Marriage within the religion of Judaism is not thought to be a secular legal partnership. Instead, it is closer to a union sanctified by God. This is known as a ‘kiddushin’. From this, it can be said that marriage obligations are not so much personal, but have in fact more implications for universal harmony. It is important to note that both the concept and processes of marriage within the Jewish frame do not only have an impact on the lives of adherents through an individual perspective, but also through both a familial and communal lens.
From an individual perspective, marriage enables adherents to obtain a deeper understanding of their faith, it allows for a couple’s relationship to reach more elevated levels, it acts as a foundation for building a stronger relationship with God and also provides structure within their families as they are able to fulfil the first mitzvah of “be fruitful and multiply”.
The significance placed on family within Judaism is further emphasised through the practice of marriage and impacts such families as it allows lessons of respect and gratitude to be taught to children, it provides the need for gender-specific roles within families such as women being given the privilege of commencing Shabbat by lighting the candles on the Friday, and lastly, it allows for a familial level of spiritual and faith development, whereby family life is considered to be the “training ground” for the teaching of Jewish customs and traditions.
Lastly, communities of Judaism are significantly impacted by the practice of marriage as it contributes to the ongoing growth of the community, it is one of their public expressions of faith and provides a renewal of the Jewish faith. It also affirms God’s recognition of Israel as his people, for example, through the recitation of the words “mazel tov” as a glass is smashed. Furthermore, marriage was seen as a gateway in times of persecution and upheaval, and so historically, Judaism has been reinvigorated through the practice of marriage in such times.
Marriage within Judaism is seen as significant as it provides an individual fulfilment of the Mitzvah as all Jewish men and women are expected to marry, which is the first commandment observed in the Book of Genesis. It structures the lives of the couple and allows for the assigning of roles to each member of the relationship, providing both with a sense of responsibility. It signifies a sense of belonging and the beginning of a new family and also acts as a means of identification with Judaism. Marriage allows for the expression of principle beliefs such as those found in the Ten Commandments and in the Torah, such as in the Book of Genesis where God recognises that “it is not good for man to be alone”, in turn creating the first human couple. This obligation to engage in Jewish marriage is implying that it is a man’s duty to find love with a Jewish partner and begin a life together. It is an avenue for celebrating the distinctive way that an individual can experience God’s love, which transforms their life. For the individual, it shows how Judaism can deepen the lives of adherents by giving them a sense of belonging, well-being and spiritual union with God. In terms of the ceremony itself, marriage also allows for a physical representation of one’s devotion to God as each marriage ceremony is a re-enactment of the unification between God and the Jews that took place atop Mt Sinai.