Yomin Postelnik

The Definition of Marriage

It’s amazing how quickly much of society seems ready to change the definition of an age old institution that has been at the core of its growth and development, without so much as a second thought. No societal institution has been as responsible for the growth and development of every individual, and of society as a whole, as has traditional marriage, the bedrock upon which stable children, stable families and flourishing personal and societal growth spring forth.

One must also ask whether we would be equally as unquestioning were someone to suggest changing the other age old definition that is also key to societal growth, the one that goes hand in hand with traditional marriage; namely, the definition of parenthood. If “who is a parent” is up for redefinition, might we not want to rethink the consequences of such monumental change and its effects upon children before tripping over ourselves to embrace some new found definition? Might we want to ask ourselves whether changing the definition of “parent” makes parenthood weak and meaningless prior running full speed ahead into an uncharted societal abyss?

Yet changing the definition of “marriage” is in fact an end run around changing the definition of “parenting.” In an article titled “How Same Sex Marriage Makes Orphans of Us All,” Jeff Shafer of the Alliance Defending Freedom points out the clear fact that so many others want to brush under the rug; that same-gender unions automatically rob any children raised therein of at least one natural parent – purposely so. (Hat tip – My thanks and appreciation go to Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver, an articulate defender of traditional values, for having brought this crucial article to my and others’ attention.)

Mothers and fathers bring very different skill sets to the table. Both are equally needed in the life of a child, and in profoundly different and crucial ways.

All would (or at least should) agree that mothers are absolutely crucial to the successful development of every child. If one is, Heaven forbid, not around, a substituting caring woman can try to fill that role. This may be noble. All would agree that it is not the ideal circumstance, just the ideal way to fill a real and profound loss. To rob a child willingly of a natural mother and substitute her with the natural father’s boyfriend is a level of callousness unmatched in human history.

By the exact same token, fathers are absolutely crucial to the successful development of every child. If one is, Heaven forbid, not around, a substituting caring man can try to fill that role. This may be noble, but again, not the ideal circumstance; just the ideal way to fill a real and profound loss. To rob a child willingly of a natural father and substitute him with the natural mother’s girlfriend is the exact same level of unmatched callousness.

This argument is not new. In debates about changing the definition of marriage a decade ago, when this conversation first began (it is worth noting that even radicals on the left never envisioned such a change beforehand and would have likely opposed it for all of the reasons mentioned herein), both France and Australia rejected the idea, primarily because of its negative consequences on children.

In parliamentary reviews in Canada, a different question was raised. It was clear that traditional marriage provided optimal conditions for the raising of children, enough to warrant governmental encouragement and tax benefits. Survivor benefits were given because the man and woman together formed a whole entity that was greater than the sum total than each of themselves. Man and woman equaled eternal life. And that was worth governmental sanction.

But if marriage was merely to be some rudderless expression of love, what role should government have in it? Is it worth societal financing? This was not lost upon the then Liberal led Parliament, which took note that a “redefinition” of marriage would likely give way to a debate as to government’s place in any aspect of marriage altogether.

And this new definition of marriage has run roughshod over and weakened the institution as a whole. Marriage has been attacked and chipped away at for decades, but at a slow pace. Yet a new societal definition renders the institution all but meaningless in one fell swoop.

Consider just the difference in societal descriptions of marriage since the stormy winds of change first hit the anchored ship. A few etched lines should paint a whole picture.

The Old Definition of Marriage:

“A blessed union, sanctioned by G-d, who partners with the new couple, dwells among them and enables life. An eternal commitment and a bond in which each partner has set and defined responsibilities, coupled with love, loyalty and perseverance.”

Yes, the lifelong nature of the commitment was stressed from the very beginnings of its inaugural ceremony. And it was not without its difficulties. In extreme cases it could even be terminated. But to do so was equivalent to a parent expelling a child. It did not happen lightly, callously, or G-d forbid, often.

