||This is a responsum from R. Nehemiah of Bialystok (the Rabbi of Cong. Adat Yeshurun) in 1835 to a question posed to him by a Rabbi from Novogorod in the matter of reading the marriage contract at a wedding between the blessings for erusin and the blessing for nesuin. It was published by Nehorai Tsekhnikhlopovitsh in Vienna. The existence of this Rabbi Nehemiah is known only through this responsum, and is doubted by both Benjacob and Zedner, who seem to believe that Tsekhnikhlopovitsh printed it under an assumed name.
In the talmudic period - and presumably for a considerable time before then - the marriage ceremony was in two parts. The first, called kiddushin or erusin was effected by the bridegroom handing over in the presence of two witnesses any object of value (more than a perutah) to the bride and reciting the marriage formula, "Behold, you are consecrated unto me with this ring according to the law of Moses and Israel." On this occasion two benedictions were recited, one over wine and the other for the actual act. The second reads: "Blessed art Thou, O L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who has hallowed us by Thy commandments, and hast given us command concerning forbidden marriages; who hast disallowed unto us those that are betrothed (to us - variant in some rites), but hast sanctioned unto us such as are wedded to us by the rite of the nuptial canopy and the sacred covenant of wedlock. Blessed art Thou, O L-rd, who hallowest Thy people Israel by the rite of the nuptial canopy and the sacred covenant of wedlock."
The second part of the ceremony took place at a later date and was called nissu'in (marriage proper). On the occasion of the nissu'in a series of benedictions was recited. After this stage the couple were completely married and liable to all the responsibilities and privileges of that state. In the post-Talmudic period, the most important development in the marriage ceremony was the joining of the two parts, erusin and nissu'in, into one ceremony performed at one time. This took place during the Middle Ages and was presumably because of the uncertain and perilous conditions in which the Jews lived. It was also exceedingly inconvenient to have an interval between the two ceremonies since on the one hand the parties were prohibited from cohabiting while on the other all the stringencies of the married status applied to them. Thus from the beginning of the 12th century it became customary to perform both ceremonies together.
Bialystok was a town in Lithuania. There is a tradition that its last owner before its incorporation into Russia, Count Branitzky, at whose instance in 1749 King AugustusIII. of Poland raised the proprietary village to the dignity of a town, invited Jews to settle there in houses and stores which he built for them at his own expense. He also erected for them a synagogue, a wooden structure which is to-day one of the curiosities of the city. There is no record of the effect which the transition from Polish to Prussian dominion in 1793, and later from Prussian to Russian rule after the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807, had on the Jewish community, which must have been considerable in those times. But there is reason to believe that the short-lived German rule helped to stimulate commerce and industry and was the cause of German predominance in the business affairs of Bialystok at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Lichtenstein is referred to as rabbi of Bialysok, is probably the first rabbi of the community of whom there is any record. In the "Shem ha-Gedolim he-Hadash" mention is also made of Rabbi Solomon of Bialystok (second half of the eighteenth century), and of his successor, R. Aryeh Loeb b. Baruch Bendet, author of the work "Shaagat Aryeh," on the tractate Makkot of the Babylonian Talmud . Then probably came Rabbi Nehemia, whose existence is known only through that responsum, and is doubted by both Benjacob and Zedner, who seem to believe that Zechnilopovitch printed it under an assumed name. This would agree with Fuenn's statement ("Keneset Yisrael," p. 301) that Rabbi Moses Ze'eb became rabbi of Bialystok in 1824.