Rabbi Samson ben Tzadok, student of the Maharam of Rothenberg, writes in his sefer Tashbatz Katan #464, 5, (first printing Cremona 1556) that “all customs pertaining to a Chatan and Kallah are derived from the giving of the Torah, where Hashem revealed Himself as the chatan to the kallahK’lal Yisrael.”


QUESTION: Why is the celebration for the debut of a boy and girl as Chatan and Kallah called a “L’chaim”?

ANSWER: When people gather at a joyous occasion, it is customary to have some alcoholic beverages and toast “l’chaim” — “to life.” The word “chaim” (חַיִים) in l’chaim (לחיים) contains the patach and chirik vowels, as does the word “mayim” (מַיִם) — water. “Chaim,” however, is spelled with two “yudden” while “mayim” is spelled with only one yud. This teaches that it is proper for an individual “yud” (Jew) to drink water whenever he wishes to quench his thirst. However, liquor should be consumed only when two “yudden” (Jews) get together to celebrate an occasion.

The celebration marks the official getting together of two “yudden” as Chatan and Kallah for the first time. Hence, family and friends gather to drink a l’chaim and wish the two yudden, l’chaim and mazal tov — long life and good mazal (fortune) in their new venture.

לחיים – מזל טוב
L’chaim — Mazal Tov

QUESTION: Why, when we drink a toast to the Chatan and Kallah, is it customary to say to them “L’chaimMazal Tov”?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Mo’eid Kattan 28a) says that chayei, b’nei umezonei —a person’s longevity, children and sustenance are not dependent on his merit; rather, they are dependent on mazal (the influence that celestial bodies have over events in the world).

Since one cannot exist without sustenance, and the Gemara (Nedarim 64b) says that “a person who is impoverished or without children is considered as dead,” these three matters, chayei, b’nei and mezonei, are actually what chayim — life — is all about.

Hence, when we wish them “l’chaim,” which namely means that they be blessed with the three matters that comprise chaim — life — we simultaneously add the words “mazal tov” to wish them that a “good mazal” should be active on their behalf, one which will provide them generously with the three things every couple strives for.

A Word

QUESTION: Why do some refer to the party that officially announces the Chatan and Kallah for the first time as “a vort”?

ANSWER: Among those who follow the custom of not making Tena’im until very close to the wedding (see p. 241), there are also some who avoid making a L’chaim with a kinyan — formal acceptance of obligation. Their legalistic thinking is that breaking even a formal obligation involving a kinyan is almost as serious as breaking a Tena’im. Instead, they prefer that at the party there only be the giving of a “vort” — a word — that in the proper time this boy and girl, who are now Chatan and Kallah, will be married, please G‑d.

Most opine, however, that the kinyan made at the L’chaim is not so stringent as Tena’im and it is considered merely a kinyan devarim — an acquisition of mere words — and since nothing tangible is being transferred it is not really halachically binding.

(עי' באוצר הפוסקים סי' נ' ובנחלת שבעה)

הזיווג יעלה ליפה
The union (of the Chatan and Kallah) should ascend to beauty

QUESTION: What is the meaning of this berachah which is customarily wished to a Chatan and Kallah (and to their parents) when they announce their union?

ANSWER: In the daily Shacharit — morning prayers — immediately after reciting the Shema one says the prayer “Emes veyatziv venachon,” in which a total of sixteen adjectives are recited, the last being “veyafeh” — “and beautiful” — to express our conviction of what we affirm in the Shema.

Thus, now that the Chatan and Kallah are entering into a union, we wish them that their zivug — union — should ascend i.e., be worthy of all the sixteen expressions until,veyafeh.” That is, may it be 1) true, 2) certain, 3) established, 4) enduring, 5) right, 6) faithful, 7) beloved, 8) cherished, 9) delightful, 10) sweet, 11) awesome, 12) mighty, 13) correct, 14) acceptable, 15) good, and 16) beautiful.

(שמעתי מהרב רפאל ז"ל שטיין) בספר זרע קודש מר' נפתלי זצ"ל מראפשיץ כ' שאיתא בספרים שלעתיד יהיה משם הוי"ה אותיות יהי"ה, שהוא"ו תהיה יו"ד, וזהו שכתוב (זכריה יד, ט) ביום ההוא יהיה ה' אחד וגו', ונמצא יחוד הקב"ה יהא יהי"ה אדנ"י העולה בגימטריא יפ"ה, ולכן אומרים הזיווג יהיה עולה יפ"ה, שהזיווג הזה של איש ואשה יעורר הזיווג העליון לקרב ביאת משיחנו, ויהיה זיווג יהי"ה אדנ"י גימטריא מספר "יפה")


QUESTION: What is the origin for the writing of Tena’im — wedding stipulations — before a wedding?

ANSWER: The Midrash Rabbah (Vayikra 36:4) interprets the first word of the Torah, “Bereishit,” (בראשית) to mean that for two (ב) things that are called “Reishit,” Hashem created the world. The Jewish people are called Reishit Tevu’atoh” — “the first of His crop” (Jeremiah 2:3) and Torah is called Reishit Darko” — “the beginning of His way” (Proverb 8:22). This indicates that Hashem, so to speak, had an eye on preparing an abode for His future kallah at the time of Creation.

