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Parsha Halacha – Parshat Shemot
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The Torah portion of Shemot describes the marriage and birth of Moshe Rabeinu: “A man of the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. The woman conceived and bore a son, and [when] she saw that he was good, she hid him for three months.” As the Torah tells us in next week’s parsha, the man was Amram, son of Kehat, and the woman was Yocheved, daughter of Levi. In that portion we also read that Aharon was two years older than Moshe. According to the Midrash, their older sister Miriam was six years older than Moshe. As such, the wording of the verse, which seems to be saying that Amram and Yocheved got married just before having Moshe, is difficult to understand.
Some commentaries say that the Torah is speaking about the original marriage of Amram and Yocheved which happened six years before Moshe’s birth but that the Torah doesn’t tell us about the births of Miriam and Aharon as they are not relevant to the story at hand.
However, most of the commentaries explain the verse in accordance with the Talmud (Sotah 12a) which recounts the following tradition (the translation is from Sefaria.org):
“Amram, was the leader of his generation. When he saw that the wicked Pharaoh had said, ‘Every son that is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall let live’ (Exodus 1:22), he said: ‘We are laboring for nothing [by bringing children into the world to be killed].’ Therefore, he arose and divorced his wife. The rest of the Jewish people followed his example and divorced their wives as well.
According to the Talmud, his six-year-old daughter Miriam convinced him to change his mind with three points. She said,
· “Father, your decree is harsher for the Jewish people than that of Pharaoh because Pharaoh decreed only regarding the males, but you decreed both regarding the males and the females (i.e., if no one is married, there will be no children born at all).”
· Pharaoh decreed to kill them only in this world, but you decreed in this world and in the World-to-Come (as children not born will not enter the World-to-Come).”
· “Pharaoh, the wicked—it is uncertain whether his decree will be fulfilled or not. But you are a tzadik whose decrees will certainly be fulfilled.”
Amram accepted his daughter’s words and remarried his wife. The rest of the Jewish people saw this, followed his example, and also brought back their wives.
The Gemara then asks: If Amram remarried Yocheved, the Torah should have stated: “And a a Levite remarried the daughter of Levi” rather than “And a Levite [went and] married the daughter of Levi” which makes it sound like it was a first marriage. Rav Yehuda bar Zevina explained: Amram performed an act of marriage just as one would do for a first marriage. He sat Yocheved on a decorative chair, and Aharon and Miriam danced before her, and the ministering angels said: “A joyful mother of children” (Psalms 113:9).
The Gemara also explains the language of the verse “And a man of the house of Levi went, and married a daughter of Levi.” Where did he go? Rav Yehuda bar Zevina says (based on the above teaching): He went according to the advice of his daughter Miriam and remarried Yocheved.
What Was Amram Thinking?
The commentaries question why did the righteous Amram divorce his wife if the Torah commands that one procreate and have children? We see from another story in the Tanach that one must have children even under trying circumstances. (The following story is told in Kings II, 20 and 21 and explained in Brachot 10a and b.):
King Chizkiyahu foresaw prophetically that his children would be wicked, and he therefore refused to get married and father them. The prophet Yishayahu informed him that this was wrong as it was not his business to get involved in G-d’s business, i.e., he was commanded to get married and have children even though he knew that his children would be wicked. As punishment for not wanting to get married, Chizkiyahu fell ill. Realizing that death was imminent, he recanted and got married to the prophet’s daughter. Unfortunately, his children Menashe and Ravshakei turned out to be wicked. (Menashe’s grandson Yoshiyahu, however, was a great tzadik.)
· Already Had a Boy and a Girl
Some say that Amram’s case was different since he and Yocheved already given birth to a son and daughter (Aharon and Miriam) which fulfills the Biblical command to procreate. The problem was that all of the Jewish people, even those who had not yet had children, followed his example and separated from their wives.
· Need Viable Children
Others say that Amram reasoned that it was impossible to procreate under these circumstances if they would remain married since the Egyptians were going to kill the sons, and one does not fulfill the mitzvah of having children if those children die. So he argued it would be better for them to not be born than to be born and be killed. Miriam, however, convinced him that since some children might be saved, it was worth trying. This was, of course, true in the case of Moshe.
Why the Great Joy?
