A Marriage of Equals

One couple finds ways to share equally in the halakhic requirements of a wedding ceremony.

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Kiddushin Through Books

Perhaps the part of the wedding with which we struggled the most was kiddushin. The wedding ring, which is used to effectuate the marriage, also continues after the wedding to be a powerful symbol of commitment, and we both planned to wear one. Therefore, it felt fundamentally untrue to our beliefs and intentions to have a ceremony in which only one ring was given. Other couples have found creative ways for the kallah to give the chatan a ring after the chuppah, or after the wedding altogether, but because the rings are an ongoing symbol of the marriage, it was important to us to find a way to exchange rings at the same time.

Through our research, we learned that kiddushin can be accomplished with any object of value, and if we used something other than a ring for kiddushin, we would be able to exchange rings afterwards. That exchange of rings was halakhically meaningless, but it allowed us to use this powerful symbol in a way that reflected our values.

For kiddushin, we chose as our "object of value" a copy of Masechet Kiddushin, which symbolized our mutual commitment to Torah learning. Barry's declaration as he handed me the book was a slight variation on the traditional formula: "Hareh at mekudeshet li b'sefer zeh k'dat Moshe v'Yisrael" (Behold, you are consecrated to me with this book, according to the law of Moses and Israel). I became a more active partner in the exchange by declaring, "Hareni mekudeshet lecha b'sefer zeh k'dat Moshe v'Yisrael" (Behold, I am consecrated to you with this book, according to the law of Moses and Israel). Again, my statement itself did not carry any halakhic weight, as my silent acceptance of the book would have been enough to indicate my willing entry into the marriage.

Yet, as with other choices we made, we felt that it was an important symbol of our intentions for our relationship and our marriage. By seeking out such compromises, we were able to design a personal wedding ceremony that not only fit the confines of halakha, but also reflected who we are as a couple.

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Deborah Shapira is a graduate of the HaSha'ar teacher training program at the Drisha Institute, and taught Judaic and secular studies at the Beit Rabban Day School in Manhattan.