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follow-up question of: "marriage as legal contract"


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Iyyar 24, 5777
I read on the internet about Jewish marriage but can’t find any writings on how effectively there is a legal difference with a civil marriage, so I have to draw my own conclusions. You say that Jewish marriage is more serious than civil laws so you are comparing and being aware of the differences between both modes of being married. Please, tell me how can Jewish laws effectively obligate both parties to invest time and effort? How can one determine what goes on in a marriage and who invests time and effort and who doesn’t? It’s my word against the spouse. I suppose that within a Jewish marriage, the rabbi will be the judge of this, to the best of his perceptive abilities to see what is going on. What if the other party does not want to share any private matters with a local rabbi or maybe even lies about issues or refuses even to come to the rabbi’s office? Or again, it is up to the rabbi’s perceptive abilities to see this as well and advice the offended party what to do next? It seems that one difference is that within civil marriage, marriage is between two people and any marriage counselor is not either obligated to be consulted, nor to be obeyed, nor has any legal power to execute a divorce. But in a Jewish marriage, the rabbi is a part of the marriage with the rights/powers that a marriage counselor does not have. In this case a marriage not only is obligating but also protective (and educational) through the services of a rabbi. Am I right about this? The other obvious difference is that the system of measurement of what is right and what is wrong cannot be the same for a marriage counselor in comparison to a rabbi. The rabbi has religious education plus knowledge of marriage and maybe even psychology. The marriage counselor is not obligated to have religious knowledge and so most don’t have and this makes the whole difference in the world. I suppose when a problem arises the married couple goes to their local rabbi who advises them who is right and wrong and what should they do. What if the party who is wrong does not act on what was demanded by the rabbi and the spouse? Even for this, the dispute might be a minor or more serious issue so not everything will end in divorce. This leaves the room for the party who is right to measure if the dispute is a reason to divorce or decide to put up with things as they are. Does the rabbi also advise the inflicted party to divorce or they leave this decision up to the party who feels is being wronged? The one who is wronged, is also caught up in other situations, and may not be able to see things rationally as a rabbi can. From what I have read in civil marriage laws, the judge who has a couple handing in a divorce, will first try to make peace between them and resolve the issue that led to a divorce request. I am guessing that this works in theory not in practice and so people simply divorce. So that would be another difference between a civil and Jewish marriage. Some thoughts where I am wrong or missing, will be useful.
In general the beit-din obligates the couple to go for counseling and bridging the gap, but the main point is the good will of both. It's important to stress that Judaism is a "package deal" where family life is greatly affected by the Shabbat family atmosphere, family purity, prohibitions on pornography, diligent study of Torah, having many children, strictly adhering to the laws not to hurt anyone (and how much more so, your spouse), not to speak bad about others, etc. etc. One cannot examine any one issue of Judaism and understand it properly without relating to the "package deal".
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