Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Wedding... Part 3

Part 1 set the stage for the series, and Part 2 was an overview of Jewish marriage (kiddushin and nisuin); I recommend reading those first. This post zooms in on kiddushin bishtar, one of the three methods of effecting kiddushin, and the one that we used.

Once again, a sh'tar kiddushin is not the same as a ketubah, either in form or in content. A sh'tar kiddushin is written in the first and second person, written by the mekadesh/et to the mekudash/mekudeshet. A ketubah is written in the third person, "written by" the witnesses. We used a ketubah in addition to our sh'tarot kiddushin, and the ketubah will be discussed in Part 4.


The active ingredient in the sh'tar is "You are hereby consecrated to me", or any of the other formulations that effect kiddushin. The mekadesh/et writes the sh'tar, and gives it to the mekudash/mekudeshet in the presence of two witnesses.

Unlike the other two methods of kiddushin, kiddushin shtar requires no words to be spoken, since it's there in writing already. We said "הרי את\ה מקודש\ת לי בשטר זה כדת משה וישראל" when we gave each other our sh'tarot, but this was cosmetic (both for the benefit of the assembled crowd, and to focus our intentions) and not a legal requirement. A couple who wanted to do the legal mechanism of kiddushin without the outward appearance of kiddushin (the opposite of what is typical, I know, but I know of examples of this too) could use sh'tarot, and either say nothing at all or say something else (e.g. biblical verses).


The primary advantage of kiddushin bishtar, as we saw it, was the ability to do kiddushin in a way that does not resemble acquisition. Yes, both kesef and sh'tar appear throughout the rest of Mishnah Kiddushin chapter 1 as means of acquiring property, but there are key differences. First of all, money is used for acquiring property and nothing else (aside from, arguably, kiddushin), whereas documents are used to do many different things, of which acquisition is just one, so documents don't have the same strong association with acquisition that money does.

An even stronger difference between kesef and sh'tar is found in the Gemara (Kiddushin 9a). The parallel between kiddushin b'chesef and acquisition is clear: the mekadesh/et hands over money (or an object of monetary value) in the same way that a buyer hands over money. But R. Zeira bar Memel points out that a sh'tar kiddushin is not parallel to a sh'tar of sale:
מתקיף לה ר' זירא בר ממל: הא לא דמי האי שטרא לשטר זביני. התם, מוכר כותב לו "שדי מכורה לך"; הכא, בעל כותב "בתך מקודשת לי" י
A document of sale is given by the seller to the buyer. It's basically a receipt, or a deed, stating that the property now belongs to the buyer. So a mekadesh/et, who writes and hands over (rather than receives) a sh'tar, does not resemble a buyer.

Thus, while the Talmud draws many parallels between kiddushin b'chesef and acquisition b'chesef in deriving the relevant laws, it explicitly rejects any parallel between kiddushin bishtar and acquisition bishtar. Instead, the laws of kiddushin bishtar are derived from another source. Kiddushin 5a says:

אמר קרא "ויצאה ... והיתה ..." מקיש הויה ליציאה: מה יציאה בשטר, אף הויה נמי בשטר

In the same way that kiddushin is terminated with a document (which we know from the Torah, Deuteronomy 24), it can also be enacted with a document. (As a side note, this means that kiddushin bishtar is actually on firmer ground than kiddushin b'chesef. The laws of marriage (the normal kind, not the levirate kind) are not laid out explicitly anywhere in the Torah, whereas the procedure of divorce, which is with a document, does appear in the Torah. Based on this, the Rambam (Hilchot Ishut 1:2) says that kiddushin bishtar is from the Torah, while kiddushin b'chesef is rabbinic.)

And thus the Talmud proceeds to derive various laws of kiddushin bishtar from the laws of gittin, so a sh'tar kiddushin is essentially a get in reverse. This may not be the happiest or most romantic way to think about marriage, but it's also not objectionable in principle. Framing marriage as the opposite of divorce fits our values much more than framing marriage as acquisition.

A secondary benefit to kiddushin bishtar is that we did kiddushin with conditions (as discussed below). This can be (and is) done with kiddushin b'chesef too, and the conditions are written into a separate document signed beforehand, and/or spoken at the time of kiddushin. But with kiddushin bishtar, the conditions can be written directly into the sh'tar. This both makes the ceremony less complicated and emphasizes the nonseverability of the conditions.


