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Let's suppose a couple was married by a Reform rabbi in a standard reform ceremony (with egalitarian ketubah, and many other modifications to traditional kiddushin). If the couple later become baalei teshuvah, are they required to perform kiddushin again (or, I suppose, if the first wedding didn't count, for the first time)?

Is the case any different if the couple was married in a Conservative ceremony?

Related: Are civil divorces not recognized by Orthodox rabbis?

  • Kiddushin is not the big problem. The big problem is whether, if they divorced civilly and got remarried, what is the status of the kids from the second marriage? – Isaac Moses Nov 16 '14 at 6:26
  • @IsaacMoses I'm making a new question out of that – user5540 Nov 16 '14 at 17:58
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    @eliyahu-g. Although it doesn't directly answer your question, let me relate to you my experience. I was married in a conservative synagogue whose rabbi had, to the best of my knowledge, orthodox smikha. The rabbi and my friend who was conservadox at the time (he soon after became modern orthodox) signed the ketuba. After the civil divorce I insisted on an orthodox get. (My ex, by the way, didn't want to go through the procedure. In essence, she withheld the get from herself. That's another story....) I approached a major bet din who handled the get. They recognized the ketuba as kosher...... – JJLL Nov 16 '14 at 21:36
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    .....even knowing where the chuppah was held and who the signators of the ketuba were. They also went out of their way to assure the procedure was conducted according to Halacha given the fact my ex refused to appear before them (the bet din.) – JJLL Nov 16 '14 at 21:38
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    Only this week I asked this question to a Rav in charge of marriages from the London Beth Din. In the case that I presented he said that Reform marriages are not recognised. – bondonk Nov 26 '14 at 21:13
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R' Yosef Eliyahu Henkin (פירושי אירבא סימן ד) held that it does not actually matter if the wedding was valid, as they are living together with intent to be married. Rav Henkin adopted the novel view that even if their intent to be married is not necessarily through Kiddushin, and even if they don't know that consumation of marriage can create Kiddushin, they are still married. According to this opinion, the question about the wedding itself really becomes moot.

However, most opinions did not accept the view of R' Henkin.

I was told that R' Elyashiv held that there is a problem with the normal procedure of a Reform and Conservative wedding which would invalidate the Kiddushin. Kiddushin is effected by the man giving something of value to the woman. R' Elyashiv understood that a two-ring ceremony is not a "gift" from one to the other, but is rather an exchange. The bride giving a ring to the groom in reciprocation to his giving a ring to her invalidates this as an act of Kiddushin. I was once at a Conservative wedding where the officiating Rabbi was sensitive to this issue - after the groom gave the ring to the bride, the Rabbi announced "The Kiddushin ceremony is now over. However, Cindy has indictated that she would also like to give a ring to Joel, which will be done now." I think this would obviate R' Elyashiv's concern, but it is atypical to your standard Reform or Conservative wedding.

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    My Reform rabbi warned my husband and me against a double-ring ceremony for just that reason. (We hadn't intended to do that anyway, though.) Another thing along these lines that could pose problems (CYR) is if they buy the wedding ring out of shared funds, so he's not (fully) giving it to her. In these days of joint bank accounts, often established before the wedding, that's something to be careful about. – Monica Cellio Nov 26 '14 at 21:03
  • The "most opinions" that you cite is actually the opinion of Rav Moshe Feinstein. – Chanoch Nov 27 '14 at 2:10
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    @Chanoch And the Shaagas Aryeh, Beis Ephraim, D'var Avraham, R' Yitzchok Herzog... I'm not sure what you mean to accomplish by identifying "actually the opinion" of R' Moshe. – Y     e     z Nov 27 '14 at 3:55
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One of the biggest deal-breakers in the ceremony -- more than the language of the ketubah -- is if the witnesses were shabbat-observant. There are other issues in non-Orthodox ceremonies, but that's by far the biggest.

In theory the Talmud talks about situations where a couple would have in mind that if the wedding ceremony itself isn't valid, they would still want to be married vis-a-vis halacha; as we are all witnesses that they are living together as husband and wife, that could count. However it's not clear whether this applies to couples who aren't cognizant of traditional halacha.

Note that the penalty for adultery is far worse than that for premarital relations, so rabbis lose a lot more sleep about "maybe her divorce wasn't valid before she remarried" than "maybe this happily-married couple didn't have a valid marriage."

Hence if a baal teshuva couple tells their rabbi that they didn't have shabbat-observant witnesses, he may very well recommend (if it won't burn bridges) that they undergo an Orthodox wedding ceremony. I've seen one of these. They ask everyone to stay for after davening on Sunday morning so you have a minyan, it takes ten minutes. (And no you don't need a band, a caterer, photos, any of that.)

On the flipside, though, an Orthodox rabbi will play it safe and always ask that a divorcing Jewish couple go through an Orthodox divorce ceremony (a Get). It can't hurt.

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    Another deal-breaking requirement is for the witnesses to be men. – Daniel Nov 16 '14 at 16:14
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    There was a case in Israel a few years ago where a man's girlfriend was brought to court in order to testify against him, and in the middle of the court session he handed her his watch, said at mikudeshet li and it was recognized as a legal marriage, and the prosecution was unable to force her to testify against him at that point. – Robert S. Barnes Nov 16 '14 at 18:51
  • @RobertS.Barnes funny. But there the parties intended for it to be halachically binding, as that's what would be needed for their legal loophole. The Gemara talks about a kohen who "married" lots of women just so they could eat terumah -- the intention was a halachic status of marriage. Whereas something like (Rav Moshe Feinstein addresses this question) a sham marriage for the purposes of obtaining American or Canadian citizenship, in which no one ever wanted a halachic marriage. – Shalom Nov 17 '14 at 2:25
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I heard from R. Nota Greenblatt that although we are are stringent in accordance with R. Henkin's view that the marriage is valid, and we would require a get, even in the event that she is dating a kohen and would be prohibited to him from an actual get, she may marry the kohen. Even though a rabbinic prohibition exists after giving an invalid get, this prohibition only applies where giving a get indicates an actual divorce. In contemporary America, however, where so many non-halachic marriages take place, followed by gittin that are mere chumros, this decree wouldnt apply, and she would be permitted even to a kohen.

(Although this seems contradictory since why obligate a get in the first place if it isnt valid, it isnt a contradiction because we are extra stringent with the get because hinged on it are biblical prohibitions of adultery, and mamzerus isues. Marriage to a kohen is a much lest stringent prohibition.)

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The Talmud in Kidushin says that 'Ein adam oseh be'ilato be'ilat znut'. Which means that a man living with a woman does not have the intention for an act of prostitution, rather means to make her his wife. Whether this applies today is questionable, but here they did intend to get married, so I would assume it applies. The main problem is when they split up whether she needs a full divorce - Get, or not. If she does but doesn't get one - future children would be Mamzerim which is not good.

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    The problem with that is that, as opposed to many other contracts, a wedding is not valid if there were not two valid witnesses. It is they who make it valid. Without them it is worthless. – theblitz Nov 16 '14 at 15:56
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    @theblitz Plenty of people saw them go home every night – Double AA Nov 16 '14 at 18:25
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    @DoubleAA That's not relevant to a wedding. The actual ceremony requires two witnesses for it to be binding. For example, if a couple "admit" that they got married in private without anyone around - he said the required words etc. it is irrelevant. – theblitz Nov 17 '14 at 9:38
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    @theblitz Indeed the original ceremony may have been pointless but they may be married anyhow because of everyone seeing them go home at night. Remember Kiddushei Biah is a thing too. הן הן עדי יחוד... – Double AA Nov 17 '14 at 15:01

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