The Sefer HaChinuch counts 83 mitzvos in the Torah portion of Ki Teitzei, 17 of which relate to the laws of marriage and divorce.
- One may not marry a mamzer (a halachic bastard) [Deut. 23:3] or an Edomite or Egyption for three generations after conversion (ibid 23:8-9).
- A woman may not marry a male Ammonite or Moabite even after conversion. (This has no generational limit.) [23:4-6].
- A woman may not marry a male whose reproductive organs were crushed (23:2).
- A man may not marry his ex-wife if she married someone else in between (24:4).
- A man must marry a girl if he rapes her (assuming she wants to marry him). He may not subsequently divorce her (22:19).
- How to get married (22:13 and 16)
- How to get divorced (if it is, G-d forbid, necessary) [24:1-2]
- The laws of a levirate marriage (25:5-10)
- The mitzvah of rejoicing with one’s wife for the first year after marriage (24:5)
This article will focus on the laws and customs relating to how to get married, specifically, the Chuppah.
Why Have a Chuppah?
According to Jewish law, the marriage ceremony consists of two parts: the Eirusin (betrothal) and the Nissuin (wedding). Nowadays, the Eirusin is accomplished by the Chattan giving the Kallah a ring. We discussed this (somewhat) in last week’s article
- Some say that the Nissuin is when the Chattan covers the Kallah’s face (the badeken) before the Chuppah.
- Some say that it is accomplished by standing under a Chuppah and saying the sheva berachot.
- Some say that the Nissuin is accomplished when the Chattan spreads his Tallit over both himself and his kallah (as is customary in some communities). [See Kolbo Siman 75 and Chupat Chattanim 3:4].
- Some say that it is the Yichud (seclusion) after the Chuppah that is considered to be the Nissuin.
- Finally, some say that the Nissuin is accomplished when the Chattan brings the kallah into his home after the wedding.
The Ashkenazi custom is to fulfill three of these interpretations, i.e., the badeken, the Chuppah, and the Yichud room (see Rama 55:1
In some Ashkenazi communities it is also customary for the Chattan to spread his Tallit over the Kallah.
The Sefardic custom is to do the Badeken and chuppah without a formal yichud afterwards. The fact that the Chattan will bring the kallah into his home that night is considered part of the Nissuin. (Some also spread the Tallit as mentioned above. See Responsa Yabi’a Omer 5 Even Ha’Ezer 8.)
Here are some of the reasons and customs for each of the above opinions:
Why the Badeken?
The word Badeken means to cover, as does the word Chuppah.
In the megillah of Ruth, we find that Ruth asks Boaz to marry her by spreading his garment on her. (“And you shall spread your robe [Tallit] over your handmaid [Ruth 3:9
].” This is fulfilled when the chattan spreads a garment over the face of the Kallah.
In addition, the Jerusalem Talmud (Yoma 1, end of halacha 1
) says that when getting married on Friday, the Nissuin of a betulah – virgin – takes place earlier than that of an almanah – widow. Tosfot (Yoma 13b D.H. Ulachada
) suggests that this is because the Badeken ceremony is done for a betulah but not (traditionally) for an almanah. As such it is sufficient for the Chuppah of a betulah to take place before Shabbat even if the yichud takes place on Shabbat as the main Nissuin is fulfilled earlier by the Badeken. (One may not get married on Shabbat or Yom Tov.)
In the case of an almanah, where there is no Badeken, the yichud too must take place before Shabbat as otherwise it is considered that the Nissuin took place on Shabbat (which is not allowed). As such, the wedding of an almanah should begin earlier in the day (on Fridays) in order to ensure that the yichud is completed before Shabbat begins.
The commentaries explain that although the Badeken takes place before the Eirusin (i.e.,the giving of the ring) it is not considered to be effective as a Nissuin until after the Eirusin takes place (Chelkat Mechokek 55:9). This is because, conceptually, the Eirusin must take place before the Nissuin.
Customs of the Badeken
It is customary to play music at the Badeken (Aruch HaShulchan 55:10).
It is customary for the fathers of the bride and groom to bless the kallah at this time. This is similar to how G-d blessed Adam and Chava upon their creation and wedding (Sefer Tanya by the Tosafist Yechiel ben Yekusiel
, Siman 91, see Gen. 1:28
). One of the blessings that it is customary to say is the verse, “Our sister, may you become thousands of myriads (Gen. 24:60
).” This blessing was said by Lavan (and his mother) to his sister Rivkah when they gave her to Eliezer for the purpose of marrying Yitzchak. It was Rivkah who first covered her face as a kallah when she met her Chattan, Yitzchak (ibid verse 65). As such, it is appropriate to recite this blessing when the kallah’s face is covered. (See Shulchan He’Ezer 7:1 and Simlah LeTzvi there.)