The halachic sources (from the Gemara forward) have very little to say about kiddushin bishtar, probably because this method of kiddushin has not been commonly used for centuries. And the questions they do discuss aren't exactly the top questions we might come up with: what the sh'tar can be written on (answer: anything, and the paper or whatever need not be worth a perutah, though that's not quite the end of the story), whether the sh'tar must be written for the specific recipient (answer: yes), and whether the sh'tar requires the recipient's knowledge and consent at the time it is written (yes again). The classical and medieval sources don't provide any guidance on little things like, oh, WHAT THE SH'TAR SAYS, beyond the one active clause. (Perhaps sh'tarot kiddushin were originally one sentence long.) The Shulchan Aruch (Even Ha'Ezer 32:4) adds that "there are those who say" that a sh'tar kiddushin should include both parties' names, like a get. But that's it.

When the four of us decided to use kiddushin bishtar for our respective weddings, we initially thought that we were going to be the first two couples to do this in the modern period, but we soon found out that we're at least the second and third: AG and YK had done it before us. Their ceremony was somewhat different from ours: their wedding was in Israel and rabbanut-approved, and did not include bilateral kiddushin as ours did, but the ceremony as a whole was bilateral. She gave him a sh'tar tenaim (document of conditions), and he gave her a sh'tar kiddushin stating that the kiddushin was contingent on those conditions, so both sh'tarot were necessary to effect the kiddushin. Pursuant to the discussion above in the Gemara, their sh'tar kiddushin was modeled on a get in reverse.

As discussed in Part 2, we did two separate acts of kiddushin, which means that we used two different sh'tarot, each written by one of us to the other. The texts of the two sh'tarot were identical to each other, except that the names were reversed and the grammatical genders were adjusted. Based in part on AG and YK's text, the texts of our sh'tarot incorporated the following elements from the text of a get:
  • The date
  • The location
  • The names of both parties (as mentioned above in the Shulchan Aruch)
  • A statement that we were acting of our own free will and without coercion
  • The active clause, "הרי את\ה מקודש\ת לי בשטר זה כדת משה וישראל" ("You are hereby consecrated to me with this document according to the laws of Moses and Israel"), which is the clause that effects kiddushin, but is also the reverse of the active clause of the get, "הרי את\ה מותר\ת לכל אדם" ("You are hereby permitted to any person").
  • Signatures of two witnesses, to testify that they saw us write the sh'tar and that we really did intend to marry the person named in it. (Each sh'tar had a separate pair of witnesses, who were not the same as the witnesses to the kiddushin itself, who witnessed us giving each other the sh'tarot under the chuppah.)
In addition, the sh'tarot included conditions, discussed below.

Modeled after the get, we handwrote our sh'tarot. This may or may not have been necessary. We wrote some of the text (including the conditions) beforehand, but saved a few pieces to write on the wedding day, at the public bedeken, with our witnesses watching: the date, the names, and "Harei at/ah...". Again, it's not clear which (if any) of these pieces had to be written at that time.

Some have suggested that this procedure would be difficult for many couples to replicate, since not everyone is sufficiently literate in Hebrew. But not everyone has to do it the way we did. First of all, at least some of the sh'tar (e.g. the parts that we wrote ahead of time, rather than on the day of) could probably be printed from a computer, like most legal documents. Second of all, whichever parts are written by hand are still totally kosher if written by a shaliach (agent) on behalf of the mekadesh/et (this is standard practice for gittin, which are not generally written by the actual parties), so the writing could be done by the mesader/et (officiant). Third of all, there's no requirement that the sh'tar has to be in Hebrew.

Kiddushin with conditions

There is longstanding precedent, going back to the Mishnah, for doing kiddushin with conditions. The conditions can be stated at the time of kiddushin ("You are hereby consecrated to me on the condition that ____"), or (as is more common now, to avoid having to say a mouthful under the chuppah) can be written in a separate document which is signed beforehand. As noted above, we wrote the conditions directly into our sh'tarot. The conditions may be about something that is or is not true at the present time (e.g. "on the condition that I am a kohein", Mishnah Kiddushin 2:3), in which case the kiddushin goes into effect if and only if the predicate is true, or the conditions may be about something that may or may not be true in the future (e.g. "on the condition that I give you 200 zuz in the next 30 days", Mishnah Kiddushin 3:2), in which case the kiddushin goes into effect in the future, at the time the condition is satisfied.

Our sh'tarot included two conditions: "on the condition that you accept this document of your own free will and without coercion" and "on the condition that you consecrate or consecrated me to you and that your kiddushin remain in effect".

