Marriage & God

As part of God's creation, Jewish marriage creates a spiritual connection between human beings and with God.

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This theme is repeated at every Jewish marriage. The seven nuptial blessings speak of paradise regained, the miracle of God's creation, and the creation of man and woman, so that mankind might endure. The sixth blessing refers to marriage in the scheme of creation: "Make these beloved companions as happy as were the first human couple in the Garden of Eden." The joy of the Creator's blessing is invoked at the inception of every Jewish home.

God Is a Partner

If God created man, woman, and their marriage relationship; and if the creation of man and woman is good and marriage a blessing; then God is a conscious, albeit silent, partner in the marriage. Thus the ideal Jewish marriage is a triangle composed of two human beings and their Creator.

Rabbi Joshua ben Korha said that man at first was called Adam to indicate his natural constitution--flesh and blood (dam). But when woman was created, the two were referred to as fiery (esh)--living, dynamic beings. God insinuated Himself into the marriage, then added two letters of his own name, Y and H, to the names of man and woman. He inserted the Y into man's name, turning esh (fire) into i-Y-sh (ish, man); and H into woman's name, making i-sha-H (ishah, woman). The Chronicles of Yerahmeel (6:16) comment on this: "If they walk in My ways and observe My commandments, behold My name will abide with them and deliver them from all trouble. But if not, I will take the letters of My name from them, so that they will revert to esh and esh, fire consuming fire." Hence with God as a partner, marriage is a blessing, ish and ishah.

Without God, it can become esh, an inferno where man and woman devour each other. Jewish marriage is therefore naturally sanctified by God. From this concept of God's involvement in marriage, there flow new insights and obligations that married people often ignore. For example, if one partner is unfaithful, it is not just a marital problem; it shatters the fundamental unit of creation. In most cases of adultery, the religious court is instructed to issue a divorce even against their will. The couple may forgive a violation of their personal integrity, but they have no right to forgive their assault upon God's integrity and His participation in the marriage.

The moral conscience of the Jew was sometimes strict to the point of grief, and the rabbis were painfully reluctant to pronounce the harsh decree, but no whisper of scandal was permitted to besmirch the name of marriage, or any of its three partners. Accordingly, the sages ruled that lewdness was not allowed even in the privacy of the bedroom, because such behavior offends the presence of God.

This code of behavior based on the appreciation of the divine creation of marriage and God's active presence within it keeps the strict purity of the Jewish home. It is a code that originated in Jewish law, was hallowed by centuries of Jewish observance, and is based upon the very real premise of God as a partner to every Jewish marriage.

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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.