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May a bride give her groom a ring at the Chupah?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

  

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The Short Answer:

The Jewish concept of marriage cannot be effectuated through a "double ring" ceremony.

The Askmoses Answer:

This question is predicated on the assumption that the wedding ring is a sign of commitment and love. The bride loves her groom just as much as he loves her; hence it is only natural for her to give him a sign of her commitment and love, much the same as he does for her.

There is just one problem with that notion: the ring under the Chupah is not an expression of commitment and love. It is a legal transaction.1

A Jewish marriage is not a partnership between two strangers who agree to certain terms. Jewish marriage is a union of two beings into a single entity. For two distinct people to become one there needs to be more than an agreement, there needs to be a transformation, and that transformation happens only through a Kinyan, an acquisition.

If she were to give him a ring in return, her ring, rather than her being, would be the subject of the transaction.
The essential objective of a Kinyan is to transform that which is foreign to you into that which is one with you.

To accomplish that, a Kinyan must be tangible - e.g. performed through a contract or with cash etc. Although we are speaking about humans and not property, nonetheless, we are still speaking about a transformation. There must therefore be a tangible Kinyan.

That’s why the groom gives his bride a ring (or anything else of value). In exchange for the ring, she gives him her hand in marriage. Mission accomplished. If, however, she were to give him a ring in return, her ring, rather than her being, would be the subject of the transaction. In exchange for the ring he would be getting a ring. Now what about the marriage?

For that reason, she may not even say thank you for the ring. She must remain silent. Her reciprocation may only be her act of joining him in marriage.

After the Chupah he may give her gifts of love, and she may do the same. After all they are husband and wife, and gifts are a beautiful expression of love. But the Chupah itself is not a time for gifts. It is a time for becoming husband and wife.2

Footnotes

  • 1. As a matter of fact, the significance of the ring is that it is worth money, not that it is a beautiful piece of jewelry. For all practical purposes it can just as well be a blow-dryer.
  • 2. Sources: Made in Heaven, by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. Moznaim Publishers, 1983. The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage, by Rabbi Maurice Lamm. Jonathan David Publishers, 1991. The Laws and Customs of the Jewish Wedding, by Rabbi Gavriel Zinner. CIS Publishers, 1993.

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Chupah
Wedding canopy. Under this canopy, the groom betroths the bride with the customary ring, and the traditional marriage benedictions are recited.