The first condition emphasizes that the active participation of both partners is necessary for each act of kiddushin to go into effect; neither participant is passive.

The second condition ensures that the two acts of kiddushin are dependent on each other. Each kiddushin goes into effect only if the other one does. The use of both future and past tense means that the two sh'tarot can have identical texts and can be given in any order; there is no significance to the order. I honestly don't remember which order we gave them in. (EAKO and BZK did something very slightly different: they decided ahead of time what order the sh'tarot would be given in, and hard-coded this order into the sh'tarot, so that each one had either future or past tense but not both. But again, there was no significance to the order.) Thus we gave each other sh'tarot sequentially, but the two acts of kiddushin went into effect simultaneously, only after both sh'tarot had been given.

The mutual dependence also means that if someone thinks that one of the kiddushins is not valid (for whatever reason), then they must also hold that the other kiddushin is not valid. This is a feature, not a bug, since it means that, at least in theory, no one should require non-egalitarian divorce proceedings, since anyone who would require this probably also holds that one (and therefore both) of the kiddushins was not valid in the first place. I know in practice it's not so simple, and this will be discussed further in Part 5.

The dependence on the other kiddushin remaining in effect means that a single get (given by either party to the other, to terminate either kiddushin) terminates both kiddushins. These issues will also be explored more fully in Part 5.


Coming soon:
Part 4: ketubah
Part 5: divorce

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Wedding... Part 2

Continuing from Part 1. This part is an overview of and reflections on the procedure by which Jewish marriage is enacted.

Classically, Jewish marriage has two parts: kiddushin (aka eirusin) and nisuin. In the old days, these steps could be temporally separated by as much as a year, but nowadays, with very few exceptions, they take place one right after the other. To this day, most Jewish weddings include both of these elements, at least superficially, even if they are not always conceptualized as separate processes.

Kiddushin/eirusin is often translated as "betrothal", but this is misleading: "Betrothal" implies mere intent to get married, whereas kiddushin is a sufficiently advanced stage of marriage that if kiddushin has taken place, a full divorce is required in order to terminate the relationship. (Adding to the confusion, le-hit'areis in Modern Hebrew means simply "to get engaged" the way we would use it in English, not the rabbinic concept of eirusin.) In light of this confusion, Rachel Adler translates kiddushin/eirusin as "espousal" (and, in a footnote, cites another author who calls it "inchoate marriage", though she rejects this as "rather a mouthful").

Nisuin is generally translated simply as "marriage". This is a good enough translation; the marriage is not complete until nisuin takes place.

Some Hebrew grammar

Active verbs:
  • Mekadeish (m.) / mekadeshet (f.) = the one who performs kiddushin
Passive verbs:
  • Mekudash (m.) / mekudeshet (f.) = the one to whom kiddushin is done

What do kiddushin and nisuin do?

Classically, kiddushin was unilateral and heteronormative. That is, only a man could be mekadeish, and only a woman could be mekudeshet. (On these formal grounds, albeit not on sociological grounds, same-sex kiddushin is actually less of a departure from classical kiddushin than is bilateral opposite-sex kiddushin (which we did, and which most liberal Jewish weddings include), since in same-sex kiddushin (in either combination), 1 of the 2 partners meets the classical gender requirements, whereas if a woman does kiddushin to a man, neither partner meets these requirements.)

The word kiddushin is from the root קדש, meaning "holy" or "sacred", or more generally, "dedicated" or "set apart". Kiddushin effects a change in personal status: the recipient of kiddushin goes from being single to being mekudash/mekudeshet to one individual, the performer of kiddushin. The recipient of kiddushin now has the status of an eishet ish (or ish ishah, or ish ish, or eishet ishah), and is forbidden by the Torah to have sex with anyone other than the mekadesh/et. If s/he does, then both s/he and his/her accomplice have violated the Torah prohibition of adultery. The recipient of kiddushin also becomes unable to be mekudash/mekudeshet to anyone else. (Not forbidden, but unable; if anyone attempts kiddushin on him/her, nothing happens.)

However, kiddushin does not inherently effect any change in the personal status of the mekadesh/et. In the Torah (and on paper in the Mishnah and Talmud, whether or not this was practiced in rabbinic times), it's perfectly fine for a man to have multiple wives (or for a married man to have affairs with unmarried women). This wasn't prohibited until the decree of Rabbeinu Gershom around 1000 CE, which is only a rabbinic decree (and only pertains to Ashkenazi Jews), not a Torah prohibition. It's still prohibited, of course, and the predominant view of marriage today in both Jewish and western civilization is that both partners are in an exclusive relationship, but this prohibition is not activated by unilateral kiddushin alone, and is not as severe as the prohibition that applies to the recipient of kiddushin.

