Marriage plays an enormous role in the lives of those who follow the Greek Orthodox and Jewish faiths. Matrimony is a crucial sacrament in the Greek Orthodox Church, which describes the holy union as a “God-given gift.” The Jewish tradition also frames marriage as a crucial spiritual event, teaching that a man is “incomplete” without marrying, because the union unifies a husband and wife into a single soul. Conservative branches of both religions ban intermarriage to those outside of their faiths. However, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America clarifies that adherents may marry individuals from other Christian denominations.
Marriage is completed in two keys steps in both Greek Orthodox and Jewish law: the betrothal and then the actual wedding ceremony. In the Greek Orthodox Church, the betrothal service consists of a series of petitions, prayers, an exchange of rings and a closing prayer. Meanwhile, in Jewish tradition the kiddushin–a Hebrew term for betrothal–consists of a blessing, the groom’s gift of a ring (accompanied by a prayer) and the reading of the ketubah, a Jewish marriage contract, according to Judaism 101.
The Greek Orthodox marriage ceremony, traditionally called the Crowning Service, includes a series of prayers, a presentation of candles that the bride and groom will hold during the service and the actual “crowning,” where a priest will bless and then place wedding crowns on the heads of the bride and groom. During the second part of the Jewish wedding ceremony, the nissuin, the bride and groom stand below a canopy–symbolic of their dwelling–recite seven blessing and then drink wine. The groom then smashes a glass with his right foot, an act some say represents the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem.
The Greek Orthodox and Jewish faiths both acknowledge that sometimes a marriage can disintegrate and therefore permit divorce. Both faiths discourage the practice; however, under Jewish law, a man can technically divorce his wife for any reason he chooses, Jewish 101 reports. Jewish law states that separating couples must seek a valid civil, as well as religious, divorce. The Greek Orthodox Church similarly requires a legal and ecclesiastical divorce in order for the church to recognize the separation.
The Greek Orthodox Church does not permit polygamy, as adherents believe Paul specifically defined marriage as an institution between one man and one woman when he compared the unity of Christ and the church to a bride and bridegroom. The Torah does not forbid a Jewish man from having multiple wives and does not forbid polygamy. However, the Chabad Lubavitch Media Center reports polygamy is essentially non-existent among Jews, who generally have a negative view of the concept.
- Greek Orthodox Diocese of America: A Short Summary on the Sacrament of Marriage
- Union for Reform Judaism: Interfaith
- Judaism 101: Jewish Attitudes Toward Non-Jews
- Judaism 101: Divorce
- Chabad Lubavitch Media Center: Does Jewish Law Forbid Polygamy?
- Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America: The Stand of the Orthodox Church on Controversial Issues
- Chabad Lubavitch Media Center: The Breaking of the Glass
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