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Extempore Effusions — Kidushin Perek Bet — האיש מקדש

Kidushin Perek Bet – האיש מקדש

Don’t betroth a girl ‘til you espy
Her yourself with your very own eyes.
Lest you look and then say
‘She’s too ugly, no way.”
You do not want a wife you despise.

You can’t plead: It’s not my fault I sinned
Your autonomy you can’t rescind.
Someone sent you to lie,
Or to make someone die–
Don’t blame him. On yourself the blame’s pinned.

Bear the message: She wants a divorce
You are witness as well. But of course.
Though we might think instead
You just wanted to wed
The divorcee whose hand you hence forced.

If a girl, while still quite underage
Becomes nonetheless—yes—engaged.
Her dad needs to know
Ere the two have a go
Make sure he’s at least on the same page.

Under the poplar they sat
Passing wine to and fro- -how ‘bout that.
“With this wine, wed your son
To my daughter, how fun.”
Does the son need to know ere they chat?

If he says, “Marry me with this date”
Not a film night; a fruit on her plate.
If it’s worth a full penny
At least one, or many—
That statement, it seems, seals her fate.

If you lend some nice cash to a dame
Then you say, “I will not stoop to claim
It back, but to wed
Her with that loan instead.”
Are you married? Or is that just lame?

If he says to the dame, “Please come dine,”
And then “Wed me with this cup of wine.”
But it’s not wine; it’s honey
(A joke? It’s not funny.)
Say, is that betrothal still fine?

“Marry me if I read Torah well.”
Is he really that good? How to tell?
If he’s read just three verses
(Let’s hope he rehearses!)
Then they are betrothed. All is swell.

“You’re engaged if you haven’t got flaws
Like a six-fingered hand, or sharp claws.”
Then he learns she is flawed
Does that make her a fraud?
Tell us sages, now what are the laws?

If you betroth both a girl and her mom
Can you do such a thing without qualm?
No, you cannot betroth
Since you can’t sleep with both
Says Abayey in Yael Kagam.

Can a Kohen betroth with the meat
Of the sacrifice he got to eat?
“Thanks to this sheep,
Woman now you can sleep
With me.” Is that a fair legal feat?

Maaser Sheni coins must be redeemed
In Jerusalem, or so it seems.
Since that trip surely tires,
No woman desires
To be wed with those coins, though esteemed.

The garments of priests may be worn
In the Temple and out, though not torn.
To heights we have striven
But Torah’s not given
To angels. We’re all human-born.

If you find a cow, sheep or some stray
Near Jerusalem, not far away
Here’s the rabbis’ advice:
It might be sacrifice
So no burgers or sweaters, they say.

No mice came by here, no mice stole
Because here the mice don’t have a hole.
Mice steal only to hide
What they’ve stolen inside
Like some cheese, or the crumbs from a roll.

Shimon Ha-Amasuni could get
Exegesis on each use of “et.”
Except fear of God
Here he only could nod:
“I could darshan the others, and yet—“

If your job is to adjudicate
You cannot charge your clients top-rate
Give your rulings for free
Never charge any fee
Justice sold carries sadly no weight.

Ilana Kurshan

Ilana Kurshan is the author of If All the Seas Were Ink, published in 2017 by St. Martin’s Press. She has translated books of Jewish interest by Ruth Calderon, Benjamin Lau, and Micah Goodman, as well as novels, short stories, and children’s picture books. Her book Why Is This Night Different From Other Nights was published by Schocken in 2005. She is a regular contributor to Lilith Magazine, where she is the Book Reviews Editor, and her writing has appeared in The Forward, The World Jewish Digest, Hadassah, Nashim, Zeek, Kveller, and Tablet. Kurshan is a graduate of Harvard University (BA, summa cum laude, History of Science) and Cambridge University (M.Phil, English literature). She lives in Jerusalem with her husband and five children.
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