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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