Wedding Ceremony Merges Tradition and Egalitarianism

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The next turning point came when we finally saw that despite Joel's intellectual appreciation of my difficulties with kiddushin, on a very basic, even primal level, he did identify with the desire to take a wife, to possess. Once he realized this and I absorbed it, our path paradoxically became simpler. I had resisted a straight traditional ceremony on the grounds that acquisition had nothing to do with what marriage meant to us (and it was intolerable to think that my cherished tradition could not accommodate what I found meaningful in pledging myself to another). But if it really meant so much to my partner that I be "his," the gap between ritual and reality was in fact not as great. While the abstract demands of halakhah seemed demeaning and only impelled me to argue, I found myself wanting to accommodate Joel's emotional needs.

The discomfort of acquiescing to being "taken" as wife was mitigated by a number of factors. First, I suspected that the need to possess was more or less standard male programming (as my desire to accommodate his needs was female programming). I preferred Joel, with his self-awareness about it, to the self-styled feminist men who had broken my heart in the past! And there were moments as we discussed it that I too related to a perhaps atavistic impulse to be "taken." Certainly part of me had longed all along for the familiar words of kiddushin as a sign of Joel's commitment, whatever their halakhic significance.

I was moved by his valiant attempts to respond to my own concerns, as evidenced in his kiddushin, and I knew he was sincere in declaring himself equally bound to me by it. I recalled that in other circumstances I defend accommodating the "frummest [most religious] common denominator" when more and less stringent interpretations of religious requirements clash....

Ceremony to Express Connection & Relationship

When I scrutinized my love for Joel and my desire to be married to him, I found possession to be utterly beside the point. What was vital for me was connection, bond, relationship. Once we concluded that this reflected a truth about gender difference that went beyond our differences in personality, it made more sense to express the need for bond in a new section, rather than tacking it onto kiddushin. The attempt to parallel the structure of kiddushin helped determine the content of what we called kesharin (connection).

The new section followed kiddushin and the reading of our ketubah [marriage contract]. To parallel the invocations preceding kiddushin (Brukhim ha-ba'im b'shem Adonai and Mi barukh al ha-kol) ["Blessed are those who come in the name of Adonai" and "The One who is blessed above all"], we began with a passage from Hosea, the book of Prophets that Joel quoted during kiddushin. A common choice for incorporation into wedding ceremonies, it is said every morning upon donning tefillin [phylacteries]: "And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice and in kindness and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness." Our friend, cantor Mikhal Shiff-Matter, sang this and passages earlier in the ceremony to the melody traditionally used for chanting the Song of Songs.

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Cheryl Beckerman is a writer and editor living in Jerusalem with her husband, daughter, and son.