At the conclusion of each day of Creation the Torah states which day it was (e.g. “yom sheini” — “a second day,” “yom shelishi” — “a third day”). On the sixth day, however, it says “yom hashishi” (הששי) — “the sixth day.” Rashi (Bereishit 1:31) writes, “Scripture added the definite article hei (ה) regarding the sixth day of the conclusion of the work of Creation, as if to say that Hashem stipulated with the components of Creation that they are brought into existence on condition that the Jewish people accept upon themselves the Five Books of Torah.” (The letter hei has the numerical value of five.)

Hashem’s marriage to His kallah (K’lal Yisrael) took place many years later when He gave them the Torah. Nevertheless, He made Tenaim — stipulations — many years earlier. Similarly, we make Tenaim — stipulations — prior to the actual marriage.

* * *

Alternatively, the wedding between Hashem and K’lal Yisrael took place at Mount Sinai when He gave us the Torah. At this time He revealed Himself (see Shemot 19:20, Targum) to His bride. Prior to this the Jewish people had a glimpse of their groom when He revealed Himself at the splitting of the sea (see Ibid., 15:2, Rashi to the pasuk “Zeh Keili — “This is my G‑d”).

At the splitting of the sea, the pasuk says, “and toward morning the water went back le’eitano — to its power” (14:27). The Midrash Rabbah (Shemot 21:6), however, interprets the word le’eitano (לְאֵתָנוֹ) as if it read litena’o — לִתְּנָאוֹ — to its original stipulation. This means that the original creation of the sea was conditional upon its splitting for the sake of the Jewish people.

Since at this first meeting between the Chatan (Hashem) and Kallah (K’lal Yisrael), there was a reference to a stipulation, we have the custom of making Tena’im — stipulations — at every Chatan and Kallah’s first public meeting. (Nowadays, many have a custom to delay the actual writing of Tena’im until immediately before the Chuppah see pg. 241.)

המגיד מראשית אחרית הוא יתן שם ושארית לאלו דברי התנאים
The One Who from the beginning knows the end (Isaiah 46:10), may He provide a good name (II Samuel 14:7) and future (Ibid.) to these words of stipulation

QUESTION: There is widespread custom of beginning the Tena’im with this statement. Why is it omitted in the Tena’im according to the Chabad custom?

ANSWER: It was once customary to write two Tena’im documents, one at the time of the engagement, (known as Tena’im rishonim), and a second document (Tena’im acharonim) at the wedding. Unfortunately, sometimes there would be a break-up after the first Tena’im and the wedding would never actually take place.

Therefore, this statement was inserted at the opening line of the first Tena’im, and it served as a form of prayer that He Who from the beginning knows the end (Hashem) should bless this agreement that it have a name and future — i.e. be lasting — and that the wedding should actually take place.

Since the Chabad custom is to write Tena’im only once, immediately prior to the wedding, this prayer is unnecessary.

(נחלת שבעה סי' ט' סעי' א')

יעלה ויצמח כגן רטוב
May [this match] ascend and sprout like a verdant garden

QUESTION: Shouldn’t it have said first yitzmach — sprout — and then ya’aleh — ascend?

ANSWER: The word ya’aleh — ascend — means ascend to Hashem, that is, this agreement (between all parties in this marriage) should ascend above to receive the approval and blessing of Hashem and His Heavenly Tribunal. Once that occurs, it will sprout like a verdant garden.

(שמעתי מאחי הרב שמואל פסח שי' באגאמילסקי – בנחלת שבעה סי' י' הנוסח "מז"ט יצמח ויעלה כגן רטוב עד למעלה")

מצא אשה מצא טוב
One who has found a wife has found goodness (Proverbs 18:22)

QUESTION: King Shlomo also says “Umotze ani mar mimavet et ha’ishah” — “And I have discovered something more bitter than death, the woman” (Ecclesiastes 7:26). How can the two statements be reconciled?

ANSWER: When seeking a wife, some men place an emphasis on extraneous matters such as money and yichus — pedigree — while others put the entire emphasis on the character of the woman herself. The Gemara (Kiddushin 70a) speaks very disparagingly about marrying for money and stresses the undesirable consequences that such marriages produce. Likewise, to put the emphasis on yichus is also not very wise. One should look for a woman who is G‑d-fearing and possesses qualities which are the products of her achievement.

In general, the word “et” is considered superfluous, and the Gemara (Pesachim 22b) relates that Shimon Ha’imsuni would always analyze the purpose of this word, assuming that it conveyed additional meaning. In King Shlomo’s two diametrically opposite statements regarding women, the word “ishah” appears once with the word “et” and once by itself.

With his profound wisdom King Shlomo is teaching us the following lesson: When matza ishah” — one found a woman — i.e. one is simply attracted to the woman for her intrinsic qualities, without seeking any extraneous matters, such a marriage is matza tov” — “a good find” — and will be a pleasant one all the years of the couple. However, “Umotze ani mar mimavet et ha’ishah” — when the man did not choose the woman for her own achievements, but et ha’ishah” — her extraneous possessions, such as money or pedigree — such a marriage may be more bitter than death.

