CHUPAH PART II

Before beginning this second installment on the laws of chupah, there is one more view as to what a chupah is (in addition to the four mentioned last week). The custom among Jews of German descent is to spread a tallit over the head of the bride and groom during the time that the blessings are made. While this is similar to the idea of having a canopy over them, it is nevertheless distinct, and there are those who have the custom to spread a tallit over the bride and groom while they are standing under the canopy that we refer to as the chupah (I have heard this on a tape from Rav Yissachar Frand, but I cannot locate the source; if anyone could do so for me I would be most appreciative).

IV. EVERYBODY WINS

Having reviewed the major opinions as to what a "chupah" is, what are we to do in practice? This issue is solved largely by the Bach. Thus, in his time, when weddings were often done on Fridays before Shabbat, the head of the bride would be covered after Shacharit (thus fulfilling Tosafot in Yoma 13a, which says that chupah is when the bride leaves her house with her hair adorned). It seems that the basic assumption was that this would be done by her father or by the Rabbi, and thus the Bach notes that the groom should either do this by himself or at least have a part in doing so. Then, when the blessings were to be made, a canopy would be placed on poles and held over the bride and the groom. After the blessings were complete, the bride and groom would retreat to their house and eat in a secluded place, which was considered to be the main fulfillment of chupah.

Our practice is basically the same. Before what we call the chupah is the "bedeken" (from the German meaning "to cover"; not from the Hebrew for "to check"), where the groom brings the veil down over the face of the bride. While there are several reasons for this practice, the fact that it may constitute chupah has led some poskim to require that two witnesses be designated for this part of the ceremony as well as for everything that follows. We follow the bedeken with what is known as the chupah, where the bride and groom stand under the canopy (or tallit, or both) and the blessings are recited. Finally, they retire to the "yichud room," where they share a meal together. As those who claim that yichud constitutes chupah speak of the groom bringing the bride into his domicile, there are those (Mishna Berura and others) who require that the groom "own" the yichud room, usually done by making a mainly nominal deal with the owner of the catering hall or hotel. Again, as yichud may be the actual chupah, witnesses are designated and stand guard outside the room.

V. THIS AND THAT

There are several other points that I would like to make note of. The Mishne LaMelech discusses the issue of doing the various parts of the ceremony out of order. He asks whether we the kiddushin to come before the formal chupah or not? The issue here is whether or not the chupah can work without the kiddushin stage first taking place (this question is one that has come up only since we began doing everything at the same time, instead of doing the erusin a year before the completion of the nisu'in). he infers from Ritva that chupah can work without kiddushin having first occurred, but cites the Shut Masa'at Binyamin, who objects and sees the kiddushin as a necessary stepping stone to an effective chupah. One practical ramification of this question is if a chupah occurred without kiddushin and then the couple split up - would the woman be considered to be a divorcee and thus forbidden to marry a high priest?

In a similar vein, the Aruch HaShulchan cites an opinion that claims that the bride and groom should not stand under the canopy while the "birchat erusin" is being said, and only then should enter. Again, the issue seems to be whether the chupah can work if there is no effective kiddushin in place. I would conjecture to say that this view works off of the language of Rambam, who says that once a woman enters the chupah she is considered to be fully married (a nesu'ah) for all practical purposes. While Rambam does not claim that the canopy constitutes chupah, it is possible that those who hold that it is the chupah may seize upon his reasoning and require that the blessing be said before the chupah. At any rate, the Aruch HaShulchan rejects this view, on the grounds that the main part of the chupah is when the bride and groom eat together in seclusion (thus keeping the view of Rambam in tact).

Finally, the Bach notes that a ketubah is necessary before the marriage can be considered to be one hundred percent complete. Thus, if the ketubah has not been written and given to the woman, the couple may not engage in relations until this has been done. The Sefer HaNisu'in K'Hilchata brings down opinions that state that if there is no ketubah at the time of the chupah, the groom may designate two witnesses and have his bride make an acquisition from him to the effect that he is obligated to her the amount that will be stipulated in the ketubah. Alternatively, there are those who rule that she must acquire something tangible, and thus he has to give her some form of movable possessions in the amount of two hundred zuz (which can range from anywhere between 120 and 1020 grams of pure silver at whatever the rate is on the day of the wedding).

VI. NO THANKS, I'M WATCHING MY WEIGHT

Finally, the Darchei Moshe brings down the custom that brides and grooms fast on the day of their chupah. The Sdei Chemed cites several reasons for this practice. According to the Knesset HaGedola, the fast is due to the fact that they are judged and forgiven for their sins on their wedding day. This is a result of the notion that a groom is compared to a king, and the gemara in Sanhedrin states that a king is judged every day. Mahari Bruna (and Mahari Mintz) has a more practical rationale, stating that we are worried that the groom will be drunk (probably from the schnapps at his tisch) and we will thus have to worry whether or not the kiddushin itself was valid or if he was not in full possession of all of his mental faculties. Mahari Bruna also writes that since the gemara in Shabbat 130a claims that every ketubah has some fight about it, the bride and groom fast so as to forestall that event.

The Sdei Chemed gives two differences between these reasons. If the reason is as per the first reason of Mahari Bruna, and we are worried about there being a problem with the kiddushin, then if the kiddushin and nisu'in were to be on separate days they would only have to fast on the day when the transaction is made, and not on the day of the nisu'in. If the logic of the Knesset HaGedola holds, then they should fast even after the chupah, since the entire day is judgement day.

The only issue here is why do the women have to fast? If the fast is due to the groom being compared to a king, or even if it is due to the gemara in Yevamot 63b that says that a man who gets married has his sins forgiven, the bride should be exempt since there is no comparable statement made about brides! If we accept the reasoning of Mahari Bruna, then the bride may also be exempt, since it is the groom who is making the acquisition!

Nevertheless, there are several reasons why a bride fasts as well. The Tashbetz (#465) cites the Yerushalmi which does state that a bride has all of her sins forgiven, thus putting her on par with her groom. Further, the second reason of Mahari Bruna seems to be gender-neutral. Finally, the Tashbetz also gives the reason that just as the Jews fasted when they got the Torah, so too do the bride and groom fast on their wedding day, since may of the laws of a wedding are derived from the giving of the Torah. Despite this, the fact remains that there are more reasons why it is the groom's fast, and thus we are more lenient on the bride. We should also note that if it is difficult for either the bride or groom to fast they do not have to do so, although they should not eat more than they need to if they are going to skip the fast (consult a qualified Rabbi in the event that the fast is too difficult).


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