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Under a Canopy of Faith

Sara Miriam Gross

As summer weddings are back in full swing, there is a cadre of rabbis who spend their evenings at simchahs you’d probably never be invited to. Every secular couple who marries in Israel also needs a proper mesader kiddushin, and these Rabbanut-affiliated and kiruv clergy spend their nights at weddings that might look more like nightclubs – to bring even the most distant couples under the canopy k’das Moshe v’Yisrael.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Orthodox rabbis officiating at weddings where they can’t eat, dance, or even look at half the crowd?

That’s the occasional irony of the wedding scene in Israel.

Whether an Israeli Jewish couple is Orthodox, atheist, or anything in between, they must have halachic preparation and a halachic ceremony in order to receive a marriage certificate from the Israeli government. Regardless of their background, they must register at the rabbinate where their Jewish status is clarified and permission to marry is established. Brides are required to attend marriage classes that teach both outlook and practical observance and, before the ceremony, they must submit documentation that all the relevant halachic prerequisites have been fulfilled.

But just as they have carefully assembled their guest list and have painstakingly selected the hall, gown, and menu that they prefer, more and more secular couples want to choose their own rabbi as opposed to one arranged by the rabbinate.

They are looking for a compassionate and sensitive ambassador of the Torah who will bridge the gap between the unfamiliar ancient laws they are about to fulfill and the secular perspectives that they, their wedding party members, and their guests hold dear. Aware of this search, some Orthodox rabbis have even started to advertise their services, filling the ad space in secular Hebrew magazines for brides. The services offered range from approachable, friendly rabbis who will perform the traditional ceremony to those who are musically talented and will further enhance the event by singing and playing the guitar. Some rabbis receive payment, while others prefer to do this chesed solely for the sake of the mitzvah.


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