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Marriage

Meaning

The Talmud tells us that forty days before a child is born, a heavenly voice announces the name of that child’s future spouse. What an appealing idea—that our soul mate has been prepared for us before we are even born, and that each of us is given a destiny and a promise of love! A less optimistic voice in Jewish tradition pictures a Roman matron importuning a rabbi, “What has your God done since the creation of the world?” The rabbi replies that since the world came into being, God has been playing the role of matchmaker. The matron is shocked, claims she could do a better job far more easily, and immediately arranges to marry off two hundred of her male slaves to two hundred of her female slaves. Well, the night after their betrothal, two hundred angry couples bang on her door, unhappy with the partner chosen for them. The matron realizes her error, and the tale’s moral is that it is harder for God to help us find an appropriate partner than it was to split the Red Sea!

Many of us might hope that our intended has been waiting for us since birth, even as we know that finding our life partner can involve tremendous effort and a heaping of good fortune and divine blessing. We also know that marriages in our day are subject to a great many pressures. Given that, our clergy at Beth El generally meet with happy couples many months before their wedding. Our rabbis sensitively guide them through a series of discussions aimed at enabling the couple to clarify their shared values and to give voice to their differences. The goal is clear—to develop a strong foundation upon which a strong marriage can be built.

Background

Judaism considers marriage a mitzvah, and understands that the human need for companionship, intimacy and progeny is best sanctified through a loving marriage witnessed by friends, family and God’s presence. There are many symbols in a Jewish wedding that many people are familiar with, such as the use of a wedding canopy (the chuppah) and the breaking of a glass at the conclusion. The Jewish wedding ceremony we enact today actually consists of two main and separate parts, erusin, also known as kiddushin (the betrothal or engagement, consisting of wedding vows and the ring ceremony); and nisuin, the marriage proper, which occurs through the recitation of the sheva brachot, seven spiritually powerful blessings by which the couple are formally married. Preceding both of these ceremonies, a ketubah, or Jewish marriage license, is signed and witnessed.

Today’s Wedding

At one point in history, erusin might take place a year or longer before the actual marriage. In our time, both ceremonies normally occur on the same day, along with the ketubah signing. One of Beth El’s clergy is able to perform the ceremony for you, after discussing options and understanding your needs. The wedding itself can take place at Beth El in the main sanctuary, or a location of your choosing. Necessary items, such as the wedding canopy, are provided for weddings held at Beth El. For off-site ceremonies, the chuppah (canopy) can often be rented from florists, and many wedding sites and hotels make their own chuppah available.

Given the many details involved in planning a wedding, it is best to contact one of our rabbis who can help you understand the process and tailor your ceremony into an unforgettable day from which can flow many happy years.

MAZAL TOV!

Fri, February 21 2020 26 Shevat 5780