The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.
Deliver my wife… So Lavan gathered all the people of the place and made a feast (29:21-22)
This week we present some of the lesser-known halachos and customs of marriage that do not fall strictly within the domain of an officiating rav, but are vital for a couple, their parents and their wedding guests to know.
DURING THE ENGAGEMENT:
All of the restrictions of yichud and physical contact between men and women are in full effect for an engaged couple until after the chupah (1).
An engaged couple may not live together in the same house even when there is no question of yichud (2).
It is an ancient and widely accepted custom for the groom to send (3) gifts to the bride during their engagement. To avoid the danger of the gifts being mistaken for a form of kiddushin (4)–a legitimate concern especially when a ring is given as a sign of commitment (5)–the following precautions are recommended: No witnesses should be present at the time the gifts are given to the bride or when the groom gives the gifts to the messenger to give to the bride. The groom should not say that the gift is being given as a token of commitment or as an engagement present; rather it should be given simply as a gift.
THE PROPER TIME AND PLACE OF THE WEDDING:
If two brothers or two sisters [or a younger sister and an older brother (6)] are engaged to be married at the same time, the older one must get married first. It is permitted, however, for a younger brother or sister to become engaged and married before their older sibling becomes engaged (7).
There is a custom followed by some people not to get married in the second half of the Hebrew month (8). If, however, this constraint will delay the wedding unnecessarily, almost all of the authorities agree that the custom should be sidestepped in this case (9).
It is improper to write a pasuk, or part of a pasuk, on a wedding invitation, since invitations are generally discarded (10).
When scheduling a wedding, it is important to allow enough time to finish all the pre-chupah arrangements in time for the chupah to take place on the date which is written in the kesubah. Some poskim maintain that if the kesubah has a different date from when the kiddushin actually took place, the kiddushin is invalid (11). At the very least, it is important to make sure that the legal transaction of the kesubah (kinyan) takes place before nightfall (12).
It is an ancient custom (13) to perform the chupah ceremony under an open sky (14). Several poskim mention however, that if the groom and bride insist on the chupah taking place inside, there is no reason to object and argue about it since it is not forbidden to do so (15).
THE DAY OF THE WEDDING:
It is customary for the groom and bride to fast (16) on the day of their wedding until after the chupah (17). They are allowed to rinse their mouth or brush their teeth, even with toothpaste (18).
If the chupah is delayed well past nightfall and the groom and bride are hungry, they may break their fast before the chupah, provided that no alcoholic beverages are consumed (19).
A groom and bride who find it very difficult to fast do not have to fast at all (20), but they should eat only a limited amount of food (21).
If the day of the wedding falls on a day when the Torah is read, the groom must be called up to the Torah. This “obligation” supersedes any other, such as a bar mitzvah or a yahrtzeit (22).
Traditionally, the groom and bride recite aneinu (23) and add the viduy supplication at the conclusion of their Minchah service (24). The groom, however, should not forgo davening with a tzibbur for this or any other reason (25).
UNDER THE CHUPAH:
Relatives of the groom, bride or each other, either by blood or marriage, are not valid witnesses for the kiddushin. Although certain distant relatives (e.g., a cousin’s cousin, a brother-in-law’s brother-in-law, a brother’s father-in-law) may be allowed halachically, several poskim advise that no relative act as a witness for the kiddushin (26).
The groom should not speak between the blessing over the kiddushin and the placement of the ring on the bride’s finger (27).
The bride and groom must have specific intent to be yotzei with the blessing over the kiddushin and the blessing of Borei pri hagafen (28).
The ring must be paid for entirely (29) and belong to the groom exclusively (30). If the groom’s parents or anybody else bought the ring, the groom must “buy” the ring from them in a halachically binding purchase (kinyan) (31).
DURING THE MEAL:
It is a rabbinical (32) mitzvah to rejoice with the groom and bride at their wedding. Everybody in attendance is obligated to do so and may discharge their obligation in a number of ways (33):
- Dance and sing along,
- Recite one of the seven blessings under the chupah or in birkas ha-Mazon,
- Praise the groom to the bride or vice-versa,
- Engage the groom or bride in small talk about the happiness of the occasion,
- Give a gift.
A dignitary discharges his obligation by merely being present.
It is questionable if it is permitted to leave a wedding before sheva berachos is recited. For a full discussion of this issue, see The Weekly Halachah Discussion, vol. 1, pg. 112.
