The question of whether Jewish men wear wedding rings is an interesting one that stems from various cultural, religious, and historical factors. There are differing opinions within each Jewish community regarding this practice, and the decision to wear a wedding ring is often influenced by individual beliefs, customs, and interpretations of Jewish law. There is also a third option some will argue to satify the extremes.
Let’s explore both sides of the argument, but first, we need to see why Jews use a ring for weddings at all.
Using rings dates back to ancient times and has evolved over centuries. In Jewish law, the ring is a central element of the kiddushin (betrothal) ceremony, marking the establishment of the marital bond between the bride and groom by the groom offering something of material value. The Talmudic tractate of Kiddushin discusses the significance of the ring as a form of acquisition—not of the woman but rather the unique rights one has in a marriage—and establishes its role in the betrothal process. The ring’s circular shape is often interpreted as representing the eternal nature of marriage, lacking a beginning or end with this symbolism now firmly cemented in the image of a wedding.
Arguments in Favor of Jewish Men Wearing Wedding Rings:
- Equality in Marriage: Proponents of Jewish men wearing wedding rings argue that wearing a ring symbolizes equality within the marriage. A modern wedding, some would say, still has duties and rights, while emphasizing a balance of each member sharing various duties owed to the other simulataneously.
- Visual Sign of Marital Status: In many cultures, a wedding ring is universally recognized as a sign of being married. Advocates of men wearing wedding rings believe that it helps communicate marital status to the broader community and serves as a clear indicator of commitment. Given how ubiquitous it is in modern culture globally, it is simply a mark of marital status.
Arguments Against Jewish Men Wearing Wedding Rings:
- Kiddushin Meaning: The ring used in the kiddushin ceremony holds specific significance, as it is given by the groom to the bride as a symbol of his commitment to duties, which strictly speaking a wife does not have for her husband. The bride’s acceptance of the ring under the chuppah is a her accepting to join his family, and have his support (housing, food, relations etc.) indefinitely. Just as a couple do not swap surnames but the wife assumes her husband’s, a couple do not exchange kiddushin but the wife gains the rights from her husband.
- Beged Isha: One argument against men wearing wedding rings is based on the concept of “beged isha,” which refers to the Torah prohibition of men wearing clothing or adornments traditionally associated with women. Some Jewish authorities view wedding rings as an example of beged isha, as it is more commonly associated with women’s adornments. Just as it’s extremely rare to hear of a man and woman each having an engagement ring, a man wouldn’t wear something up until recently associated only with women.
Some men make an attempt to marry the ideas, mitigating the problems while still benefitting from having a ring. While some people may want a ring, they might still be uncomfortable with exchanging rings as part of the ceremony given its utility, they may wish to get one to wear afterwards in their day-to-day life, whether from the end of the wedding or just in the following days.
There are plenty of good reasons one might or might not choose to wear a ring
- Bands: Some couples opt for unisex wedding bands that are simple and devoid of gender-specific design elements, or especially one with a design only for men. This approach aims to mitigate concerns related to beged isha, and given the volume of men’s wedding bands, it may no longer be a concern these days anyway.
- Personal Choices: Many couples make the decision based on personal beliefs and values. Some Jewish men choose not to wear a ring due to community considerations, given it would certainly stand out, but there are still other ways he might indicate being married.
The debate of whether Jewish men should wear wedding rings essentially boils down to its symbol against its function. The decision often reflects a balance between preserving tradition, embracing modern values, and expressing those values. While wearing a wedding ring is not a universal practice among Jewish men, it is certainly as popular as ever. The topic offers insights into the dynamic interplay between tradition, customs, and contemporary perspectives within Jewish communities.