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Marriage: A Jewish Chatunah
A Reform Perspective by Rivka C. Berman

Why Marry – A Jewish Perspective
Adam, the first man, enters center stage in the Creation story and does not frolic in the Garden of Eden. According to the Midrash, he mopes. He completes his first assignment, naming the animals, and notices he is alone. All the animals have a mate, and he has no one.

Sigh.

“It is not good that man should be left alone,” booms the Torah. Viola! Eve is created. Shortly afterward, the Torah gives the first salute to marriage: “Therefore man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:18)

From the first couple onward, Judaism has celebrated marriage.

“Enjoy life with the wife you love all the fleeting days of your life that have been granted under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:9) “He who finds a wife finds good.”(Proverbs 18:22) “A man without a wife exists without joy, blessing or boon.” (Yevamot 62a)

More than celebrating marriage as an exalted state, Judaism also takes this commitment very seriously. Of the 63 tractates in the Gemara, four heavyweight volumes deal with relationships, marriage and their implications: Kiddushin, Yevamot, Ketubot and Gittin.

In the Jewish view, marriage is the natural state of adults, not a less-than-holy compromise. This is a distinct difference from other religions where holiness and sex are mutually exclusive for their religious leaders. Vows of celibacy are not part of the Jewish tradition. Only three of the hundreds of major scholars mentioned in the Talmudic “Who’s Who” were unmarried: Ben Azzai, a personality in the Mishna; Yehudah Bar Ilai, a seventh century physician, philosopher and talmudist; and Isaac Israeli, a tenth century physicist and scientist scholar.

Marriage gives a place for the fullest expression of unity between body and soul, a goal of Jewish life. At every turn, Judaism looks at physical needs and sees an opportunity for spiritual growth. Wine is not a vice, but a mode for making kiddush, an important wine blessing that accompanies lifecycle events, Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Candles bring more than light, they radiate with the glow of Shabbat and the pride of Chanuka. In the same way, physical desire is not shunned in Judaism - it is glorified. Channeling sexual desire to build intimacy and closeness with another person through marriage is one of the thoughts behind the Hebrew word for the marriage ceremony, kiddushin, which shares its root with the Hebrew word for holiness, kedusha.

Kedusha, holiness, connotes a degree of separation. Something becomes holy by setting it apart from its everyday usage. Shabbat is holy and is set apart in time from the rest of the week. Synagogues are holy spaces different from general places of gatherings. By terming marriage as kiddushin, a couple is setting themselves apart for each other – exclusive to all others. There is something special about the relationship they share.

By recognizing and treasuring how different this relationship is from any other, there is an opportunity for true holiness. Mystical sources view marriage as parallel to the closeness we are to feel with God. Otherwise the depth of this relationship would be hard to fathom. 



 

READ MORE:
•
Dating Jewish
• The Dowry (Nedunia)
• Matchmaker, Matchmaker Make me a Match!
•
Forbidden Marriages
• Engagement: Announcement and more
•
Marriage: A Jewish Perspective
•
Setting a Date for the Celebration of a Jewish Wedding
•
Double Wedding, Double the Fun?
• Jewish Wedding A Second Time Around
•
Mikvah:The Ritual Bath
•
Aufruf – A Torah Honor for the Groom
• Wedding Day Customs
• The Ketubah: The Jewish Marriage Contract
• The Reform Ketubah Text and Translation

• Ketubah Designs and Designation
• The Bedeking Ceremony: Veiling of the Bride
• The Chuppah - the Wedding Canopy
• Chuppah: Make Your Own Chuppah
• The Processional and the Chuppah Ceremony
• Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part I: The "Erusin" - the Engagement

• Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part II: The Ring and Its Significance
• Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part III: The Ketubah Reading
• Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part IV: Nesuin, the Marriage Ceremony
• Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part V: Breaking the Glass

• Yichud: Bride and Groom Retreat from Crowd for Alone-Time
• Jewish Wedding Reception Customs and Traditions

• Shana Rishona: The First Year of Marriage
• Practical Tips: List of things to bring to your wedding


  




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