We must say yes to traditional weddings

Sometimes it seems that the relationship between synagogue and the state in Israel, with no great love lost between them, have confounded our system of ideas and lists of priorities in creating our individual and national lives.

Take the wedding: Laws dictating standards for weddings can create resentment in a society in which people are accustomed to making choices in every area. From a certain perspective, Israel’s marriage law that recognizes an Orthodox marriage is as infuriating as traffic laws that set limits on the way we drive. At the same time, each person must ask himself what the source of that anger is. 

Are these factors real and substantial, or are they nothing more than a stubborn streak of wanting to rebel against the law, simply because the law exists? Just like I don’t drive recklessly to express my displeasure with Israel’s legal system, so it should also be for marriage. We must approach the issue carefully and responsibly, without slipping into prejudice. 

In this regard, we must say “yes” to traditional weddings — not only for the future, but no less important, for the future and for the past. 

For the future this is the only way we can ensure our children will one day be able to marry other Jews from around the Jewish world. It is very easy to be drawn in by glossy talk about “other solutions” and “bypassing” the rabbinate.  

But anyone even remotely involved with marriage registration knows that validating the Jewishness of marriage applicants in Israel is getting harder all the time. The basic thing we need is to register marriage applicants at the rabbinate. Those who feel differently should ask themselves if their feelings of anger and humiliation are strong enough to put their children through hell later in life because they were feeling stubborn.  

An Orthodox wedding also takes into account the past. A person who respects himself and the roots from whence he came does not simply relegate his nation’s past into the dustbin of history.  

True, not everyone can love, identify or connect with the traditions of our forefathers. But on the other hand, there are not many ceremonies that give people the opportunity to feel like they are part of a glorious, 1,000-year-old (and more) chain.  

Do we really want to live in a world without roots? Are our weddings, during which we take sacred vows to build a family, worth no more than the latest passing trend? Do we really feel no connection to past generations that have married in the same way? 

Orthodox weddings can be relevant and connected to today as well. Some people choose or try to understand the full depth of the religious ceremony. They are often surprised to find that many of their individual and humanistic feelings find expression inside the traditional ceremony itself. 

Such a ceremony leaves room for thoughts that make it possible for couples to find in the simplest direct way things their souls were hungry for. The responsibility and obligation are embodied in the ketubah and join forces with love. 

Each of these adds to a couple’s feelings of connectedness to the Jewish nation, which finds expression in the traditional wedding blessings. Instead of detachment and alienation, the traditional wedding ceremony offers couples an entry into the holy world of matrimony in addition to the mundane standing contained within us and mentioned during the initial part of the wedding ceremony. 

It turns out, then, that there is no more reason to be embarrassed. Those who choose religious weddings choose to give expression to their Jewish identities. They choose to be connected to the past, the present and all of our Jewish future.

Rabbi David Stav is a member of the Tzohar rabbinic organization.