages. Conservative Judaism maintains the traditional understanding of Jewish identity. A Jew is someone who was
born to a Jewish mother, or who converts to Judaism in accordance with Jewish law and the Mosaic tradition. The Conservative
movement thus rejects patrilineal descent. Conservative Judaism does not allow intermarriage. However, the Leadership Council
of Conservative Judaism has a more nuanced understanding of this issue than Orthodoxy. In a press release it has stated that
"In the past, intermarriage...was viewed as an act of rebellion, a rejection of Judaism. Jews who intermarried were essentially
excommunicated. But now, intermarriage is often the result of living in an open society....If our children end up marrying
non-Jews, we should not reject them. We should continue to give our love and by that retain a measure of influence in their
lives, Jewishly and otherwise. Life consists of constant growth and our adult children may yet reach a stage when Judaism
has new meaning for them. However, the marriage between a Jew and non-Jew is not a celebration for the Jewish community. We
therefore reach out to the couple with the hope that the non-Jewish partner will move closer to Judaism and ultimately choose
to convert. Since we know that over 70 percent of children of intermarried couples are not being raised as Jews...we want
to encourage the Jewish partner to maintain his/her Jewish identity, and raise their children as Jews."
and Reconstructionist Judaism do not accept the Halakha (Rabbinical Jewish law) as normative, so technically they do not have
firm rules against it. Therefore, under certain circumstances that must be discussed with the rabbi beforehand, many Reform
and Reconstructionist rabbis will officiate at a marriage between a Jew and a gentile, as long as the couple agrees to certain
conditions. These conditions usually state that the couple must raise the children as Jewish and provide them with some sort
of formal Jewish education.
There is a difference between a religious Jewish marriage and the secular marriage. In
the United States (and many other countries), when a rabbi officiates at a wedding, it is de facto a legal wedding by the
law of the United States, as well; therefore, a rabbi can
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