I am getting married in two months from now, and last night we had a meeting with the rabbi who will be conducting the ceremony. Something came up which I am quite uncomfortable with: the issue of only the groom giving the bride a ring, and not vice versa. This essentially represents to me that I am being purchased. The idea that there is a problem with the bride also giving the groom a ring seems absurd to me. Surely I have as much say in the agreement to be married as my husband-to-be?
I know I am allowed to give the ring after the ceremony. However, I want to exchange rings during the ceremony. Gender equality is a very important issue to me. I am a highly educated woman, and I also value my Jewish identity, but I am quite upset about this. I would like to hear your opinion...
I fully understand your concern. Many couples have asked me the same question. Coming from a modern perspective, it does seem a little lopsided for the man to give the ring exclusively. But I believe when you understand the meaning of the ring giving, you may feel differently.
The chuppah is an exact spiritual operation to join your souls together. It is not just a ceremony celebrating your already existing relationship, it is a life-changing event that creates a new relationship. Before the chuppah you are two souls. After the chuppah, you are one. Still two individuals, with two minds and two hearts, but a united soul.
We can understand how two souls can become one by observing how two bodies can become one. The act of reproduction is the physical union of man and woman. In this bodily union, the man gives and the woman receives. Only this way can new life be created, a child conceived. That child is an actual manifestation of the unity of the parents. Man and woman have literally become one flesh.
The physical world is a mirror image of the spiritual world, and the workings of the soul are reflected by the workings of the body. Just as physical intimacy is the union of bodies, the wedding ceremony is an act of spiritual intimacy, uniting souls. And so in this act of spiritual union the man, expressing the male power of bestowal, gives the ring to the woman, the feminine receiver, making them one.
An exchange of rings doesn't create unity, just as an exchange of seed for egg would not produce a child. Only when the groom gives the ring and the bride receives it, then this singular act of his giving and her receiving produces oneness. Any attempt to alter that process would be, quite literally, counterproductive.
We can't play around with the facts of life. The spiritual life has facts too. May you and your partner be blessed with true oneness, and from that oneness may many little ones come.