Why is ‘Love’ Missing in the Jewish Marriage Document

A Jewish marriage begins with the signing of the Ketubah (legal marriage document) in which the groom pledges to be a good and faithful husband. The opening paragraph states that the husband has committed to his new wife, saying, "I will work for you, respect you and sustain you."

An important word that seems to be missing from this commitment is "love."

One would think that a successful marriage is one in which the husband and wife love each other deeply. Love is what binds them together and creates a deep and harmonious union. So why is this critical marriage ingredient missing from the marriage document?

To understand this we need to examine the development of relationships. Babies are born incredibly self-absorbed, seeing themselves as the center of all existence, and during their first years, children continue to focus on themselves. This is an intentional part of the design of creation – the formative years are there for us to discover ourselves and create our own identities.

But as we grow older, we begin to form relationships. In these new experiences, we must learn to go beyond ourselves and consider other people. After establishing our own identities, relationships offer an amazing opportunity to broaden our experiences and strengthen our personalities by connecting and relating to people, who think differently, feel differently and see the world in a very different way than we do.

For this to work, we need to respect and value the other person as a unique individual outside of ourselves. We need to acknowledge that their needs and perspectives bring a new dimension to the relationship that we cannot provide. For the relationship to develop and thrive, we must learn to respect, value and maintain the individuality of the other person.

Love on its own can be egocentric.

Sometimes what appears to be intense love is really an expression of self-interest and pursuit of pleasure. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see relationships that begin with intense romance deteriorate rapidly as soon as one person realizes that other is not the perfect human being that they initially thought. For love to be real and long term it must be built on a foundation of deep respect. Only when we genuinely respect the individuality of the other person can we truly love them. The Ketubah lays the foundation of the marriage. The goal of marriage is love and connection.

But for true love to be achieved, respect must be there first.

When the foundation is built with healthy respect, the love will be lasting and blissful.