(פרח לבנון)

מתנות להחתן... מתנות להכלה
Gifts to the Chatan ... Gifts to the Kallah

QUESTION: Why in the Tena’im is there a mention of gift-giving before the wedding?

ANSWER: Prior to the giving of the Torah, the marriage between Hashem (Chatan) and K’lal Yisrael (Kallah), there was also the giving of gifts. The chatan — Hashem — gave the kallah — the Jewish people — the spoils of Egypt, the spoils of the sea, the manna etc.; and the kallah — the Jewish people — gave the chatan (Hashem) their tenacious attachment to their identity, language, and attire while in Egypt.

(ספר המטעמים)


QUESTION: What is the reason for the popular custom of giving the Chatan a (gold) watch as a gift?

ANSWER: There is a popular adage: “The past is no longer, the future hasn’t arrived, and the present passes like the wink of an eye” (העבר אַיִן, והעתיד עדיין, וההוה כהרף עַיִן). A watch does not show the time that passed, nor does it tell the time that will be; it just indicates the present time, which passes very quickly.

The message implied to the Chatan is the following: “We live in the present and not in the past or the future, and as you can see from the watch, this too passes very quickly. So please don’t waste it, because once time has passed it is the past and cannot be retrieved, nor can it be made up in the future.”

(בישורון מלך פ' ויגש)

* * *

Alternatively, the famous Chassidic Rebbe, Rabbi Avraham Mordechai of Ger (known as the “Imrei Emet”) once said that the reason for the custom of giving a Chatan a golden watch is to teach him that every minute is “wrapped in gold” and should not be wasted.

(שמעתי מהרב אליהו משה ז"ל ליס)

החתונה תהי' אי"ה בשעה טובה ומוצלחת בזמן
The wedding will take place, please G‑d, in a good and successful hour on the date ...

QUESTION: Why is it customary to write into the Tena’im the date when the wedding will take place? (Also, those with the custom to write the Tena’im immediately before the Chuppah include that “the wedding will take place on the date both sides will agree upon.”)

ANSWER: At the conclusion of each day of Creation the Torah states which day it was (e.g. yom sheini — a second day, yom shelishi — a third day). On the sixth day, however, it says yom hashishithe sixth day (Bereishit 1:31). Rashi writes that “Scripture added the definite article ה regarding the sixth day at the conclusion of the work of Creation as if to say that He stipulated that the components of Creation were in a state of suspension until the sixth day, which is the sixth of Sivan. This day has been prepared from the time of Creation for the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people.”

The sixth of Sivan is the wedding day on which K’lal Yisrael became betrothed (Eirusin) to Hashem [and Nissuin will take place in the days of Moshiach] (Midrash Rabbah, Shemot 15:31). Just as when Hashem built the world he set a date for His wedding, likewise, we emulate Hashem, and in the Tena’im, which is the preliminary agreement of the Chatan and Kallah to build their miniature world, the date of the future wedding is stipulated (or at least discussed).

(שערי רחמים, ועי' נחלת שבעה סי' ח' סעי' ח')

רח"ש (רב, חזן, שמש) לחצאין,
Remuneration for Rabbi, Cantor and Shamash will be split equally

QUESTION: Why does the Tena’im mention the obligations to these three functionaries, and why are they written in one abbreviation? (For the convenience of the reader, nowadays it is written out in full.)

ANSWER: We are told in Pirkei Avot (1:2) that “The world stands on three things: Torah — the study of Torah, Avodah — the service of G‑d (prayer), and Gemilut Chassadim — deeds of kindness.” The Rav represents Torah study. The Chazzan leads the congregation in prayer, thus corresponding to avodah — service of Hashem. The Shamash assists the people during prayer and often provides the people with items needed for the religious services; he thus represents the pillar of Gemilut Chassadim — deeds of kindness.

The Tena’im is the first document related to the marriage, and it discusses providing the necessities for the Chatan and Kallah to build their world. Mentioning the obligation to these three functionaries is a message that care must be taken to assure that the home will be built on the three pillars they represent.

Their being mentioned in one word is an allusion that all three are equally important and must all be practiced in the home.

(נחמד מזהב בשם הרב מקאזמיר זצ"ל)

* * *

Incidentally, the abbreviation רח"ש is also an acronym for Rachel, Chanah, and Sarah. All three women were barren and only after many years of prayer did each one conceive (see Rosh Hashanah 11a). The abbreviation is a message that paying these three who officiate in the wedding (the Rabbi is mesadeir kiddushin — he officiates at the wedding ceremony, the Chazan sings the Mi Adir, and the Shamash assists the Rabbi, makes the announcements, and in some communities reads the ketubah) is a good omen to assure that the couple will be blessed with wonderful children.

(שלחן העזר - בהערות ע' קל"ג ע"ב)

שוברים כלי חרס בשעת כתיבת התנאים
An earthenware plate is broken at the Tena’im (Eliyahu Rabbah, Orach Chaim 560)

QUESTION: Why is a plate broken at the Tena’im ceremony?

