B: PRIMARY TEXTS
G-d Creates Humans – Male and Female
G-d’s Involvement in Marriage
Humans – Between Family and Family
Christians and Marriage
G-d Arranges a Wedding
G-d and Israel: The Marriage Metaphor
Jewish Models of Marriage
Love and Marriage – The Jewish Version
People Build a Home – The Domestic Role of Marriage
Modernising and Marriage
The Age for Marriage
The Marriage Age – Avoiding Sexual Temptation
The Importance of Witnesses
Recalling the First Wedding
The Kiddushin Question
Marriage Blessings – The Sheva Brachot
In this section is a collection the various texts that have been referred to throughout the previous section, together with some commentary and several additional texts that are relevant within the context. These extra texts can be used as the basis of further activities, either individually or juxtaposed with the other texts, in order to enrich the activities further. After the headline for each text is the number of parallel heading in the first part of this chapter, to which the text corresponds.
11. G-d Creates Humans – Male and Female [
“G-d created man[kind] in His own image. In the image of G-d, He created them. Male and female, He created them. And G-d blessed them and G-d said to them, be fruitful and multiply…”
Each soul and spirit, prior to its entering into this world, consists of a male and female united into one being. When it descends on this earth the two parts separate and animate two different bodies. At the time of marriage, the Holy One, blessed be He, who knows all souls and spirits, unites them again as they were before and they again constitute one body and one soul, forming as it were the right and left of one individual…This union is influenced by the deeds of man and by the ways in which he walks. If the man is pure and his conduct is pleasing in the sight of G-d, he is united with that female part of his soul which was his component part prior to his birth.
12. G-d’s Involvement in Marriage [
Forty days before the formation of a child, a voice proclaims in Heaven. The daughter of X is to marry the son of Y”.
Bab. Talmud, Sotah 2a
13. Humans – Between Family and Family [
And the Lord G-d made the rib, which he had taken from the man into a woman, and brought her unto the man. The man said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife and they will become one flesh.
14. Christians and Marriage [
Jesus said…, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman, commits adultery.”
The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and a wife, it were better not to marry”.
Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it has been given… [Some] have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of Heaven. The one who can accept this should accept this”.
The Gospel of Matthew 19:8-12
Now to the unmarried and the widows I say, it is good for them to stay unmarried as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry because it is better to marry than to burn with passion…
I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs – how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world – how he can please his wife – and his interests are divided...
I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to G-d.
Paul’s first Epistle (letter) to the Corinthians 7:8-9, 32-35
15. G-d Arranges a Wedding [
In the following wonderful quotation from the Midrash, we find G-d officiating at a special wedding. The ultimate Divine model of marriage!
The wedding of the first couple was celebrated with a pomp never repeated in the whole course of history. G-d Himself, before presenting Eve to Adam, dressed and decorated her as a bride… The angels surrounded the marriage canopy and G-d pronounced the blessings upon the bridal couple, as the Hazzan (Cantor) does under the Chuppah. The angels then danced and played upon musical instruments before Adam and Eve in their ten bridal chambers of gold, pearls and precious stones, which G-d had prepared for them.
Midrash: Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer 12
16. G-d and Israel: The Marriage Metaphor [
The Lord said to me…, “Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree and there she has played the harlot.”
And I [G-d] said, “After she has done all of these things, she will return to Me. But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear. She also went out and committed adultery…
“In spite of this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart but only in pretence”.
17. Jewish Models of Marriage [
Happy is the man who has a good wife.
The number of his days is doubled.
A noble wife gladdens her husband,
And he lives out his days in peace.
A good wife is good fortune:
She falls to the lot of those who fear the Lord…
The grace of a wife delights her husband,
And her knowledge fattens his bones…
A modest wife is blessing after blessing,
And a self-controlled spirit no scales can weigh.
Like the sun rising on the Lord’s loftiest heights,
Is the body of a good woman as she keeps her home in order…
A woman’s beauty gladdens one’s countenance,
And exceeds every desire that a man has.
