Music of Halacha: Weddings
I am not a grouch, just confused. I have often wondered about the way we celebrate weddings. I cannot begin to comprehend why we are willing to spend
a fortune on a few hours of celebration. Personally, I prefer to use the money to set aside a down payment on a home when the young couple is ready to assume such a responsibility. I also do not understand why we spend so much time preparing for the wedding party. It seems that we confuse the young couple by focusing on the party rather than on the marriage that will follow. My experience has been that the bride and groom spend far more time on wedding planning than on learning relationship skills.
However, the aspect of weddings that most surprises me is Halacha: “There is a commandment to cause the groom and bride to rejoice, and to dance before them singing even undeserved praises of the bride.” (Shulchan Aruch; Even HaEzer 65:1) Why do they need us to cause them to rejoice? Do we not expect them to be happy without our help? Does it make sense to praise the bride for inexistent qualities? I expect that the groom will quickly learn the truth.
Imagine a young couple celebrating their marriage and seven days of rejoicing that follow; they probably believe that marriage is an extended party. Even the best marriages take work. Why does Halacha demand that we create the prolonged period of rejoicing for the bride and groom?
I believe that one answer is related to the comparison of the wedding to Yom Kippur. (Bereishit Rabbah on Chapter 36:3; Jerusalem Talmud, Bikkurim, Chapter 2 with Commentary of Mateh Moshe; Midrash Talpiot: Groom & Bride; Responsa Tashbetz #467: Rokeach, Netzavim) There are two paths of Teshuva, Returning to God: One is to repair the past. The second, and more powerful Teshuva, is “Expectation”, to celebrate the possibilities of life. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement is a celebration of such expectations. A wedding is a salute to the promise and potential that each couple brings to the world. The Halacha is telling us that the bride and groom are happy with each other, but we must teach them that the real joy will come when they learn to focus on the possibilities now open to them. All the parties, all seven days of them, are not only because we are happy for them and wish them further joy, but a reminder to them that all that they previously considered impossible is now within their grasp. We are training the couple to focus on the possibilities of their life together, not only during the first week, but every day for the rest of their lives.
We do not lie to the groom when we sing his bride’s praises. We are teaching him that anything is possible for a couple that looks at life through this prism of Teshuva; Expectation.