Friday, May 16, 2008

Acquisition Of A Wife Is Not Ownership ("The Jewish Way")

Comparing patriocentricity to the practice of Orthodox Judaism according to Rabbi Maurice Lamm in “The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage

In this passage, Lamm points out that no person owns another person but that the use of the language concerning marriage involves the change in status from an unmarried woman who was available to all men to status as a married woman, eshet ish through redemption of marriage by setting it apart through the law given to Moses. The only aspect of the word “acquire” that translates in this sense involves the sanctity of marriage and not sanctification of the woman herself (as this is denied both in both the spirit and letter of Jewish law). Jewish law provides the woman these rights regardless of her marital status, and the Jewish tradition supports that she is not property and retains personal autonomy.

From Pgs 151-153

We can understand the Talmudic Rabbi’s concept of marriage not only by what they derived from the comparison between property acquisition and marital acquisition, but also by what they rejected in it. Generally speaking, there are two concepts of property ownership: (1) an owner has the right only to use the property to achieve his ends; and (2) an owner exerts total power over the property. Philosopher Morris Raphael Cohen once defined property as nothing more than the power to exclude others... One interpretation of the kichah, therefore, implies exclusivity. When a man “takes” a wife, he chooses one woman and, with her consent, makes her his life-long partner. She has no other husband. The idea of exclusivity is derived from the concept of property ownership...

The rabbinic application of kichah to temple property is basic to an understanding of Jewish marriage. If we were to derive the lesson from civil property transfer alone, we could say that exclusivity is a result of ownership. A man owns his property and no one else may trespass on it. Transposed to marriage, this would imply that the wife is exclusive to husband an as a consequence of his ownership of her person. Such an idea is repugnant to Judaism. The Jewish husband does not own his wife...
All variations that compromise the integrity of a woman’s married status are violations of the sacred Jewish concept of marriage... The Torah disqualifies these options when it likens marriage to acquisition of sacred property.

At the end of this series on “The Jewish Way”:

A discussion of the true meaning of Paul's allusion to the significance of the Hebrew word for “sanctification” as it relates to marriage (Ephesians 5: 25 - 27). God sanctified marriage through the law when He delivered the law to Moses on Sinai. Christ fulfilled the law in His own flesh so that the righteous requirement of the law could be fulfilled in us through the Spirit's work of sanctification, not through works or the law. The Hebrew word for marriage itself carried an element of the proto evangelian within it – the promise of Christ's fulfillment of the law as the embodiment of our sanctification. The history and practice of Judaism, according to Lamm, strongly denies all such vain imagination and suggestion of the patriocentric concept that husbands sanctify their wives.

In the next post:

A woman of consenting age bears full autonomy throughout the process of betrothal and marriage.

Copyrighted material quoted here
under fair use for educational purposes from
by Maurice Lamm. San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row, 1980.