By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
There is nothing like the joyous celebration of a wedding. And there are few things so disturbing as someone texting when they shouldn’t be doing so. The new world of smartphones, mobile e‑mail accessibility, and 24/6 texting is a world of mixed blessing. Productivity is up, but technology has entered into areas and venues where it should not be allowed.
In this article we will explore one such area: Can a lawyer who is a chassan answer just one teensy question for a client? Can the kallah graphic artist just tell someone where the file is located? Can she log on remotely and find it? Can they even be communicating via text? If a chassan or kallah were to be texting for work, is it just a faux pas, or is there an actual halachic prohibition involved?
Before we examine this question, some background information may be in order. The mitzvah to rejoice and be happy is quantified in the Shulchan Aruch and should last for seven days (see S.A. E.H. 64:1). The mitzvah to rejoice and be happy on the wedding day itself is biblical (see Rosh, Kesubos 1:5). The mitzvah for the rest of the seven days was an enactment of Moshe Rabbeinu, but it is still considered a rabbinic enactment.
So what exactly is the nature of the obligation to rejoice? The aforementioned Shulchan Aruch explains that the groom must eat, drink, and generally be happy with his new bride. Rav Yoseph Engel in his Gilyonei HaShas (Kesubos 8b) explains that the obligation is even more encompassing. It seems that he is also obligated to gladden himself—no different than on any other yom tov.
And, of course, there is the obligation mentioned in the same paragraph in Shulchan Aruch for everyone else to gladden the hearts of the bride and groom for all seven days. The Yalkut Shimoni (Shoftim 70) indicates that the obligation is also to praise the groom during these days. This is also found in the Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer (end of Chapter 17). Rabbi Dovid Luria adds that the obligation to praise the groom is less than the obligation to praise the bride.
Up until now we have been discussing the obligation of rejoicing. In regard to this obligation, the bride may give permission to forgo this obligation, according to the Rema (64:2). The reason for this is that the sages made this enactment for the benefit of the bride and she may wish to let it slide. The Beis Shmuel states that not all authorities agree with this position.
Now we will discuss the prohibition of working. A groom during this period is likened to a king. The groom is, therefore, forbidden to work. This prohibition is first mentioned in the Tosefta (Kesubos Chapter 1) and codified in the Shulchan Aruch (Rema 64:1) and Rambam. The Rema’s wording is based upon the writings of the Ran (Kesubos 5a).
So, clearly, we have what seems to be a full-fledged prohibition in allowing the technology to enter the week of sheva berachos. What if the bride gives him permission to work? Does the Rema allow this just as he may have allowed the bride to forgo the obligation to make her happy?
The answer to this question may be dependent upon a debate in the Acharonim. The Chelkas Mechokek (64:2) as well as the Beis Shmuel (64:3) write that since the source of the prohibition is based upon Chazal comparing the groom to a king, it would not be dependent upon the bride. That being the case, she would not be able to give him permission or let it slide. The Aruch HaShulchan (64:5) understands the issue the same way. On the other hand, it could very well be that Rav Yosef Karo, the author of the Shulchan Aruch himself, does not share the view of the Rema that the bride may not allow the groom to forgo the prohibition. Thus the issue may be a debate between Sephardim and Ashkenazim. While it may be permitted according to Sephardic halachah, it certainly is not something that is recommended.
(There may be another caveat at play here as well. Even if the bride gives permission and both the bride and groom would follow the view of Rav Karo, Ashkenazim who follow the view of the Rema may not be allowed to text to the groom because we are obligated in viewing him as a king too!)
But what if the work he is doing is not being done publicly? The responsa Doveiv Meisharim (Vol. III #47) forbids it nonetheless. This is also the view of the Maharsham (Vol. III #206) as well as Rav Ovadiah Yoseph (See Yabia Omer Vol. IV #8).
What if our groom has run out of clothing? May he do laundry? May he iron his shirt? Rav Ovadiah writes (ibid.) that ideally he should get someone else to do his laundry. If this option is unavailable, then he may do so himself. As far as ironing goes, the Tur Shulchan Aruch in Yoreh Deah (242) indicates that he may iron. However, it is possible that the Tur is referring to someone else ironing on the groom’s behalf.
The conclusion? A bride and groom hold a very special place in halachah. The obligation to make them happy is a serious one. As we examine the underlying halachos involved, we can now well understand the words of the Gemara that whoever brings joy to a bride and groom it is as if he has rebuilt one of the destroyed houses of Jerusalem. v
The author can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com.
This article is dedicated to the ninth-grade class of TAG High School who assisted tremendously in arranging a local wedding. Special kudos to AK and HS, who were invaluable in running the kitchen. Tizku l’Mitzvos!