“When a man loves a woman….”
In past years,the Samaritans used to marry only within the community. Due to the small size of the community, and the fact that every family want to ensure the marriage of their own members, most of the marriages were the result of matchmaking between single relatives i.e. cousins or distant cousins.
Ninety years ago, because of a demographic situation, where there were more men than women of marriageable age, the priests of the community, allowed a change in policy, and confirmed the first case of marriage of a Samaritan man to a non – Samaritan woman – a Jewish woman, a new immigrant from Russia. Since that case, the priests decided on the following procedure. When a man can’t find his marriage partner among the community, he is allowed to marry a woman from the Jewish people only, who will accept the Samaritan tradition, and become part of the community. The woman must live among the community for a time before her marriage, in order to learn and to know the Samaritan life. If after this time, she agrees to accept the Samaritan tradition as her own, then the couple can marry, with the consent of the High Priest. In the last decades, there were many successful cases of mixed marriage couples among the community.
Ten years ago, when one of the Samaritan guys, from the priestly family, who lives in Nablus, couldn’t find his woman among the community, The High Priest at that time, allowed him to marry a woman from the beautiful ladies of Ukraine. Since then, there are some other couples, of Samaritan men with Ukrainian girls, who have accepted the Samaritan tradition, and have lived a time among the community.
Unlike Samaritan men, Samaritan women cannot marry men ( including Jewish men) who are outside the community The reason is that, the Samaritan religious identity, as well as family association, is in accordance with the father religious identity, i.e. it is a patrilineal system.Judaism also followed the same patrilineal practice until several hundred years ago.
The marriage ceremony of the Samaritan community consists of three parts:
1.The Agreement ceremony– A young woman and her parents agree on the marriage to a specific man from the community.
2.The engagement Part– The Engagement Ceremony – in this ceremony the young woman and her future husband are declared as a married couple, with two witnesses from the community that must be present when the girl and her parents agree to this marriage. This is according to the sentence from the Torah which says “at the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses shall the matter be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15). From now on the couple separation would be depended on an official divorce, which called “Sefer Kritot (Divorce agreement) which needs to be given by the husband to his wife:
“When a man takes a wife, and marries her, then it shall be if she find no favor in his eyes, because he has found some unseemly thing in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorce, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house”(Deuteronomy 24:1).
3.The Wedding Ceremony – The official ceremony when the “Ketuba” (marriage contract) that contains all of the marriage agreements and rules from the Torah, is read by one of the priests. After finish the reading, the witnesses and the priest who wrote the “Ktuba” sign the contract, and then the dancing celebration of men and women begin.
The marriage celebrations continue a whole week. Some days before the week of the wedding, the family members of the groom family go from door to door, from family to family and invite all the Samaritans to the celebration week. The Sabbath which ends the week before the wedding and start of the week of the celebrations is called “The Opening Sabbath”. On this Sabbath, all the men of the community gathered after the Morning Prayers (which ends on a regular Sabbath at 6:00 am) at the father of the groom’s home, or at the communal club, to read the “Torah chapter of the week”. After the reading, the groom’s father and all his family serve the men refreshments. That same Saturday night, the men gather again, and the local head priest reads the “Molad Moshe” (The birth of Moses) of poems and praises about Moses the prophet. During the reading the groom family (specially the men) serve the men a refreshment of Coffee, drink, cookies, Cigarettes, etc.
On Sunday evening, the women of the community gather again to celebrate the parting of the young woman leaving the celi
bate life to become a woman. This night is also called “The red night”, which symbolizes the parting of the girl from her hymen.
On Monday evening, the men gather again, dressed in traditional attire, at the groom’s father home for “Maskara” (a drunkenness feast in Aramaic).The local High priest start the evening , reading the chapter which tells the story of the marriage between Isaac and Rebekah, then read the next in line, the next versa. Each one of the readers, stand after finishing his verse, and bless the groom’s family. The highlight of the evening is when the groom reads his verse, while the present cheering him on every sentence. The groom’s family serves the guests with praised refreshment, which include specially drinks. During this evening the chapter is read which tells the story of the marriage between Isaac and Rebekah.
On Tuesday evening the whole community , men and women, gather together for the wedding.
The priests usually sit at the front of the square while the couple will seat on the high stage. The groom with his head covered and the bride with the bride veil on her face. After reading a poem for the blessing of the marriage, the groom will serve the “Ketuba” (the marriage contract written in Aramaic by the high priest), to the high priest, who will read the “Ketuba” or will give it to another priest to read it. After finishing the reading the groom takes the “Ketuba” from the high priest, giving the priesthood family the money contribution as a symbol of honor and respect for their participation, and gave it to the bride’s father for preservation. With the end of the “Ktuba” reading, the dancing celebrations start.