My husband and I have had the merit to attend many Jewish weddings. Some of those festivities abided strictly by Jewish wedding traditions, other did not. No matter the nature of the goings on under any particular chuppah, matrimonial canopy, all of those events were joyous ones. Jewish marriage, after all, marks more than the connecting of a man and a woman; each Jewish marriage brings the Jewish People one step closer to the World Beyond.
Whereas crass jokes have been made about the conjugal obligations of Jewish husbands, as those obligations are specified in the ketubah, the Jewish wedding document, truth be told, the physical form of attachment practiced by married Jews, elevates not only the individuals involved, but also the collective from which those individuals spring. In Judaism, we lift animal behaviors, such as eating and sleeping, bookending the consumption of food with blessings, and marking our rising and our going to bed with prayers.
So, too, do we exalt the basic human urge for physical intimacy by infusing that inclination with holiness. Unlike other religions, Judaism celebrates all aspects of personhood, sexuality included. However, we Jews codify our cravings. Per our laws, the fulfillment of the natural yearning for corporeal familiarity is exclusive to a man with his wife. We posit that the realization of the greatest human closeness ought only to take place per Torah stringencies.
On the one hand, we tout the joy of joining together as being a regular, necessary, and delightful part of married life. Whereas it might not be practical, it is legally possible, for a brand new groom and his brand new bride to fully consummate their relationship immediately after the rest of their Jewish wedding ceremony, in that room of lofty seclusion to which they vanish. No one smirks when a new couple emerges from that chamber. It doesn’t matter whether the groom initiates a lifetime of touch by placing a piece of jewelry on the arm of his beloved or if he engages her in other kinds of agreeable activities. What matters is that we Jews understand that connubial bliss is an essential part of being married and that we understand the vitality of acting on that mitzvah with immediacy.
One the other hand, it is common for well wishers to applaud the husband and his bride when they emerge from their first instance of complete privacy. Those bonds, which the new couple has begun to form, link more than that man and his wife; those bonds link the rest of us, via our habit of obedience, to G-d. That is, a newly married couples’ physical coming together brings our entire population closer to The Boss.
Consequently, every time my husband and I are fortunate enough to be guests at the weddings of our friends’ children or at the union of our own dearly loved biological or “adopted” young people, it follows that we also are fortunate enough to witness another occurrence of the Jewish People’s allegiance to The Almighty. Each time we observe a bride and groom promenading down the aisle, participating in Jewish wedding traditions, and then going into a reserved room to begin a lifetime of affection and devotion, we also are observing our own youthful passage to and from the chuppah, our own ongoing middle-aged commitment to each other, and the Jewish Nation’s never ending cleaving to Hashem.