The Marriage of a Conforming Jew to a Non-Conforming Jew

The history of the Jewish people is full of beautiful stories of couples in which a full Jew married a convert. Moses married Zipporah, the daughter of Jethro, Priest of Midian. Boaz married Ruth the Moabite.

These marriages worked because the wives were fully committed to every letter of the Jewish Law (Halachah) from the very beginning. We learn that Zipporah saved her husband’s life (Moses) by circumcising her son, Gershom (Exodus 4:26.). Ruth’s commitment led to her being the one of the fore-mothers of the Davidic dynasty.

In today’s world, many a Jew has no idea about Judaism. Many Jewish children attend local non-Jewish schools, never learn to read Hebrew and, at best, have a Bar Mitzvah/Bat Mitzvah party, devoid of any Jewish instruction. Then by luck and fate, they meet Mr./Ms./Dr. right, who happens to be a religious Jew/Jewess. Apart from the emotional delight in meeting one’s counterpart, the whole religious question may be more than bewildering and frightening for the non-conforming partner. Just like one does not anticipate that both partners will have the same qualifications, training and hobbies, one should not expect them to be religious-equivalents.

Luckily, today, in the information age, one can access YouTube videos on almost any subject, find Wikipedia and other online articles to overcome one’s obvious ignorance and can catch up on many issues, rather quickly, relative to similar situations in previous generations.

Here is a simple outline of a Jewish Wedding Ceremony- allow yourself to enjoy it, in practice!

An orthodox Jewish wedding is a ceremony between a male and female Jew, who are allowed to be married according to the Jewish Law (halachah). The local Beth Din or Rabbi will meet the couple and set a suitable date, before which the bride preferably undergoes purity coaching and has a pre-nuptial visit to a Mikveh (purity pool). According to some traditions, the bride and groom fast on their wedding day.

The wedding ceremony is an enactment of an agreement, set out on a wedding agreement (Ketubah- in Aramaic) in which the groom commits himself to provide the bride with sustenance, clothing and her other needs. This agreement is witnessed by two Jewish Law-keeping male witnesses (Edim).

The actual ceremony has two Jewish legal major parts: betrothal/sanctification (Erusin/Kiddushin) and marriage (nissuin). The former prohibits the bride to all other men and the latter allows the couple to each other.

First, the groom checks that the bride is his intended and covers her with her veil (bedekken- Yiddish) and the wedding ceremony starts by the groom being brought to stand under a nuptial canopy (chuppah). Thereafter, the veiled bride is brought to the canopy.

The Rabbi blesses over a first cup of wine and makes the betrothal blessings. The bride and groom drink some of the wine. The groom then places the wedding ring on the bride’s right index finger and recites “Behold, you are betrothed unto me with this ring, according to the Law of Moses and Israel”. The witnesses bear witness to this act and say “Betrothed she is (mekudeshet)!”.

The wedding agreement (Ketubah) is then read out and signed by the two witnesses.

Seven blessings of marriage (nissuin) are then read out by the Rabbi and/other religious male attendees (often Rabbis and grandfathers of the bride/groom). A second cup of wine is drunk and the groom and bride partake thereof.

The groom then stamps on a glass to break it in memory of the shattered Temple of Jerusalem. The crowd typically shouts “Mazal tov” (congratulations) and the married couple are led with music to a secluded room, where they are a couple for the first time and can break their fast.

Mazal Tov and Well Done!

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