If mercy and meekness are on her lips,
Her husband is not like the sons of men…
Where there is no wife, a man will wander about and groan…
Children or the building of a city perpetuate a man’s name,
But the irreproachable wife is counted better than both of them…
A friend and a comrade meet opportunely,
But a wife with her husband is better than both of them.
In Ben Sira, 26,36,40
A woman of valour, who can find? For her price is far above rubies,
The heart of her husband safely trusts in her and he shall have no lack of gain.
She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax and works willingly with her hands.
She is like the merchant ships, she brings her food from afar…
She examines a field and buys it, with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard…
She sees that her merchandise is good: her candle does not go out at night.
She puts her hand to the staff of flax, while her palms hold the spindle.
She stretches her hand out to the poor, she reaches out her hand to the needy…
She makes garments and sells them and brings clothes to the merchant…
She opens her mouth with wisdom and on her tongue is a Torah of lovingkindness.
Looks are deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised…
In Proverbs 31
18. Love and Marriage – The Jewish Version [
However important it is that love should precede marriage, it is far more important that it shall continue after marriage. The modern attitude [in the outside world] lays all the stress on the romance before marriage; the older Jewish view emphasises the life-long devotion and affection after marriage.
Joseph Hertz, Commentary to the Torah
19. People Build a Home – The Domestic Role of Marriage [
An extremely beautiful description of a traditional view of Jewish marriage, and of the role of a man and a woman in building up a Jewish home after marriage, is found in the work of the great nineteenth century founder of modern Orthodox Judaism, Samson Raphael Hirsch.
The description is taken from his famous book, “Horeb – a Philosophy of Jewish Laws and Observances”.
The founding of a home is the highest task of life – because the welfare of the people and of humanity flowers only in and through the home, and it is there that the younger generation is brought up for G-d, and because there is the temple, where the fear and love of G-d and trust in G-d are planted and cultivated and realised in daily life. That task can be performed only by man and woman together, neither by the man nor the woman alone. For that reason, G-d planted in the human breast, the love of man for woman and of woman for man, in order that they should unite for the true end of life, to carry out together the task of life which they can only half fulfil singly, in order, as the Sages say, to become together like a human being in the true sense…
Such a union of man and woman for the true purpose of life is called marriage and it is of the making of such a marriage that the law speaks.
Horeb 81: Section 530
20. Modernising and Marriage [
“What are you crying for?…
“For Heaven’s sake, if you say no it’s no. Nobody is going to force you. We meant it for the best, we did it for your sake. But if it doesn’t appeal to you, what are we going to do? Apparently, it’s not ordained.”…
“Apparently, if He ordains it this way, that’s the way it has to be. What good are complaints? Forty days before you were conceived, the Holy Book tells us, an angel appeared and decreed, 'Let Tevye’s daughter Tzeitel take Getzel son of Zorach (a name of nobody specific, i.e. someone else) as her husband: and let Lazer Wolf the butcher go elsewhere to seek his mate.' And to you my child, I say this; may G-d send you your predestined one, one worthy of you and may he come soon...”
“If someone had stuck a knife into my heart, it would have been easier to endure than these words. In the first place, how does a tailor like Mottel fit into the picture as my son-in-law? And in the second place, what kind of words are these, 'We swore to each other that we would marry'? And where do I come in? I ask him bluntly, 'Do I have the right to say something about my daughter, or doesn’t anyone have to ask a father any more?'”
Sholom Aleichem, “Modern Children”
21. The Age for Marriage [
He used to say: "At five years old one is fit for the Scripture, at ten years for the Mishnah, at thirteen for the fulfilling of the commandments, at fifteen for the Talmud, at eighteen for the marriage canopy…"
Mishnah, Pirkei Avot 5:21
A man is duty bound to take for himself a wife, in order to fulfill the mitzvah of propagation. This mitzvah becomes obligatory on a man when he reaches the age of eighteen; at any rate, he should not reach the age of twenty without taking a wife. Only in the event when he is engaged in the study of Torah with great diligence and he has apprehension that marriage might interfere with his studies, he may delay marrying…
Solomon Ganzfried, Kitzur Shulhan Aruch, Vol. 4
22. The Marriage Age – Avoiding Sexual Temptation [
In addition to the excerpt from Ben Sira lamenting the potential lust of a daughter who is not married (brought in the background section), 22B is an additional quotation from the Talmud, in which the same concern is voiced over a young man – and a scholar – who has reached the age of twenty, without being married.
