BIRCHAT ERUSIN PART II

 

The evolution of our current text of the birchat erusin is interesting in that the version that we generally use is not that favored by most Rishonim and poskim throughout the ages. What is somewhat notable is that the debate can basically be broken down to a debate between Ashkenazic and Sephardic figures, and the current Ashkenazic text is a result of the (minority) Ashkenazic approach throughout the ages.

The most major issue involved here is how the blessing is supposed to end. Assuming that it does end with a second blessing formulation (as discussed last week), what is the text of that blessing supposed to be? Rif writes that it should be "Blessed are You Hashem, who sanctifies Israel." Simple as this opinion sounds, Ran and many others point out that the manuscript version of Rif's comments has the words "by way of chupah and kiddushin" crossed out at the end of the blessing, implying that Rif originally considered this option, and then actively rejected it. Ramban, Rashba, and Ritva all side with Rif, and Ritva explains that since there are many ways in which the Jewish people are sanctified, it is not proper to single out one. Ritva also notes that Rav Hai Gaon sides with this view in a responsa. While Ritva acknowledges the other views, which will be discussed momentarily, Ramban claims that to have any other version of the blessing is to detract from it.

On the other side of the coin, there are those who claim that the blessing should end "Who sanctifies Israel by way of chupah and kiddushin." Abudraham, although he sides with the Sephardic camp, notes this view and explains that the rationale for following it is that while all peoples on earth have the concept of marriage, it is chupah and kiddushin which serve to distinguish and sanctify the Jewish people in this regard, and thus it is worthy of mention. Most notable among the Rishonim to hold this view is Meiri, who adduces two proofs for his position, both of them technical. The first reason is simply that the text of the blessing given in the gemara includes the clause of "by way of chupah and kiddushin." Furthermore, he writes that any blessing that is long and has two blessing formulations in it should contain elements of the main part of the blessing in the concluding line. Since the blessing as a whole speaks about chupah and kiddushin, it is proper that they appear in the conclusion as well.

Both the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch follow the Sephardic camp and rule that the additional clause of "by way of chupah and kiddushin" is not part of the birchat erusin. Bach includes it, and also includes the word "amo," thus making the blessing reading "who sanctifies His nation Israel..." Ramo in the Darchei Moshe and the Aruch HaShulchan do include "by way of chupah and kiddushin", and their rulings, despite the strong tendency against it, serves as the basis for the common Ashkenazic text today.

There are a couple of other issues connected with the use of the wording of "chupah and kiddushin." One small point is made by the Ba'al HaIttur and cited by Ran and many others. He claims that it should really be "chupah by way of kiddushin" (chupah b'kiddushin, with a 'bet'), and that somewhere along the line the 'bet' at the beginning of 'b'kiddushin' was changed into a 'vet' and ultimately into a 'vav', thus making it appear that we are referring to the distinct concept of chupah and kiddushin, as opposed to the joint unit of the two working together in tandem. The Shulchan Aruch rules according to this view, although he brings down the more popular version in parenthesis,

There is also the question of whether chupah should be mentioned before kiddushin or vice verse. Rav Achai Gaon, in the Sheiltot, places kiddushin first, since it occurs first in time (as kiddushin is the erusin and chupah is the nisu'in). Almost all other views place the chupah first, following the wording of the gemara. The Aruch HaShulchan reasons that this is done in line with the general parallels to Mount Sinai that occur throughout the wedding. The gemara in Shabbat tells us that when Hashem offered the Torah to the Jews, he lifted the mountain over their heads and told them that if they did not accept the Torah, the place where they were standing would become their graves. As that came before the actual giving of the Torah, the Aruch HaShulchan sees it as being the chupah, with the giving of the Torah as the kiddushin, and thus there is at least one instance where chupah preceded kiddushin.

Moving on, Rabbeinu Tam has an interesting addition to the text of the blessing. The gemara renders the blessing as "who commanded us in the forbidden relations and forbade us to arusot (betrothed women) and permitted to us nesu'ot (married women) by way of chupah and kiddushin." Rabbeinu Tam adds in a second occurrence of the word "lanu" to us, thus changing the blessing to "v'hitir lanu et ha-nesu'ot lanu." The effective change in the meaning is that the blessing now means "permitted to us those who are married to us by way of chupah and kiddushin." While Abudraham and Tur follow the gemara's version and mot this extra word, Bach and the Aruch HaShulchan do include it, and it is part of the common text used today.

Finally, we should note the Mordechai brings down a responsa of Rashi who rules that we should make a break between the erusin and the nisu'in by reading the ketubah. There is fairly little written on this, and it has more or less become the common practice.


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