Let Halakha Follow Minhag

The Reconstructionist-ordained Rabbi David Mivasair argues (Beckerman, Cheryl. “Kiddushin and Kesharin: Toward an Egalitarian Wedding Ceremony.” Kerem vol. 5, Spring 1997.) that, as more heterosexual couples embrace a ceremony in which both male and female parties use the traditional formula of acquisition–harei at[ah] mikudesh[et] li… (“Behold, you are set apart for me with this ring according to the laws of Moses and Israel”). This statement, plus a ring exchange with the intention of mutual kinyan (acquisition), the minhag (custom) will, as many minhagim have, eventually be transformed into halakha (law) with a corresponding weight. He writes, “As more and more couples have the women say these words under the huppah at their weddings, doing so [is becoming] dat Moshe v’Yisrael. (the law of Moses and Israel)”

While this is a nice sentiment, one that might one day come to pass, it certainly does not reflect our contemporary world. For the moment, the bride’s utterance of the harei atah mikudesh li formula is, by most authorities, either irrelevant (because she does it second, after she has been acquired already, and it’s thus an utterly meaningless statement with no legal weight) or it’s understood to cancel the kinyan transaction, as it is parallel to the groom’s gift and can be read as a “giving back” of the ring. In no way, at least according to traditional halakha, can the woman acquire the man with this formula.

Secondly, even if we hope and trust that this minhag is incorporated eventually into halakha, we still remain with the problem of the halakhic status of weddings performed until this happens. Nonetheless, as a form of civil résistance and protest for halakhic change, this might be quite powerful.

ADVANTAGES: Feels equal, everybody gets a ring and a voice under the chuppah, it’s same-sex friendly, and it has an activist dimension to it.

DISADVANTAGES: It’s either irrelevant to kiddushin of bride or it cancels the kiddushin of the bride (and one should know which one it is!), as a “minhag trying to create halakha,” it’s not likely to be recognized by authorities as halakhic, has somewhat of a confused attitude about whether this is a halakhic ceremony or a non-halakhic ritual.

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One response to “Let Halakha Follow Minhag

  1. Pingback: Obviation « The Kiddushin Variations

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