13 Year Old at Bar Mitzvah Gets Everything Right About Same-Sex Marriage

"Traditional marriage" is a phrase that gets tossed around a lot in the same-sex marriage debate, usually accompanied by phrases like "Biblical definition of marriage" and "one man and one woman." Or my (least) favorite "Adam and Eve; not Adam and Steve." But as one Oregon boy chose to point out at his Bar Mitzvah, our idea of "traditional marriage" is really anything but.

During a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah ceremony, the boy or girl reads from a Torah passage and then makes a brief speech, referred to as a d'var, discussing the passage from which they read. At his Bar Mitzvah at the reform Judaism temple Congregation Beth Israel in Portland, 13-year-old Duncan read from a Torah passage describing how Jewish patriarch Jacob works to marry the woman he loves, Rachel, but is first tricked into marrying her sister Leah before he can marry Rachel. As Duncan points out, this was a perfectly acceptable arrangement, for a man to marry two women, both of whom were his cousins and neither of whom had any say in the proceedings. "Today in the United States," Duncan points out, "marriage is very different."

From this, he goes on to point out that though people in the United States who oppose marriage equality typically root their ideas and arguments for "traditional marriage" in the Bible, the Bible doesn't necessarily support the version of marriage they are envisioning.

Congregation Beth Israel on YouTube

In addition to Duncan's many sound points, it's also worth pointing out here, that marriage changes and evolves within the Bible itself. Some figures have multiple wives, others don't. Some, especially kings, had concubines, or what essentially amounted to "lesser wives." And many of these polygamous figures such as King David, are held up as God's favorites. In the New Testament on the other hand, monogamy seems to be the norm most of the time, and there's a reasonable case to be made that Jesus supported it — though again, Jesus was more worried about poor people than anyone's sex life.

Over all, though, trying to piece together what a "traditional marriage" might be from the Bible is impossible since the Bible describes a society which is evolving over the course of centuries, and showcases a predictably diverse range of marriage options. So even though none of those marriages were same-sex marriages, I think we can all agree with Duncan here that "traditional marriage" doesn't actually mean much. And so there is no reason to not make change.