FOOTNOTES1 Chelkas Mechokek E.H. 55:1.
2 Rama E.H. 55:1 and Knesses ha-Gedolah, ibid. See also Sdei Chemed (Choson v’Kalah 12).
3 Through a messenger–see Ta’amei ha-Minhagim 938.
4 See E.H. 45 for the many views and possible problems which may result.
5 Kisvei Harav Henkin (Pirushei Ivra 5:13).
6 There are conflicting opinion, however, if a brother must allow his older sister to get married before him, since the brother is commanded to get married while the sister is not–see Mahrsham 3:136, Avnei Chefetz 25 and Chelkas Yaakov 1:125.
7 Shach Y.D. 244:13 as explained by M’harash Engle 6:102 and Igros Moshe E.H. 2:1. See also Igros Chazon Ish 1:166.
8 Rama E.H. 64:3. Others have a custom that a wedding may take place until the 18th day of the month while others allow it until the 22nd day. In addition, some do not follow this restriction in the months of Tishrei, Kislev, Adar, Iyar, Av and Elul.
9 Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 166:3. See also Aruch ha-Shulchan E.H. 64:13 and Igros Moshe E.H. 1:93 who maintain that most people do not follow this custom.
10 Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:135; Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (Apiryon l’Shlomo, pg. 25). See also Mishnah Berurah 638:24 who prohibits writing a pasuk on fruit which will be used as a succah decoration.
11 Igros Moshe E.H. 4:105-3; O.C. 5:9-2. See also written responsum from Harav S.Z. Auerbach (published in Kovetz Aharon v’Yisrael, Cheshvan 5755) that such a document is completely “false”.
12 Beis Shmuel E.H. 66:7. According to Igros Moshe (ibid.) this is not valid.
13 Sefaradim, however, did not accept this custom–Sdei Chemed (Chasan v’Kalah 1).
14 Rama E.H. 61:1. Some insist that the chupah take place outdoors [not in a enclosed room with an opening in the ceiling like a skylight], and there is a valid source for their custom–Eizer Mekudash 55:1.
15 Imrei Eish O.C. 9; Igros Moshe E.H. 1:93; Yabia Omer 3:10. See above sources for a similar discussion regarding a chupah in a shul. Many poksim in Europe prohibited it for various reasons but others ruled more leniently.
16 No pre-acceptance of the fast is required–Mishnah Berurah 562:11; Be’er Moshe 3:75.
17 Rama O.C. 562:2 and 573:1. This custom, too, was not accepted in most Sefaradic communities since they considered the day of their wedding as a Yom Tov. Even today, Sefaradim should uphold their custom and not fast–Yabia Omer 3:9.
18 O.C. 567:3 and Mishnah Berurah 12.
19 Chochmas Adam 115:2; Pischei Teshuvah E.H. 61:21; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 146:1; Sdei Chemed (Choson v’kalah 4); Harav Y. Y. Kanievsky (Orchos Rabeinu 2:164). See Aruch ha-Shulchan E.H. 61:21 who maintains that when possible, the fast should continue until after the chupah, even if it is after nightfall.
20 Aruch ha-Shulchan E.H. 61:21.
21 Sha’ar ha-Tziyun 573:4.
22 Beiur Halachah 136:1. It remains unclear, however, if this is so if the chupah will take place after nightfall.
23 Rama O.C. 562:2.
24 Pischei Teshuvah E.H. 61:9; Mishnah Berurah 573:8. These customs, too, were not accepted by the majority of Sefaradim–Yabia Omer 3:9.
25 See Sha’arei Teshuvah O.C. 562:2.
26 Harav S. Wosner (Apiryon l’Shlomo, pg. 40). See also ha-Nisuin K’hilchasam 8:24.
27 Pri Megadim (Psicha, Berachos 14)–since some Rishonim maintain that the blessing over the kiddushin is a birkas hamitzvos. It is prohibited to speak between a blessing and the mitzvah which follows.
28 See Pischei Teshuvah E.H. 34:5 and Afikei Yam 2:2.
29 Avnei Miluim 28:33.
30 E.H. 28:1.
31 Aruch ha-Shulchan E.H. 28:84. See Otzar ha-Poskim 28:1-9,1-19.
32 Rambam Hilchos Avel 14:1.
33 See E.H. 65:1 and Eizer Mekudash for the many ways in which this mitzvah can be fulfilled.
Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc. Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers’ College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.
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