Lessons in Memory of my brother Dale Alan Konigsburg
June 21, 2004- Number 5764-32
Wedding 1 – Who Can Marry and Who Can Not
Marriage is one of the most sacred institutions in Judaism. It is called, in Hebrew, “Kiddushin” for through marriage the marital bond is sanctified, it becomes not just a bond between a husband and wife, but also a bonding of both to G-d. It is the relationship that makes us most like G-d, in that through marriage, creation of life becomes possible. In addition, because Judaism is a religion that depends on strong families, our faith has an abiding interest in keeping marriage strong. Without strong marriages, the very foundation of Judaism can be weakened.
To create strong marriages, Judaism has many rules and regulations to protect Jewish interests in marriage. We have a tendency to see marriage as the love between two people. But marriage is more than the relationship. It carries with it the hopes and dreams of a family, of a community and of the religion. In the same way that civil law regulates marriage to prevent abuses and to create a strong society, so too Judaism speaks to what is permitted and not permitted in marriage. The first rules are over who we may or may not marry.
Jewish Law forbids the marriage between two people: 1. Who are ancestor and descendant; 2. A brother or sister or a half-brother or half-sister; 3. While civil law prohibits the marriage between an uncle and a niece or a aunt and nephew, Judaism does permit this. In addition, there are other forbidden unions. One can not marry any person who is already married (a divorce is required first);One can not marry a person who was born from a marriage that was either incestuous or adulterous. A man can not remarry a woman he has divorce after she has married another man who then died or divorced her. (This is to prevent women from being traded between men as if they were objects. It is an anti-prostitution law by the Rabbis); Jewish Law forbids the marriage of a Kohen to a divorced woman or a convert. The Law and Standards Committee of the Conservative Movement has permitted these marriages under certain circumstances. A person who divorced because of adultery can not marry the person with whom she had the adulterous union.
Judaism does not see all forbidden marriages as equal. Some are just plain invalid and if one were to disregard the law, the marriage would be null and void. No divorce is necessary since the marriage is invalid and not binding. Other marriages are also forbidden but not illegal. In these cases if one were to disregard the law, then Judaism would accept that a marriage had taken place but would require an immediate divorce.
Polygamy was once permitted in Judaism but since the year 1000 CE, it has been forbidden in Judaism. In fact, from Rabbinic times, there were few who had more than one wife and the feeling of scholars is that in the year 1000 CE, Rabbenu Gershom, who published this anti-polygamy law, was only stating what has in fact been the practice for hundreds of years. There is a provision for a man to resort to polygamy but in today’s world, it would only apply in the case where the first wife is mentally ill and unable to accept the get from her husband.
Next week: Wedding 2: Engagement
Beryl Glansberg writes about last weeks lesson on Blessings:
“Blessings could also apply to relationships that we have with other human beings as well as God. I think that if you are not thankful to your family, loved ones and those you come in contact with, blessing them every day, you are accepting a gift without acknowledging it. This could be perceived as stealing also. Many times Jews are under a misperception that you pray to God and cultivate that relationship, while the treasures and blessings of people you come in contact with go unacknowledged”
We are far more likely to say “Thank you” to people we meet than we are to show proper gratitude to G-d. But Beryl is correct, we need to show our appreciation for all that we have in this world, not just the material things, but our relationships as well. Remember that human beings are created in G-d’s image and deserve the same respect we give to G-d. Whether we are “using” this world without thanking (blessing) G-d or “using” people, without showing proper gratitude, we are indeed stealing from others for our own personal needs.