The Talmud says (Ta’anit 8b) that when one remarries one’s ex-spouse, the wedding is not considered a very joyous affair which is why one may have such a wedding on Chol HaMo’ed.
Despite this, when Amram and Yocheved remarried it was a very joyous occasion as mentioned above. This was because this union was to bring about the birth of the savior of the Jewish people, Moshe Rabeinu. Even according to the opinion of the Talmud (Sotah ibid) that Yocheved was already pregnant before they got divorced, this reunion was a very happy occasion as it meant that Moshe would be brought up by both his parents together.
Another reason that Yocheved and Amram made a big to-do about their second wedding is that they wanted all the Jewish people to hear about the reversal of their previous decision to get divorced. They wanted the people to follow their example and remarry their wives.
The rest of this article will address some of the laws and customs that apply specifically to second weddings.
Second Weddings – How to Do It
The laws and customs of a second marriage cited below are based on Nitei Gavriel – Nisuin (chapters 49 -53).
A Chattan who is getting married for the second time should be called to the Torah on the Shabbat before he gets married. However, it is not customary to throw candies at him at that time.
· No Tachnun
A Chattan who is getting married for the second time exempts the minyan where he is davening from tachanun on the day of the Chuppah.
The Chattan and Kallah should fast on their wedding day even if it is their second wedding.
· Appropriate Times
A second wedding may not take place on Chol HaMoed, Sefirat Ha’Omer (depending on the local custom), or during the Three Weeks. But it may take place in the second half of the month (in the case of first weddings some are particular to make them only in the first half of the month), on Asseret Yemei Teshuvah (which is not customary for the first marriage), and on a public fast day (but in that case there should be no music).
· No Tena’im
It is not customary to make a Ten’aim document (outlining the conditions of the engagement) for a second marriage.
The Ketubah of a woman getting married for a second (or third) time is different than that of a woman getting married the first time. The rabbi should make sure to phrase the Ketubah correctly.
It is customary for the Chattan and Kallah to be accompanied to the Chuppah by others. In Yiddish this is called an unterfihrer. This custom applies to a second marriage as well. The people who accompanied the chattan or kallah at their first wedding should not be the ones who accompany them to their second.
· Wedding Dress
The Kallah does not wear a long white gown for her second marriage.
The Kallah’s face should be covered under the Chuppah. This is done by other women and not by the Chattan as is done for a first wedding.
If it is a second marriage for both the Chattan and Kallah, it is customary to have the chuppah indoors.
According to Ashkenazi custom, the children of a Chattan or Kallah should not be present at the Chuppah of their parents.
The Chattan and Kallah should enter the yichud (seclusion) room immediately after the chuppah. It is essential that the yichud in this case be one that is “fit for intimacy,” i.e., that the Kallah not be a Niddah. As such the wedding should be planned accordingly.
· Sheva Brachot
If it is a second marriage for both the Chattan and the Kallah, the Sheva Brachot are only recited under the Chuppah and at the wedding feast, and there is no week of Sheva Brachot.
Some say that the wedding feast must take place on the same day as the Chuppah in order to able to recite the Sheva Brachot. As such, if the Chuppah takes place during the day, the feast too should be during the day rather than that night. At the very least, the meal should begin during the day (i.e., the guests should wash and eat bread before nightfall).
· Three Days
The Chattan (and Kallah) should take three days off from work after the wedding (this includes the wedding day) so that they can be joyous together. (If the Kallah permits, the Chattan may go to work during those days.) During these days the Chattan exempts a minyan from saying tachanun though he need not wear Shabbat clothes.
· The First Year
The Chattan should spend extra time with the Kallah during the first year after their marriage (shana rishona) just as in the case of a first marriage.
May Hashem “Remarry” Us with the Coming of Moshiach Swiftly in Our Times!
 Exodus 2:1-2
 Ibid 6:20
 Ibid 7:7
 Pesikta Rabati 43:27
 Ibn Ezra, Abarbanel and the Chizkuni
 Various commentaries quoted in the Yalkut Biurim on the Metivta Shas
 See Mekom Shmuel and other commentaries quoted in ibid
 Avodat David, quoted in ibid
 Ramban quoted in ibid
 Divrei Yedidya quoted in ibid
 With the exception of one who is remarrying his ex-wife as mentioned above.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach!