Monthly Archives: October 2006

Welcome to The Kiddushin Variations!

Hi, there. This site isn’t really a blog so much as a listing of different ideas that various thinkers have proposed regarding how a couple might approach kiddushin, the first part of the Jewish wedding ceremony–more specifically, the fact that kiddushin is more or less the aquisition of the bride by the groom.

You might want to start exploring the site by looking at my more detailed explanation of what this project is about, getting some background on the Jewish wedding ceremony in traditional sources, or referring to the glossary.

I say this in several places, but I’ll say it again: if you’re not someone well-versed in Jewish law and are planning your own ceremony, please talk to a rabbi about what you’d like to do–this site should be considered more of a sketchbook than a series of final legal decisions.

If you have other ideas (shitot) that aren’t listed, or any other questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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Kinyan with Reciprocal Declarations

Beverly Gribetz and Ed Greenstein wrote the following in this article:

For the kiddushin, we wanted to enable the kalla [bride] to respond in a meaningful way to the act of kinyan, literally “acquisition,” by which the chatan [groom] consecrates the kalla as his bride. Had we opted to make use of the traditional formula, whereby the chatan says to the kalla that she is consecrated – mekudeshet – to him by virtue of the ring that he gives her, there would have been no way for the kalla to echo the chatan’s language. We did not want to modify in any way the kiddushin that is the chatan’s prerogative and responsibility to enact.

We therefore chose to dust off an ancient rabbinic formula that would enable us to have the chatan, and then the kalla, say it – but with a critical reversal of the phrases. In the Talmud Bavli, Masechet Kiddushin, page 5b as well as in the major codes: Rambam’s Mishneh Torah, Nashim, Hilkhot Ishut 3:6 and the Shulkhan Arukh, Even Ha’ezer 27:2, one finds the Aramaic formula, harei at li le’intu, “You are hereby my wife.” Accordingly we had the chatan say (in Hebrew), harei at li le’isha kedat Moshe v’Yisrael. At this point the chatan presented the kalla with the ring that had belonged to him and effectuated the process of kinyan by which the kiddushin was made. For the sake of rhetorical reciprocity, we had the chatan add, v’ani ishekh, “and I am your husband,” which reinforced the formula the chatan had said.

Following the chatan’s act of kiddushin, the kalla responded, ani ishtekha kedat Moshe v’Yisrael ve’atta li le’ish, “I am your wife, by the laws of Moses and Israel, and you are my husband.” The phrases are reversed so that the kalla’s utterance cannot be interpreted as her acceptance of the kiddushin on condition – al tenai – i.e., that she would regard herself as mekudeshet only if the chatan were to agree to her proposal. By responding in the way that we arranged, the kalla only affirms the kiddushin that had taken place. But from a rhetorical perspective, she makes her voice heard on a par with that of the chatan.

In this formulation, the groom still acquires the bride through the act of presenting a ring. However, it allows the bride to mirror back in more or less identical language a statement of belonging and connection–which, according to many poskim, would have been much more difficult if he had used the language of kiddushin, ie “mikudeshet,” since a woman cannot make a man mikudesh. (Others argue that “harei atah mikudesh li”, if said after the kinyan, is a statement with symbolic value even though it’s halakhically meaningless.) Here, too, the bride’s statement does not have any major halakhic significance, other than that it signifies her consent to the kinyan–though technically, her silence also signifies consent, so it’s not a necessary addition.

For those looking for a way to do traditional kinyan with a more reciprocal feeling form, this might be a nice, meaningful alternative. Those who find kinyan problematic will probably regard this model as only a cosmetic change.

ADVANTAGES: Creates a more equal-feeling ritual; gives the woman more of a voice under the chuppah; allows the couple to make similar reciprocal statements; is a fully halakhically-binding marriage.

DISADVANTAGES: Is still the one-sided aquistion of a woman; the woman’s declaration has little, if any, halakhic significance.

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Conditional Kiddushin

Mishnah Kiddushin Chapter 3 and subsequent halakha make it clear that it’s possible to betroth someone on a condition (tnai). For example:

Mishnah Kiddushin 3:2

If one says to a woman. “Behold, you are betrothed to me on condition that I give you two hundred zuz,” she is betrothed, and he must give it. “On condition that I give you [two hundred zuz] within thirty days from now”: if he gives her within thirty days, she is betrothed; if not, she is not betrothed. “On condition that I have two hundred zuz,” she is betrothed, providing he has [two hundred zuz]. “On condition that I show you two hundred zuz,” she is betrothed, and he must show her. But if he shows her [money lying] on the table, she is not betrothed.

Mishnah Kiddushin 3:3

[If he says to her "Be betrothed to me] on condition that I own a bet kor of land”, she is betrothed, providing he does own it. “On condition that I own it in such and such a place”, if he owns it there she is betrothed, but if not she is not betrothed. “On condition that I show you a bet kor of land,” she is betrothed,
providing that he does show it to her. But if he shows it to her in a plain [ie land that is not his], she is not betrothed.

A number of people have taken this idea and run with it, designing traditional kiddushin on specific conditions relating to the kiddushin itself. Often the couple will sign a document (separate from the ketubah) before the ceremony stating something like, “I, (name of groom), indend to betroth (name of bride) on (date), and this betrothal is dependent upon the following conditions:” and then all and any possible terms of the kiddushin can be laid out. Possible terms could be: that I do not refuse your request for a get, or this kiddushin is rendered null and void; that if I do not grant you a get within three months of a civil marriage, this kiddushin is rendered null and void…. and other ideas in that vein. With this sort of condition built in, a marriage could be retroactively nullified in the event that get issues come up. (This idea is similar to the ketubah authored by Dr. Aryeh Cohen, and the conditions offered by the French and Turkish rabbinate in the 19th century.)

A couple could set out conditions regarding any possible scenario that they could imagine, add financial terms to the condition or other specific issues relating to the couple and their marriage that they feel is crucial enough that the very existence of the marriage depends upon it. It’s crucial that both bride and groom sign this document along with witnesses, so that everyone’s clear that the bride’s consent to kiddushin hangs upon the presence of these conditions, and that the groom knew about them from the outset, and that his betrothal of her depends on them as well. This signing can be done privately, with the couple and witnesses, or as part of the communal gathering.

Under the chuppah, either the traditional kiddushin formula could be recited with no reference to the conditions signed earlier, or they might be referenced–”Harei at mikudeshet li b’tabat zo ba-tnaiim sh’hiskamnu, k’dat Moshe v’Yisrael,” eg. (“Behold, you are betrothed to me with this ring on the conditions to which we agreed, according to the religion of Moshe and Israel.”) Or, the bride could accept the ring with a statement noting the existence of the conditions, if that’s preferred, to give her more of a voice in the transaction.

This does not address the kinyan problem, but it does negate the problems that a woman might have with a get as the result of traditional kiddushin, and perhaps helps a couple who wants traditional kiddushin to start their marriage on more equal legal footing.

ADVANTAGES: Traditional marriage, addresses the ever-looming get issue in a clean and easy way, makes clear that the marriage takes the woman’s rights into account to some degree, conditions can be personalized to the couple’s needs.

DISADVANTAGES: It’s still kinyan, declarations by the woman under the chuppah have no halakhic significance.

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