By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Kesubos 102 – Mazal Tov!
Tenaim. In the time of Chazal, the tenaim (or pesikta, in the expression of the Gemara) would take place immediately preceding the kiddushin. Each side agrees to what they will be contributing for their son the chassan or their daughter the kallah, and then, when it is followed by the kiddushin, Rav said a chiddush that the agreement becomes binding. Despite the lack of any act of acquisition vis a vis the tenaim agreement itself.
The question is, what is the benefit that the father is receiving, such that it can be properly considered that his assumption of liability is in exchange thereof?
Rava posited that Rav’s chiddush must be limited to a case where the kallah is still younger than twelve and half, so her father receives the kesef kiddushin, and that is the benefit by dint of which his agreement of what he will contribute becomes binding. However, the Gemara emphatically rejects this position of Rava, “for otherwise, what are you going to say regarding the chassan’s father?! Rather, because of the benefit that their families are becoming mechutanim – bound by the marriage of their children – with one another, they decisively resolve to transfer to one another full acquisition [of their liability to follow through with their commitment].”
We see from the Gemara that gaining mechutanim is a hanaah, it’s a benefit.
What exactly is this benefit? At a recent family simcha, my wife made a comment that may be precisely the pshat: “Isn’t it so nice that the family just grew by so much?!” The moment two individuals marry, their two families become, in a very real sense, like one big family. Granted, not all mechutanim maintain close ties. That can, to a great extent, be dependent on situational factors that are not in the purview of one’s control; not the least of which being physical distance. However, irrespective of how close knit the families feel, the fact is that they are connected and bound to one another. They are happy to see one another. To help each other. To rejoice together, or, chas v’Shalom, share each other’s sorrows.
Think about a good, close friend that you have. How much incredible, inestimable benefit you get having from having that friend. Someone to talk to. To ask advice. A shoulder to cry upon. Someone who you know will absolutely be there for you when you need help. Even if you haven’t spoken or seen each other for a long time, the friendship is always there, and can be immediately reignited.
And isn’t that the way it is with mechutanim? It’s like gaining a good friend instantaneously! Good friendships can take months or years to cultivate, but the mutually beneficial relationship that mechutanim have with one another is created in but one moment!
The moment of kiddushin. The mazal tov’s reverberate all around! It’s done; they are now all mechutanim and they shake hands, hug, and smile at one another upon the newfound, cherished family tie that they now share.
Sometimes, people may feel somewhat threatened by the sudden entry of a whole new set of people into their lives. That is understandable. It’s a major change. A shift of dynamic in every dimension, and that can be challenging to accept and embrace. The key, though, to meeting this challenge is to reflect on the essential truism that, ultimately, our lives are greatly enriched by the relationships we gain. It is a great benefit which we can and should use to our best advantage for our whole lives.
Rabbi Yehoshua Berman serves as the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Reshet HaDaf in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. In addition to having authored Reflections on the Parsha, Rabbi Berman regularly delivers shiurim on Halacha and Hashkafa, writes comprehensive chazara questions (in Hebrew) for the advanced Daf Yomi learner, and weekly words of inspiration from the Parsha. Rabbi Berman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.