Jewish views of marriage

Jewish views of marriage

Judaism traditionally considers marriage to be the ideal state of personal existence; a man without a wife, or a woman without a husband, is considered incomplete. [Babylonian Talmud - Yebomoth 62b.]

Betrothal ("shiddukhin")

In Jewish law (halakha), betrothal ( and .] The "ketubah" became a mechanism whereby the amount due to the wife (the dower) came to be paid in the event of the cessation of marriage, either by the death of the husband or divorce. It may be noted that the biblical bride price created a major social problem: many young prospective husbands could not raise the bride price at the time when they would normally be expected to marry. So, to enable these young men to marry, the rabbis, in effect, delayed the time that the amount would be payable, when they would be more likely to have the sum. The mechanism adopted was to provide for the bride price to be a part of the "ketubah". The "ketubah" amount served the same purpose as the dower: the protection for the wife should her support (either by death or divorce) cease. The only difference between the two systems was the timing of the payment. It is the predecessor to the wife's present-day entitlement to maintenance in the event of the breakup of marriage. Another function performed by the "ketubah" amount was to provide a disincentive for the husband contemplating divorcing his wife: he would need to have the amount to be able to pay to the wife.

Nowadays, Conservative Judaism incorporates in their "ketubot" a paragraph which allows, as an option as a "prenuptial agreement", a directive that if the couple ever gets a civil (non-religious) divorce, they must also go to a "Bet Din" ("Rabbinical court") and follow its directives, which may order the husband to give his wife a "get", a Jewish divorce. This is known as the "Lieberman Clause."


Marital harmony

Marital harmony, known as "shalom bayit"," is valued in Jewish tradition.

Sexual relations

Sexual relations are expected between husband and wife. This obligation is known as "onah." [ [ Judaism 101: Kosher Sex ] ]

Ritual purity in family life

The laws of "family purity" ("taharas hamishpacha") are considered an important part of an Orthodox Jewish marriage. This involves observance of the various details of the menstrual niddah laws. Orthodox brides and grooms often attend classes on this subject prior to the wedding.

Controversy over intermarriage

According to the National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01, 47% of marriages involving Jews in the United States between 1996 and 2001 were with non-Jewish partners. Rates of intermarriage have increased in other countries in the diaspora as well. Jewish leaders in different branches generally agree that possible assimilation is a crisis, but they differ on the proper response to intermarriage.

* All branches of Orthodox Judaism refuse to accept any validity or legitimacy of intermarriages.
* Conservative Judaism does not sanction intermarriage, but encourages acceptance of the non-Jewish spouse within the family, hoping that such acceptance will lead to conversion.
* Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism permit total personal autonomy in interpretation of Jewish Law, and intermarriage is not discouraged. Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis are free to take their own approach to performing marriages between a Jewish and non-Jewish partner. Many but not all seek agreement from the couple that the children will be raised as Jewish.

There are also differences between streams on what constitutes an intermarriage, arising from their differing criteria for being Jewish in the first place. Orthodox and Conservative streams do not accept as Jewish a person whose mother is not Jewish, nor a convert whose conversion was conducted under the authority of a more liberal stream.

Marriage in Israel

Civil marriage does not exist in Israel, and the only institutionalized form of Jewish marriage is the religious one, i.e. a marriage conducted under the auspices of the rabbinate. Specifically, marriage of Israeli Jews must be conducted according to "halakha", as viewed by Orthodox Judaism. This implies that people who cannot get married according to Jewish law (e.g. a kohen and a divorcée, or a Jew and one who is not halachically Jewish) cannot have their union legally sanctioned. This has led for calls, mostly from the secular segment of the Israeli public, for the institution of civil marriage. There are many people affected by this law. In the Land of Israel today, there are approximately "300,000 Israelis who cannot marry because one of the partners is not Jewish, or his or her Jewishness cannot be determined."Fact|date=January 2008

Some secular Israelis travel abroad to have civil marriages, either because they do not believe in the Orthodox view of Judaism or because their union cannot be sanctioned by "halakha". These marriages are legally binding in Israel, though not recognized by the rabbinate as Jewish.

While people of different religions may be citizens of the State of Israel, all legal marriages performed in Israel must be sanctioned by religious authorities of one faith or another. Couples of mixed religion, for example a Christian and a Jew, or a Muslim and a Jew, cannot legally marry in Israel.


