These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Kiddushin and the Queers

Posted on January 21, 2014 by Jessica Baverman

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This week, a classmate of mine at Pardes wrote a blog post about Kiddushin, being a gay man, and how he might see this tradition actualized in his own future relationship.

I am a queer observant woman who is getting married to another queer observant woman, and my partner and I have discussed how to balance our queerness and halacha to some extent (there is a lot more to discuss) and in particular how we plan to bring Jewish tradition and halacha into our wedding.

Our beliefs and practices are informed by Orthodox Judaism, and it is important for Emet and I to have a traditional Jewish wedding as much as possible because we recognize the importance of tradition. That being said, we know that under Jewish law, our marriage will not be valid. So, we are having many discussions about which Jewish traditions we find appropriate and relevant to us and which ones we need to alter or eliminate all together.

From White Rose Kallah

From White Rose Kallah

Traditions of a Jewish Wedding Ceremony:

  • The couple does not see each other for a week prior to the wedding.
  • The bride and groom go to the mikveh in order to enter into their marriage spiritually clean.
  • Both the bride and the groom have separate rooms for guests to greet them prior to the wedding (kabbalat panim).
  • The ketubah is signed by two Shabbat-observant men.
  • After the kabbalat panim, the groom goes to the bride’s room and places a veil on her, called the badeken, to symbolize that he is not solely interested in her physical beauty.
  • Under the chuppah (the marriage canopy), there is the betrothal blessing (kiddushin) over wine, when the groom gives the bride a ring, and the nisu’in, when the husband unites with the wife under the chippah through the Sheva Brachot, or Seven Blessings.
  • Following the ceremony, the couple goes to the yichud room, where they spend a few minutes together for the first time alone after the ceremony.

How we as a queer couple want to maintain tradition:

  • We will not see each other for the week leading up to the wedding.
  • We will go to a mikveh.
  • While we plan to see each other prior to the Kabbalat Panim, in order to take pictures and to reduce the emotional impact of seeing each other for the first time after a week, we likely will have two separate rooms for the kabbalat panim.
  • We are altering the kiddushin and the Sheva Brachot slightly to be more relevant and meaningful to us, though we are maintaining much of the wording.
  • We will have the yichud, as well.
  • We also have written our own ketubah text based upon traditional and modern texts to reflect our relationship.

What I’ve learned about Jewish tradition is that while we have customs that are passed down through history, each generation has changed them to be more relevant to their lives. You may not hear this from observant Jews, but even their practices have been informed by the commentators of a generation ago, and it is important for Emet and I, as a queer couple who wants to maintain tradition, to figure out a way to keep important aspects of it present in our wedding ceremony and our life.

There has been much discussion lately about religious GLBT people. Who we are, how we balance religious practice and being queer, and how we relate to each group (religious and GLBT people), as though they are separate identities. I’m very lucky that I can be an active member of both communities and that there are many, many queer Jews out there doing the exact same thing.

Cross-posted at Two Frum Queers, where we are writing about our experiences being Jewish, queer, and getting married.