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The Tradition Of Marriage

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The first of the 613 mitzvoth (commandments) in the Torah is“peru ur-vu” (Be Fruitful and multiply). Judaism sanctifies every dimension of human experience from birth to death, from eating eliminating. Sexuality and procreation are sanctified by marriage, the primary purpose of which is the creation of life. Every wedding sets the stage for the next generation of “the children of Israel”. The Talmud records that “one who does not participate in ‘be fruitful and multiply’ causes God’s Presence to vanish”. Indeed, marriage is seen as the prototypical act of creation.
The Zohar, the great book of Jewish Mysticism, states: “God creates new worlds constantly. In what way? By causing marriages to take place.”
In the Midrash, the imaginative rabbinic literature “somewhere between commentary and fantasy… that sprouts up between the consecrated words of Scripture,” the creation of male and female inspired a fabulous tale about the first wedding.

The wedding of the first couple was celebrated with pomp never repeated in the whole course of history. God Himself, before presenting Eve to Adam, attired and adorned her as a bride… The angels surrounded the marriage canopy, and God pronounced the blessings upon the bridal couple, as the hazzan does under the huppah. The Angels then danced and played musical instruments for Adam and Eve in the ten bridal chambers of gold, pearls and precious stones that God had prepared for them.

The Hasdic View

The Commandment to marry is directed toward men. According to the Talmud a wife can save a young man from “sinful youghts”, and “Any man who has no wife is not a man (a complete human being)”. Marriage to a good woman is often described as the source of happiness and blessing for a man. (the Talmud seems generally less concerned with a woman’s happiness.) Still, Halakhah was undisputedly progressive for it’s time in establishing certain rights for women: minor girls may not be betrothed, women have the legal right to refuse any suitor, no matter what their parents command. Alyough only men can grant divorces, women are entitled to sue for divorce on some grounds, including sexual incompatibility. conjugal rape, a legal conundrum in our time is explicitly prohibited in the Talmud. And despite the fact that wives are “acquired” in much the same manner as property, men are required to treat them with respect and tenderness or risk God’s wrath.

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