Question: May a chupah take place in the sanctuary of a shul?
Short Answer: While many Acharonim forbid holding a chupah in the sanctuary of a shul, the minhag today is to rely on Rav Moshe Feinstein’s ruling permitting such a chupah.
I. In a Shul
The Rama (Yoreh Dei’ah 331:3) writes that an aveil (during the year of aveilus) may not enter into a wedding hall with eating and dancing, but may enter (different opinions at what point – after shiv’ah, 30 days, etc.) a chupah that occurs in a shul. The Rama cites the Hagahos Maimoniyos as his source.
The obvious implication from the Rama – even though the Rama elsewhere writes that ideally the chupah should take place under the stars, see my previous article) – is that it is not forbidden for the chupah to take place in the sanctuary of a shul.
II. Incorrect Citation
The Tiferes Yisrael (K’lalei Simchos 2), however, challenges this implication. He notes that the source of the Rama, the Hagahos Maimoniyos, does not mention the word “shul” but instead writes the abbreviation “beis-hei.” While the printer of the Rama understood this to mean beis ha’k’neses, the correct meaning is beis ha’nisuin – the marriage house, i.e. the wedding hall. Indeed, the Tiferes Yisrael concludes that we never find that minhag Yisrael was to hold a chupah in the sanctuary of a shul.
Moreover, the Chasam Sofer (Even HaEzer 98) writes that it is forbidden to hold a chupah in the sanctuary of a shul because of the prohibition of “u’v’chukoseihem lo seileichu” – following the ways of other nations. Indeed, the sefer Chukas Olam (p. 311) notes numerous Acharonim who agreed with the Chasam Sofer and forbade a chupah in the sanctuary of a shul.
Further, the Mishnas Yehoshua (siman 73) cites the Heichal Yitzchak (Rav Herzog zt”l) that it is forbidden to hold a chupah in the sanctuary of a shul because invariably the chupah will lead to people kissing their relatives, something forbidden in a shul.
Likewise, the Mishnas Yehoshua (ibid) cites Rav Chaim Soloveitchik zt”l who commented that because of the improper mingling of the sexes that occurs at a chupah, a chupah should not take place in the sanctuary of a shul.
III. Defending Our Version of the Rama
Nonetheless, the Maanei Lashon (Rav Avraham Chaputa shlita) writes that the Rama intentionally wrote beis ha’k’neses because the Rama believed that an aveil may go to a place where there is no eating, drinking or dancing. A shul is a good example of such a place. Clearly, though, the Maanei Lashon concludes that a chupah is permitted in the sanctuary of a shul.
Likewise, the Maanei Lashon (ibid) cites the Taalumos Lev who ruled that it was permitted to hold a chupah in the sanctuary of a shul because there is no prohibition of “u’v’chukoseihem lo seileichu” here where the nations of the world do not only hold a wedding in their houses of worship, but will also hold the wedding in their backyard.
IV. Practical Halachah
The T’shuvos V’Hanhagos (2:648) vehemently opposes attending a wedding where the chupah is to take place in the sanctuary of a shul.
On the other hand, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Even HaEzer 1:93) writes that even the chasan and kallah and mesader kiddushin do not violate any prohibition by holding a chupah in the sanctuary of a shul. If anything, the prohibition of “u’v’chukoseihem lo seileichu” does not apply, as our shuls are different from their houses of worship. Indeed, we have no problem of davening in our shuls, despite that the other nations also pray in their houses of worship.
Next Week’s Topic: Can an elderly rabbi, who is confined to a wheelchair (and thus cannot stand up), serve as an eid kiddushin – a witness to the marriage ceremony?