A large number of rituals, customs, and laws prevail concerning marriage
among Jews, The ritual of marriage is extremely holy. Along with celebrating
the birth of a child it is the most joyous of all events in Jewish ritual life. A
Jewish marriage must be performed by an ordained rabbi. In the United
States, an effort should be made to secure the services of a Jewish chaplain.
Otherwise, one should be in touch with the nearest organized Jewish commu-
nity. Overseas, the closest Jewish chaplain should be asked in to counsel the
couple and to perform the marriage ceremony. A layleader may NOT, under
any circumstances, perform a Jewish wedding ceremony.
Much controversy concerning interfaith marriages between Jews and
non-Jews is in effect in the Jewish community. Most rabbis will not officiate
at an interfaith marriage. The rabbis who do perform interfaith marriages
usually change the content of the ceremony to fit the situation. If you are
asked about the religious legitimacy or appropriateness of an interfaith
marriage involving a Jew, refer the individual to a Jewish chaplain or a
civilian rabbi for an answer.
In many segments of the Jewish community, divorce is more than a
secular matter. Traditionalists especially require that a divorce recognized by
the Jewish faith group be obtained, particularly if one expects to marry
again. The divorce document is called a get and can only be obtained
through a rabbi. Historically, the necessity of permitting divorce was recog-
nized, but it has always been discouraged in favor of trying to resolve the
problems afflicting the marriage.
Funeral and Burial
The purpose of the Jewish funeral and burial is both to honor the
deceased and to provide comfort to the mourners. The funeral is simple and
prescribed by Jewish law. Burial usually occurs within 24 hours after death.
Following the burial, close relatives observe a mourning period (Shiva) for
7 days. A 7-day memorial candle is often lit following the burial. It is not
uncommon for a Jewish mourner to go unshaven for a week or more follow-
ing the death of a close relative. When circumstances permit, Jewish
personnel should be granted leave for this period of mourning. In a lesser
degree, the remainder of the first 30 days after death constitutes a mourning
period; for the father or mother of the deceased, the whole year following
the death is so observed. The anniversary of a death according to the Jewish
calendar is called jahrzeitand is always observed as a day of remembrance.
At sunset, the evening preceding that day, a memorial candle (or electric
light, if need be) is lighted and kept burning for 24 hours. When possible,
those observing jahrzeit should attend services and recite kaddish, as noted
previously. A memorial prayer (Yizkor) for departed relatives is said on the
following four occasions each year: Yom Kippur, the eighth day of Sukkot,
Simchat Atzerethf the eighth day of Pesah, and the second day of Shvuot.