ANSWER: Hashem created and constructed the world at large. Similarly, every Chatan and Kallah undertakes the construction of their miniature world. Thus, in the construction of this new miniature world we do things to emulate Hashem’s creative actions.

The Kabbalists teach that prior to the Creation of this actual world, Hashem created other worlds and destroyed them. This is known as “shevirat hakeilim” — “the breaking of the vessels.” (See Bereishit Rabbah 3:7, 9:2 and Mystical Concepts in Chassidism ch. 7; Tanya, Eng. Edition, p. 86b.) Hence, prior to our weddings, we break a plate.

(אהל ישכר ע' ק"כ)

שוברים כלי חרס בשעת כתיבת התנאים
An earthenware plate is broken at the Tena’im (Eliyahu Rabbah, Orach Chaim 560)

QUESTION: Why is there joy when the dish is broken at a Tena’im?

ANSWER: The matriarch Rachel was childless the first seven years after her marriage. When Hashem finally blessed her with her first child, she exclaimed “Hashem has taken away my disgrace” (Bereishit 30:23). Rashi writes that an Aggadic Midrash understands her “disgrace” as follows: “All the time that a woman has no son she has no one upon whom to hang the blame for her misdeeds. Once she has a son, she hangs them upon him, i.e., she blames him. For example if her husband should ask her, ‘Who broke the dish?’ she answers — ‘your son.’ ”

By breaking the dish we are alluding to the saying of the Gemara (Ta’anit 31) that “a wife is primarily for child bearing,” and in a sense we wish the young Chatan and Kallah that their marriage be blessed with children. Thus, she will have someone to blame for her misdeeds, and in the event she breaks a dish, any possible disgrace will be eliminated and it will not affect the couple’s happiness.

(אגרא דשמעתא מר' צבי יחזקאל ז"ל מיכלזאהן)

שוברים כלי חרס בשעת כתיבת התנאים
An earthenware plate is broken at the Tena’im (Eliyahu Rabbah, Orach Chaim 560)

QUESTION: Why at the Tena’im is an earthenware dish broken, while a glass vessel is broken under the Chuppah?

ANSWER: With the Tena’im a very strong and serious commitment is made between the Chatan and Kallah that they will proceed, with G‑d’s help, to marriage. Under the Chuppah, the Chatan and Kallah proceed to actual marriage, which hopefully will last their entire lifetime.

Unfortunately, sometimes differences arise between a husband and wife which are irreconcilable. Should that occur, the Torah devised a get — divorce document — as a means to conclude the marriage, and each party has permission to go on independently with his and her life. However, there is no official recognized method to undo the Tena’im — the commitment the Chatan and Kallah made to each other in the Tena’im to ultimately get married.

The difference between earthenware and glass vessels is that when earthenware breaks it is irreparable while glass can be blown in fire and repaired. Hence, the earthenware vessel at the Tena’im alludes to the lack of an exit clause. This is in contrast to the marriage, for which the Torah devised the divorce system.


אויפרוף — עלי' לתורה
Aufruf — Being called up to the Torah

QUESTION: Why is a Chatan called up to the Torah on the Shabbat prior to his wedding?

ANSWER: The Zohar (Shemot 161:2) says “istakeil be’Oraita ubara alma” — “Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world” — i.e. the Torah was His blueprint. When the Chatan and Kallah enter into a marriage they are undertaking the building of their own olam katan — miniature world. Calling the Chatan to the Torah is a message that he should emulate Hashem, and he too should use the Torah as his blueprint and build his world in accordance with Torah directives.

(אדמו"ר מהריי"ץ מאמר וכל בניך תרפ"ט ועי' מדרש תלפיות ענף חו"כ)

* * *

Alternatively, King Shlomo perceived that Gemilut Chassadim — acts of kindness — are very worthy before Hashem. Thus, when he built the Beit Hamikdash, he made two special gates of entry, one for bridegrooms, and one for mourners. On Shabbat people would sit between these gates. When a bridegroom would enter, the people would say, “May He Who dwells in this house bless you with good children.” When a mourner would enter they would say “May He Who dwells in this house, comfort you.”

Later, when the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed, it became the custom to have the bridegroom (and mourners) come to the synagogue so that the people would be able to rejoice with him.

(מס' סופרים פי"ט, הי"ב, ופרקי דר' אליעזר סופי"ז)

* * *

Alternatively, Hashem created man and woman for the purpose of procreation. G‑d has given man the ability to duplicate His own greatest feat of Creation by creating a child. Chassidut describes this as the revelation of the powers of the infinite (Hashem) in finite man (Likkutei Torah, Shir Hashirim 39:4).

Torah is Hashem’s infinite wisdom. By connecting himself with Torah prior to the wedding, the Chatan is drawing extra strength so that the marriage will meet the goal of creating an everlasting structure through progeny that will engage in Torah.

(תורת מנחם התוועדיות תש"י עמ' 125)

Throwing Sweets

QUESTION: What is the significance of the women’s throwing sweets at the Chatan when he is called to the Torah?

