By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
“Look, for a regular chassan, I understand. You are helping build up Klal Yisrael. But this guy has kids already. I don’t see any mitzvah in helping him more than anyone else who needs money. Am I wrong?”
The answer is yes. The thought process expressed above is halachically in error, but there are fascinating observations that can be made back and forth. To understand the underlying issues, however, some background is in order.
Two Important Mitzvos
There are two mitzvos involved in having children. The first one is quite well-known. The second one is much less famous.
The first mitzvah is p’ru u’rvu—“be fruitful and multiply”—as explained in the Gemara in Yevamos (61b). The mitzvah, according to Beis Hillel, requires that the man have at least one son and one daughter. Beis Shammai is of the opinion that the mitzvah is fulfilled when one has two boys. The Shulchan Aruch rules in accordance with Beis Hillel.
The mitzvah of p’ru u’rvu is truly an important mitzvah. This can be seen from the fact that the halachah is that we may even sell a sefer Torah in order to assist a person in fulfilling this mitzvah by establishing a family. This is the halachah as recorded in Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer (1:1). This is not something that we permit for any typical mitzvah.
There is another source that indicates how great this mitzvah is. According to the second opinion cited in Tosfos (Gittin 41b), p’ru u’rvu is called “mitzvah rabbah”—a great mitzvah. It is so great that at times it sets aside other prohibitions in the Torah. This author would like to suggest that the reason it is so great is because of the end result that is produced. If that is the case, a good argument can be made that the second mitzvah as well might also be classified as a mitzvah rabbah—a great mitzvah.
The second mitzvah is called, “V’la’erev al tanach yadecha—And in the evening, do not let your hand rest (see Koheles 11:6).” The second mitzvah applies even if one has already fulfilled the requirement to have a son and a daughter. It means that one should have even more children than the minimum boy and girl.
Do we sell a sefer Torah so that a person will have the ability to fulfill the mitzvah of v’la’erev al tanach yadecha? The Shulchan Aruch records an argument in regard to this question. The second view cited is that even for the mitzvah of v’la’erev we do sell a sefer Torah.
The essential debate centers on what the accurate text of the Gemara in tractate Yevamos actually is. According to the Rif’s text, we would not sell a sefer Torah. According to the Rosh’s version of the text, we would.
The view is that of the Tur who understands the Rosh (his father) in Yevamos (62b) in this manner. The Beis Yosef cites other authorities that are of this view as well. The other authorities are the Ritva and the Nemukei Yosef.
The Baal HaMeor, Rav Zrachya HaLevi, in his commentary on Yevamos, is of the opinion that the mitzvah is so important that a man who is either divorced or widowed and has a son and daughter already is forbidden in marrying a woman who is incapable of having children. The Ramban, however, disagrees.
Most authorities write that the second mitzvah is a rabbinic one, not a biblical one. However, there are opinions that for a man to remain single even in a situation where he has fulfilled the mitzvah of p’ru u’rvu is a Torah prohibition (see Rav Yitzchok Blaser in his Pri Yitzchok [1:43] citing the Rif and RaDach’s view). Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky (Responsa Achiezer EH 1:10) also cites this view. Others disagree (and the general custom is like them), and rule that it is only rabbinic.
At A Second Wedding
There are certainly differences between a second wedding and a first wedding. The dancing at a second wedding should not be as exuberant as at a first wedding (see inference in Rashi, Kesubos 16b “She’rakdu l’faneha”). As a general rule, a second wedding should also be more modest.
The rejoicing is certainly less. The Talmud Yerushalmi (Kesubos 1:1) states that Moshe Rabbeinu enacted that there should be seven days of rejoicing whenever a wedding takes place. For a second wedding, the rejoicing is for three days (SA EH 64:2). In a case where the groom was never married, there is a debate whether the rejoicing is for three days or for seven days. The Chasam Sofer (EH 123) rules that it should be done for seven days.
Generally speaking, in order to cheer a bride and groom, we even cease the learning of Torah study. What about ceasing Torah study for a second marriage? Rav Shimon Sofer in his Sefer Hisorerus Teshuvah (Vol. III #72) is uncertain in regard to the matter.
The laws of shanah rishonah—that a husband must strive to make his wife especially happy during the first year of marriage—apply to a second marriage as well (Sefer HaChinuch #582 and Gemara Sotah 44a). Thus, the husband should try to stay home with his wife during the first year.
We see, therefore, that there are different views as to how important the second mitzvah is.
The Mitzvah Of V’ahavta L’rei’acha Kamocha
It should be noted that the mitzvah of v’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha, loving one’s fellow person as oneself, applies equally to a second wedding as well as a first wedding. People are people. This would apply both to the groom as well as to the bride. Everything should be done to make them feel happy and to help them recognize the miracles of how Hashem is mezaveg zivugim—how he makes them find shidduchim.
It would seem from all of the above that we should help people get married on the second time around as well. Aside from the importance of helping them have additional children and helping them fulfill the mitzvah of avoiding remaining single, there is a mitzvah of v’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha.
We often do not realize that the finances of singles, both men and women, are strained. They often undergo severe emotional hurdles as well. If we can assist them in the path of life we are fulfilling a great mitzvah.
The author can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com.