Mitzvot of Marriage (P#212-223)

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Summary: Mitzvah #212 is to have children, to “be fruitful and multiply”. (For more on this, see ‘What’s the Ideal Number of Children to Have?’) Though it might seem out of order, the next mitzvah is to get married, and then there is a distinct mitzvah for a bride and groom to rejoice for an entire year after their marriage. (More specifically, the mitzvah is for the groom to gladden his bride. During this time, a newlywed man is generally free from various public works or obligations.) Mitzvah #215 is to circumcise a male child. The next two mitzvot deal with yibbum, “levirate” marriage. Mitzvot #218 and 220 deal with a man who coerced or seduced a woman, and the resulting consequences. (For more on this, see ‘Does the Torah Punish a Rapist?’ in Garments of Light, Volume Two.) Mitzvah #219 is for a man who falsely defamed his wife to remain married to her (unless she does not want to be married to him), while mitzvah #221 deals with the “beautiful captive” – the procedure in marrying a foreign woman captured in battle. Completing the set are the mitzvahs dealing with procedures for divorce (222), and the case of the sotah, a wife suspected of adultery (223).

Rembrandt’s painting of ‘Judah and Tamar’, the first detailed case of yibbum explored the Torah (Genesis 38).

Insight: Yibbum was the procedure when a childless married man passed away. His brother was expected to marry the widow, and to produce a male child who would be named after the deceased. In this way, the memory (and biological line) of the deceased would be kept alive. A brother who did not want to fulfil this mitzvah was able to attain exemption through a process called chalitzah. On a mystical level, our Sages taught that what really happened when yibbum was fulfilled was that the soul of the deceased man reincarnated in the newborn child produced by his brother. The child is named after the deceased man because he really is the deceased man, brought back for another chance at life! (For more on this, see the Arizal‘s Sha’ar HaGilgulim, Ch. 2.)