Wednesday, June 17, 2009

על ידי חופה וקידושין

Assuming an egalitarian* Jewish paradigm, what do you see as the conceptual differences between kiddushin (eirusin) and nisuin? Should there be a difference?

* defined here as one in which there is no substantive distinction between same-sex and opposite-sex marriage


  1. קידושין = exclusion from others
    נישואין = ratification of the union
    after all, there's a limbo zone in between.

  2. Maybe I'm just tired and fuzzy, but I don't see the connection between this question and egalitarianism. Isn't the question simply, "does the distinction between erusin and nisuin mean anything in a Reform/Modern/liberal context?"

  3. Egalitarianism necessitates reconceptualizing kiddushin away from its original meaning (which was inherently unilateral). Often this reconceptualization turns it into something that isn't so distinct from nisuin. I think I support maintaining a distinction between erusin and nisuin even in an egalitarian context (in part along Steg's lines); however, I'm not sure all liberal Jewish weddings think this through.

  4. One factor, I think, is that the terms and their referents have slid sideways from each other over time. As far as I can tell from a quick read of definitions of the terms, the distinction between "kiddushin" and "nisuin" used to correspond to the distinction between what we would call "getting married" and "making a home together".

    So, on the one hand, the whole wedding is, by virtue of being a wedding, playing the role of kiddushin. On the other hand, the part of the wedding ceremony which is called "nisuin" seems clearly to be a symbolic enactment of making a home — the chuppah stands for the house, and the seven blessings followed by the breaking of the glass to the joy and sorrow that are part of every relationship.

    On the gripping hand, a lot of newlyweds in the developed world have already "made a home together" in the literal sense prior to getting married. In fact, I seem to recall reading somewhere that simply living together with intent constitutes nisuin. A halachic framework that is going to cover the actual practices of modern liberal Jews therefore needs to handle the case where nisuin precedes kiddushin by a long interval.

  5. Oh yeah, the explanation I'm remembering was from

    It's interesting trying to translate the original meanings of those terms to the modern reality. That page seems to imply that, halachically, if two people who can theoretically become married to each other are living together as a household and having sex with each other but not with anyone else, and their community knows this, they are already married.

    In so far as we make a distinction between this state and "actual marriage", we need to fiddle with the categories a little. How do those terms map to modern practices about the structure of relationships as a whole?

    I think the narrow form of the question, focused on whether two distinct things are accomplished by the two parts of a traditional Jewish wedding when performed in a liberal context, is less illuminating than the larger question of whether two different things are accomplished at all.

  6. To ask a slightly different followup, inspired by orawnzva:

    What is the egalitarian view of yibbum, ketubah, and gittin? Obviously all three are related somehow to the topic at hand.

    Yibbum you can probably skip. You will have to address the ketubah if you are getting married.

    IMHO, the question of kiddushin can be best answered by taking the answer of gittin and taking its inverse.

    One can also sometimes reason backwards from the liturgy, but I assume that's less helpful in this case.

  7. נישואין is all about Money and property, and in an egalitarian context would mean the final agreement about childcare, obligations of parties to contribute to the upkeep of the household, division of property in the case of divorce ח"ו, etc.
    I don't agree that there is usually a case of nissuin before marriage. Unmarried partners rarely have joint bank accounts and/or financial obligations. Indeed, this is one of the reasons they prefer to remain unmarried, though strictly monogamous.
    Erusin is just the issur; it could also be imposed on the man by means of an oath, perhaps even effected by a ring.

  8. In the same-sex context, nissuin is very important: it is the "marriage" advocacy groups are lobbying for, the one that gives you recognition as a family member of your partner.
    Erusin does not effect this, all it does is establish that you are forbidden to all but your partner.

  9. JXG writes:
    IMHO, the question of kiddushin can be best answered by taking the answer of gittin and taking its inverse.

    But doesn't gittin abrogate both kiddushin and nisuin?

  10. On second thought, perhaps couples who are exclusive have a de-facto Erusin (although I don't know what sanctions we would care place on the breach of such a de-facto union. aside from the obvious).

  11. "On the gripping hand,"

    On the other hand... :-P

    I think the obvious fully egalitarian approach to kiddushin is a "harei at mekudeshet" and a "harei ata mekudash" or some such.

    [[The purpose, as probably everyone reading here knows, is historically the exclusive claiming of the woman while the man can build up his financial resources to take on the burden of marriage and supporting a wife and family. ]]

    The tension, of course, in an egalitarian context, not to mention that that historical case is already no longer relevant for most modern weddings, is whether the purpose is to just change the language since the ritual is already bereft of its original function, or to radically reunderstand that perhaps this is like the kiddushin blessing says, to forbid others, and only permit our betrothed. The innovation would presumably be this mutual exclusivity.

    The nesuin is effectively about finishing the process the kiddushin started by permitting the betrothed to live together as life partners. I don't think there's anything particularly in need of update here. (Though the ketubah should also try to reflect egalitarianism as ours does.

