By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Kesubos 3 – Invest for the Future
The particular wording is intriguing. Shakdu Chachamim al takanas Bnos Yisrael. The Radak (Yirmiyahu 1:11) explains that the word shekidah implies swift effort; in other words, doing something with zeal and full application of one’s energy. Alacrity. Chazal fully applied themselves to fix up the situation for Jewish daughters. What did they do? They enacted that weddings be held on Wednesdays and not Sundays. Why? To make sure that the chassan – yes, essentially it is the chassan’s obligation – will put a full three days of preparation into the wedding feast.
Now, last I checked, a chasunah is not only for a kallah. The chassan is also a primary celebrant, isn’t he? So why is this considered a takanah specifically for Jewish daughters? Enter the Ritva. He explains it clearly and concisely. “This engenders an advancement of the cause of Jewish daughters, for the chassan will be very reluctant to make false claims that she was not a besulah, because a person is not going to put so much into a feast for nothing.”
The more the chassan puts into preparing for the chasunah, the more he has invested of himself into it. His time. His effort. His money. His energy. He’s invested in it. This is a basic psychological fact. The degree of importance of the marriage itself in his mind is increased exponentially because of how much he put into it. Therefore, he is that much less likely to do away with it at a whim since, after all, so much was invested just to make this marriage happen.
Now, obviously, the essential kedusha of a Jewish marriage and the beauty of the bond between husband and wife has nothing to do with how much preparation did or did not go into the wedding. At least not inherently. That would be like saying that a seifer Torah written with cheap ink and poor quality klaf has less kedusha, which is of course preposterous. The inherent kedusha is just that; inherent. However, there is no question that people will tend to relate to such a seifer Torah with much less reverence then one written on fine quality parchment and with expensive ink.
The reason for this is quite simple, isn’t it? If it really is so important, then you are going to treat it as such, right? If you could not have been bothered to procure proper klaf and ink, then it must not be all that important, right? Well, of course not! It’s just that he was negligent and didn’t accord it the reverential respect and honor it really deserves. Once that was done, though, it can be quite difficult if not impossible to reverse the belittling implications that doing so impressed upon people’s minds.
That’s what is going on over here also. A marriage is sacred. It is really special. So special, in fact, that Shir Ha’Shirim depicts the ultimate depth of the relationship between Hashem and Klal Yisrael as that of an intensely romantic love affair between husband and wife. Although describing the intimacy between husband and wife is definitely not what Shir Ha’Shirim is coming to teach us; at the same time, it would be awfully blockheaded of us if we wouldn’t catch that that is really how marriage is supposed to be, wouldn’t it?
So, yes, marriage – certainly a Jewish one – is meant to be something really, really important. And exciting, invigorating, and energizing. It therefore deserves its due respect and honorable treatment in terms of preparing for the wedding ceremony and celebratory feast. Doing that concretizes in one’s mind the reality of the supreme importance of one’s marriage and the deep and abiding significance that it carries for one’s whole life.
Now, another one of the concepts we learn about in today’s Daf (right at the end) is what the proper procedure is if the chassan’s father or the kallah’s mother dies after everything is all ready and set up, but before the chuppah has actually taken place. Although normally one has to drop everything and commence arrangements for burial right away, and immediately thereafter begins aveilus; because doing so in this situation would cause a severe financial loss and leave the chassan or kallah bereft of the individual who is most responsible for getting everything ready on their behalf, we waive the standard procedure and allow the chassan and kallah to continue on to the chuppah.
It is clear, then, that the norm is that a chassan does not arrange his wedding feast on his own, but that his parents – primarily his father – take care of that for him. That being said, were the chassan to be so emotionally removed from all the preparatory work that it would be as if he is just rolling into his chasunah without any sense of what went into setting it up whatsoever; well, then that would just defeat the whole purpose of enacting that weddings be on Wednesdays, wouldn’t it? Obviously, then, it must have been that in the time of Chazal the norm was that the chassan was in fact deeply involved in the wedding preparations. If not on the practical level, at least on the emotional level.
This ought to give us pause to wonder if perhaps there is room for improvement in this area vis a vis our contemporary model of how weddings are done. Basically, without going into the nitty gritty details, what we don’t want to have is a situation in which a chassan (or a kallah for that matter) is having everything served to him on a silver platter. If it is as if he is a pampered prince around and about whom everyone is fussing and doting, without him ever having to lift a finger, that is not good. It is important that he strongly feel the sense of investment into the chasunah and thus the marriage. Because that sense of investment will indelibly impress upon his mind a sense of deep, abiding importance that will escort him throughout his married life and help him to relate thereto in a positive and forever meaningful way.
Rabbi Yehoshua Berman serves as the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Reshet HaDaf in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. In addition to having authored Reflections on the Parsha, Rabbi Berman regularly delivers shiurim on Halacha and Hashkafa, writes comprehensive chazara questions (in Hebrew) for the advanced Daf Yomi learner, and weekly words of inspiration from the Parsha. Rabbi Berman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.