Religious Studies

Judaism: marriage and divorce

Family and the home are central to Jewish culture and religion.

Marriage

Marriage (kiddushin) is very important in Judaism because family and the home are thought to be great blessings.

A man without a woman is doomed to an existence without joy, without blessing, without experiencing life’s true goodness, without Torah, without protection and without peace.

Talmud

The importance of marriage is emphasised in the Torah [Torah: Law; teaching. The word Torah can be used in a narrow sense to mean the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (The Five Books of Moses) and also in a wider sense to include the whole of the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud. ]:

A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24

According to the Midrash (a collection of various Rabbinic commentaries) this is because:

God created the first human being half male, half female. He then separated the two parts to form a man and a woman.

The ceremony

The Jewish wedding ceremony is very short. The man makes a vow to the woman in which he says:

Behold, you are consecrated to me by means of this ring, according to the rituals of Moses and Israel.

Jewish wedding ceremony

Jewish wedding ceremony

A Jewish marriage takes place under a canopy (called a chupah), which represents the home that the new couple will share.

As part of the marriage the groom signs a contract (called a Ketubah) that contains his promises to his wife.

Divorce , remarriage and cohabitation

Jewish marriage is intended to be for life but it has always been accepted that sometimes things do not work out. If the marriage breaks down and divorce [Divorce: The legal ending of a marriage before the death of a spouse. ] appears to be inevitable, the man has to give his wife a get. This is a document of divorce and has to be presented at a rabbinical court (Bet Din).

If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her… he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house,

Deuteronomy 24:1

The divorce then takes place after three months to make sure that the woman is not pregnant. Without the get the couple cannot be divorced in Jewish law. After a divorce there are no restrictions on the man and woman remarrying.

It is possible for a man to refuse to get to his wife. Most Progressive Jews see this as unfair and will allow the woman to apply for a get.

The Torah [Torah: Law; teaching. The word Torah can be used in a narrow sense to mean the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (The Five Books of Moses) and also in a wider sense to include the whole of the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud. ] warns Jews about marrying outside their religion:

Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.

Deuteronomy 7:3-4

However a growing number of Jewish men and women do marry non-Jews. When this happens in an Orthodox family the father may say kaddish (the memorial prayer said at funerals) to show that his child is now dead to him.

Couples who do not have a Jewish wedding would be cohabiting [Cohabitation: Living together without being married. ] and this is not approved of.

Statistics

Total number of divorces in the UK:

YearNumber of divorcesYearNumber of divorces
196127,0001993180,000
196955,5562004167,138
1972124,9912005155,052

Total number of marriages in the UK:

YearNumber of marriagesYearNumber of marriages
1961350,0002005284,000
1991340,0002006275,140

Total number of civil marriage ceremonies in the UK:

YearNumber of marriagesPercentage of marriages
1990-47% of all marriages
2004 184,91068% of all marriages
2005 160,27065% of all marriages
Question
What reasons can you suggest for the drop in numbers in each of the tables above?
Question
What connections between the figures in each of the tables can you identify?

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