Weddings on Chol Ha’moed

Moed Katan (1:7) | Shmoiki Berkowitz | 15 years ago

The seventh Mishnah of the first perek of Moed Katan presents the Halacha that one may not marry during Chol Ha’moed because his bride ‘is a source of simcha for him.’ The Gemara in Moed Katan (8b) is unsatisfied with the reason mentioned in the Mishnah, and seeks to clarify further this seemingly peculiar Halacha where celebration of the festivals excludes experiencing the joy of matrimony. Five answers are provided.

The first and most prominent explanation cites the concept of ‘we do not merge one simcha with another,’ and that we have to celebrate each individually. The other explanations given are:

The Rishonim evaluate the answers mentioned in the Gemara to establish the fundamental reason behind the prohibition of marriage during Chol Ha’moed.

According to the (3b), it appears that the principle reason for the prohibition is the first explanation; that ‘we do not merge one simcha with another,’ with the other explanations regarded as secondary. The Nimukei Yosef further explains that the reasoning behind the concept of not merging smachot with each other is that in the event of merged smachot, one would not celebrate either properly. For this reason each simcha is celebrated separately, to ensure that both are accompanied by the appropriate level of happiness.

The Meiri understands the Gemara in the same way as the , that the primary explanation for the prohibition of marriage on Chol Ha’moed is the concept of ‘we do not merge one simcha with another.’ However, he offers a different, though subtle, reasoning. He explains that when two smachot are celebrated together, one is inevitably treated as inferior. Accordingly, in order to protect the integrity of each simcha, they are celebrated separately.

The Rambam, in hilchot Yom Tov (7:16), mentions the Halacha of not marrying on Chol Ha’moed and provides what appears prima facie to be a new explanation that does not appear in either the Mishnah or Gemara

This Halacha is mentioned a second time in Hilchot Ishut () while discussing prohibited relationships. The Rambam writes there that the reason for the prohibition is ‘as was explained (i.e. in hilchot Yom Tov) that we do not merge one simcha with another.’ From this Halacha we learn that the Rambam only accepts the first reason mentioned in the Gemara, and that his explanation presented in hilchot Yom Tov is the Rambam’s understanding of why we do not merge smachot.

In the Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 64) we learn of the obligation of a groom to celebrate his marriage and enjoy the company of his wife. The groom should not go to work and have festive meals. The Rama adds that he should even attempt to refrain from doing melachot.

From here we may gain a better understanding of the Rambam that claimed a groom will forget the celebrations of the chag. Since the nature of celebrating marriage is the same as for Chol Ha’moed the groom is likely to forget that he is celebrating the chag in addition to his marriage.

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