Marriage Ritual, Lawrence H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia 1994.
The Dead Sea Scrolls
Cave 4 has yielded a document dubiously labeled Ritual of Marriage. Because its formulation seems to have little to do with matrimony, however, it is highly doubtful that this text actually was a marriage ritual. On the other hand, the alternative suggestion that the text is an old-age ritual for honoring the elders of the sect seems just as unlikely. The truth is that we do not really understand what purpose this text was designed to serve.
The surviving material is extremely fragmentary, consisting of about one hundred and fifty fragments, most of which bear little more than a few incomprehensible letters. But a few expressions found in the text are significant- “and his wife”; “to make seed”; “daughter of truth . . . his wife” (fragments 1–3). God is praised repeatedly for giving joy to the sect, or “joy together” (fragments 7–9). Also mentioned are “sons and dau[ghters]” (fragment 14); “seed of blessing, old men and old [women . . . young men] and virgins, boys and gi[rls] . . .” (fragment 19); and “for the fruit of the w[ombJ” (fragment 20).
Whatever the overall contents and character of this text, it certainly involves families’ rejoicing together. Far from describing a celibate community, these fragments convey a sense of the true joy of generations’ celebrating the continuity of the Jewish family.