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Mitzvot and Customs

Mitzvot and Customs

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Marriage significantly changes life's dynamics for the newlyweds. Married life ideally brings stability, love, contentment and fulfillment unimaginable outside the framework of matrimony. But marriage also brings many new responsibilities. Then again, perhaps the above feelings are all a direct result of the responsibilities — a life of "freedom" which is bereft of responsibility may be temporarily appealing, but rarely proves to be the path to satisfaction.

Marriage changes all the dynamics on the soul level as wellAs is always the case, our physical lives mirror a higher spiritual reality. Marriage changes all the dynamics on the soul level as well. As is explained at length in the teachings of Kabbalah, beneath the chupah (wedding canopy) the bride and groom are empowered with the loftiest of divine blessings and energies, and their most powerful and transcendent soul powers are now readily accessible. One result of this heightened spiritual state is the addition of certain "mitzvot" (observances) that are unique to married persons. There are also a number of traditional Jewish customs (minhagim) that are observed only after marriage, as they reflect on the special spiritual status of the married man or woman.1

Family Purity

There is nothing more holy in this world, nothing more precious to its Creator, than the union of a man and a woman. It is, after all, the fountain of life. What could be more precious than life? and what can be more holy than the act in which we most emulate our Creator in creating life? Furthermore, we are taught that the first, pristine creation of a human being was a male and female as a single whole. That is the way we exist in G‑d's mind. The union of man and woman embodies that divine wholeness and perfection.

In the Torah, G‑d revealed to us the manner in which we access and preserve the sanctity of married life, and infuse our most intimate moments with holiness and purpose. This is achieved through the mikvah experience. Once a month, following a period of complete cessation of intimacy, the woman immerses herself in the holy waters of the mikvah, which then allows the couple to physically reunite in an even closer and renewed way.

In addition to sanctifying their marital life, the monthly period of separation allows the couple to work on and enhance their verbal and communication skills, their soul connection, so that their relationship is never reduced to a mere physical connection.

Click here for more information on Family Purity.

Bringing Children into the World

Endowed with exalted soul powers, the couple is now ready to undertake the task of rearing childrenEndowed with blessings and exalted soul powers, the couple is now ready to undertake the difficult of task of rearing children. Biologically speaking, anyone can be a parent; but creating a healthy, wholesome environment conducive for children to grow and thrive, materially as well as spiritually, requires the spiritual powers which the couple receives beneath the chupah.

The mitzvah to bear children is considered one of the greatest mitzvot of all. Indeed, it is the very first mitzvah commanded to man. Our sages talk extensively about its importance and the gravity of ignoring this obligation.

G‑d creates, and man uses the raw materials provided from Above to form, fashion and mold. In one area only, was man given the ability to create — and that is in the realm of procreation. Children give humans the ability to be G‑d-like in another sense as well; they provide otherwise finite creations the ability to become immortal. Even after the body returns to dust, the person's soul and spiritual legacy continue living — in this world as well — through the children, grandchildren, and all future descendents.

The biblical command of procreation is accomplished upon fathering a boy and a girl. However, our sages tell us that "adding a Jewish soul is equal to building an entire world," and therefore one should not abstain from procreation even after satisfying the biblical minimum.2

Shabbat and Holiday Candle Lighting

After marriage, women begin lighting two candles in honor of the Shabbat and Jewish holidays, instead of the one candle kindled before marriage.

Illuminating the home with the glow of Torah and mitzvot is primarily the role of the woman — the tone-setter of the household. This is reflected in the woman's obligation and privilege to light the Shabbat and Jewish holiday candles. While Jewish women and girls are encouraged to light the candles even before marriage, their mandate to illuminate substantially increases after marriage.

Click here for more information on Shabbat Candle Lighting.

Hair Covering

Illuminating the home is primarily the role of the woman — the tone-setter of the householdJewish law requires married women to cover their hair when in public. Aside for the profound mystical reasons for this practice, it serves to safeguard the woman's privacy, creating a personal, sensual space reserved for her husband. The plethora of human-hair stylish wigs available on the market ensures that this tradition does not compromise the woman's beauty or appearance.

Click here for more information on this topic.

In-Law Relations

One is required to respect parents-in-law much as one is obligated to exhibit respect for one's own parents. Husband and wife are considered "one body" and thus one spouse's parents are, to a certain extent, considered the other's parents too. Practically, too, a cordial and respectful attitude towards in-laws is an indispensable part of respecting one's spouse and his/her feelings.

Tallit

In most Ashkenazi communities, men begin wearing a tallit (prayer shawl) after marriage. The tallit is reflective of the Divine "Encompassing Light" which is first manifest in the lives of a man and woman after marriage. See Ring, Round and Roof for more information on this subject.

(Sephardim and Jews of Germanic origin don the tallit before marriage as well.)

Click here for more information on Tallit.

[It is chassidic custom for men to wear a gartel (sash) around the waist while praying. Amongst certain chassidic circles, this, too, begins after marriage.]

Footnotes
1.
Some of the mitzvot listed below continue even in the event of divorce or widowhood. They are: lighting two Shabbat and holiday candles, wearing a tallit (and gartel), and hair covering.
2.
This mitzvah should not be confused with a man's biblical conjugal duties—which continue even after bearing a son and daughter, and even when the wife is pregnant or post-menopausal.
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Anonymous XXXX, PA October 22, 2012

Wedding Anniversary Are wedding anniversaries celebrated? If so, when? Are marked years, i.e. 25th, 50th, 60th, 75th, etc. Reply

Anonymous xx, Australia May 17, 2012

Orthodox and Reform Judaism Why are some of these mitzvot only followed by Orthodox Jews and not reform Jews? Such as the wearing of a wig. Does the breaking of these mitzvot affect the covenantal relationship with God?
Thankyou Reply

Yehuda Shurpin for Chabad.org October 23, 2011

Re: Biblical reference The commandment to "be fruitful and multiply" is in Genesis 1:28 "And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and rule over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the sky and over all the beasts that tread upon the earth. " Reply

carl Loeber San Jose, CA October 22, 2011

can you direct me to the Biblical reference ? the obligation mentioned in footnote 2 above .. Reply

Anonymous Ny, USA April 6, 2011

Gartel I am just wondering Can you wear a gartel befor Bar Mitzvah? Reply

Menachem Posner for Chabad.org November 12, 2010

To Reuben There are a number of significances associated with the gartel. Allow me to share them:

A. Jewish tradition (Shulchan Aruch 74) requires that the lower half of the body (reserved for animalistic functions) be separated for the upper half (namely the heart and mind). In ancient times, when common clothing consisted of a simple loose robe, it was necessary to tie a belt around one's waist to insure that ones heart was out of view of the lower half.

B. We read in Amos 4:12, “Prepare yourself toward the L-rd your G-d.” Our sages infer from here that one must dress himself up before facing his Maker in prayer. Part of this preparation is to gird oneself with a special belt.

C. The gartel is symbolic of the belt which the priests would wear during their service in the Temple in Jerusalem. It is for this reason that Chabad Chassidim are particular to wear their Gartels at elbow height, just like the priests of old. Reply

reuben miami beach, florida November 12, 2010

why do we use a gartel and what does it mean? Reply