Kiddushin, Chapter Two, Mishnah One
The first half of todays mishnah teaches that betrothal can be contracted through an agent. This means that a man or a woman can appoint an agent to either betroth or be betrothed.
The second half of the mishnah refers to the first mishnah of chapter one where we learned that betrothal can be done with money or with something that has value. The value needed is only a perutah, the smallest coin that was in existence. Our mishnah deals with a man who gives a woman dates in order to betroth her.
1) A man can betroth [a woman] through himself or through his agent.
a) A woman may be betrothed through herself or through her agent.
2) A man may give his daughter in betrothal when a young girl [either] himself or through his agent.
3) He who says to a woman, Be betrothed to me with this date, be betrothed to me with this one if any one of them is worth a perutah, she is betrothed; if not, she is not betrothed.
4) [If he says,] [Be betrothed to me] with this one and with this one and with this one if together they are worth a perutah, she is betrothed; if not, she is not betrothed.
5) If she eats them one by one, she is not betrothed unless one of them is worth a perutah.
Section one: As explained in the introduction, a man can betroth a woman through an agent. This would mean that the man gives money to an agent to use in betrothing a certain woman. This probably would have been a common means of doing betrothal if the couple lived far apart from one another and was matched by others, as was nearly always the case. Similarly, a woman may appoint an agent to receive her betrothal money.
Section two: A father has the right to marry off his daughter while she is still a young girl (naarah). This is defined as a girl between the ages of 12 and 12 1/2 who has already reached puberty. He may also marry her off at a younger age, but not when she is past that age. When marrying her off, he may use an agent to accept her betrothal money. Basically, the father takes her place in matters of betrothal.
I should note that while a father had the legal right to marry off his daughter and not his son, and this right extends only until she reaches 12 1/2, in practice the father played a very large role in arranging matches for both sons and daughters no matter what age they were when they married. The idea that a 12 1/2 year old girl became totally independent of her father was probably as strange of an idea in the mishnaic period as it would be today.
Section three: In this case a man gives a woman several dates (palm dates) in an attempt to use the dates as betrothal money. Here he says the words Be betrothed to me as he gives each date. The fact that he repeats the formula each time means that each act is a separate act of betrothal. Since they were separate acts, in order for the betrothal to be effective at least one of the dates must be worth a perutah. If each individual date is worth less than a perutah, we do not add the dates up so that together they make a perutah.
Section four: In this case, since he made one betrothal statement, we can add up the dates. If together they are worth a perutah then she is betrothed.
Section five: This section continues the scenario of the previous section. In this case, while he is giving her the dates she starts to eat them one at a time (dates are quite delicious, and I guess she just couldnt resist!) Unless one of them is worth a perutah she cannot be betrothed by the combined value of them all because they are never all in her hand at the same time.