The Marriage Metaphor of Shavuot

by Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak,, May 31, 2006

The festival of Shavuot (June 1-3, 2006) employs a metaphor for the relationship between God and the Jewish People called "marriage," symbolized by referring to the Torah as the Ketubah - a written marriage covenant. God and the Jews are symbolically married! Our definition of marriage is not covered by Congress's badly named Marriage Protection Amendment, nor are the symbolic marriages of Catholic religious orders.

Historically, religious marriages of all kinds exist with no reference to what civil authorities ordain.

In the traditional Ketubah, the families of the bride and groom would negotiate what practical arrangements were supplied to the marriage - pots, linens, trust funds, apprenticeship, etc. The religious significance was framed by the actual ceremony under the Huppah and the lived-out relationship of the marriage partners. Over time, Judaism has sought to emphasize equality and love as the religious significance of marriage.

When Jews agreed to register marriages with civil authorities in the modern world, the authority of religion and the authority of the state were separated. In the event of a divorce the financial details of divorces required the state's authorities and then religious expression. The religious meaning of marriage was the purview of Judaism but the material issues were adjudicated by the state. That is what we call the Enlightenment "deal."

At this time, the Senate's attempt to legislate "marriage" by a constitutional amendment is an imposition of a narrow and sectarian definition by right-wing Christian activists . The amendment is also an expression of power by the majority that does not respect minority views.

TOPIC: LGBTQ Rights > Marriage Equality