י״א בניסן ה׳תשע״ה (March 31, 2015)

Ketubot 57a-b: Between Kiddushin and Nisu’in

Anyone who pays attention to a contemporary Jewish marriage ceremony will notice that there are two distinct parts to it:

  1. kiddushin (betrothal), where the husband offers a wedding band to his wife, asking her to marry him, and
  2. nisu’in (marriage), when the husband and wife become a family by entering their home, symbolized by the huppa (wedding canopy) under which they stand.

These two parts of the ceremony are usually symbolically separated from one another by a speech and/or the reading of the ketuba.

During Talmudic times, it was common practice to separate these two elements of marriage by several months, during which time both the bride and the groom would have time to prepare for the wedding and the marriage. During that time they are considered by halakha to be a married couple, even as they continue to live separately from each other. The Mishna on our daf teaches that from the time they agreed to marry, a woman who was never married is given 12 months to prepare, while a widow is given 30 days. Should that time period pass and the wedding has not yet taken place, the husband is now responsible to feed her, to the extent that she can begin to eat teruma.

The Talmud Yerushalmi explains that the ruling of our Mishna permitting a woman to being to eat teruma when the time for the wedding has arrived is a mishna emtza’it – a “middle mishna.” This means that over time the ruling with regard to a betrothed woman eating teruma changed a number of times. The original ruling (mishna rishonah) allowed a woman who receives kiddushin from a kohen to begin to eat teruma immediately, since they are considered by the halakha to be a fully married couple at that time. The second stage is described in our Gemara, where she is allowed to eat teruma only after it becomes the husband’s responsibility to feed her. The final conclusion (mishna aharonah) allows her to eat teruma only after the nisu’im.

Two reasons are suggested by the Gemara for changes in this ruling. Ulla suggests that it is due to our concern that while she is living in her parent’s home we fear that she may share the teruma with her siblings who are not allowed to eat it. According to Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yehuda it is because of simfon – fear of a broken agreement. The specific concern is that an issue may arise that will lead the marriage agreement to be annulled, and we will discover that the bride was eating forbidden teruma since there was no marriage.

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