  12. As a followup to some comments, even by the time of the mishnah's publication, the mishna keduma* of Kiddushin 1:1 that a woman is acquired in three ways (contract, cash, cohabitation) was superseded by Kiddushin 2:1 that a woman is "consecrated/mekudeshet". i.e. not acquired. [[The talmud then discusses this and for the most part says you can't acquire a woman by sex anymore. I forget what it says specifically about shtar and kesef. (Though it always seemed to me that the current mode satisfies all three conditions: the ketubah (shtar), the ring (kesef), bia (the wedding night).)]]

    The ketubah originally specifies minimal values for the two types of women they envisioned: 100 for a widow, 200 for a virgin.

    לא כתב לה כתובה--בתולה גובה מאתיים, ואלמנה מנה: שהוא תנאי בית דין

    I know most people today recast betulah from virgin to never-before-married. With that in mind, that the received system is already 'out of date', and has been for a while, I could make an argument that maintaining this language does no harm.

    However, in our ketubah, we kicked any settlement down to a beit din's decision at the time to avoid this issue.

    שומת בית דין תקבע סכום הפרעון של שטר כתובה זה בחיי החתן ולאחר אריכות ימיו מעתה ועד עולם. אחריות שטר כתובה זה קבל עליו החתן וכל נכסיו יהיו אחראים וערבים לפרוע מהם שטר כתובה זה.

    * The Mishnah as assembled by R' Yehuda haNasi often contained strings of older (topical) teachings such as is found in Kiddushin, Megillah, and one of the Bava's...

  13. (Though it always seemed to me that the current mode satisfies all three conditions: the ketubah (shtar), the ring (kesef), bia (the wedding night).)

    The ketubah is part of nisuin, not kiddushin. The ketubah doesn't say "Harei at mekudeshet" etc. (except in the context of "He said to her"), so it's not a shtar kiddushin. Biah also doesn't effect kiddushin unless it's done with that intention.

  14. BZ-

    re: covering all the bases at the wedding

    Good point. As I said "it always seemed to me" since I didn't know anyone else making that point, I wondered if that was a correct supposition.

    Thanks for the correction.

  15. It seems that Benjamin's reading of the mishna was contemplated by the Yerushalmi ad loc.
    כיני מתני' או בכסף או בשטר או בביאה ותני ר' חייה כן לא סוף דבר בשלשתן אלא אפילו באחד מהן.
    Benjamin: why Hebrew? and why is the traditional sum of 200 Zuzim not sufficient (assuming the Erkaot would divide all of your joint assets regardless, and that under state law your wife would inherit them?)

  16. The get cancels both kiddushin and nisuin, yes. The essential text of the get is "with this get you are permitted to all men." So it more closely parallels kiddushin, IMHO.

    More important, many of the laws of kiddushin are actually learned (via gezera shava) from gittin. See IIRC TB Kiddushin chapter 3.

  17. dafkesher
    "Benjamin: why Hebrew? and why is the traditional sum of 200 Zuzim not sufficient"

    A couple of reasons:
    1) The ketubah text was originally set in Aramaic to make it understandable to all. It no longer servers that purpose
    2) As a zionist, I prefer my religious documents to be in Hebrew, which I feel more connected to. Though I understand the Hebrew, my wife does not, so our ketubah also included a literal English translation of the Hebrew (as opposed to many modern ketubot that have the traditional Aramaic text and an English addendum that rarely translates any of the Aramaic).
    3) I am unaware of any rulings that would invalidate a ketubah simply based on its language, though I'm sure some hareidim have so ruled.
    4) Though I assembled the text, I added nothing original. Our ketubah was based on the ketubot of R' Gil Nativ, R' Joel Roth, R' Bradley Shavit Artson, R' Gordon Tucker, and R' Cara Weinstein Rosenthal. We also included the Lieberman clause in Hebrew in the formula of R' Gil Nativ.
    5) I am aware that for some people, the hatam sofer's hiddush of "heHadash assur min haTorah" applies to any changes. But we had a woman Rabbi as our mesaderet kiddushin and had two male and female witnesses. So, I felt that though our behavior was within the dalet amot of halakhah, there are certain people we could never please and they were not our intended audience. We also have a dual ring ceremony, though my wife said "veErastikah li, etc."
    6) Our ketubah includes all the halakhically requires formulas and in a format meaningful to us
    7) Rather than offering my wife a ketubah of 200 zuz and a tosefet, I offered her: "An assessment of a Jewish court will determine the amount of payment of this ketubah document during the lifetime of the groom and after the length of his days from now and for eternity. The groom accepted the responsibility of this ketubah document such that all of his possessions will be pledged and bonded for payment from them of this k’tubbah document." which I felt happier about. I am aware of some opinions that the 200 zuz is to be interpreted as a certain percentage of annual income, but that language itself seemed unnecessary to me given that the zuz hasn't been in use for quite some time.

    I am interested in your thoughts, though.

  18. My understanding is the same as Steg's, above.

    The only egal ceremony I know of that replicates that is when there is first a neder of sexual exclusivity, followed by a shvu'a of the terms of the union (involves a contract, kinda like the ketuba).

    Seems like both are important things to establish, although there may be a way to do so in one step.

    I believe Aviva and Tzemach originated that model, but I know at least one other couple that has done it since.