Marriage & Community

In entering into marriage, a couple takes on new responsibilities for the Jewish community and its future.

Print this page Print this page

As with many lifecycle and other ritual events in Judaism, community is a vital aspect of marriage, despite the inherently private relationship that a wedding celebrates. In the following article, Rabbi Lamm offers a traditional view of the role of community in marriage. Reprinted from The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage by permission of Jonathan David Publishers.

Marriage is Basic Unit of Jewish Community

The non-Jewish practice of celibacy reflects a philosophy of withdrawal from the real world. Jewish marriage is the decision to confront the challenge of the real world. The Jew, when he marries, enters not only marriage, but the world--the world of the Jewish community, of concern for the survival of the Jewish people, and of care and responsibility for total strangers. As a man-wife unit, the married couple has a new voice.

Historically, the family-oriented Jewish community, which experienced very few divorces and virtually no abandonments, gave little consideration to the opinions of single people. When God became a partner at the wedding, and a new Jewish home was created, an overriding significance was added. In some communities this is still demonstrated by the groom's donning, for the first time, a tallit (prayer shawl).

The requirement of a minyan at the wedding (the quorum of 10 that is the smallest unit of the Jewish social structure) is an important indication of the social significance of marriage.

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik describes how Maimonides differentiates three friendship categories (haver, companion, associations) within marriage. First is haver le'davar, a utilitarian association that depends on reciprocal usefulness. When the usefulness disappears, the bond of "love" dissolves (batel davar, batel ahavah). Second, is haver le'daagah, someone with whom to share sorrows, troubles, and also joys. We need this in order to lighten our load. Joys are multiplied and sorrows are divided when they are shared. Third is haver le'deah, a joint dedication to common goals. Both dream of realizing great ideals, with a readiness to sacrifice for their attainment.

Marriage must at least partake of the first and second friendship levels, the physical and psychological aspects of joint partnership. But if the partners are truly haverim and their union is hibbur (a joint partnership), they form a community of commitment.

Marital Love Creates the Jewish Future

Love seeks eternity, sanctity, rootedness in a transcendent power. True lovers cannot endure in a hastily-put-together arrangement. Love will not be fulfilled until it reaches that ultimate moment, the total commitment of marriage.

Love is a sacred trust. The description of the relationship of bride and groom preserved in the blessing at the wedding service is reim ahuvim (beloved friends).

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Rabbi Maurice Lamm

Maurice Lamm is the author of many books, including The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning. He is the president of the National Institute for Jewish Hospice, and Professor at Yeshiva University's Rabbinical Seminary in New York, where he holds the chair in Professional Rabbinics. For years he served as rabbi of Beth Jacob Congregation, Beverly Hills, CA.