By Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow
Mazal tov to all those who finished Maseches Yevamos. We recently began learning Maseches Kesubos. I remember that a few minutes after I was engaged and we had a mock l’chaim ceremony, my future shvigger opened her notebook. She promptly started a lengthy discourse about the dates available for the wedding. She mentioned that she had already reserved a number of dates in various halls. She explained that this was necessary because halls fill up their available dates very fast.
I had thought that our engagement was at least a mild surprise, and then I found out that our wedding date had practically been set already! However, based on the Gemara we learned, it’s possible to comprehend why there are so few available dates for a wedding.
The very first mishnah says that for a woman who has never been married, generally the appropriate day to wed is Wednesday. This is because the Jewish courts at the time convened on Mondays and Thursdays. Chazal wanted the husband to be able to resolve certain halachic issues that might come up after the wedding on the very next day. So, since court was in session on Thursday, Wednesday is a suitable day to have the wedding ceremony. In truth, if it were just for this reason alone, Sunday would also be an appropriate day to have the wedding. However, there is a rabbinic decree that there should be at least three days for food preparation to make sure that there is sufficient food for the wedding and for the ensuing celebratory days of sheva berachos.
The Gemara (3a) interprets a statement of Rav Shmuel bar Yitzchak to mean that in a locale where the Jewish courts convene whenever necessary, a woman may marry on any day; if a halachic issue were to arise following the wedding, the husband could request that the court convene to resolve the issues. The Gemara then questions the permissibility of making a wedding early in the week, due to the rabbinic enactment that there should be at least three days of food preparation. The Gemara resolves its dilemma by stating that if in fact the groom prepared sufficient food before Shabbos, the wedding may even take place on Sunday or Monday.
So it would seem that nowadays, when there is no strict Monday-and-Thursday schedule for beis din, marriage should be permitted on any day. As for the rabbinic decree, food preparations are generally made by others, freeing the groom from this responsibility.
However, Bar Kapara (5a) offers an alternative reason for a marriage to take place on Wednesday. He states that if the ceremony is performed during the day on Wednesday, the consummation of the marriage would be Wednesday night, which is in fact Yom Chamishi, the fifth day of the week. This is an auspicious time for a couple, since on the fifth day of creation Hashem told the fish to “be fruitful and multiply.” To harness this berachah of the fifth day, the marriage should be consummated on the fifth day.
The Tosefos write (2a) that Bar Kapara’s reason for marrying on Wednesday is not halachically binding; it is just good advice for a couple who wish to take advantage of the blessing to marry on Wednesday. However, if they choose to marry on a different day, there is no violation of Jewish law.
Yet it would seem that, as opposed to the other reasons, Bar Kapara’s reason for marrying on Wednesday is applicable even nowadays. The P’nei Yehoshua therefore questions why the Tur and Shulchan Aruch state unconditionally that where food preparation is not an issue, one may marry on any day of the week. They should have tempered that statement with Bar Kapara’s directive that one should marry on Wednesday to harness the berachah that Hashem gave. Though the P’nei Yehoshua admits that he can possibly resolve this question, he still directs that “anyone who wishes to fulfill the words of the Sages” should initially try to marry on Wednesday. In fact, he states further that he believes that it was the custom to do so in many holy communities.
The Rema, although omitting the directive to marry on Wednesday, does write that there is a custom to marry only in the first half of the month. According to the custom, it is considered auspicious to marry then, rather than when the moon is waning. My father informed me that the Zohar states that in the first half of the Jewish month, the Divine attribute of mercy is more prevalent. In contrast, the second half of the month is associated with Divine judgment. Perhaps this is the rationale behind the custom.
