Talmidav Shel Aharon
14-5767 Mitzvah 44
February 19, 2007
Mitzvah 44 – It is a positive commandment to a wife by Kiddushin (consecration, the wedding ceremony).
Hafetz Hayyim: As it says in Scripture: “When a man takes a wife” (Deut. 24:1) So when someone comes to wed a wife, he needs to consecrate her first, to acquire her for his wife. He is to consecrate her with money of his [or its equivalent] that he gives her – either a p’rutah [a minimal amount, at least] or something worth a p’rutah; and he is to say to her, “You are hereby consecrated to me with this according to the law of Moses and Israel” and it has to take place before qualified witnesses.
Before the kiddushin (ceremony of marriage) it is necessary to say the benediction of erusin (betrothal), which is this: “… who hallowed us with His mitzvot and commanded us about forbidden conjugal relations, forbade us those betrothed to us, but permitted us those married to us by the ceremony of the bridal canopy and consecration.”
When one consecrates a wife [as described above] she is called arusah (betrothed), and he is forbidden by the law of the Sages to be conjugally intimate with her until she undergoes the ceremony of the bridal canopy, and the seven benedictions [of marriage] are recited. Before she enters upon the ceremony of the bridal canopy, he has to write a ketubah (marriage contract) for her; and once she undergoes the bridal-canopy ceremony she is called married, even if the marriage has not been consummated – but this is if she is fit for conjugal intimacy. If she is ritually unclean from the menses, however, ten even if she as undergone the bridal –canopy ceremony and he as been alone with her, the marriage has not been carried through, and she is legally like an arusah in every respect.
It applies everywhere and at every time.
(To be continued…)
When Jewish Law is the subject, there always will be gender issues to address. There are plenty here and I will deal with them as we go along. I only ask that the reader be patient since the Hafetz Hayyim was writing for a different time, before the advent of equal rights for Women and his is relatively liberal in his approach to them.
The Torah is filled with married people, but it never tells us what a wedding should look like. The Sages of the Talmud fill in the gap with a two part wedding ceremony. There is erusin and kiddushin. Then we can be assured that the couple are married. Erusin is a betrothal ceremony. It used to take place up to a year before the actual wedding. It was a state of being married without the conjugal rights. The extra time was given for the bride and her family to raise the dowry promised to the groom. Today it is the blessing quoted by the Hafetz Hayyim or some alternative blessings that are a bit more egalitarian. Kiddushin, the actual wedding ceremony, consists of three ways that the marriage is contracted. By writing a Ketubah and having it witnessed by two proper witnesses. It is then given to the bride. Then an object worth, minimally a p’rutah (the smallest ancient coin, today the value has to be our smallest coin, a dime. When they say “small” they mean in size) is given to the bride. It must be something owned by the groom, he has to give it to the bride and say the formula recited above. The couple end the ceremony with some time spent alone together. This is the third method of acquisition. Prior to this time alone (called “Yihud”) seven wedding blessings are recited. The significance of the p’rutah is that it should not be expensive for a man to get married lest he not marry because he can’t afford it. The Ketubah is also part of the Sages plan to keep marriage affordable. The Ketubah is an insurance policy that basically puts off the payment from the groom to the bride until his death or divorce. He then owes her the money (traditionally 200 zuzim, a big sum since two zuzim can buy a goat, this could buy a whole herd. In fact, the payment had to be in real estate if the husband owned any, and it was to be paid before any other creditors were paid) The entire ceremony, Erusin and Kiddushin, are now done together under the bridal canopy (the Huppah).
Today, we do our best to try and make a wedding more egalitarian. While we still hold on to the traditional forms, we try and add a number of feminine elements. The Ketubah can have several clauses that relate to the responsibilities of the bride. The bride can give an item to the groom even as he gives one to the bride and they both make declarations of their intention to be married.
At the end of this section, the Hafetz Hayyim makes mention of the Laws of Family Purity (Taharat HaMishpacha) the rules that require sexual separation during the wife’s menstrual period, and the requirement of her immersing in a Mikveh before they can resume marital sexual relations. These laws begin when a woman becomes married and continues as long as she is menstruating. Even on the wedding day, he is forbidden to consummate the marriage if she is menstruating and has not yet immersed in a Mikveh. Mikveh immersions are done about 12 days after the start of menstruation; five days of menstruation and seven days without any bleeding are the minimum. For very erratic periods, a rabbi should be consulted. While it is called “ritual impurity” it has no bearing on any other aspect of a woman’s life. She can do all her other activities normally, with the exception of sexual relations with her husband. These laws are a Mitzvah for women that apply all times. Some women think they are wonderful, giving a cyclical nature to sexual activity in the marriage. Others think it is a great imposition and ignore it. My take has been to encourage women (and husbands) to give Taharat HaMishpacha a try and see how it can enhance their marriage.
The Hafetz Hayyim continues this Mitzvah by including the rules of divorce as well but I will include that in next week’s lesson.
Lee Levitan writes:
A couple of comments that demonstrate the continually evolving nature of Conservative Judaism. (a) A 1994 responsum adopted by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards stated that if the husband cannot procreate, he is exempted from the commandment.(1) (b) A 1997 responsum adopted by the Committee stated that a man fulfills the mandate of procreation in having a child with a surrogate (either an ovum surrogate, in which case both the surrogate’s ovum and womb are used, or a gestational surrogate, in which case the woman is impregnated with a fertilized ovum of the intended parents).(1,2) Thus, the man need not be married to fulfill the mitzvah. I have not found anything on whether a “blind” sperm donor (who does not know to whom his sperm will be given) fulfills the mitzvah: perhaps you could enlighten me, Rabbi? And, finally, it is my understanding that fulfillment of the mitzvah (at least originally) required the man to produce both a male and a female child and that each child must in turn be capable of procreation. Am I correct here?
Rabbi Konigsburg Replies: The commandment to have children also involves being involved with their upbringing and teaching them Torah. This would not be fulfilled by a blind donor. It is required to have two children, a boy and a girl according to the ruling of Hillel in the Talmud but I never heard that they had to be able to procreate. That sounds to me like some modern interpretation but I would have to look into it more.