Nov 27, 2018

Interesting Psak: marriage proposals

Will the common form of marriage proposals be coming to an end in the religious Jewish community?

While a marriage proposal is really just one person asking another if he or she will agree to marry, the proposal is often performed in an emotional, and often romantic setting and with all sorts of accompanying scenes. It also commonly includes the potential groom taking out a ring and asking the potential bride "will you marry me?", and then giving her the ring, or even putting it on her finger. Nowdays it is even common to do this in front of friends, with the friends documenting the event on video and sometimes assisting in setting the tone for the proposal.

In recent months a number of rabbis have brought questions about this to the Chief Rabbi, Rav Yitzchak Yosef, asking if this is ok as it seems to be an actual wedding - will you marry me with the giving of a ring and often witnesses seems an awful lot like an actual wedding.

Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef responded that this is completely prohibited and effects a possibility of issurim of "eishes ish" - a married woman. Rav Yosef called for this bad custom and behavior to be stopped. In addition to the problem of potential eishes ish, it is a breach of tzniyus and a break from the way things were traditionally done in previous generations.
source: Kikar

If this effects an actual marriage, even though that is not the intention and everyone knows it, if they decide to split up they would require a gett. Without a gett but with a breakup, when she marries someone else that might violate the serious erva of eishes ish.

This is not an unreasonable psak and is logical, especially considering how the proposals are often done. In the religious community the ring is often given later and not at the proposal, so that might mitigate the problem in such situations. When the ring is given at the proposal, that might be an actual problem, but people have been doing it this way for so long even if it was not done that way in Poland and Morocco 150 years ago so this is not a new problem and yet the public has continued to do this and the rabbonim have not intervened.

I do not know why it is allowed - perhaps due to the known intentions of it being an engagement and not a wedding. I know some rabbis say it is not a problem, some prefer you propose without a ring and only give the ring later, some say even with a ring is ok but say explicitly it is a gift and not for marriage, and some say if done without witnesses it is no problem...

Anyways, if Rav Yosef's psak takes off, it would be major..

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  1. I remember asking that exact question before I got engaged (many many years ago), although I did not give my intended a ring, I did have another small gift for her when I asked her to marry me.

    The Rabbi I asked suggested that when I give her the gift, to specify that it was a gift to show how much I care about her, but should not be considered Kiddushin and I was asking if she wanted to marry me at some future date to be determined, not right now (I don't remember the exact wording)

    However he said that even if I forgot to stipulate that (or she didn't understand what I was trying to say) there isn't really a problem as the gift was neither given nor accepted as a form of Kiddushin, and everyone understood that.

  2. I really don't understand the problem with the Safek gett. Intent matters. Intercourse is valid as Kiddushin too, but no one worries that 2 people hooking up for a one night stand might now be married.

    1. If two people hook up for a one-night stand in front of witnesses they might. But I doubt that's all that common.

    2. They have to live togather in the same home, for them to be considered halachically married. Not just for one night.

  3. I am a little surprised that this is coming up as a new question now. The mishna brura statement to not give mishloach manot to a single woman due to safek kedushin combined with the endless stories of kids accidentally getting married in school plays or joking around. I guess with social media there are more people witnessing these events to bring up concerns and problems for the actions of others. Just ask Rabbi Leff.


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