R’ SR Hirsch wrote that a Jewish marriage is based on rights and obligations which are independent of the will of the couple, whereas in other legal obligations can be specified by the parties to the contract as a result of mutual agreement. The conditions in the Jewish marriage contract must be accepted by both individuals before they can be united.
The goal of the marriage is two-fold, union and children. R’ Eli Munk wrote that through union, both find their “other self”, and each with their physical and psychological characteristics makes the other complete. This union can endure and reach its highest form only when it rises above the immediate and selfish interests of the two parties. The permanence of the union depends upon the consecration of the marriage to G-d, as it is this consecration which carries the couple through life’s crises.
R’ Munk wrote about the role of the wife being to guide the first steps of the children in their lives and to ensure the smooth running of the family. He quoted the old saying “as the wife so the husband”, underlining the more decisive and heroic role of the wife.
Rambam taught that before the Torah was given, there was no formal ceremony of consecration, and they simply lived together. The Torah insisted on a legal procedure performed in front of two witnesses to consecrate the marriage.
Divorce is also considered in this parasha. A bill of divorce had to be drawn up and Rambam commented that the document was necessary to support the woman’s right to a future relationship. Where a marriage has not worked, it will not become a stable grouping for society’s stability, so divorce is a necessary mechanism.
There was a prohibition against a man leaving his new wife to go to war in the first year of their marriage. “He should gladden his wife” indicates the importance attached to the relationship. The seven blessings recited under the chupah are arranged according to the seven sefirot, the elemental priciples of creation, bringing a miniature world into the marriage.