Celebration & Renewal: Rites of Passage in Judaism

By Rela M. Geffen | Go to book overview

that they will resume sexual intercourse. By and large, however, the custom is observed only in the Orthodox community.


Back to the Covenant

Over the course of fifteen hundred years, the Jewish tradition has developed an ornate and sophisticated set of rituals and liturgies for marriage. It is the purpose of these customs not only to perform the simple task of ushering a couple into the state of matrimony but also, and perhaps even more importantly, to do so while stating for the couple and the entire Jewish community the crucial nexus that exists between marriage and other basic tenets of Jewish faith.

The sages hoped that these ceremonies would convey to the couple the need to maintain the conventional element of their relationship in the years beyond their wedding, and would encourage men to make much use of affectionate language and other means of establishing intimacy in the relationship.102 They claimed that "one who loves his wife more than himself, about him did Scripture state, 'You will know that all is well in your tent'" ( Job 5:24).103 In general, the sages' admonitions about relationships between spouses center on the theme of derekh eretz, or common decency and appropriateness.

Given the tradition's view of the cosmic and Godly nature of marriage, it is perhaps fitting that the rabbis chose as the verse to be recited when one dons phylacteries, another symbol of the Jew's relationship with God, these poignant words of the prophet Hosea:

And I will espouse you forever:
I will espouse you with righteousness and justice,
And with goodness and mercy,
And I will espouse you with faithfulness,
Then you shall be devoted to the Lord. ( Hosea 2:21-22)


NOTES
1.
Unless otherwise noted, all biblical quotations in this chapter are taken from The Tanakh--The Holy Scriptures: The New JPS Translation Accordingto the Traditional Hebrew Text

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Celebration & Renewal: Rites of Passage in Judaism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page ii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 3
  • Be Fruitful and Multiply - Issues Relating to Birth in Judaism 12
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 31
  • Parents as Partners with God - Parenting Young Children 32
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 52
  • From Bar/Bat Mitzvah Through the Teen Years - Challenges to Parent and Community 53
  • Notes 70
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 70
  • Choosing Judaism - Issues Relating to Conversion 71
  • Notes 88
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 88
  • Marriage - Judaism's "Other" Covenantal Relationship 90
  • Notes 122
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 130
  • Midlife - From Understanding to Wisdom 132
  • Notes 147
  • The Altar Weeps" - Divorce in Jewish Law 151
  • Introduction 151
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 166
  • Bikkur Ḥolim - Sickness in Jewish Law 167
  • Notes 196
  • The Crown of Glory - Aging in the Jewish Tradition 202
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 223
  • Death and Mourning - A Time for Weeping, A Time for Healing 226
  • Conclusion 249
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 249
  • Glossary 252
  • Contributors 258
  • Index 261
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