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Words and concepts change their meaning over time and as a happily married woman I am truly grateful for this. What is this definition of marriage that allegedly goes back to time immemorial which Wolf is trying to defend by keeping it as the sole privilege of the heterosexual world? According to Wolf the fact that marriage comes with the expectation of rearing children provides its primary function. Our ancestor Jacob knew this and rather efficiently managed to use 4 wives to father his brood, does this mean that polygamy is in fact more akin to Wolf’s precious image of marriage than a monogamous same sex relationship? Perhaps it is the definition of marriage summed up by the Orthodox ketubah which Wolf is alluding to: the traditional ketubah requires two witnesses to sign in order to testify that the groom has “acquired” the bride in the prescribed manner and that he has agreed to support her. There is no mutual agreement, the bride simply holds onto her ketubah as a surety of her rights and her husband’s duties. Even though many Jewish couples, for the sake of tradition, continue to use the traditional Aramaic, legalistic wording of the traditional ketubah, I wonder how many of them are truly entering into a marriage based on duty and acquisition, it simply isn’t how we define marriage today. So whose definition of marriage is Wolf trying to preserve?
I feel strongly that most human beings are not programmed to want to be on their own and it is this that we have articulated from time immemorial through the image of the creation of Eve as a companion to Adam. It is this that is in my mind when I bless my bnei mitzvah students as they stand on the bimah on their special Shabbat. In my misheberach I bless them with a life of torah, chuppah and maasim tovim – Jewish life, marriage and being worthwhile members of society. Yet I have no preconceived idea of what their partner will look like, no sense of whether they will be tall or short, rich or poor, male or female. Those things are not for me to question as they go through life they will make those decisions for themselves. What I am blessing them with is that they will find someone who they want to share their future with, hoping that they will find ways of passing onto future generations all that is important to them and what I am praying for is that they will feel confident in their choices and that nobody will deride them for the decisions they make. Furthermore there is the eternal hope that nothing and no one will stand in their way of creating the future home that they see for themselves.
Perhaps when the word marriage becomes one that can be used for any couple making a loving commitment to one another we can stop labelling people according to the choice of partner they make.Opinion: This isn't about homosexuality - it's about marriage (part two) by Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers