I realized that I haven’t posted anything on marriage in awhile, making my tag line an outright lie. So, here you go:
We went to a wedding this weekend for our nephew (wow, that makes us sound incredibly old). It was a lovely wedding, our very first time attending a Jewish ceremony. All the traditions were intriguing and touching, but one particular thing that the rabbi said really struck me.
Apparently, according to Jewish law, the couple does not have to be present at the ceremony for the marriage to be valid. The bride and groom sign an agreement in private with the rabbi and their parents, just prior to the wedding. The ceremony itself is all about presenting proof of this agreement to their extended family and friends. The document can be presented with or without the couple in attendance.
In fact, the rabbi said that we, as the witnesses, were the ones that had to be in attendance. He said “you are not passive in this ceremony. Your presence is what makes the marriage real and binding under Jewish law.” When he said those words, there was a visible change in the posture of the guests, and in their faces. It was a general feeling, I believe, of being honored.
Our presence mattered at their wedding. And in the same way, our presence matters in the lives and in the marriages of our friends and families. We bear witness to the truth of each others’ relationships; we hold each other accountable to the promises we’ve made to our spouses and children; we make ourselves available, by our presence, to encourage and admonish and strengthen each other as we walk through life together.
What an honor.