Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2012 Volume 8 :: Article 6
2012 Volume 8, Article 6
Meaning Making Under the Sacred Canopy: The Role of Orthodox Jewish Marriage Guidebooks

Author: Nurit Novis-Deutsch (University of California) and Ari Engelberg (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

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Marriage guidebooks for Orthodox Jews in Israel have become increasingly popular over the past few years. Previous research has shown that Jewish Orthodox Israelis are exposed to liberal Western ideals about romantic love and gender egalitarianism while continuing to uphold conservative family values. To gain insight into how leaders of Orthodox Jewish groups deal with these conflicting meaning systems, a representative sample of thirty guidebooks written for Religious Zionist and Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel was analyzed by using a qualitative grounded theory analysis. The books were found to reject romantic love and gender egalitarianism, emphasizing instead the notions of other-focused giving and an essentialist gender partnership. The authors of these books also offer religious meaning systems focused on the interface between God and couples that we term marriage theologies. We offer a typology of five marriage theologies, which endeavor to infuse even the most mundane aspects of marital life with sacred meaning. This re-enchantment of marriage plays a central role in recalibrating the religious meaning system in response to the secular Western culture surrounding it. The diversity of marriage theologies means that differential meaning systems can be offered to a wide range of Orthodox couples, from moderate to highly conservative and from idealistic newlyweds to disillusioned long-married couples.

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