ANSWER: There is a discussion in Gemara (Kiddushin 29b) whether one should first marry and then engage in Torah study or the reverse. Rabbi Yochanan opines that one should first devote himself to study and afterwards he should marry, because “With a millstone around his neck, can one study Torah?” That is to say, a married man is burdened with the responsibility of providing for a family and this interferes with his ability to devote himself exclusively to Torah study.

After the Chatan is called to the Torah in honor of his forthcoming wedding, during the following week he is gripped by fear. How will he be able to engage in Torah when he will have “a millstone around his neck” — a wife and eventually a house full of children?

The Gemara (Bava Metzia 59a) says that “A person must always be careful about his wife’s honor, because blessing is found in a person’s house only on account of his wife. As it is stated (Bereishit 12:16) ‘And he [Pharoah] treated Avraham well on her [Sarah’s] account.’”

The women are thus sending a message to the Chatan: “Don’t be frightened by the burden you are assuming. The main thing to remember is to set aside time for Torah study and treat your wife royally. In her merit G‑d will shower you with His blessings and your parnosah will be in abundant measure.”

(משוש דודים ח"ה)

Throwing Sweets

QUESTION: Why are there nuts, almonds, raisins and sweets in the bags thrown at the Chatan?

ANSWER: The Hebrew word for “nut” is “egoz” (אגוז) having the numerical value of seventeen which is also the numerical value of the word “cheit” (חט) — “sin” — and the word “tov” (טוב) — “good.”

Hashem forgives the sins of a Chatan (Jerusalem Talmud Bikkurim 3:3) and he starts a fresh page. Thus, the nut represents the forgiveness of sin and that from now on he should do only tov — good — and thus it will be tov — good — for him and his family.

The almond is the fruit which is the quickest to blossom of all fruits (Bamidbar 18:23, Rashi). Since the purpose of marriage is to have a family, the message is that he should merit that this should be realized quickly.

Raisins are grapes and wine is produced from grapes. The quality of wine is dependant on the quality of the grapes. And the more it ages the better it becomes. The message is that this pair (Chatan and Kallah), which is compared to “the mingling of the grapes of the vine with the grapes of the vine” (Pesachim 49a), should go from strength to strength and produce wonderful generations in their marriage.

The sweets are a blessing that he enjoy a sweet life with his wife to be all the days of their marriage.

(טעמי המנהגים ע' ת"ב)

נהגו שהחתן וכלה מתענין ביום חופתן
It is customary for a Chatan and Kallah to fast on the day of their Chuppah. (Even Ha’ezer 61:1, Rama)

QUESTION: What Biblical source can be given for the custom of fasting?

ANSWER: This custom was also observed at the first wedding recorded in Torah. Eliezer came to the home of Betuel as Yitzchak’s emissary to marry Rivkah. Upon his arrival, they placed before him food to eat. His immediate response was “I will not eat until I have spoken my words” (Bereishit 24:33). After the Kiddushin — betrothal — took place, the Torah relates, “They ate and drank, he and the men who were with him” (Ibid 24:54).

נהגו שהחתן וכלה מתענין ביום חופתן
It is customary for a Chatan and Kallah to fast on the day of their Chuppah. (Even Ha’ezer 61:1, Rama)

QUESTION: Why do a Chatan and Kallah fast on their wedding day?

ANSWER: There are a few reasons for this:

1) Since it is a day of forgiveness of sins for the Chatan and Kallah, it is their day of Yom Kippur.

(שו"ת מהר"ם מינץ סי' ק"ט)

2) In order to avoid their consuming of intoxicating drinks and not be clear-headed at the wedding.

(הנ"ל ועי' ב"ש ס"א סק"ו ובאר היטב שם סק"ה)

3) To indicate that marriage is a beloved mitzvah, no food is eaten before the wedding is consummated. This is similar to the popular custom of not eating before performing the mitzvah of sounding shofar on Rosh Hashanah or taking the four species on Sukkot as an expression of love for the mitzvah.

(רוקח סי' שנ"ג)

QUESTION: What halachic differences are there between the various opinions?

ANSWER: 1) In the event the wedding took place during the day, is it is necessary to fast an entire day? According to reason #1 yes, and according to reasons #2 and #3, no.

On the other hand, if the wedding is taking place after tzeit hakochavim — nightfall — according to reason #1 they need to fast only till nightfall while according to reasons #2 and #3 they must continue fasting until after the Chuppah.

(ב"ש ובאר היטב שם ובפתחי תשובה סק"ט)

Some opine however that even according to reason #1 they may end their fast during the day since a partial day fast (Ta’anit Sha’ot) is also considered a day of fasting.

(עזר מקודש שם, ועי' אגה"ת פ"ג)

2) According to reason #1, the wedding day is an official day of fasting and a day that the Chatan and Kallah must fast (חלות דין תענית על הגברא והיום). While according to reasons #2 and #3 it is not an official day of fasting even in regard to the individuals, merely that they should avoid eating.

(לקו"ש ח"ל עמ' 161 ובהערה 54)

This distinction could also have an halachic effect. According to reasons #1 and #2 to make it an official day of fasting it would be necessary be mekabeil ta’anit — to accept the fast upon oneself — the day before during the Minchah services. While according to reason #1 it is an official day of fasting—it needs no specific kabbalat ta’anit the day before.

