Shiur #06: Comparing Kiddushin and Hekdesh

  • Rav Moshe Taragin
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Talmudic Methodology
Yeshivat Har Etzion


Shiur #06: Comparing Kiddushin and Hekdesh

By Rav Moshe Taragin



The first mishna in Tractate Kiddushin asserts that a woman may be acquired by three different methods – kesef, shetar, and biah. By using the term "nikneit" (acquired), this mishna articulates kiddushin, the act of marriage, as a financial transaction. Intriguingly, the first mishna of the second chapter employs a very different language to describe this process - one which is more familiar in common jargon. The mishna describes a man being "mekadesh" a woman and allows that process to be delegated to an intermediary shaliach.


The gemara (2b) comments upon this alternate language by asserting an association between kiddushin and hekdesh - the designation of an item as belonging to the Mikdash. As the gemara explains: "a man installs deterrence upon his wife, prohibiting her from marrying other men." This preclusion – clearly unrelated to any financial element- evokes a parallel to hekdesh.


A simple reading of this gemara and the mishna's choice of syntax suggests that the equivalence of kiddushin and hekdesh is merely linguistic. Aware that purely financial terminology could not fully capture all the dimensions of kiddushin, Chazal employed language from a Halakhic realm which similar to kiddushin, also transcends pure finances. When a person is "makdish" an animal, he clearly designates Halakhic status that cannot be considered purely financial. Adding this language to the Torah's purely financial terminology affirms the extra-financial nature of kiddushin.


However, several commentators understood this equivalence literally, imparting actual hekdesh- type halakhot to the process of kiddushin. Evidently, they believed that the two processes exhibit structural similarity.


The gemara in the beginning of Tractate Nedarim establishes the mechanism of "yadayim" as a valid generator of a neder, a vow. If a person makes a vow in abbreviated language, even if he does not complete the requisite sentence structure, his vow is considered a valid neder. The gemara (6b) queries whether similar "partial" language would affect kiddushin. Many Rishonim wonder why this is even considered a possibility; after all, the efficacy of yadayim is only realized for a neder because of specific gezeirot ha-katuv (textual commands) that allow it. The Torah's description of kiddushin in Parashat Ki Teitzei does not imply validity for yadayim.


In answering this question, Tosafot claim that kiddushin may allow for the use of yadayim, despite the absence of independent textual mandate, because kiddushin is a derivative of hekdesh.  Whether this logic is causative or reflective is unclear. Do hekdesh and kiddushin share inherent similarities, thus allowing common employment of yadayim, or does the affiliation to hekdesh alone dictate the allowance of yadayim? Either way, Tosafot was willing to read the hekdesh association as more than just a linguistic trope.


A similar logic is adopted by a Tosafot in Kiddushin (8a). The gemara addresses the phenomenon of "hitpashtut," whereby hekdesh status assigned to a part of an animal permeates the entire animal and creates COMPLETE hekdesh status. The gemara considers applying this dynamic to kiddushin; if a man marries "half"' a woman, perhaps the partial status should pervade the entire woman, as well. Tosafot question this application; after all, the hitpashtut allowance for hekdesh is derived from a special textual inclusion. In fact, the gemara in Tractate Temura questions whether we can even extend the hitpashtut theory to birds designated as hekdesh since their korban profile is slightly different from an actual animal. How can the gemara even consider applying hitpashtut to kiddushin without clear textual mandate if it may not even apply to all korbanot?


Once again, Tosafot claim that the comparison to hekdesh allows liberal application of hekdesh phenomena to kiddushin. If hitpashtut operates for hekdesh, it should automatically operate for kiddushin. This position echoes the stance of Tosafot in Nedarim; the comparison between kiddushin and hekdesh is REAL and allows for application of hekdesh type rules to the process of kiddushin.


The Chelkat Mechokeik (R. Moshe ben R. Yitzchak Yehuda Lima, 17th century Lithuanian Rabbi) applies the hekdesh comparison in an interesting fashion. In his comments to the Shulchan Arukh, Even Ha-ezer, Siman 27, the Beit Yosef claims that kiddushin must be articulated in the future tense; the husband must declare "you WILL be my wife" or some linguistic equivalent.  He cannot assign kiddushin status my declaring a "present state," such as "this IS your kiddushin money,' but must instead claim "this SHOULD BE your kiddushin money." This rule of the Beit Yosef is based upon both a gemara in Gittin (32a), which states this rule regarding gittin, as well as the reality that many rules of gittin apply equally to kiddushin. In his comments on this Beit Yosef, the Chelkat Mechokeik argues that assigning kiddushin status by employing a current tense would, in fact, succeed since kiddushin is also comparable to hekdesh, which can be designated by claiming "this animal IS hekdesh." If the present tense phraseology can assign hekdesh status to an animal, it can also apply kiddushin status to money. This represents an additional application of the hekdesh comparison to kiddushin.


The Avnei Miluim does counter the argument of the Chelkat Mechokeik by questioning the nature of the structural analogy. Even if we accept the premise of Tosafot and parallel the halakhot of kiddushin and hekdesh, the function of the verbal declaration regarding each is different. The verbal announcement of hekdesh designates status to the animal (or other item being dedicated). In contrast, the verbal declaration of kiddushin aims to confer status upon the woman. By assigning current kiddushin status to the money, can effective kiddushin be realized?


Ultimately, the response to the Avnei Miluim's question may be a redefinition of the role of the verbal declaration of kiddushin. Perhaps its function is similar to the verbal declaration of hekdesh in that it assigns status to the money (similar to assigning status to the animal), rather than the woman. This option questions the overall role of the verbal declaration of kiddushin, an issue beyond the context of this shiur.