Why the Chuppah?
The reason why the chuppah may be considered the Nissuin is because the Talmud (Ketubot 48b
) describes the Nissuin as when the bride’s family gives her to the groom’s family. This means that the Nissuin takes place when the bride is brought into the groom’s property.
For the purpose of the wedding, the chuppah is considered to be the groom’s property. As such, when the bride is “brought there” she is considered to be fully married. For this reason, in some communities it was customary for the Eirusin (giving of the ring) to take place just outside the Chuppah and then to go under the Chuppah for the sheva brachot. This emphasizes that the Eirusin precedes the Nissuin.
In addition, since the chuppah, too, is made of a garment, it can also be considered a fulfillment of the verse said by Ruth (quoted above), “And you shall spread your Tallit over your handmaid.”
Under the Heavens
The Ashkenazi custom is to have the Chuppah take place outside (Rama, Even Ha’Ezer 61). The symbolism is that the descendants of the couple should be as numerous as the stars in heaven (under which they are standing).
Having it outside also ensures that it is not done in the Kallah’s property. (As mentioned, the Chuppah is supposed to be on the Chattan’s property.)
It is customary to have the chuppah of second weddings take place indoors (Pit’chei Teshuvah 62:1).
One reason for this is that in the case of a second wedding the Yichud is supposed to take place immediately after the Chuppah. So in order to minimize the interruption between the two, the Chuppah is held indoors. Another reason for this is that just as the second set of Luchot were given to the Jewish people without fanfare so that the Luchot should not be affected by the ayin hara, the evil eye, so, too, second weddings are celebrated with less fanfare so that they should, G-d willing, last for a long time (Likutei Maharich, Seder Nissuin).
Greeting the Chattan
It is customary to greet the Chattan by saying ברוך הבא/Baruch HaBah – “Blessed is he who comes.“
It has been suggested that the meaning of the blessing is that when a chattan and kallah get married, they are completing the name of G-d (see Sotah 17a). As the man has a yud in his name (איש ) and the woman has a hei (אשה), so when the chattan and kallah get married these two letters join to form G-d’s name. As such, we bless the chattan by saying ברוך הבא/Baruch Hei ba – Blessed be the fact that your letter hei has arrived and you can now have the Shechina in your life (Simlah Letzvi on Shulchan Ha’Ezer 7:5)
Before the Chuppah ceremony begins, it is customary to sing a short poem praising G-d, which begins with the words Mi Adir (who is exalted). It has been suggested that the reason for this poem is that it is proper to bless G-d before giving the blessings to human beings. As such, since the blessings under the Chuppah are focused on Chattan and Kallah, we begin first by praising the Almighty G-d with this poem (ibid 7:6).
It is said that the Brisker Rov was once presiding over a wedding in Yerushalayim, and there was no one to sing this poem. The Brisker Rov refused to continue with the ceremony until someone was found to sing the poem. He felt that since Mi Adir has become part of the Chuppah ceremony, it may not be skipped (ibid).
Why the Tallit?
As mentioned above, some have the custom that the Chattan covers himself and the kallah with his Tallit after the Eirusin. This, too, fulfills the concept of “spreading your garment on your maidservant.”
Why the Yichud Room?
As mentioned above some say that Nissuin is when the chattan brings the kallah into his domain. Some say that this is only effective if he brings her into his domain in a manner where intimacy is possible. As such, this can be fulfilled when the chattan brings the kallah into the Yichud room (which, for the purpose of this wedding) is considered his domain. No one else may be present as then intimacy would not be feasible.
In the Yichud Room
It is customary for the Chattan and Kallah to eat in the Yichud room (Rama E.H. 55:1
Why No Yichud Room for Sefardim?
As mentioned above, the Sefardic tradition is that it is not necessary for the Chattan and Kallah to be secluded in a Yichud room after the Chuppah. This is because they are following the opinion that the Nissuin takes place when the Chattan brings the Kallah into his home. Although there will not be witnesses at that point, since it is common knowledge that this is the case, it is not necessary for there to be actual witnesses (Responsa Yabi’a Omer 5, Even Ha’Ezer 8:5).
May we soon witness the Nissuin of Hashem and the Jewish people!
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom Umevorach!