Keep a close watch over a headstrong daughter,
For if she is allowed her liberty, she may take advantage of it.
Keep watch over a roving eye
And do not be surprised if it offends against you.
Like a thirsty traveler who opens his mouth
And drinks of any water that is near,
She will sit down before every tent peg,
And open her quiver to the arrow.
Ben Sira 26
R. Hisda praised R. Hamnuna before R. Huna as a great man. Said [R. Huna] to [R. Hisda],
“When he visits you, bring him to see me.”
When [R. Hamnuna] arrived, [R. Huna] saw that he had no head covering (such as married men wear).
“Why have you no headdress?” he asked.
“Because I am not married,” was the reply.
Thereupon R. Huna turned his face away from him.
“See to it that you do not appear before me again until you are married,” he said…
For he said, “He who is twenty years of age and not married spends all of his days in sin”…(or at least) in sinful thoughts.”
Bab. Talmud Kiddushin 29b-30a
23. The Importance of Witnesses [
Throughout this survey of the life cycle ceremony, there is a clear representation of the need for public affirmation in Jewish tradition. Samson Raphael Hirsch gives an excellent explanation of this:
The individual stands above all inanimate things and impersonal relationships but higher than the individual stands society. Where only things are concerned, a single individual can be witness, but where human personalities are concerned, only society can be witness…
Such is the supreme importance attached to marriage in the affairs of society, that if society is not represented by two of its competent members as witnesses, the marriage is void.
Horeb 81, Section 532
24. Introducing Ketubah [
We witness here that X (the groom) spoke to Y (the bride) and said: Be my wife according to the law of Moses and Israel. I promise to work for you, honour you and support you, as is the manner of Jewish men who work for, honour and support their wives.
And I shall give you the dowry of your maidenhood, two hundred pieces of silver (according to the value of ---) to which you are entitled by the law of the Torah, and also your food, clothing and all your needs…
And the said maiden consented to become his wife.
And this is the dowry that she has brought to him from the home of her parents…
And the groom willingly added to this ---…
And this is what the groom said: The responsibility for this contract and the additions thereto and the dowry and the additions thereto, I take upon myself and on my heirs after me, to be collected from the best and choicest of my properties…
All my property shall serve as guarantee and security from which this marriage contract and the additions thereto may be collected…
Standard traditional Ketubah
25. Recalling the First Wedding [
“And brought her [Eve] to the man.”
This teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, acted as best man for the first man. From here (one can infer) that a great man should act as best man for a lesser person and feel no regrets abo ut it.
Bab. Talmud, Eruvin 18b
26. The Kiddushin Question [
In addition to the quotations brought in the main text, below are two more Halachic sources relating to issues mentioned in passing in the background section.
The first, from Samson Raphael Hirsch explains the intermediate status of the person between Kiddushin and Nissuin. As previously explained, these two parts of the marriage were brought together in the ceremony - but when the two aspects constituted different ceremonies that could be separated by as much as a year, the question of exactly what was permitted to them was extremely important.
The other source, from Maimonides – the Rambam – in his Mishneh Torah, affirms what has been said in the main text, namely that intercourse is no longer acceptable as a mode of betrothal, while betrothal through a note has also fallen into disuse, to all intents and purposes.
With Kiddushin, the personal appropriation is completed. The bridegroom is called
(arus – betrothed) and the bride
Marriage to anyone else is impossible: the bond can only be dissolved by death or divorce…
Nevertheless, so long as the marriage has not been consummated by ??????? (Nissuin – marriage), and the wife has not therewith been received into the house of the husband, the consequences do not extend beyond this personal relationship. The husband is not yet her representative, and he has therefore neither the duties of a husband, such as maintenance, clothing etc., nor the rights, such as to her property, service, earnings etc.
