Ceremony Part I: The Erusin
Perspective by Rivka
• The History of Erusin
• The Erusin Ceremony:
Kiddush - Wine Blessing
• The Erusin Ceremony: The Erusin
The Erusin Ceremony: The Ring and the Ring Ceremony
• Guests Response
to Groom's Declaration
History of Erusin
Two separate ceremonies were joined to create today’s wedding proceedings. Time was the first introductory blessing, the Erusin, marked a couple’s engagement. Nesuin is the more familiar ceremony involving a Chuppah, the seven marital blessings, and breaking the glass. Together the ceremonies are known as Kiddushin.
The root of the word “Erusin” means “bound” from the root asar. At the ceremony, the couple created a bond with each other and set about to plan for their wedding and their lives together. Or Erusin may come from the word “aras,” which is “to speak for. ” From Erusin onward, the couple is already spoken for and cannot commit to marrying anyone else.
Originally, the ketubah, marriage contract, was drawn up at the Erusin. The woman’s acceptance of a man’s marriage proposal was symbolized by her acceptance of a coin or of something with monetary worth. This agreement was binding, as the name Erusin implies, and required a Jewish divorce to dissolve.
In some communities, a year would elapse between the Erusin and the actual wedding. Given the amount of work that had to be done by hand, this year was used to sew trousseaus, construct homes and create the goods now found ready and waiting at the shopping mall.
There was a long yawn of time between the ceremonies. As a reminder to the incomplete nature of Erusin, the ceremony’s blessing thanked God for sanctifying sex between a couple – but emphasized the couple had to first stand under the Chuppah before enjoying pleasures of the flesh with each other.
Hosting separate Erusin and Nesuin celebrations proved to be expensive. The long period in between the two events was a problem as well. Who knew what sorts of sickness, strife and temptation would arise in the intervening year? By the end of the eleventh century, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105), a preeminent Torah commentator better known by the acronym Rashi, reported the two ceremonies had been combined.
The Erusin Ceremony
Kiddush – Wine Blessing:
Today, the ceremony opens with a Kiddush blessing over wine or grape juice. Afterward the rabbi will hand the cup to the groom, who sips the wine. Then the maid of honor, bridesmaid, or bride’s mother raises the bride’s veil just before the groom lifts the cup to his bride’s lips. She drinks. Sipping from the same cup is symbolic of the entwined lives the couple will share.
Kiddush is a mainstay of Jewish events. Opening with a cup of wine before beseeching God’s blessing is a tradition based in part on Psalms. King David wonders how he can repay God for His goodness and kindness. “I will raise a cup [because] of salvation, and call in God’s name” (Psalms 116:13).
Special wedding Kiddush cups used for this ceremony are part of an old European tradition. Jewish artists, glassblowers, silversmiths, and ceramic sculptors have renewed this tradition, creating special wedding cups.
Following this the Erusin blessing is recited. Texts vary, but a standard blessing translates: “We bless you God, Our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has commanded us regarding sexual propriety, forbidding to us those who are merely betrothed, but permitting to us those who are married through Chuppah and Kiddushin. We bless you, God, who has sanctified us with Chuppah and Kiddushin.”
The Ring and the Ring Ceremony
Erusin ends with the groom giving a ring to his bride.
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.”
For more about the ring and it's significance - Click
Response to Groom's Declaration
Some guests chime “mekudeshet” - “she is holy/sanctified” – at the completion of the ring ceremony. Others add “mazal tov.” More often the crowd under the Chuppah: bride, groom, in-laws, rabbi, and two witnesses block the guests’ view, and the ring ceremony will whiz by unanswered.
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