The Ultimate Unification
1+1=2=1; to most of the world, this would seem like an egregious mathematical error. In Judaism, though, it is a simple axiom. When two people unite in marriage, they actually “become one flesh” (Genesis; 2:24). Another major notion by which Judaism does not hold, as opposed to the rest of the world, is that of falling in love at first sight. To be more exact, according to Judaism, marriage works in the following way: you find the right life-partner, a process that can be rather arduous, you marry the chosen one, you work on yourself in order to make the marriage work, and then you fall in love. Of course, one burning question remains: how do you find your soul-mate?
Finding Your One and Only
When seeking your future husband or wife, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself when assessing whether they are the right person for you:
Do you want the same things in life? Roughly half of all couples in America get divorced. We see, then, that there are only two options for married people: to grow together, or separately. Fifty or so years are a long time, so you need to make sure that you have similar goals in life. This, of course, does not mean that you have to agree on everything; it is perfectly alright to have dissimilar tastes in music, food, movies, books, clothes, etc. But when it comes to deal-breakers such as the type of education you want for your kids and the life you want to lead, it is advisable to want the same things.
Do you trust the other person? Try your best to decide, based on meetings with the potential partner, if he or she is someone you trust emotionally; can you open up to them? will you be able to express your feelings without being afraid of terrible consequences? Make sure there is an emotional compatibility.
How does he or she treat their environment? One of the most important, if not the most important, things to look for in a partner is an ability to give. Investigate how they treat their friends and family; do they treat them lovingly or unkindly? Even watching them interact with waiters, cab-drivers, and so on as this can be somewhat of an indication of their disposition and inclination, or disinclination, to give.
Do you intend to “fix” anything in that person after the wedding? Many people make a common mistake; they believe that, after they get married, they will be able to change their partner and be rid their flaws. This is a big mistake. While working on our shortcomings and flaws is one of our greatest duties in life, we cannot base our decision to marry somebody on the premise that they will “eventually live up to what I have in mind.” If you are not willing to marry them right now, there is a good chance that they are not the right spouse for you.
One of the most important parts of a Jewish wedding is the signing of the Ketubah. The Ketubah is a legal document, often recognized in secular law and by extension in a secular court, which details the obligations a groom has to his bride. During the Chuppah ceremony, the text of the Ketubah is read and then handed to the bride by the groom. Ketubah in Hebrew means “written” and refers to the text of the document.
Although this document is widely used and there are tremendous variations in the text, there is no obligation of a Ketubah. In fact, there is little mention of the obligations in the Torah. However, the Ketubah is an ancient Jewish tradition, dating back to the Babylonian Exile. In fact, it is actually the first recorded example of a pre-nuptial agreement! The traditional text is attributed to Rabbi Shimon Ben Shetah, the head of the Sanhedrin, or Rabbinical Court, in the Second Century BCE.
In following suit that Jewish ritual objects are often beautified to show how the commandments are beloved to us, the Ketubah is often ornate and resembles a work of art. Amongst the Chassidic and Ultra-Orthodox circles, the Ketubah is legal contract which is signed and put away; thus, it is simple and not elaborate in any way. However, amongst almost every other community, the Ketubah is made ornate and is often beautiful enough to be artwork displayed in the house. Regardless , it’s very common for Sefardim to decorate their Ketubot more than Ashkenazim, who leave their Ketubot more plain.
There are different texts for the Ketubah, which range from the extensive traditional text which details all responsibilities of the groom to modern texts which skip most of the obligations and summarize the obligations. The text usually varies by the religious level of the couple. Similarly, The amount of decoration also varies, however, this is according to the couple’s taste and tradition. If you are overwhelmed by the choices and options available, you should consult with your Rabbi, who often will tell you which text to use.
When picking out a design for a Ketubah, you can pick any design that speaks to you. If you would like to keep to your traditions, you can find designs that are traditional in nature and reflect your families’ origins. However, you can also pick out something original, such as a beach sunset, a rain forest, or the city of Jerusalem. In addition, you can place verses from the Torah or Psalms around the text and with in the surrounding artwork. It is very common to use verses from Shir HaShirim, the Song of Songs, such as “I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me,”, etc. In general, a less ornate Ketubah will cost less. However, an artist will charge more for an ornate Ketubah.
The Wedding Ceremony
The Talmud teaches us that on their wedding day, the bride’s and groom’s sins are all expunged, and they are forgiven for whatever wrong they have done. For this reason, the wedding day is also called “a minor yom kippur,” and it is customary for many to fast during this day.
The wedding ceremony begins with a kabbalat panim, a pre-chuppah reception, at which refreshments, wine and hors d’oeuvres are served. The bride sits on a designated chair, also known as the “kallah chair,” which is highly ornate and regal. While on the chair, the bride is constantly kept company by friends, family and guests who come to congratulate her. In some traditions it is customary for the groom to deliver a discourse on the importanc and mystical meaning of marriage.
The biggest moment, the chuppah, or the wedding canopy, is preceded by the badeken ritual. The groom is led to the bride by his family and friends, and then veils his bride’s face. We perform this ceremony in remembrance of Rebecca, who modestly covered her face upon meeting her groom Isaac.
While after the chuppah everybody rejoices, dances and eats, the moment of the chuppah is usually marked by formality.The chuppah ceremony, we believe, is graced by the Divine Presence, so it is appropriate for the guests to not engage in conversation and also be immersed in this holy moment. Under the chuppah, the groom betrothes the bride by giving her a ring, and then the Ketubah, a marriage contract, is read aloud. The sheva brachos, or seven blessings, are then recited, followed by the groom’s breaking of the glass. At that moment, the bride and groom are tied in an eternal matrimonial bond.
After the Wedding…
Many people wake up one day, not long after their wedding night, to the dismal reality that their spouse is not exactly what they imagined them to be. In fact, they are far from it. What went wrong? They went about the right process of finding the right partner; they asked them all the right questions; they watched them kindly interact with their own family and friends; everything seemed perfect. This is a natural occurrence. Naturally, when we live with someone, we discover things we do not like about them, things of which we were blissfully unaware prior to marrying them. The important thing is to not do anything rash, like panicking or, God forbid, walking out on the other person. Note that, perhaps, you need to work on yourself and try to guage the optimal ways to bring out the best in your life partner. Remember that this happens to most people, and that if you and your spouse decided to get married, and you went about making this decision right way, the difficulties you are facing can either break your marriage, God forbid, or make it that much stronger. The choice is yours.