(בערוך השלחן סי' ס"א סעי' כ"א כ' שאי"צ קבלת תענית, אבל עי' בנטעי גבריאל פ"ה סעי' ה' ובהנסמן שם)

מנהג באשכנז שהכלה שולחת טלית לחתן ביום חתונתו
It is customary in Ashkenazic communities that the Kallah send the Chatan a talit on the day of the wedding (S’dei ChemedChatan v’Kallah 11)

QUESTION: Why is it customary for the Kallah to give the Chatan a talit?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Menachot 44a) relates the story of a person who meticulously observed the mitzvah of tzitzit and tells how it saved him from committing an adulterous act. The Kallah’s message to the Chatan is that he should always be faithful to her and to facilitate this endeavor she is sending him a new talit with the anticipation that he will carefully observe this mitzvah

* * *

A remez — hint — that the mitzvah of tzitzit helps one to refrain from adultery is in the words of King Shlomo (Proverbs 6:32): “He who commits adultery with a woman is lacking a lev — heart.” The word “lev” (לב) has the numerical value of 32, and the tzitzit placed on the four corners of a garment have a total of 32 strings.

(ספר המטעמים בשם אור המאיר, סוכות)

* * *

Alternatively, with the sending of the talit, the Kallah is expressing to her Chatan the words Ruth said to Boaz “spread kenafecha — your robe — over your handmaid” (Ruth 3:9), i.e. “please marry me.” The word kenafecha can be an allusion to a talit since the Torah says, “Twisted threads you shall make for yourselves on the four kanfot — corners — of your garment with which you cover yourself ” (Devarim 22:12).

* * *

Incidentally, in some communities it is a custom that a talit is placed over the shoulders of the Chatan and Kallah while they stand under the Chuppah.

(עי' אוצר הפוסקים אבהע"ז סי' נ"ה ס"ק ט"ז, ועי' באר היטב או"ח סי' ח' ס"ק י"ח שיש נוהגין ליטול טלית שאולה מפני ספק ברכה)

* * *

Alternatively, originally, Chavah and Adam were created as one entity back to back. The talit is worn on man’s back. Thus, the Kallah is saying that though Hashem has separated them, she hopes to always be a part of him as they were when created.

מנהג באשכנז שהכלה שולחת טלית לחתן ביום חתונתו
It is customary in Ashkenazic communities that the Kallah send the Chatan a talit on the day of the wedding (S’dei ChemedChatan v’Kallah 11)

QUESTION: Where is there a hint in the Torah to the connection of a talit with marriage?

ANSWER: The Torah says, “Twisted threads you shall make for yourselves on the four kanfot — corners — of your garment with which you cover yourself” (Devarim 22:12). This is a reference to a garment such as a talit. Immediately following this the Torah says “If a man marries a wife...” (Ibid. 22:13), indicating that there is a connection between a talit and marriage.

(טעמי המנהגים, תתקס"ו)

Veiling the Bride

QUESTION: What is the source for covering the face of the Kallah before the Chuppah?

ANSWER: As Eliezer was arriving home with Rivkah, Yitzchak happened to go out to the field to recite his prayers, and she was impressed by his appearance. Upon finding out that this was the man who is about to become her husband (nisu’in), the Torah says “She took the veil and covered herself” (Bereishit 24:65). This was a sign of modesty on her part. Thus, every Kallah emulates Rivkah’s modest behavior and prays that in merit of conducting herself modestly she too will be equally worthy in her marriage.

* * *

QUESTION: What is its significance?

ANSWER: Some say that the Kallah, being the center of attention, is sending a message that her beauty is reserved only for her Chatan and no one other than her husband can gaze at her beauty.

Alternatively, the Chatan’s covering her face indicates that he is not marrying her for her physical beauty. Rather it is her hidden spiritual qualities and values that attracted him to her. Her beauty may fade in time, but her good qualities are perpetual.

(לקוטי מהרי"ם - מטעמים)

* * *

By having her face covered, she is in a sense saying that she is not particular about the exact value of the ring as long as it has the minimum value of a perutah. Therefore, it is customary for the Rabbi to show the ring to the witnesses and declare [verbally, so that the Kallah hears] that it is worth a perutah.

(שו"ע אבן העזר סי' ל"א סעי' ב' ועי' בח"מ)

אחתנו את היי לאלפי רבבה
“Our sister, may you come to thousands of myriads” (Bereishit 24:60)

QUESTION: Why before a Chuppah, when the Chatan covers the Kallah’s face with a veil (“badekenesh”), is it customary to recite this blessing?

ANSWER: This is the berachah that Lavan gave his sister Rivkah, and on the surface appears to be very nice. However, the Gemara (Bava Batra 110a) says that when one marries a woman he should investigate her brothers, because most sons resemble the brothers of the mother. Thus, in reality, Lavan meant that his sister should be blessed with many children and since most of them would resemble him, the Jewish people would be flooded with people of his character.