The New Definition:

Well, no one quite knows. But it seems to be “the rudderless expression of some form of love, generally commitment-free, commemorated by some antiquated ceremony that is devoid of any meaning beyond an expression of momentary and baseless fondness.”

This is true of even “traditional” marriages taking place today that are devoid of commitment. Is it any wonder that old marriages lasted forever whereas today, almost all of society is up in the air.

And this new philosophy has permeated the religious world. I will address this aspect as People of the Book only can and indeed must, through looking into the eyes of Torah.

Since time immemorial, a key function of a rabbi was to bring peace between any quarreling husband and wife. This was a high duty and commentators on the Torah relate how while Moses was primarily mourned by the men, his brother Aaron was mourned by all, especially the women, because he had brought peace to thousands of households (ostensibly including many that had been on the brink).

This highest level of kindness was the highest calling of every religious leader, and even of a layman with regard to his friends. And this too was slowly eroded in recent decades. Yet only 15-20 years ago, virtually every rabbinical court pressed any couple that was, G-d forbid, about to divorce as to whether they had sought professional counseling. Many marriages were saved last minute, with the rabbinical court using all of its energy to urge reconciliation. Today, some self-styled modernist rabbis who work in clear violation of the Code of Jewish Law (see Even HaEzer 119 as to the obligation not to divorce hastily or recklessly), seek to raise high water and a cup of purgatory against any spouse insisting upon counseling as the sole precondition to divorce. Their actions contravene thousands of years of Jewish tradition and many rabbis are beginning to speak up against this travesty. Those who acquiesce to the dangerous demands of the pro-divorce ones and forego insistence upon counseling are acting recklessly toward themselves, their children and even toward to best interest of the other spouse. Divorce needs to be thought out slowly and rationally and jumping the gun is doing neither party any favors nor showing value to the family.

Yet even with regard to marriage, outside of the divorce debate, modernist rabbis speak only of love and nothing of responsibility. They again service no one and promote a worldview that is the exact opposite of Torah. Many do so out of a profound lack of education in this area, but the Torah’s message is crucial for a fulfilled life and for stable families.

And what does Torah have to say about same-gender unions?

The Talmud in Chullin (92B), states that there are three merits that the nations of the world have that sustain life. They honor the Torah, they do not openly practice cannibalism and they do not formalize a union of a man and a man with a contract. The Midrash Rabbah in two places, (Genesis Ch. 26 and Leviticus Ch. 23) cite such ceremonies as the final act of societal destruction that brought about the flood. We do not pray for retribution, rather against it. And I hope that our Infinitely Merciful G-d will lead people back in complete mercy. Yet it is seen as something that attacks society at its core.

Judaism has no bones to pick with anyone. It is the only religion that stresses that all people have a place in heaven and in the heaven on earth eternal resurrection of dead. A non-Jew attains this according to all Jewish sources by keeping 7 universal commandments that connect the person with G-d Almighty. The Lubavitcher Rebbe made it his life’s mission to bring every single person to G-d, not to become Jewish; rather to connect with G-d because we are all created by G-d and G-d’s presence must rest among all of us.

The Torah seeks the best for every person. And for that very reason, it decries same-gender marriage with greater fervor than almost any other societal misdeed.

Voices of glorious modernism, that throwback to the base hedonism of Ancient Greece and Rome (our liberation from the former is celebrated annually as the Holiday of Chanukah, the suffering brought upon us by the latter has been marked in annual fashion as the Fast of Tisha B’Av), have run roughshod over marriage and in so doing over parenthood itself. One wonders what else such disregard for the best interests of anyone has to offer.

Educate we must. And in so doing, we partner with our Father in Heaven, at a time that counts most of all.

About the Author
Yomin Postelnik is a writer and lecturer on ethical, societal and religious issues. His writing has been featured in American Thinker, Canada Free Press, the Jewish Press, American Daily Review and other outlets. Postelnik has served as a rabbinical advocate and attained his ordination in 2000. He works closely with community leaders to explain Torah values, fight against misconceptions and slander against religious values.
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