In this week’s parshah we learn of the episode whereby Avraham sent his servant Eliezer to find a wife for his son Yitzchak. Eliezer met Rivka and decided that she was right for Yitzchak. After discussing matters with her parents and her brother, Lavan, Eliezer was ready to return with Rivka to Avraham and Yitzchak. Prior to their departure Rivka’s family blessed her, saying that she should become “thousands of myriad…” and may her offspring inherit the gate of its foes.
Tosafos, in Kesubos 7b, quotes Maseches Kallah that derives from this pasuk that says the following: they blessed her and recited the berachah on kiddushin. Tosafos concludes that this is not a complete drasha since the actual wording of the pasuk is that their blessing was that she should have a lot of offspring. The Gemara in Kesubos 7b says that the berachah that we recite on kiddushin is “…asher kiddeshanu b’mitzvosav v’tzivanu al ha’arayos v’asar lanu es ha’arusos v’hitir lanu es hanesuos al yedei chuppah v’kiddushin – who commanded us regarding the forbidden relationships, and forbade us the betrothed, and permitted us to be with women who have had kiddushin and chuppah.”
There is a machlokes Rishonim as to whether the berachah that we recite on kiddushin is a birchas hamitzvos or a birchas hashevach. The Rambam, in Hilchos Ishus 3:23, says that one must recite a berachah on kiddushin just as one recites a berachah on all other mitzvos. It is implicit that the Rambam is of the opinion that the berachah is in fact a birchas hamitzvos.
The Rush, in Kesubos 1:12, asks several questions on those who opine that it is a birchas hamitzvos. One point that is perplexing to him is that the wording of the berachah of a birchas hamitzvos is generally short and to the point, i.e. “…asher kiddeshanu b’mitzvosav v’tzivanu al mitzvas…” However, the wording of the berachah that we recite on kiddushin is much lengthier, implying that it is not a birchas hamitzvos but rather a birchas hashevach. Additionally, he asks why we mention in the berachah what has become forbidden to us. After all, we do not mention the fact that we may not eat from an animal before it is shechted in the berachah that we recite on the mitzvah of shechitah. So why do we mention it by the mitzvah of kiddushin?
Note: As mentioned earlier, these questions must be addressed in accordance with the Rambam’s view that it is indeed a birchas hamitzvos.
Another question that one can ask on the Rambam is based on what the Rambam writes at the conclusion of that halacha. The Rambam writes that one must recite the berachah prior to performing the kiddushin. If one does the kiddushin without reciting a berachah, he may not recite the berachah thereafter. The Rambam wrote all of the halachos of berachos in Hilchos Berachos. There, he wrote the halachos as to when one performs a mitzvah without reciting a berachah. Generally the Rambam does not repeat halachos regarding the halachos of berachos, as they relate to each mitzvah. Why then does the Rambam repeat here the halachos of when one does not recite a berachah on the mitzvah of kiddushin?
I think that the answer to both of these questions lies in the Rambam’s wording of the mitzvah of kiddushin in his Sefer Hamitzvos. The Rambam writes in mitzvah 213 that we are commanded to “livol b’kiddushin – to only have relations after kiddushin,” and give the woman either an item of monetary value or shtar. It is evident from the Rambam that the mitzvah is not simply to perform kiddushin; rather the mitzvah is to live with a level of kedushah and to only have marital relations after performing kiddushin. Perhaps we can even say that if one dies immediately after giving a woman kiddushin and did not yet live with her, he has not fulfilled the mitzvah.
The Rambam, at the beginning of Hilchos Ishus, writes that prior to mattan Torah a person would meet a woman and if they both agreed to marry, they were married. After the Torah was given we were commanded not to act in that manner, but rather to first give the woman kiddushin. Hence this mitzvah is different in that its essence is not to conduct oneself without kedushah. Therefore it is not at all superfluous to mention the fact that we are forbidden to arayos, and that we are only permitted to have marital relations with a woman that has had kiddushin – for that is the mitzvah.