Based on this, the Sefer Chazon Yeshayah suggests a solution to the P’nei Yehoshua’s question as to why the poskim omitted the mitzvah of marrying on Wednesday. Since the custom at some point was to marry only in the first part of the month, there are only two Wednesdays a month on which to get married (assuming the 15th is too late already)! Subtract the two available Wednesdays in Iyar due to sefirah. Further, there is a custom not to marry during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. In Sivan, if Shavuos falls out on a Wednesday, there will be only one remaining Wednesday available for weddings. The month of Av may have no available days if, for example, Tishah B’Av falls out on a Thursday. Ta’anis Esther and Asarah B’Teves can each eliminate a day if they fall out on a Wednesday. So, if one wants to marry only on a Wednesday and only in the first half of the month, it’s possible to have less than 15 days to choose from in a year! This was an untenable situation, so the Rema decided not to suggest publicly that individuals should marry only on Wednesday.
I spoke to a musician who told me that Sunday is the day most in demand for weddings. What could be wrong with making a wedding on Sunday? The Gemara states that one should not get married on motzaei Shabbos. The Gemara (5a) concludes that the reason is that we are concerned that one may become so preoccupied with his upcoming wedding that he might forget that it’s Shabbos and begin to prepare for the feast. You can argue that this concern only applies to a wedding on motzaei Shabbos, not on Sunday.
Yet the Gemara challenges this assumption that we are concerned someone may forget and violate Shabbos for an upcoming meal. If we were truly concerned about this possibility, the Gemara argues, we should rework the calendar to ensure that Yom Kippur never falls out on Monday. There is a mitzvah to have a seudah on erev Yom Kippur, and we should be concerned that one may violate Shabbos to prepare for the Sunday seudah. So we see that a meal that takes place on Sunday poses as much a problem as one that takes place on Saturday night.
In truth, though, the Gemara makes this exact distinction to resolve the difficulty. The Gemara suggests in its second answer that we are only concerned about a meal that takes place immediately after Shabbos with little or no time to prepare, but we are not concerned about a meal that takes place by day, such as an erev Yom Kippur seudah or a wedding feast.
Nevertheless, the Gemara offers a different resolution to the aforementioned difficulty. The Gemara suggests that we are only concerned that a person may inadvertently violate Shabbos for a post-Shabbos meal that others are invited to. As you can imagine, the pressure of serving so many guests weighs heavily on a person’s mind. We are not concerned, though, that a person will become preoccupied while preparing his own meal. Consequently, the Sunday erev YomKippur meal does not present a problem, because it is generally a small meal for one’s family. According to this answer, it would be forbidden to make a wedding feast on Sunday.
The Hafla’ah (in Sefer HaMakneh) was of the opinion that the two answers are not mutually exclusive and that both are authoritative: We are not concerned about a meal after Shabbos if it is a family meal or if it takes place by day on Sunday.
It would seem that according to both answers it is forbidden to make a wedding on motzaei Shabbos. Yet many Rishonim are of the opinion that at the end of the sugya the Gemara rejects this halachah, and decides that one is permitted to marry on motzaei Shabbos or Sunday.
The Shulchan Aruch (64:3) writes, “There are those who don’t marry on . . . the first of the week out of concern for inadvertent chillul Shabbos . . . and there are those who permit it.” Obviously, the widespread custom is to permit weddings on Sunday. Further, my wife informed me that her grandparents got married on motzaei Shabbos.
Many people have noted that there were weddings made by gedolim that took place on Sunday. The Chasam Sofer himself got married on Lag B’Omer in the year 5547, a Sunday. The Sefer Likutei Mahariach writes that the Sanzer Rebbe married off his son on a Sunday.
In conclusion, as a matter of practical halachah, on what day should a wedding take place? Should we be concerned about trying to set a wedding date in the first half of a month or on a Wednesday? The Steipler Gaon, zt’l, in a letter to Rav Tuvia Shechter, wrote that the biggest segulah and berachah can be achieved by getting married on the earliest possible day. Rav Shach, zt’l, shared a similar sentiment and advised his talmidim likewise. He said that there is an aura of promiscuity that constantly threatens us. Therefore, the best date for one’s wedding is the earliest one available. v
Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead. He can be contacted at ASebrow@gmail.com.