Erusin (אירוסין) is the Hebrew term for betrothal. In modern Hebrew, "erusin" means engagement, but this is not the historical meaning of the term, which is the first part of marriage (the second part being nissuin).
Since the Middle Ages it is customary for the marriage to occur immediately after the betrothal, and to perform the betrothal during the marriage ceremony itself. Previously this was not the case, and there were often several months between the two events.
In Hebrew and classical rabbinic literature, betrothal is frequently referred to as sanctification (Hebrew: Kiddushin, קידושין), on account of the bride becoming "sanctified" (dedicated) to the groom.
In the Hebrew Bible
A non-traditional view is that the betrothal was effected simply by purchasing the girl from her father (or guardian). The price paid for her (bride price) is known by the Hebrew term mohar (מוהר). The girl's consent is not explicitly required by any statement in the Bible, neither is there explicit permission to ignore it. It was customary in biblical times for the bride to be given part of the mohar. Gradually it lost its original meaning, and the custom arose of giving the mohar entirely to the bride, rather than to her father.
The traditional commentators do not necessarily explain mohar this way. Rashi understands mohar as a form of ketubah, an agreement to pay a certain amount upon divorce, and Nachmanides understands it as sovlanut, a sort of dowry or engagement present. Rashi understands Rachel and Leah's complaint to Jacob ("we are considered strangers to him for he has sold us") as saying that it was not normal for a father to sell his daughters, at least not without also giving them a dowry.
In the Talmud
The legal act
The Talmud states that there are three methods of performing erusin; by handing the woman a coin or object of nominal value, by handing her a document and through consummation (sexual intercourse), although the last is prohibited by the Talmud. In all cases the woman's consent is required; however, it can be implied by her silence. In religious law, two valid witnesses must see the ceremony.
The erusin is preceded by a blessing over wine and then the bircat erusin (betrothal blessing). If forgotten before the ceremony, it can be recited before the ketubah is read. Originally the blessings were recited by the groom but today it is more common for someone else to recite them such as the wedding's Rabbi.
Today, the custom is to perform the betrothal by giving the bride an object whose value is well known, and fairly constant: a gold ring without a stone. This is in accordance with the first method mentioned above.
The actual betrothal now takes place. The groom takes the ring and says in Hebrew, Behold, you are consecrated to me with this ring according to the laws of Moses and Israel. The groom now places the ring on the bride’s right index finger.
For legal purposes, a betrothed couple is regarded as husband and wife. Similarly, the union can only be ended by the same divorce process as for married couples. However, betrothal does not oblige the couple to behave towards each other in the manner that a married couple is required to, nor does it permit the couple to have a sexual relationship with each other.
The rabbis prohibited marrying without an engagement (shiddukhin). Therefore, an old custom is to sign a Shetar haT'na'im as a formal form of engagement, forming an informal declaration of the couple's intentions, and is read close to the start of the betrothal ceremony.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "betrothal". Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "marriage ceremonies". Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.
- Ketubot 57b
- Genesis 34:12, Exodus 22:16-17, Deuteronomy 20:7, Deuteronomy 22:29, Hosea 2:19-20
- This article incorporates text from the 1903 Encyclopaedia Biblica article "MARRIAGE", a publication now in the public domain.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "marriage". Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.
- Rashi Genesis 34:12; Exodus 22:16, Mikraot Gedolot, six volume Shilo edition, 1969
- Ramban, Exodus 22:16, Chavel edition, Mossad HaRav Kook, Jerusalem, 5732
- Halo nachriot nechshavnu lo ki m'charanu
- Genesis 314:15, Mikraot Gedolot, six volume Shilo edition, 1969
- Talmud, Kidushin 12b
- Jewish Encyclopedia, Consent (http://jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=736&letter=C)
- Abraham Danzig, Wisdom of Man 129:16
- The Jewish Way in Love & Marriage, Rabbi Maurice Lamm, Harper & Row, 1980, Chapter 15
- Made in Heaven, A Jewish Wedding Guide by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Moznaim Publishing Company, New York / Jerusalem, 1983, Chapters 20 and 21
- Text of the Birkat Erusin
- Adler, Binyamin. Sefer haNisuim Kehilchatam, haMesorah Publishing, Jerusalem, 1985. chapter 3, paragraph 184-5.
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