What is necessary is an understanding of what Jewish marriage is all about. It’s not about legitimacy of their children. Even if they don’t get married the baby will not be considered illegitimate according to Jewish law. He or she, however, will be lacking being raised in the holiness of a Jewish home.
What I mean is, that a Jewish home, as described by our Torah, is a holy place. It is compared to the holy Temple in Jerusalem, where the Divine Presence, or Shechinah, rested. Much of this holiness stems from the holiness of the Jewish marriage.
When presenting the ring at the wedding ceremony, the groom recites the statement “behold you are mekudeshes to me, in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel.” “Mekudeshes” comes from the root “kadosh,” which has two meanings:
- One meaning is holy or sanctified. Through this union the couple become sanctified.
- The other meaning is “separate.” By accepting the ring, the Kallah becomes separated from her availability to be intimate with anyone other than her husband.
Separateness fosters holiness, as the intimate relations between husband and wife are a very holy, spiritual experience. A couple cannot truly experience the spiritual exhilaration coupled with the physical enjoyment of intimacy, until they have become consecrated to each other through the institution of marriage, the ultimate separation from everyone else. Marriage is called a “bris” or covenant, which excludes all others outside the covenant. Only then is there true commitment, love and intimacy.
What you need to try to get across to the couple is that they are, albeit unwittingly, denying themselves the ultimate level of true love and intimacy. What they have is only a taste of the real thing. Their union is lacking the spiritual side, the Shechinah that only dwells in that union when it is formed “in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel.” This fosters true love, dedication. It is the kind of home which is ideal for raising a Jewish child in a life of holiness and stability.
There is another most important factor that we will discuss in the next column. That is that marriage, as a committed relationship, is vital for the lasting bond between the couple as well as for the healthy development of their child.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried