The Wedding Band in Jewish Marriage Ceremonies

Main piece: Before my husband and I got married, we went to see the Rabbi that was set to perform the ceremony, and he said that among the objects we had to have for the ceremony was a different wedding band. Because the engagement ring I had on had diamonds, and traditionally, Jews don’t wear diamonds to their own wedding. He also said the ring had to be large enough to fit on the index finger of my right hand, because, according to him, this has the blood supply that is closest to your heart. So I borrowed my mother’s platinum wedding band, which was large enough to fit on my index finger because my mother’s hands are much larger than my hands. And if you watch the video of my wedding, you’ll watch my husband placing my mother’s wedding band on the right index finger. After the ceremony, I gave my mother back her wedding band, and I slipped my own diamond engagement ring back on the fourth finger of my left hand, which is the traditional place people wear wedding rings. 

Background: My informant is a fifty-three year old Jewish woman from Los Angeles, California. She and her husband were married by Rabbi Joel Rembaum of Temple Beth Am in Beverly Hills, CA in 1999.

Context: The first my informant heard of this tradition was during the meeting with the Rabbi at their meeting leading up to their wedding. While she honored the Rabbi’s wants, and believes that the maybe the index finger has the blood supply that leads closest to one’s heart, she has been wearing her wedding rings in the Western tradition (fourth finger of her left hand) for as long as she has been married. 

Analysis: Interestingly, the origins of the Western custom of putting a ring finger on the fourth finger of one’s left hand has the same belief as the Rabbi’s custom – that the ring finger has the “vena amoris”, or has a vein that runs directly to the heart. This has been biologically disproven; there is no one vein in one’s that leads to their heart, and the vasculature in one’s hands is all pretty much the same. However, in Jewish tradition, there is no talmudic evidence that a couple even needs wedding rings to sanctify or represent a marriage, and in fact the groom could give the bride anything of value as a representation of their intimacy (books and coins were traditionally used). The only rule was that the object be “whole and unbroken”, which could explain why there are to be no stones set into the metal. Gold is preferred; in Judaism, gold is symbolic of the glory of God, so in a ceremony or ritual as important as marriage, it is a way to represent monogamy and sexual intimacy within the bond of God – that there is a religious or divine promise the wife makes to her husband. As for the right index finger, it seems that Rabbi had the same belief in the “vena amoris” as many Westerners had, but it could also be because the index finger is more frequently used (as it is the pointer finger), and therefore the ring/symbol of their marriage is more prevalent. Additionally, in Jewish and Roman tradition, the right hand is used to perform oaths.

Lamm, Maurice. “The Marriage Ring in Judaism.” Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center. Accessed May 3, 2021.