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 Home > Jewish Wedding Guide > Conservative > Ceremony Part III: The Ring

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Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part III: The Ring
A Conservative Perspective by Rivka C. Berman

 • The Ring
 • Jewish Ring Traditions
 • Plain Wedding Bands

 • Significance of the Ring's Shape
 • The Ring Ceremony

 • Double Ring Ceremony

The Ring
Formal wedding ceremonies are an extra measure in the eyes of halacha. Traditionally, when a woman accepted a wedding ring, she was signaling her change of personal status and her agreement to the provisions in the ketubah.

Coins, property deeds, or even fruit qualified to establish a marriage, but rings became customary. Some Syrian-Jewish grooms present special marriage coins to their brides. A deed, fruit, prayer book, or anything with real monetary value is valid. Talmudic rabbis decried the use of rings at first. Roman men presented rings because they looked like chain links, symbolizing their acquisition of their wives. A ring’s beauty and convenience as a wearable symbol of marriage prevailed. Rings were regularly presented at Jewish weddings by the eighth century in Israel and by the ninth century in Babylon (modern day Iraq).

When the groom places the ring on his bride’s finger, he says: “Harei at mekudeshet li b’tabaat zu k’dat Moshe v’Yisrael,” “Behold you are consecrated unto me with this ring in accordance with the law of Moses and [the People of] Israel.”

Jewish Ring Traditions
A smooth golden band is traditional because it has a definite value. No stones or filigree mask the ring’s true worth, just as there should be no false pretenses or deception in a marriage.

In halacha, a jeweled ring whose actual value was less than it appeared to be could be ground for contesting the marriage. For this reason, twelfth century rabbis decided in favor of plain rings. A jeweled ring may be accepted on condition that all jewels are genuine.

Marriage is a contract of love and responsibility between specific two people. Consequently, the ring should be the groom’s own, not borrowed. To use an heirloom ring, it should first be given as a gift to the groom. That way it will be his to give to the bride.

Plain Wedding Bands
One reason Jewish tradition favors smooth bands, without engraving, frills, or stones is because they have readily ascertainable value. halacha gets technical here, but part of the nuptial formula translates as “Behold you become holy unto me with this ring.” If “this ring” was not what it appeared to be, then a marriage’s status as a legal entity would be called into question.

When plain wedding rings are used by all, poor brides are not embarrassed by their unadorned wedding rings. Kabbalistic sources suggest smooth rings would portend an untroubled life. Yet in 17th and 18th century Eastern Europe, some Jewish communities used rings fashioned to look like miniature houses to symbolize the home a couple would build together.

Georgian Jews adapted a local custom and placed the ring into the Kiddush cup used at the ceremony.

Significance of the Ring’s Shape
Where does a circle end? A ring has no perceivable ending point. Neither should love between husband and wife.

Basic to the Jewish understanding of gender is the idea that men and women have very different spiritual strengths. In marriage these forces are shared. A bride circles her groom, symbolizing the spiritual characteristics she contributes to her husband. Men wear a tallit after they marry (according to some customs) as physical evidence of the spiritual aura gained in marriage. Women wear wedding rings, which encircle the finger, as a tangible reminder of the new holiness that envelopes them thanks to their husbands.

Ring Ceremony
Once the nesuin blessing is over, the groom will be directed to put the ring on his bride’s finger. The ring ceremony needs to be witnessed. It is easier for the witnesses to see the ring when it is placed on the index finger. This is the traditional spot for the ring. Once the ceremony ends, the general tradition is to move the ring to the fourth finger.

Next, the groom utters the nine life-altering words of the marriage declaration: “Harei at mekudeshet lee b’taba’at zu k’dat Moshe v’Yisrael,” "Behold you are consecrated unto me, with this ring, according to the Law of Moses and Israel."

Double-Ring Ceremony
At its heart, a Jewish wedding ceremony is the creation of a new legal entity, a couple, who has new rights and privileges. In the eyes of halacha, the wedding ring is not a symbol of throbbing romance. The ring signifies a bride’s acceptance of the marriage proposal and the terms spelled out in the ketubah. Therefore a double ring ceremony is not a Jewish tradition. A bride who hands her groom a ring may appear to be returning the gift she just received.

Since social convention has made a ring-less married man appear to be of spurious fidelity, rings are often given at the ceremony. To keep with Jewish tradition, the ring a bride gives her groom is a token of love, not an act of matrimony.

In a double ring ceremony, the bride places the ring on the groom’s finger and says either, “Harei atah mekudash li b’tabaat zu k’dat Moshe v’Yisrael.” The meaning is the same as the groom’s statement except for the use of the male conjugation. Or a bride may choose to say: “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li.” “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 7:11, 2:16). In egalitarian ceremonies, a bride presents her groom with a ring and says the same words the groom says, using the male verb conjugation. “Harei atah mekudah li,” “Behold you are holy unto me…”



 

READ MORE:
Dating Jewish
The Dowry (Nedunia)
Matchmaker, Matchmaker Make me a Match!
Forbidden Marriages
Engagement: Announcement and more
Marriage: A Jewish Perspective
Setting a Date for the Celebration of a Jewish Wedding
Double Wedding, Double the Fun?
Wedding Guests: Who and How Many to Invite

Jewish Wedding Music Beyond Hava Nagila
Jewish Wedding Attire Customs: From Wedding Gown to Kittel
Jewish Wedding A Second Time Around
Mikvah:The Ritual Bath
Aufruf – A Torah Honor for the Groom
Wedding Day Customs
The Ketubah: The Jewish Marriage Contract
The Conservative Ketubah Text and Translation

Ketubah Designs and Designation
The Bedeking Ceremony: Veiling of the Bride
The Chuppah - the Wedding Canopy

Chuppah: The Inner Meaning
The Processional and the Chuppah Ceremony
Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part I: The "Erusin" - the Engagement
Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part II: The Ring and Its Significance
Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part III: The Ketubah Reading
Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part IV: Nesuin, the Marriage Ceremony
Jewish Wedding Ceremony Part V: Breaking the Glass
The Recessional at end of Wedding Ceremony
Yichud: Bride and Groom Retreat from Crowd for Alone-Time
Jewish Wedding Reception Customs and Traditions

Shana Rishona: The First Year of Marriage
Practical Tips: List of things to bring to your wedding
Jewish Wedding: Proper Etiquette and Gift Ideas




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