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Thought for the Day: Using Her Family Heirloom to Get Married

This could -- and does -- happen.  The beloved and dearly missed bubbie left her wedding ring to be used by the first of her granddaughters to get married.  Shprintze is the lucky young lady.  Shprintze, having been very close to her bubbie, wants do do more than just wear her beloved and dearly missed bubbie's ring.  Shprintze wants to actually be married with that ring.  So sweet.  So wrong.

Let's review.  A Jewish marriage is actually effected by the chossen giving his kallah something tangible item by which the kallah will experience a benefit worth (to her) one p'ruta.  Sorry to be so pedantic about the wording, but to understand the issue we'll need all those words.  First, the p'ruta is ancient monetary unit that basically means the smallest coin of value.  You can argue about it, but it's roughly a few cents.  (I do not recommend trying to get away with the minimum possible; she would likely show you what it means to be be minimum possible wife.)  The point is, it's not hard to exchange something from which she will experience that much benefit.

Why not just say, "it's gotta be worth a p'ruta"?  Suppose she owes him a p'ruta.  Forgiving the loan is certainly worth a p'ruta to her, but that doesn't work.  The fact that she is owes less money is not the same as profiting by the same amount.  This is not a lesson in psychology, but an exercise in details.  The Torah says that be needs to actually give her something; not forgive something she owes him.  As a corollary, the item must be something that he owns outright.

Ah... the ring belongs to her.  No problem; she'll give it to him before the ceremony.  Let's think about that.  They say that if you are faced with a decision between two alternatives, you should flip a coin.  Not because you are going to do whatever comes up, but because while it's spinning in the air you'll see what side you are hoping for; and that's what you'll do.  So let's imagine she gives him the ring and -- heaven forbid -- he decides not to marry her.  Is the ring his?  Probably not... she'll shriek, "I only gave you that ring so that you could own it when you gave it to me!"  That is, she is -- implicitly or explicitly -- adding a condition that is it only his ring on condition he uses it to marry here.

Making a condition is not the end of the world; it's still a good gift.  Many of us do that annually on the first day of Sukkos when we give our lulav and esrog to someone who doesn't have his own as "a gift on condition that you return it."  The gift is 100% valid; the recipient is 100% the owner.  The recipient, of course will surely give it back, because if he fails to give it back then he will have never owned the lulav and esrog in the first place (since he didn't fulfill the condition) and will therefore have not fulfilled the mitzvah.

In our case, though, suppose the chosson -- heaven forfend -- decides not to marry the kallah after receiving the ring.  If that happens, then the ring goes back to the kallah.  But that means that no matter what happens -- he marries her or not -- she ends up with the ring... meaning that she is not benefitting from the gift!  Either way it's back in her possession at the end of the day; so he has not performed an action from which she profits and therefore there is no marriage.

As usual, honesty is the best policy.  She should be hones about the fact that she does not want the ring to leave her possession.  It's a nice, romantic, meaningful thought to want to be married with Bubbie's ring, but Bubbie will be so much happier if Shprintze keeps the rings and uses something else of value to effect the actual marriage.

You could try a toaster, for example; which is certainly worth more than a p'ruta.  Or maybe a nice bracelet would work better...

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