Jun 29, 2017

new wedding minhagim irk Rav aviner

Rav Aviner wrote an interesting piece against what he calls new customs that have taking hold in the community at weddings, yet they do not have sources to them and are against halacha. He begins with an example of decorating the chuppa and says it isn't beautifying the mitzva, but denigrating the chuppa itself, as if the chuppa isn't good enough on its own to make the couple happy. And if you say it is to make the guests happy, that is also a new invention, as the guests are coming to make the new couple happy, but now we have to make the guests happy!

(as an aside, by the above logic, why would we ever beautify any mitzvah - wouldn't it be denigrating to the essence of the mtizva as if saying it alone isn't enough? a sukka? a tallis with an atara? a Shabbos table beautifully set? silver kiddush cubs or shabbos candlesticks? and on and on and on.. but we have a concept of zeh keli v'anveihu - it is important to beautify the mitzvah)

Rav Aviner wrote a list of examples. I am not going to translate the list, but I'll summarize it briefly. They are all interesting and can raise many interesting halachic and hashkafic debates, and I will leave that to others. I will comment on a few.
1. saying Im Eshkocheich Yerushalayim. breaking the cup and putting ash on the head - yes, Im Eshkocheich no. That led to singing it, and at the third stage playing music to it and fourth stage adding more verses to what the chattan says
2. the minhag was always to have both fathers walk groom and both mothers to walk bride. new minhag is to have each set of parents walk their own child.
3. playing music between each bracha. can be a hefsek
4. saying divrei torah before or during the wedding blessings. this also led to women saying divrei torah
5. mentioning dead relatives being present with us even though they physically couldn't be present. there is minhag to go to cemetery before wedding and invite them to the chuppa, but mentioning them under the chuppa is new
6. women reading the kesuba. purpose of reading is just to effect a break, so anybody can do it,
7. bride saying shehechiyanu. Sure she is happy and can make a bracha on a new garment and include the wedding, but thanking God is an internal thing and not one for presentations
8. women holding the chuppa poles. There is no need to create new things and change things. Men can hold them up just fine. Even though women hold up the house, that is not connected to this.
9. bride and groom hugging publicly. kissing is definitely prohibited
10. an important person called up for sheva brachos, and his wife stands beside him to show support. That led to him and her saying the bracha together, which led to women saying the bracha alone
11. bride giving ring to groom
12. bride and groom descending to chuppa in a cage lowered from above
13. chuppa in a boat in a pool
14. a chuppa that was by the pool. The rav and the chattan started arguing about something, and the chattan pushed the rav into the pool. Then it was revealed that it was not really the rav but an actor playing the part just for fun. The rav came right after and performed the ceremony. While not specifying, I guess the new minhag here is having an acting performance.
I am not sure what his problem is with #6 - women reading the kesuba. he goes on to say anybody, even a monkey, can do it because no action is needed, but he still seems opposed to it, though he doesn't say why. It seems, considering that along with some of the others, he is just against women participating in any way, even in ways they are halachically allowed to.

Another noteworthy minhag is #8 - women holding the chuppa poles. It is funny how he adds that the men can do it just fine without their help. As if they are doing it to help the men, rather than having found a way to participate in some small way in the wedding ceremony (and maybe even with a desire to take advantage of the supposed segula for finding a marriage partner). Again, something that is not halachic in any way, and is not even a woman doing anything in public - speaking, singing, saying a bracha, or anything ceremonial like that, but still she can't do it.

A third minhag I would comment on is #7 - the bride saying the bracha of shehechiyanu. I have personally never seen this, but that is beside the point. His comment is that surely she is happy in the mitzva about to be performed but happiness is internal and not for public display. He left it out, but he must have meant that happiness for a woman can only be internal,  as it is very common for the man to make the sheheyanu bracha on a tallis and he does not mention that as a new minhag or as an inappropriate public display of happiness.

#14 seems silly. Just because one idiot did it does not turn it into a minhag that needs to be counted in a list of common issues.

Another would be #13. he has a problem with the pool or the boat, I am not sure. I am pretty sure that prior to it being done today, over the generation plenty of people have gotten married while on boats. Though those boats were most often not in swimming pools. So he is against one person who got married in a boat i a pool. That sounds important enough to decry as a new minhag. Again, just because one idiot does something does not turn it into a minhag.

And just because people find ways to make their chuppa stand out and be unique in some way, whether by having flowers or near a pool or in a boat or in a pool or whatever, does not turn it into a minhag that needs to become a halachic discussion. If it is not against halacha (and some of the issues he raised can surely be discussed as potential halachic problems), it does not necessarily need to be considered a minhag. Many of the things we do in our daily lives, and at lifecycle events or at ceremonial events, are not halachic in nature, but they make us feel good/unique/special in some way or they provide for a meaningful experience based on the person's personal interests. If it is not against halacha, sometime sit is worth being happy that Jews are celebrating in a Jewish way.

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  1. I agree with #13. Why would anyone want to begin their marriage on shaky ground? :-)

    1. and they would need to take motion sickness pills like Dramamine!

  2. In general, Jewish life cycle events would benefit from more simplicity and grounding in real minhagim, and less shtick. The couple can make many original contributions in their lives going forward.

    1. I dont disagree with you and personally I prefer simpler. But I wouldnt begrudge anybody else doing what they find meaningful or exciting, especially if it isnt against halacha

    2. What's a "real" Minhag?

  3. A lot of these minhagim that he complains about I have never heard or seen before.

    #1. At my first wedding I wanted breaking the glass to be focused on zecher haMikdash. The Rabbi decided to say (not sing) Im Eshkocheich Yerushalayim. To put breaking the glass in the right context. It was the only time I saw that done before the singing Im Eshkocheich Yerushalayim began.

