TEL AVIV - Two well-known Israeli personalities - Yair Lapid and Avri Gilad - are performing secular wedding ceremonies alongside the organizations offering such innovative services.
Between the two of them, Lapid, an award-winning TV talk show host who also writes a column for “Yedioth Ahronoth” and Ynetnews, is the more veteran activist on the issue. In the past four years he has performed 68 marriage ceremonies – free of charge.
“People come to me after they themselves went through the process,” Lapid says. “They understand that the rabbinate isn’t a spiritual or Jewish institution, but rather a bureaucratic institution involved in keeping records. It’s important to them that the wedding is Jewish, but not in the framework of the rabbinate.”
'There is no real need for a rabbi in a Jewish wedding'
At the ceremonies, Lapid speaks about the weekly Torah reading and the spiritual value of a committed relationship.
When asked what qualifies him to perform wedding ceremonies, Lapid says: “Nothing. On a basic level, there is no real need for a rabbi or anything else in a Jewish wedding. According to Jewish law, it can be held with two witnesses. You need to put a ring on the fingers, and the couple blesses one another. You just need someone to oversee the ceremony.”
Gilad, best known for his work on Army Radio, declines to reveal the number of couples he has wed in the two years since he began doing so.
The ceremony is about love, not the destruction of Jerusalem
“I do it for the pleasure,” he says. “I meet couples that don’t want to be married by any kind of rabbi. They want it to be a special and unforgettable ceremony that will include much self-expression. I just know how to do it. I make sure that the ceremony is emotional, that it has Judaism and some humor, and also that it is done well.”
Gilad says his ceremony uses two of the seven blessings recited at traditional Jewish weddings. He also makes use of sources that touch on Hasidism. The ceremony also deals in a fundamental manner with the couple.
“In a fundamental manner the ceremony deals with the couple, their lives and love, not Jerusalem and its destruction,” he says.