Therefore, as the Kallah is about to enter marriage, the rabbi and prominent people who escort the Chatan to the badekenish declare to the Kallah, “You are ‘achoteinu’ — ‘our sister’ — and we wish you that you should be blessed with children who will resemble us and thus be a source of Yiddishe nachas to you and K’lal Yisrael.”

(שלחן העזר סי' ז')

אחתנו את היי לאלפי רבבה
“Our sister, may you come to thousands of myriads”

QUESTION: What do we mean that the Kallah should have a family of tens of thousands of children?

ANSWER: When Hashem blesses a person with financial success, it is proper to give a portion to tzedakah. When one supports a yeshivah, the children who are learning Torah thanks to his financial assistance are considered his children. Years later, the students of those yeshivah students are also considered his children.

The berachah to the Kallah is that in her marriage she should be blessed with wealth and be imbued with the good sense to inspire her husband to give tzedakah to Torah institutions. Through helping children receive a Torah education, she in turn becomes a mother of thousands of children.

* * *

Alternatively, Yaakov declared that a common blessing to Jewish children should be “Yesimcha Elokim ke’Ephraim vechiMenasheh — May Hashem make you like Ephraim and Menasheh” (Bereishit 48:20). When Moshe blessed Yosef he said in reference to the accomplishment of his sons, Ephraim and Menasheh, “Veheim rivevot Ephraim veheim alfei Menasheh” — “They are the myriads of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Menasheh” (Devarim 33:17).

Hence, Lavan was actually blessing his sister to be like Ephraim and Menasheh and alluded to them by his talking of alfei — thousands — (Menasheh) and revavah — myriads — (Ephraim).

(חתם סופר החדש פ' חיי שרה)

אחתנו את היי לאלפי רבבה וירש זרעך את שער שנאיו
“Our sister, be the mother of thousands of ten thousands and may your offspring inherit the gate of their enemies” (Bereishit 24:60)

QUESTION: Why didn’t Lavan bless Rivkah not to have any enemies at all?

ANSWER: The lack of enemies is not always a good sign. A person who is, G‑d forbid, stricken with poverty or afflicted with troubles usually has no enemies because everyone has mercy on him. On the other hand, it is inevitable for a wealthy man not to have enemies. Out of jealousy people become his enemies and criticize him for not giving enough charity or for exerting too much influence, etc.

Lavan blessed his sister with wealth and success. Knowing that this would bring her enemies, he wished her that she would overcome them and that all their criticism of her would be unwarranted.

(מצאתי בכתבי אבי הרב שמואל פסח ז"ל באגאמילסקי)


QUESTION: Why is it customary for a Chatan to wear a kittel at the Chuppah?

ANSWER: The kittel is a garment in which the deceased are dressed. By wearing this garment at the Chuppah, at which they officially became husband and wife, the Chatan is telling the Kallah that he looks forward to being with her for 120 years, and that only death, G‑d forbid, will separate them.

(שו"ת מהר"ם שיק אבהע"ז סי' פ"ח)

Alternatively, on the wedding day the sins of the Chatan and Kallah are forgiven. Thus, it is their personal Yom Kippur (see p. 245). Normally when the Kohen Gadol performed the service in the Beit Hamikdash he wore eight garments, some gold and some of white fabric. On Yom Kippur when he went into the Holy of Holies he wore only white linen garments. Therefore, like a Jew on Yom Kippur, the Chatan and Kallah wear white to the Chuppah.

* * *

Alternatively, since the sins of the Chatan and Kallah were forgiven on this day, they are now clean and pure as the color white. The white garments represent a message to them that “at all times let your clothes be white” (Ecclesiastes 9:8).

(טעמי המנהגים בשם כל בו סי' ע"ה)


QUESTION: Why do the two people who lead the Chatan and the Kallah to the Chuppah, each carry a candle?

ANSWER: It is customary for a girl to light a candle in honor of Shabbat. When she marries, she lights two. The reason for this is because the word “neir (נר) — “candle” — has the numerical value of 250. Thus, the two candles total 500, and a married couple has a total of 500 limbs (the man has 248 and the woman has 252 — see Bechorot 45a). Thus, the message implied with the two candles flanking both of them is that from now on they are “one flesh” (see Bereishit 2:24) consisting of 500 limbs, and hopefully will remain that way “biz 120.”

* * *

Alternatively, the primary purpose in marriage is to procreate. The first mitzvah Hashem commanded Adam and Chavah was “P’ru urevu” — to “Be fruitful and multiply” —(Bereishit 35:11). The words "P’ru urevu” (פרו ורבו) numerically add up to 500. This is alluded to with the two candles. The numerical equivalence of the word “neir” is 250, and two candles i.e., two times the word “neir,” is 500.

(מטה משה חלק שלישי, הכנסת כלה, פ"א סי' ב)

Wedding Canopy

QUESTION: Why is the Chuppah open on all four sides?

ANSWER: It is a message to the young couple, who are setting out to build a home, to follow the instruction of Pirkei Avot (1:5) “Let your home be wide open for guests.” Their home should be like the home of our forefather Avraham, which had openings on all four sides (Bartenura, ibid.).