The mekudash/mekudeshet is not only biblically prohibited from having sex with anyone other than the mekadesh/et, but is rabbinically prohibited from having sex even with the mekadesh/et (i.e. with his/her new spouse) until nisuin takes place. This is a prohibition that is activated at the time of kiddushin; there is no direct prohibition on sex between two completely unmarried individuals (though there are various fences around it). I speculate that the original reason was to deter deadbeat husbands. Nisuin entails various obligations, including financial support, and this rabbinic prohibition would have prevented men from obtaining an exclusive relationship with a woman (and taking her off the market, as it were) without supporting her financially.

An echo of this prohibition is preserved in the text of birkat eirusin, the blessing said before kiddushin, from Ketubot 7b: ואסר לנו את הארוסות והתיר לנו את הנשואות (and then Rabbeinu Tam helpfully added the word לנו lest there be any misunderstanding) / "who has forbidden to us those who have had eirusin, and permitted to us those who are married [to us]". Some people take issue with this wording, because they understand it as describing a general prohibition on sex outside of marriage. I don't think that matches what the words actually say: it seems to me that a plain-sense reading of the blessing is that it describes a prohibition (as discussed above) that lasts from the time of kiddushin to the time of nisuin. And it seems to me that in the present time, this prohibition should be unobjectionable regardless of one's general views on sex between two unmarried individuals, but is also irrelevant: now that kiddushin and nisuin have been consolidated into the same wedding ceremony, the time period in question lasts about 15 minutes, and no one is going to have sex anyway when they're under the chuppah and their family and friends are watching.

So that's kiddushin: a change in personal status for the recipient, along with the acquisition of negative prohibitions. Nisuin is different: it is the creation of a relationship between two individuals, along with the acquisition of positive obligations for both partners. After nisuin takes place, the two partners are fully married. They are now joined in a family relationship which entails mutual responsibilities, some of which may be spelled out in the ketubah (to be discussed in Part 4), and some of which take effect automatically whether or not they are spelled out.

As we understood it, both elements are necessary: both kiddushin and nisuin, both the individual status change and the formal creation of a relationship, both the negative and the positive obligations.

Understanding nisuin in an egalitarian context requires no major conceptual shift. Yes, the specific marital obligations described in the classical sources are very gendered; e.g., the husband is the breadwinner responsible for financially supporting the family, and the wife is responsible for household tasks. But it's easy enough (conceptually) to have both partners (of whatever gender) take on both areas of responsibility.

Kiddushin is somewhat more complicated, and is often disparaged for various reasons (some justifiable, some not), which we'll discuss throughout the rest of the series. It certainly has problematic aspects. But the bottom-line essence of kiddushin as marital exclusivity is uncontroversial to us and to most people. In fact, we thought it was so important that it should be multiplied by two, so that both partners are subject to kiddushin, and both partners have a requirement of monogamy at the level of a Torah commandment. Thus, even though kiddushin is a unilateral act, having two acts of kiddushin means that there is not a difference between the status of the two partners the way there is in classical kiddushin. (In the next post, I'll discuss how we made these acts of kiddushin interdependent and simultaneous.)

The formalist objections to bilateral kiddushin are 1) as discussed above, only a man can perform kiddushin and only a woman can accept kiddushin, 2) a concern that the two acts of kiddushin would cancel each other out. Within a broader context in which gender differences are insignificant in most areas of halachah, a non-gendered approach to kiddushin is consistent with the general halachic approach, and therefore #1 is not a concern in that context. (The question of why such a general approach is valid is beyond the scope of this series.) And #2 is a potential issue in primarily only one of the three methods of kiddushin (discussed below), and even under that method, there are ways of avoiding this problem (as we'll discuss).

How are kiddushin and nisuin effected?

Masechet Kiddushin begins with two very difficult words: האשה נקנית, "the woman is acquired". And looking at this mishnah in context makes it worse, not better. After explaining the three ways in which "the woman is acquired" and the two ways in which she "acquires herself", the Mishnah goes on to list the means of acquiring Hebrew slaves (or more accurately, indentured servants), Canaanite slaves, large animals, small animals, land, and finally movable property. Enough said.

