Lessons in Memory of my brother Dale Alan Konigsburg
August 30, 2004 – Number 5764-36
Wedding 5 – The Wedding Ceremony- Part II
We are now ready for the part of the service called Nisuin, the actual wedding itself. As I mentioned last week in #5764-35, There are three ways that the Sages said a person can become married. As part of this ceremony, we will see all three.
First, and article of value will be exchanged. This is usually the ring. Remember that it must have the minimum value of the smallest coin, it must have a value that is easy to ascertain, (without holes in the band and without stones set in the band) and it must belong to the groom). Since this is the first way a person gets married, it is also the one that, for all intents and purposes, is the way Jews get married. The groom places the ring on the index finger of the right hand of the bride so all can see that he has placed it there (she can move it to another finger later, right now it just has to go over the first knuckle). The groom makes a formal declaration to the bride, in Hebrew and in English. “With this ring you are sanctified to me as my wife in accordance with the law of Moses and the People Israel.” Whenever a man gives an item of value to a woman and recites this passage in front of two kosher witnesses, that man and woman are married. This is not a passage to play around with. Any man of legal age (that is over age 13 in Jewish Law) is married when he recites this line, even if it is in rehearsal or as an educational enactment. We do not fool around with this because it will require a Jewish Divorce before either party can remarry. It may effect who they can marry later too. We do not play around with this part of the ceremony.
If the bride will be presenting a ring to the groom, she will present it now. There are some who do not permit double ring ceremonies, there is a claim that it nullifies the presentation of the groom. I and many other rabbis do not hold by this but you should check with the Rabbi who is doing the ceremony to insure that there will not be a problem. Some Rabbis, in an effort to be equal, will have the bride recite the female equivalent of the passage recited by the groom. Others will have her recite a verse from some other part of the Bible. The verse from Shir HaShirim, The Song of Songs, that reads, “I am to my beloved as my beloved is to me.” is a popular verse for the bride to recite. Jewish Weddings do not have “vows” in the usual sense of the word. The Ketubah spells out the obligations that each party has agreed to so “vows” are unnecessary. Vows can be added, and if they are, they are added before the ring ceremony. The couple can write their own vows or the Rabbi can pronounce them. There is not reason that they should not be egalitarian in nature.
The next step is the reading of the Ketubah. This is the “Shtar” portion of the service. The Wedding Contract is read, first in its original Aramaic, and then the English is read. Since the Aramaic reads like an insurance policy, the English often takes a great deal of poetic license, adding the flowery language that a wedding deserves. After the Rabbi reads the Ketubah and certain that it has been witnessed properly, the Rabbi hands the Ketubah to the groom who then hands it to his bride. Just as with the rings, all she needs to do is accept it from his hand and not reject it and it effects the marriage.
The bride must keep the Ketubah in her home as long as they are married. It is the contract of their marriage. Often a couple will frame it and place it on the wall of their home. Some will make a copy to be placed in their safe deposit box. The original should remain in the home. Without a Ketubah, the Rabbis say a couple can not live together, so this is a rather important document to have around. Since the Ketubah grants rights to the bride, the contract is considered her property.
Next week: Wedding 6: The Wedding Ceremony-Part III – The Sheva Berachot