(עזר מקודש (בוטשאש) אבהע"ז סי' נ"ב)

חופה תחת כיפת השמים
Wedding Under Open Sky (Even Ha’ezer 61:1)

QUESTION: Why does a Chuppah ceremony take place under the open sky?

ANSWER: Our Sages (Shabbat 88a) explain the pasuk “They stood under the mountain” (Shemot 19:17) to mean that at the time of the giving of the Torah, Hashem lifted the mountain and the Jewish people stood under it. According to the Targum Yonatan ben Uziel (ibid.) the suspended mountain was as clear as glass. Thus, the mountain served as a beautiful Chuppah under which the stars could be seen, and the Jewish people became an arusah — betrothed — to Hashem. Hashem’s enabling the Jews to see the stars was a blessing that they should multiply as the stars of heaven.

Similarly, it is a siman tov — good sign — for the Chatan and Kallah that they merit the berachah Hashem gave to Avraham that his offspring would be like the stars of heaven (Bereishit 15:5).

חופה – יריעה פרוסה על גבי כלונסאות
Wedding Canopy — Cloth Spread Over Poles (Even Ezer 55:1)

QUESTION: What Biblical source can be cited for the custom that a marriage is consummated by the giving of a ring under a Chuppah supported by wooden poles?

ANSWER: When Yehudah pursued marriage with Tamar, he told her “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” She consented on the condition “provided you give me a mashkon — pledge — until you send it.” When he asked her “What pledge shall I give you?” she replied “chotamcha” — “your signet ring — “petilecha” — your wrap — (the garment with which you cover yourself) and “matecha” — “your staff that is in your hand” (Bereishit 38:18)

To commemorate this marriage, (which is connected also with the ultimate birth of Mashiach), we make our marriage through the giving of a ring (‘chotamcha’) under the garment (‘petilecha’) supported by poles (‘matecha’).

(לקוטי מנהגים סי' מ"ה ועי' בדעת זקנים מבעלי התוס', ועי' שו"ת אגרות משה או"ח ח"ד סי' ע"ז, אם בעינן דוקא כלונסאות)

מכניסין תחתיה החתן והכלה
The Chatan and Kallah are brought under the Chupah (Even Ha’ezer 55:1)

QUESTION: What is the reason for the Chatan’s coming first?

ANSWER: We emulate what happened at the giving of the Torah when Hashem (the Chatan) arrived first. This is derived from the pasuk “Hashem came from Sinai” (Devarim 33:2). Now, the wording is somewhat difficult: instead of “Hashem came from Sinai,” it should have said “Hashem came to Sinai”?

Rashi explains “He went out toward them when they came to stand at the bottom of the mountain, like a groom who goes out to greet the bride. As it says, ‘[Moshe brought the people] toward Hashem’” (Shemot 19:17).

That is, Hashem came first to Sinai, and the people were not there. (See Midrash Rabbah, Shir Hashirim 1:12 (2).) Moshe then went to gather them and bring them to Sinai. As they were arriving, Hashem who was already there, went out to greet the bride — i.e. the Jewish people.

(שלחן העזר סי' ז', סע"ד, ועי' בלקוטי מהרי"ח)

השושבינים/ות מסבבין הכלה סביב לחתן
All the escorts (Chabad custom) circle the Kallah around the Chatan.

QUESTION: What is the significance of this?

ANSWER: The Chatan is compared to a king. Thus, the bride and all the escorts (including grandparents) walk around the groom just as troops parade around a king.

(טעמי המנהגים תתקס"א בשם תשב"ץ באג"ק אדמו"ר מהריי"ץ ח"ח ע' קע"ח כ' "שסיבוב הכלה תחת החופה הוא סגולה אויף א גוט לעבען")

The prophet describes the Messianic era as a time when “Nekeivah tesoveiv gever” — “A woman shall go around a man” (Jeremiah 31:21). Thus, the Kallah’s encircling the Chatan indicates the hope that their marriage should usher in the coming of Mashiach.

(מטעמים, מערכת חתן וכלה ע"ט)

The Gemara (Yevamot 62b) says that “Whoever lives without a wife lives without a wall.” That is, a wife is like a wall for her husband protecting him from external temptations. Thus, her procession around him indicates that in their married life she will, please G‑d, protect and shield him from improper desires.

(עי' מהרש"א יבמות)

Yosef related that in his dream “My sheaf arose and remained standing, and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf” (Bereishit 37:7). This was a Divine revelation that he would be a mashpiah — provider — to his brothers and they would be mekablim — his recipients.

For this arrangement to succeed the brothers had to be totally subservient to him, starting with “surrounding” him and ultimately absolute submission — “bowing” down to him.

To indicate her desire that the Chatan should be her mashpia, and that she should be the mekabeil, the Kallah begins by parading around him and afterwards, when they unite in marriage, she becomes a subservient recipient.

(תורת חיים לאדמו"ר האמצעי בראשית ע"א, ועי' שער הכולל פל"ה)

* * *

The prevalent custom of the Kallah walking seven times around the Chatan is of Kabbalistic origin. It is associated with, among other things, the seven emotional attributes and the seven heavens.

(עי' לקוטי מהרי"ם, שו"ת שארית יעקב סי' י"ח)