Most people think of this part of the ceremony as the ring ceremony—the bride and groom exchange rings, state vows, and become husband and wife. In fact, a “double ring” ceremony is a relatively new addition to Judaism and vows are not traditionally part of a Jewish wedding.
In traditional language, this ceremony is called kiddushinThe first part of the traditional wedding service in which the groom acquires the bride by giving her a small token, usually a ring, and declaring that she is betrothed to him according to Mosaic law. Today, most non-Orthodox couples have made this ceremony egalitarian, exchanging rings and empowering the bride to speak too. Some, disliking the property aspects of the ceremony, have dispensed with it altogether, substituting a brit shutafut – a partnership covenant., and it is, from a feminist perspective, the most problematic part of the classical wedding ceremony. Technically, during kiddushin the groom “acquires” a bride by giving her a small token (usually a ring) and she acquiesces (by not protesting).
Although there are any number of explanations, reinterpretations, and apologies, it is difficult to getA writ of divorce. Traditionally, only a man can grant his wife a get. Liberal Jews have amended this tradition, making divorce more egalitarian. away from the patriarchal context of a the wedding ceremony: the groom acquires the bride, and not the other way around, and although the TalmudThe rabbinic compendium of lore and legend composed between 200 and 500 CE. Study of the Talmud is the focus of rabbinic scholarship. The Talmud has two versions, the main Babylonian version (Bavli) and the smaller Jerusalem version (Yerushalmi). It is written in Rabbinic Hebrew and Aramaic. goes to great lengths to distinguish this acquisition from others (a mule or a piece of land), it is nonetheless just that.
1. The Bride Speaks
Many authorities argue that the bride cannot give the groom a ring under the huppahMarriage canopy symbolizing the couple's new home. (halakhically, it cannot appear as if he gives her a ring on condition that she give him one; his gift of a ring must be unconditional). For couples who abide by these authorities, the bride can still choose to make some declaration of acceptance. Some brides merely state their acceptance of the ring; others choose to quote from a Jewish source like Songs of Songs, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”
2. Two Rings
Other authorities find two rings less problematic. Some mandate that the bride give the groom a ring only after the reading of the ketubahThe Jewish wedding contract. Traditionally, the ketubah protected the wife in marriage by spelling out the husband's obligations to her and guaranteeing her a financial settlement in case of divorce. Throughout the ages, ketubot (plural) have been illuminated and calligraphed, becoming significant as Jewish art. Today, all manner of egalitarian ketubot are written. Some dispense with the financial and legal aspects, focusing more on the emotional and spiritual sides of the relationship. Others maintain the rabbis' concern with the practical, but define mutual obligations for each spouse., thus demarcating it from the kiddushin ceremony. Others do not see a halakhic problem, while still others feel that by making the declaration mutual it is lifted out of its original rabbinic context of acquisition and restored to the original meaning of kiddushin—to make holy, to set aside as sacred.1
Many couples who give one another a ring will mutualize their declarations; the groom says, “Harei at m’kudeshet li … “ “Behold, you are betrothed to me…” and the bride says, “Harei atah m’kudash li … “ Some people, however, feel that this declaration is problematic since, in their view, it is legally irrelevant for a woman to make such a declaration. Other possible words include the verses from Hosea 2:21: “And I will espouse you forever: I will espouse you with righteousness and justice, And with goodness and mercy, And I will espouse you with faithfulness.” Sometimes, the man will respond with an earlier verse (Hosea 2:18): “You will call Me Ishi (my man)/And no more will call me Ba’ali [Heb., my husband, lit., my owner.]”
3. BritLit. Covenant. Judaism is defined by the covenant - the contract between the Jewish people and God. God promises to make us abundant and to give us the land of Israel; we promise to obey God's commandments. This covenant begins with Abraham and is reiterated throughout the Torah. A brit milah, literally a covenant of circumcision, is often simply called a brit or bris. Ahuvim (Lovers’ Covenant)
Prominent Jewish feminist theologian RachelLavan's younger daughter and Jacob's beloved wife second wife (after he is initially tricked into marrying her older sister, Leah). Rachel grieves throughout her life that she is barren while Leah is so fertile. Ultimately, Rachel gives birth to Joseph and dies in childbirth with Benjamin. Rachel is remembered as compassionate (she is said to still weep for her children), and infertile women often invoke Rachel as a kind of intercessor and visit her tomb on the road to Bethlehem. Adler argues in her book Engendering Judaism that the kinyanLit. Acquisition In a traditional wedding, the bride is "acquired" by the groom. The kinyan is effected by the giving of a small object, usually a ring. Under traditional Jewish law, a bride cannot acquire a groom -- therefore, this act cannot be made mutual. Liberal Jews have found various ways to work around this dilemma although the Orthodox community, for the most part, does not accept these solutions. or acquisition aspect of marriage cannot be dismissed. A wife, in rabbinic times, was a patriarchal commodity, not unlike an ox or a field and promising to treat her well is no better than acquring a slave and offering the same. A mutual kinyan, in her mind, remains problematic. Not only is it halakhically “impotent” (the exchange of rings cancels one another out) but even metaphorically it is still based in the idea of property acquisition or the commodification of human beings, however mutual. She argues that this model is simply not relevant to marriage today.
Instead, Adler offers the model of shutafut or partnership based in the rabbinic model of business partnerships in which two parties enter into a mutual, contractual relationship. Her wedding ceremony looks much like a traditional ceremony with some noteworthy exceptions. The ketubah or marriage contract is replaced by a partnership deed or sh’tarA Jewish legal contract, such as a get or ketubah. brit in which the terms of the partnership are spelled out. The kiddushin ceremony is replaced by a kinyan or acquisition of the partnership.
In the Talmud, when two parties entered a partnership they demonstrated the “pooling of resources” by each placing a sum of money into a bag which they lifted together. Adler suggests that the couple could each place an object of significance to them into the bag—a book, a special gift, or a ring. Each might wish to discuss the object before placing it in the bag. The partners then lift the bag together, recite the declaration, “Blessed are you…who remembers your covenant and is faithful to your covenant and keeps your word” (the traditional blessing spoken on seeing a rainbow, a sign of the covenant), and symbolically mutually acquire the contents. They could then remove the rings and place them on their fingers. A special bag or pouch can be created for the occasion.
Adler’s ritual can be found on Ritualwell, as well.
Note: While Ritualwell has on file several wedding ceremonies that incorporate Adler’s ideas, none of them forego kiddushin. In other words, they add Adler’s brit ahuvim onto some version of a traditional kiddushin, as a nod to halakhah and tradition. While many couples probably agree with Adler’s reasoning, fewer seem willing to completely abandon what has been Jewish wedding tradition for 2,000 years. Some do not feel comfortable having a wedding that explicitly.