Shabbat Parashat Beshalach| 5763
Kiddushin (Jewish Marriage) – Witnesses – I
The mesader kiddushin is the most visible and active participant in the marriage ceremony and is needed to ensure it is run according to halacha, but we must note that his is not the most halachically indispensable function. That distinction belongs to the two kosher witnesses (eidim), without whom kiddushin is impossible (Kiddushin 65a).
The requirement of two witnesses regarding matters of marital status is learned from a g’zeirah shava from monetary matters (Sota 3b). However, there is a major difference. Monetary transactions can take place without actual witnesses. The witnesses are needed only after the fact, within court proceedings, to clarify matters and are called eidei birur (witnesses for clarification). In contrast, kiddushin and gittin require eidei kiyum, (witnesses to enable), without which the halachic process is meaningless. The reasoning behind this distinction is a famous topic in yeshivot (see K’tzot Hachoshen 241:1).
Some have the misconception that being an eid at a wedding is a second-rate honor. Since questions about the validity of witnesses are the greatest threat to the validity of the kiddushin, being chosen as an eid should be a sign that the person is held in the highest possible esteem regarding reliability and righteousness.
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