Ask the Rov: What kinds of gifts are appropriate between a chosson and kallah?
By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah
Minhag Yisroel is that the chosson and kallah receive gifts from each other’s families during the engagement period. In the time of Chazal this took place on the night before the wedding and our custom is earlier on during the engagement.1
Many communities had specific minhagim what the gifts should consist of. The Rebbe mentioned the minhag to give the chosson a Shas and the kallah a siddur with commentary or halacha books in her preferred language. Elsewhere the Rebbe mentioned seforim for the chosson and a pushka.2
The Gemara records a concern that gifts between the chosson and kallah (“sivlonos”) could create a concern of kiddushin. Rashi explains that the chosson may have intended to be mekadesh the kallah with the gift, while Tosefos understands that the gift is perhaps an indication that he was mekadesh her with something else beforehand.
Shulchan Aruch notes that most communities aren’t concerned about such gifts in terms of kiddushin, and the Rema adds that if the chosson says there was no kiddushin we follow his word.3 Some acharonim note that in the present age there is even less concern since the kiddushin and nisuin are always done together under the chupah.4
Yet, the Rebbe stressed that the chosson should not give the kallah a ring, even without intention for kiddushin. Since a ring is commonly associated with kiddushin, there is concern that it may cause kiddushin.5 The Rebbe specifically requested to publicize this issue.
In a similar vein, the Rebbe suggested not refering to the engagement as eirusin (betrothal) which implies kiddushin, and instead to refer to it as kishurei tnaim, binding an agreement. During the engagement period the young man and woman are not married at all and have only agreed to marry.6
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From The Weekly Farbrengen by Merkaz Anash
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A woman wrote to the Rebbe that she has met with a man for shidduch purposes and she anticipates him proposing to her with a ring during their upcoming meeting. The Rebbe responded:
מפורסמת דעתי מאז – שטבעת נותנים בעת החופה דוקא וכמה מתנות אחרות ישנן
Translation: My long held opinion is well known: a ring is given only during the chuppah, but there are numerous other types of gifts (-that he may give you instead).
This answer was published in one of the weekly pamphlets of Lahak.