Kinyan via Pleasure

It’s written in Kiddushin 7a:

Raba said, ‘What [if a woman declares,] ‘Here is a maneh and I will become betrothed to you’? Mar Zutra ruled in R. Papa’s name, she is betrothed…. In return for the pleasure [she derives] from his accepting a gift from her, she consents to the betrothal.

In her book Life on the Fringes: A Feminist Journey Towards Traditional Rabbinic Ordination, R. Haviva Ner-David suggests that this could be a useful basis for a wedding ceremony.

While the woman is still unilaterally acquired–here, through receiving the pleasure of gift-giving rather than through an object–the kinyan according to this logic is affected by means of her active giving of an object (say, a ring) to her husband-to-be.

Ner-David, in the book, suggests that this might be taken further, to make the ceremony more parallel on all sides. In her formulation, after the bride gives the groom a ring (and receives pleasure from doing so) he then takes a vow of monogamy to parallel the sexual dedication of his wife-to-be. She declares that she has received pleasure from giving a ring and hearing this vow, and then he can give her a ring, declaring her betrothed by means both of this second ring, and the pleasure she had received.

R. Ner-David herself acknowledges the problems inherent in this solution. She writes, “this ceremony… would not solve the problem of the unilateral nature of the marriage, since a kinyan is still the basis of the ceremony…Nevertheless, it does give a different feel to the ceremony….”

ADVANTAGES: It’s halakhic kiddushin, the bride’s giving of a ring has an integral halakhic role in the ceremony, the groom (in Ner-David’s addition) obligates himself to monogamy just as he obligates the bride to monogamy.

DISADVANTAGES: The kinyan here is still very much the acquisition of a woman, vows are tricky in Jewish law (see link below).

More on vows here.

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