Horeb 81, Section 535
Blessed are You, O G-d, King of the Universe, Who has made us holy by Your commandments and has commanded us regarding marriages which are forbidden: who has forbidden to us those that are betrothed, but has allowed us those that are wedded to us by the rite of the wedding canopy and the sacred covenant of marriage. Blessed are You, O Lord Who sanctifies Thy people Israel by the rite of the wedding canopy and the sacred covenant of marriage.
By three means is the woman acquired and by two means she acquires her freedom.
She is acquired by money, or by a written document or by intercourse. By money – the school of Shammai say “by a denar or a denar’s worth” [a large coin] and the school of Hillel say “by a perutah or a perutah’s worth” [the smallest of all coins]…
She acquires her freedom by a bill of divorce, or by the death of her husband.
Mishnah, Kiddushin 1:1
It has become universal Jewish custom to consecrate [a marriage bond] through [the transfer of] money or objects that are worth money. If one desires to consecrate [a woman] by giving her a legal document, one may, but at the outset one should not consecrate a marriage through sexual relations.
Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Ishut, 3:21
27. Marriage Obligations [
Marriage does not come without certain strings, attached in the form of various obligations. In Judaism, the husband in particular is obligated in a number of ways towards his partner. The Rambam, Maimonides, gives a clear formulation of these, together with a list of privileges that he obtains from marriage.
When a man marries a woman… he incurs ten responsibilities towards her and receives four privileges…
With regard to his ten responsibilities, three [of these] come from the Torah…
[These are] to provide her with the means of subsistence, clothing and conjugal (i.e. sexual) rights…
The seven responsibilities ordained by the Rabbis are all conditions [for the marriage to be valid]…
The first [concerns agreeing to uphold the clauses of] the Ketubah. The others are…
to provide medical treatment if she becomes sick; to redeem her if she is held captive; to bury her if she dies; to give her the right to continue living in his home after his death, as long as she remains a widow; the right for her daughters to receive their sustenance from his estate after his death until they become consecrated [in marriage]; the right for her sons to inherit her Ketubah, in addition to their share in her husband’s estate…
The four privileges that the husband is granted are all Rabbinic in origin. They are:- The right to the fruits of her labour; the right to any ownerless object that she discovers; the right to benefit from the profits of her property during her lifetime; the right to inherit her property, if she dies during his lifetime…
Mishneh Torah. Hilchot Ishut, 12:1-3
28. Marriage Blessings – The Sheva Brachot [
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe,
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Who created everything for His glory.
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Creator of Man.
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Who fashioned Man in His image after His own likeness, and prepared for him [a woman] out of his very self, [as] an everlasting structure. Blessed are You, Lord, Creator of Man.
May she who was barren [Jerusalem] be exceedingly glad and joyful, with the ingathering of her children into her midst in joy. Blessed are You, Lord, Who causes Zion to rejoice through her children.
Greatly gladden these beloved ones, even as You gladdened Your Creation in the Garden of Eden, in olden days. Blessed are You, Lord, Who gladdens the bridegroom and the bride.
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Who created joy and gladness, groom and bride, mirth and song, pleasure and delight, love and brotherhood, peace and companionship. May there soon be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: the sound of joy and happiness, the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride, the jubilant voice of bridegrooms from their wedding canopies and of youths from their feasts of song. Blessed are You, Lord, Who causes the groom to rejoice with the bride.
29. Marriage Levity [
Mar bar Rabina made a marriage feast for his son. He observed that the rabbis present were very merry. So he seized an expensive goblet worth four hundred zuzzim and broke it in front of them. This turned them very sombre.
When Rav Ashi made a marriage feast for his son, he also noticed that the rabbis were rejoicing excessively. So he took a costly cup of white glass and broke it in front of them. This filled them with sorrow.
Bab. Talmud, Berachot 30b-31a