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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

URL: www.scjfaq.org/faq/08-14.html
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Question 8.14:
Weddings: What is a Jewish Marriage?

Answer:

A Jewish Marriage is one that has Kiddushin. This means that the husband and wife are sanctified to each other, and have an exclusive relationship. The Sanctification is under the Laws of Moses; thus, Kiddushin is only present (traditionally) if both parties are Jewish (and thus, only a marriage between two Jews would require a Jewish divorce).

The Kiddushin relationship has legal ramifications. The marriage ceremony is one of acquisition. It is based on the rules for transfer of property in biblical times. In marriage, the woman accepts a ring (or something of value) from the man, accepting the terms of the marriage. A marriage contract (ketubah) is read publically. Witnesses are required for both the signing of the ketubah and the ceremony. Note: According to the Mishnah, a Jewish marriage is a legal contract and may be contracted in any of three ways: (1) with money (as when a man hands a woman an object of value for the purpose of contracted marriage, and in the presence of two witnesses, and she accepts); (2) through a written contract; (3) or by sexual intercourse, a method strongly discouraged by the Sages.

Note the distinction between the Jewish marriage and the secular marriage. In the United States (and many other countries), when a rabbi officiates at a wedding, it is de facto a legal wedding by the law of the United States, as well; therefore, a rabbi cannot officiate for you without a civil license. This is the secular (civil) marriage. However, Kiddushin is a ceremony that takes place between two Jews. Most rabbis will not officiate at a wedding between a Jew and a non-Jew because it is outside the realm of Jewish traditional practice.


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

[Got Questions?]Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to questions@scjfaq.org. The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at maintainer@scjfaq.org.

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© (c) 1993-2002 Daniel P. Faigin <maintainer@scjfaq.org>