But then the second chapter begins differently: האיש מקדש, "the man sanctifies / consecrates / sets apart", and that is the verb used throughout the rest of the masechet. According to those who are more scholarly than I, there is evidence that the first chapter of Mishnah Kiddushin is particularly ancient compared to the other chapters. Thus we see a conceptual shift regarding the nature of kiddushin even within the tannaitic period, shifting from an acquisition frame to something else.

Therefore, the way to be most faithful to the rabbinic concept of kiddushin is not to defend the idea of acquisition; the rabbis themselves moved away from this. Nor is it to maintain the superficial forms of kiddushin while disregarding the underlying meaning; kiddushin is meant to be a legal act and not merely a sentimental one. Rather, our place is to continue the movement that the rabbis began, moving our understanding of kiddushin even further away from unilateral acquisition.

(Similarly, many modern readers are distressed that the Torah's laws include slavery, but we can also appreciate that the Torah's laws on slavery were more progressive than those in preceding and surrounding cultures. Still, there is no question that the best way for us to live out the Torah's values in our time is to have no slavery at all, rather than to preserve the Torah's progressive-for-its-time system of slavery intact.)

Furthermore, many have pointed out that even the most primitive version of kiddushin was not exactly acquisition. When you acquire a piece of property, it belongs to you, and you are free to sell it, trade it, share it, lend it out, or rent it out. (The same was true for acquiring a slave.) A man who was mekadeish a wife, even in the earliest Jewish law, could not do any of those things with her.

Mishnah Kiddushin 1:1 lists three different methods of effecting kiddushin: kesef (money), sh'tar (document), and biah (sexual intercourse).

Kesef is by far the most common procedure in our time. In this method, the mekadesh/et gives the mekudash/mekudeshet either money or an object of value, which, according to Beit Hillel's position, must be worth at least one perutah (a coin of minimal value). This object is most often a ring, but other alternatives have been used (and at this writing, IKEA tupperware sets are selling for $4.99, so they would also be valid). According to Tosefta Kiddushin 1:1, the mekadesh/et must also say one of several formulations to indicate that the transfer of this object is intended to effect kiddushin: הרי את מקודשת לי (You are hereby consecrated to me), הרי את מאורסת לי (You are hereby espoused to me), הרי את לי לאינתו (You are hereby my wife), or anything that conveys this idea.

Kiddushin b'chesef has the unmistakable appearance of a purchase (even if, as discussed above, that's not what it really does). And this is part of why we didn't use it. But I also think there are other ways of looking at it that can redeem it. Some have suggested that the partners' giving each other objects of value can be viewed not as acquiring each other, but as investing in each other, a much more appropriate metaphor for an egalitarian marriage ("a marriage between subjects", to use Rachel Adler's phrase).

A more generalized objection to kiddushin b'chesef is that marriage shouldn't look like a financial transaction, because marriage should be about a committed personal relationship. But nowadays, you can have a long-term committed personal relationship without marriage, and many couples do, either leading to marriage or not. And for such couples, one of the largest practical differences between being married and being not married is indeed financial: as a married couple, they function much more as a combined financial entity. So I don't think this is inappropriate to invoke in the marriage procedure, but I also think that the more relevant financial transaction is a merger, not an acquisition. Thus, Rachel Adler's berit ahuvim procedure is based around creating shutafut: pooling resources to enact a business partnership. Early in our process, we considered the idea of reconceptualizing this as an egalitarian form of kiddushin b'chesef, but that wasn't the direction we ended up going (we lifted our rings in a bag as a symbolic gesture, but didn't incorporate this into the actual marriage procedure), so figuring out how this would work is left as an exercise to the reader. (To whichever reader attempts this: I'm sure no one will be more horrified than Prof. Adler herself, who goes to great lengths to emphasize multiple times that berit ahuvim is not kiddushin. However, I'll discuss in Part 5 why I think drawing this red line doesn't actually accomplish what it is intended to, and therefore why it's not a problem to blur the line.)