    I was at another wedding a few years ago. The couple decided to break the glass in the middle of chuappah for similar reasons. The Rabbi gave a beautiful explanation of the feeling of loss of the Mikdash. He explained that the couple had asked that people not say Mazel Tov after the glass was broken. The glass was broken and the officiating Rabbi was the only one who said Mazel Tov.

    9. At my first wedding the Rabbi made a big deal that we would not kiss after chuppah. The first person to give me a kiss was my Rosh Yeshiva.

  4. Why is kissing definitely prohibited?

  5. Avi- not a posek, but it would advertise her status. Hopefully she's good but it's possible for her not to be. Would kissing become common, people would ask questions if there was no kiss. That's my guess.

    1. Yet many people have the chassan and kallah hold hands when leaving the chuppa, which has the same problem.

  6. I would say tzniyus reasons. while part of that might be nida as LFD said, I think most of it is that they should just not be kissing in public

  7. If niddah is the concern, then the chosson handing her the kesuba or holding hands while walking from the chuppah to yichud would also be a problem. I'd say that the problem isn't niddah, but rather that kissing one's spouse is private intimate behavior which doesn't belong under a chuppah with the eyes of the whole party watching. The couple should exercise some control and wait 3 minutes to get to the yichud room :)

  8. Anon- 3 min? Have you seen the choson and kallah try to get away from the throngs of friends singing Od Yishama? It definately takes 3 min and 30 seconds! ;-)
    Rafi- agreed. Get a room. A yichud room! :-)

  9. Some of these are truly bizarre. Nos. 12 and 14, for example.

  10. It always seemed so inappropriate that everyone would yell mazal tov after the glass broke, missing the entire point. So I thought singing Im Eshkacheich was started so they could break it in the middle of the song and give the thought its due. Rav Aviner should not only shoot these practices down by calling them new minhagim, but also relate to the point of the well-intentioned ones (skip the pool...) and explain how to address that intention also.

    If he's trying to intimidate people by saying they're going against minhagim, he's only alienating them.

  11. Who am I, an ordinary retirement-aged woman to say this, but it seems like the esteemed Rabbi Aviner is mixing up specific/individual weddings with the concept of "minhag." None of these things on the list has become of such a quasi-halachik necessity as a "minhag," like "no kitniyot for Ashkenazim on Pesach" would be. Certain things are now "accepted" if the couple insists or requests, and in most cases, it's because the older minhag was just that, a minhag and not halacha.
    Thank Gd there are rabbis who understand that besides the barebone mitzvah/halacha, a wedding is supposed to bring joy and optimism to the couple and not antagonize them and turn them against Judaism.

  12. " the minhag was always to have both fathers walk groom and both mothers to walk bride. new minhag is to have each set of parents walk their own child"

    Not so. The minhag varied in different places.

    In America, this has many times been a source of contention when families with different minhagim marry.

    There is a famous story about R. Yaakow Kaminetsky, to whom someone came to help resolve such a dispute. They then asked him what his minhag is -- what did he do when he married off his six children? His answer: "My minhag is to do what the mechutanim want to do."

  13. Of the fourteen, six seem to be specifically against women having a bigger role in the wedding. If one believes a Jewish wedding is nothing but an acquisition ceremony, I can understand why he feels like women shouldn't have any role at all. Why should the property being sold have a say in the sale? Of course, for those who believe a Jewish wedding is about two people getting married on equal ground, then it's a matter for all to celebrate, and not just one sex (the males).

  14. First of all, the first part that you wrote is based on a misunderstanding (or mis-translation). Rav Aviner did not say there is any problem of decorating the chuppah, rather he said that there is a new phenomenon of trying to “decorate” the chupah by introducing new customs and experiences. He then proceeds to list 16 examples. Some are becoming customary in weddings in certain circles, and some are a one-time happening that (as correctly noted) have not become custom anywhere, rather just an example of things that have been done to try to liven up the event. Rav Aviner, as everyone knows, is a very traditional Rabbi (as most rabbis are and in my opinion should be), is not so much in favor of changing religious practices that have been done for 1000 years in all Jewish communities.
    I understand your view that “if it is not Assur then anyone can do as he/she pleases”, but except for the most liberal of thinkers, most religious people do not always agree to that. There is a traditional way of doing things even if it may be possible to do it differently. (Haven’t you ever seen Fiddler on the Roof?) Jewish chuppah is a beautiful event and does not need any new rave to make it more exciting.
    For example, everyone knows that reading the ketubah under the chupah is only done to make a break and the there is no religious significance to the reading. But if you decide that having a fire and light show, a carlebach style kumzits, a stand-up comedian, or a powerpoint presentation of the chasan/kalah as babies is more interesting and not assur – you may be right – but that is not the way Jewish weddings have been doing it for the past 1000 years!
    In particular, in today’s society, it will upset many traditional religious Jews and rabbis if it seems that your purpose is to push a particular agenda. Having a woman read the ketubah – because she is allowed to – seems as a demonstration of your endorsement of feminism (not always a bad thing, but not appropriate here) rather just that Aunt Sally is the only one qualified for the job.
    Rav Aviner does not need my haskamah at all, but most (note the word “most”) of his opinions as well as the examples he gives here would be agreed upon by 99% of all Chareidi and traditional Orthodox rabbis. (Though they would probably not bother to write about it since it would be trivial that such practices are not accepted).

  15. Getting married on Har HaBayit seems to be noticeably absent in this list :-)


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