Wedding Rings

Question

Hi. I have a wedding question. I was wondering if the practice for the groom to give a ring to the bride has always been the case. Does this tradition go back, say, as far as Abraham? And why is the wedding ring placed on the forefinger of the right hand?

1 year

Answers

  1. In Biblical times, women were not necessarily betrothed with rings. For example, when Abraham sent his servant Eliezer to find a wife for Isaac, the betrothal was done with jewelry, but not necessarily a finger-ring. Presumably the custom of betrothing with gifts has been in practice ever since. The first mention of placing the ring on the right forefinger as a wide-spread custom dates back at least a thousand years (as mentioned by Rabbi Elazar of Worms, 1165-1238).

    Teshuvot Maharam Mintz (No. 109) explains that in those days women would wear their rings on the right forefinger, and therefore this custom has remained. Another reason is suggested in Nachalat Shiva (12:2), based on the idea that the right forefinger is the most prominent of all the fingers. There was a custom amongst some Sephardim to place the ring on the left middle finger. The reason is that just as one winds the tefillin strap around this finger as an expression of being bound to God, so too does the ring on this finger represent the bond between bride and groom. Aruch HaShulchan (27:4) states that all customs are valid, and it makes no difference how the ring is given.

    Nevertheless, there are Kabbalistic explanations for placing the ring on the right forefinger. The Zohar explains that the reason the ring is placed on the right hand is because the right hand represents giving and loving-kindness. Maharich (Likkutim 3:133a) offers a beautiful idea as to why the forefinger. The groom gives the ring with his right hand, which is opposite the left hand of the bride. The giving is accompanied by seven blessings. The seventh finger from the bride’s left hand is her right forefinger. Therefore, it is symbolic that the “seventh” finger should be the one that ring is placed on, as the giving of the ring is the moment that the marriage is consecrated and complete.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team