Taking the Plunge; Learning how to Commit from Avraham Aveinu
Taste of Talmud
The first step of the Jewish marriage process is called “Kiddushin,” which literally means to become holy or to separate oneself from the mundane. In English it loosely corresponds to what we would call, “betrothal.” In our time this state of holiness is created when a man gives a woman a ring under the Chupah. The first Mishna in Tractate Kiddushin says that a woman will agree to become betrothed if a man gives her a significant amount of money (a perutah) or with an object of equal value. Tosafos comments that there are two other situations in which Talmudic law permits the use of an object of monetary equivalence in place of direct monetary payment. These two situations are: a) For redeeming a slave and b) for paying a fiscal obligation incurred due to damages. Tosafos adds that even though in regards to betrothal the verses only allow for the use of money, the Talmud is telling us that we can derive from the laws of damages that when money is required to make a payment, it is sufficient to use a monetary equivalent. The Maharsha (Rabbi Shmuel Eidels Zt”l) asks: It should follow then, that if the laws of damages are the source for this law, that we must follow the specifications given by the laws of damages for the use of a monetary equivalent. Are we to learn from here that if a man would want to betroth a woman through a gift of land he may only use a piece of land that is of superior quality, as is the case in the laws of damages?
Taste of Halacha
My Rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, Zt”l, answered in the following manner. We have to ask ourselves what is the reason the Torah requires the use of superior quality land in paying for damages? The Halacha is that if the defendant has money or chattel he must use that to pay and cannot use land. Why? It is clear from this law that when the Torah allows the use of a monetary equivalent that it is not redefining money simply as anything with value. Rather, it is saying that one who damages another must return the amount of the loss to the one who was damaged in the best way possible. This is because the damager owes a debt to him that the damagee would rather not have had to deal with. Based on this explanation we can understand why when this law is applied to the laws of betrothal the law is different. There is an integral difference in the reason for the two payments. When a woman agrees to enter into marriage she is doing so willingly and could agree to commit herself to this marriage by means of receiving any object which she values. This is because the man does not owe her anything but rather they are coming to a consensus between the two of them that they want to enter into this bond. This is unlike the situation with damages where one is receiving the payment due to an undesired occurrence of damage. Once we know from the laws of damages that a monetary equivalent may be used in place of money, then, when it comes to the laws of betrothal, any object of significant value, that the bride and groom agree upon, could be used to create this holy bond.
Taste of Parasha
Our fore father Abraham set the course for the Jewish nation through his exemplary service of G-d. He showed himself worthy of becoming the father of the nation of G-d by passing ten tests. The Medrash asks a peculiar question: Which of the tests were greater? Abraham’s willingness to follow the command of “lech lecha,” to relocate to the land of Israel in order to become the progenitor of the Jewish Nation, or, was the willingness to sacrifice his beloved son (the akeida) the greater demonstration of moral caliber? On the surface, this does not seem to be a question whatsoever, how can one equate the ability to push aside all logic, and to devotedly (seemingly recklessly) go to sacrifice his one and only beloved son with the seemingly beneficial and innocuous relocation to a land which will be given to him and all of his future generations? The Nesivos Shalom explains that the command of lech lecha demanded of Abraham a commitment to the constant and daily challenges of personal development. This was not a one time test as was the “Akeida.” G-d was asking him to be ready and willing to be on a constant voyage of self-discovery. Abraham was to set the path with this act for every Jew to find his own unique path of service of G-d. To grow from each and every circumstance which G-d sends our way. To realize that nothing is by chance and that if we are placed in a certain situation it is because it is for us to use as a way to accomplish our mission on this earth, both from the exciting and happy moments, and, the challenging ones; day in and day out.