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Judaism: Marriage Traditions

The practice of getting married is one that is strongly encouraged in the Judaic faith, whereas it also serves as criteria for anyone interested in becoming a rabbi. Because Judaism places the home and family in such high regard, marriage is an important act in regards to the religion. Getting married is seen as a highly significant event concerning religious life. Additional details are found in this article.

A Marriage Contract

Before a wedding ceremony takes place, an engaged couple consents to the terms written in a marriage contract , known as a ‘ketubah.’ With some people comparing this tradition to that of a modern prenuptial agreement, the ketubah is a practice tracing back to ancient Semitic customs. In a formal manner, the marriage contract lists the obligations that the husband must follow with his wife. The mutual agreement may contain other conditions, but typically, this is the time where numerous factors are brought to light, usually including terms regarding the:

·    Support of children of the marriage
·    Inheritance upon the death of the husband
·    Support for the wife in the event of divorce

A rabbi is not always needed for a marriage to take place under Jewish law, as under traditional circumstances, a marriage is legal through the payment of money, signed contracts or even sealed with sexual intercourse. Today, rabbis are almost always a part of weddings because secular law calls for an ordained official to preside over the union of two people. Many times, a rabbi is sought after for the guidance he or she will give in regards to the various laws pertaining to a Jewish marriage.

The typical length of time for a Jewish wedding ceremony to take place is around 30 minutes with two ceremonies taking place: Betrothal and Wedding. In the past, a traditional ceremony saw these marriage customs performed as separate events , up to a year apart from one another. Nowadays, modern weddings combine the following ceremonies into one.

Betrothal Ceremony

Referred to as ‘kiddushin’ (which translates into ‘sanctification’) the first ceremony in a Jewish marriage is called the betrothal ceremony. Approaching the groom, the bride circles him before two blessings are recited over wine. The first blessing is standard, while the second one caters more specifically to the marriage. The exchanging of rings take place with a declaration: “Behold, you are consecrated to me by this ring according to the Law of Moses and Israel.” In the end, the ketubah is read.

Wedding Ceremony

Known as nisuin (which translates into ‘elevation’), the marriage ceremony typically sees a couple stands under a canopy (called a chuppah), which serves as a representation of the new home the couple will build together. After the couple recites the seven marriage benedictions and share a glass of wine, the groom steps on a glass to symbolize the destruction of the Temple. Some believe in the superstition that this act keeps evil spirits away or refers to the bride’s virginity. Observers shout ‘Mazel tov’.

The ceremony is then followed by a few minutes of seclusion (called yikhud), where the newlyweds consummate their marriage in a private room , a requirement of Jewish law. Eating, drinking, and dancing cap off the celebration.