An objection that is sometimes raised against bilateral kiddushin b'chesef is that the two transfers of value cancel each other out: if I give you $10 and you give me $10, then no net amount has changed hands. (It should be noted that this objection can only be applied to kesef and not to the other two methods of kiddushin: two documents don't cancel each other out, and... so forth.) Some have come up with solutions that make the amounts intentionally unequal, to avoid this problem. I think these solutions are too clever by half (and, by definition, not egalitarian). A simpler solution is just to make clear that the two acts of kiddushin are separate acts, and not part of a single transaction. So I give you $10 and you are mekudeshet, and in a separate act, you give me $10 and I am mekudash. The $10 (or ring or whatever) that I gave you doesn't need to remain in your possession for you to remain mekudeshet; the Mishnah (Kiddushin 2:1) says that the object used for kiddushin may even be eaten afterwards (the example there is dates), and the kiddushin is still valid as long as it was worth at least a perutah.

Another objection sometimes raised against egalitarian kiddushin (by whichever method) is that, in addition to the list of formulations that effect kiddushin, there is also a list of formulations that explicitly do not effect kiddushin. This list (as it also appears in Tosefta Kiddushin 1:1) includes הריני מאורסת לך (I am hereby espoused [f.] to you), הריני מקודשת לך (I am hereby consecrated [f.] to you), and הריני לך לאנתו (I am hereby your wife). Some interpret this list of exclusions to mean that a woman (because of her gender) cannot be the active partner in an act of kiddushin. But that's not what it's saying at all: it's clarifying the structure of kiddushin and saying that the mekadesh/et, not the mekudash/mekudeshet, is the one who has to give the other partner the kesef or the sh'tar, and the one who makes the statement of intent. This structure is fully compatible with bilateral gender-neutral kiddushin.

Sh'tar is a document that the mekadesh/et writes and gives to the mekudash/mekudeshet that contains any of the phrases above that effect kiddushin. This is what we did at our wedding, and this will be the subject of Part 3. This document is not the same thing as a ketubah, which will be discussed in Part 4.

Biah is often misunderstood. There is an urban legend out there (perhaps from the same source as the idea of a "double mitzvah") that "there's no such thing as premarital sex in Judaism, because as soon as you have sex, you're automatically married". Not so! Quoting Tosefta Kiddushin 1:1 once more, כל ביאה שהיא לשם קדושין- מקודשת, שאינה לשם קדושין - אינה מקודשת: intercourse effects kiddushin if and only if it is done for the purpose of effecting kiddushin.

The Rambam (Hilchot Ishut 3:5) goes even further, requiring the same evidence of intent of kiddushin that is required for the other methods of kiddushin: the kiddushin must be accompanied by a statement of intent from the usual list (הרי את מקודשת לי, etc.) and must be witnessed by two witnesses (though they only need to see the couple go somewhere alone together; they don't need to witness the actual act!). With these requirements, it's difficult to believe that kiddushin b'viah ever took place. And maybe (like the ben soreir umoreh) that's the point.

So why was it ever on the books in the first place? (Other than "study, and receive a reward", of course.) Given the aforementioned antiquity of the first chapter of Mishnah Kiddushin, I wonder if it dates back to a time when the requirements for kiddushin were less defined. Perhaps the older situation was somewhere between the youth group urban legend and the Rambam, so that sex didn't automatically effect kiddushin, but there was also room to invoke this type of kiddushin retroactively, e.g. in the case of an unexpected pregnancy, and say that kiddushin had taken place.

Perhaps because it seems so absurd, kiddushin b'viah is sometimes the subject of various facetious proposals. For example, kesef and sh'tar are both listed as methods of acquiring various types of property in Mishnah Kiddushin chapter 1, whereas biah is not, so it has been suggested that biah should be favored, as the only method of kiddushin that bears no similarity to acquisition. Biah might also be the only way to effect bilateral kiddushin with a single act (rather than two separate transfers of kesef, or two sh'tarot). These suggestions aren't serious, of course!!! It's just a way to amuse ourselves the way the rabbis did. But as a practical matter, while kesef has been alive and well as a method of kiddushin for millennia, and sh'tar is going back into style (see Part 3), biah is long gone and is not missed.

So that's kiddushin, which can be effected in one of three specific ways. Then there's nisuin, which is much less sharply defined. The elements of nisuin are well-known from any Jewish wedding: chuppah, ketubah, sheva berachot, and yichud. Unlike kiddushin, which takes place at a clearly defined moment, there's no moment in the wedding ceremony that can be pinpointed as the moment when nisuin occurs. It's not clear which of these elements actually effects nisuin. Unlike kiddushin, nisuin is much more of a "common-law marriage": you know it when you see it. Some have suggested that this is intentional, to convey the idea that marriage, and a relationship, is an ongoing process.


In Part 3, we'll look at kiddushin bishtar in greater depth, both in general and in the specifics of what we did.