Monday, May 07, 2012

You may ask, "How did this tradition get started?"

Back when I first started writing about our history, I wrote that we often wrongly think that everything we do today is based on the Babylonian Talmud.  Ancient Israeli customs still live and breathe, though many times we're not aware of it.  They pop up everywhere: from holding our hand to the candle during the Havdala ceremony to giving the bride a wedding ring.

Around the year 700, an Israeli Jew listed the differences between the Israeli and Babylonian customs of his day.  This list, with Rav Mordechai Margaliot's study on it, is available online at HebrewBooks.

The author did not have to travel to Babylon in order to compare the two traditions.  There were many Babylonian Olim in Israel who lived in their own "Bablo-colonies", upholding their own traditions, and for all intents and purposes, still living in Babylon.  In some cases, they tried to enforce the Babylonian tradition on their native Israeli neighbors.

The author, who was apparently trying to convince the Babylonian-Israelis to adopt the Israeli custom, listed 50-odd differences.  It is not a complete list.  Some differences he neglected to mention became burning issues for the Babylonian rabbis in the upcoming century.

Our Israeli author mentions three differences in the marriage ceremony traditions: The Sheva Brachot, ring and Ketuba.  Each tradition developed differently.

* The Sheva Brachot (Seven Blessings) - the Babylonian custom was to say seven blessings during the marriage ceremony, while the Israeli custom was to say three blessings.  The Babylonian tradition was codified in the Babylonian Talmud and won over the Israeli one.  Today we don't even know which three blessings our Israeli ancestors said.

* The Ring - Israeli tradition was to get married with a ring, while the Babylonian tradition was to get married with anything worth a nominal amount ('shve peruta').  At some point the Babylonian tradition was to marry over a glass of wine.

In Babylon people got married at a much younger age, and the groom usually conducted the ceremony with the bride's father.  In Israel, on the other hand, the marriage age was higher, the bride participated in the wedding ceremony, and the groom had incentive to give her something she would appreciate.  Jewelry,  specifically a ring, became the norm.  So much so that giving a ring was enough to contract a marriage.

Rav Margaliot points out that when traditions face off against each other, and were not codified in the Talmud, the Israeli tradition usually wins out.    Though a few Sephardi communities held on to the Babylonian 'glass of wine' tradition, marriage by ring became the Jewish norm.

* The Ketuba (marriage contract) - Israeli and Babylonian rabbis disagreed whether the Ketuba was Torah or Rabbinically mandated.  Both traditions were codified in the respective Talmuds.  The dispute had practical applications involving the wording of the Ketuba and its monetary value.

In this case, the Israeli tradition generally held its own against he Babylonian one.  The Ashkenazi Jews upheld the Israeli tradition, while the Sephardi Jews upheld the Babylonian one.

See here for more articles about our history in Israel.


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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

very cool find

Anonymous said...

The book you mentioned in this article is now translated into English.

http://seforim.blogspot.co.il/2012/09/the-book-of-disputes-between-east-and.html

Ora said...

@anonymous, Thanks for the update!

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