Orthodox Judaism

Halakha (Jewish law) allows for divorce. The document of divorce is termed a "get". The final divorce ceremony involves the husband giving the "get" document into the hand of the wife or her agent, but the wife may sue in rabbinical court to initiate the divorce. If a man refuses to grant his wife a divorce, she assumes the status of an "agunah" (literally, "chained" or "anchored" wife); she is unable to remarry until the divorce is granted. A similar but rarer situation, in which the wife refuses to accept a "get", similarly prevents the husband from remarrying, but there are some subtle differences between these scenarios.

Since the enlightenment, local Jewish communities have lost their autonomous status and were assimilated into the nation in which they lived, and Jewish authorities lost their civil powers to enforce Jewish marriage and divorce laws. However, this change resulted in rabbis losing the power to force a man to give his wife a get, and Jewish law does not allow a woman to give a get to the husband. Without a get, a Jewish woman is forbidden to remarry and is therefore called an agunah (literally "an anchored woman").

Conservative Judaism

Conservative Judaism, like Orthodox Judaism, follows Halakha. The Conservative movement allows certain changes to be made in the Ketubah (wedding document) to make it egalitarian, though this is controversial. Both Conservative and Orthodox traditions have approaches to prevent the possibility that a woman might not be able to obtain a Jewish divroce from her husband. Conservative Judaism adds a clause in the ketuba to prevent any possibility of the woman ever becoming "agunah" (famously known as "the Lieberman clause"); Orthodox approaches favour the use of arbitration and pre-nuptial agreements

After doing research on this problem in conjunction with other rabbis, Professor Lieberman developed what came to be called "the Lieberman clause", a clause added to the ketubah (Jewish wedding document). In effect it was an arbitration agreement used in the case of a divorce; if the marriage dissolved and the woman was refused a get from her husband, both the husband and wife had to go to a rabbinic court authorized by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and heed their directives, which could (and usually did) include ordering the man to give his wife a get.

At the time this clause was proposed it has some support in the Modern Orthodox community, and Orthodox leader Joseph Soloveitchik gave this proposal his approval. They began work on a joint rabbinic committee that would insure objective standards of marriage and divorce for both Orthodox and Conservative Judaism. However, objections from ultra-Orthodox rabbis torpedoed this effort at cooperation, and the proposed joint effort faltered.

Most of Orthodox Judaism then rejected the Lieberman clause as a violation of Jewish law, and have devised a separate prenuptial agreement external to the ketubah which has a similar effect - this agreement states that if the husband refuses to grant the get, he will be required to pay an enormous ongoing fee until he grants the get. This agreement is done in such a way that the husband, upon granting the get, will not be considered to have done so under duress (which would invalidate the get), but instead he has a free-will choice to either grant the get or keep paying money (but the fee is usually large enough that he effectively has no choice but to grant the get, unless he wishes to go bankrupt). In addition, this agreement is considered a legal contract by civil courts, so that if the husband refuses to pay the money or grant the get, and the rabbinical courts are unable to enforce the agreement, the civil courts can enforce it. There are sources for this in ancient "Tenayim" documents. In a recent development the Rabbinical Assembly, the international assembly of Conservative rabbis, has also promoted the use of a separate prenuptuial agreement, to be used in place of the Lieberman clause. This is not because they have concerns about its legitimacy, but rather about its practical effectiveness.

Neither of these arrangements, however, address the agunah problem in the case of a missing husband.

Reform Judaism

Reform Jews usually use an egalitarian form of the Ketubah at their weddings. They generally do not issue Jewish divorces, seeing a civil divorce as both necessary and sufficient; however, some Reform rabbis encourage the couple to go through a Jewish divorce procedure. Conservative and Orthodox Judaism do not recognize civil law as overriding religious law, and thus do not view a civil divorce as sufficient. Thus, a man or woman may be considered divorced by the Reform Jewish community, but still married by the Orthodox or Conservative community.

ee also

Judaism's view

*Role of women in Judaism
*Shidduch (finding a marriage partner)
*Shalom bayit (peace and harmony in the relationship between husband and wife)
*Niddah (rutual purity laws)
*Tzeniut (modest behavior)
*Yichud (prohibitions of seclusion with the opposite sex)
*Negiah (guidelines for physical contact)
*Rebbetzin (rabbi's wife)
*beshert (a person's destined soul mate)
*Jewish wedding

Non-Jewish views

*Religious aspects of marriage:*Buddhist view of marriage:*Christian views of marriage:*Confucian view of marriage:*Islamic marital jurisprudence:*Hindu view of marriage


External links

* [ The Jewish Wedding] on
* [ Brief explanation of Jewish wedding]
* [ Guide to Jewish Weddings]
* [ Brief overview of Orthodox jewish wedding]
* [ An explanation of the laws and customs of a Jewish Wedding]

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