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    Adam & Eve’s marriage – B’reshit

    The sages could not imagine that Adam and Eve began married life without a wedding ceremony so they posited that the Almighty was the cantor who recited the blessings and declared the first couple man and wife.

    In rabbinic thinking marriage is inherently superior to non-marriage. The basis for this view is the clear wording of the Torah: “A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and they shall be like one person” (Gen. 3:24), and the first mitzvah, “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth” (Gen. 1:28).

    There are two purposes for marriage: companionship and procreation.

    The teaching of Paul in early Christian history is that marriage is a concession to human weakness: “it is better to marry than to burn (with desire)” (I Cor. 7:9).

    Judaism did not go along with the principle of celibacy. Though Ben Azzai was unmarried his colleagues rebuked him for preaching procreation whilst not practising what he preached, and all he could say was, “What can I do? My soul is in love with the Torah – let the world be populated by others” (Yevamot 63b).

    His view was that marriage is the norm, but a person who is absorbed by the Torah may remain unmarried.

    Maimonides added that anyone who acts like Ben Azzai commits no offence, but if he has strong sexual inclinations he is obliged to marry (Hilchot Ishut 15:3; see also Shulchan Aruch, Even Ha-Ezer 1:4).

    The commentators regard Ben Azzai as an exception; they rule that even a great Torah scholar must not practise celibacy. They frown on the idea of a community appointing a celibate rabbi.

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