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Shabbat Parashat Vaetchanan 5773

Ask the Rabbi: Standing for a Chatan and a Kalla

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: Is there a reason to stand for a chatan (groom) and a kalla (bride) as they enter the chupa (wedding canopy)?

: The practice of standing up as the chatan/kalla walk past those who are seated is a relatively new phenomenon. The traditional approach to new practices in a religious setting is to be wary about them, for several reasons. One reason is that some new practices are against the spirit or even the letter of halacha or Jewish thought. Another is that it creates confusion, when it is difficult to distinguish between important minhagim from which one can learn and gain and between spiritually meaningless practices. A third dimension is a feeling many have that if this practice is a proper one, generations before us would have initiated it.  A related idea is that initiating a new minhag gives the impression of arrogance and dismissal, as if to say: “We know better than our predecessors.”

Let us analyze the practice in light of the above. It is hard to find anything significantly objectionable about standing up for a chatan/kalla. Maybe some people are irked by the tendency toward attributing them special powers (see scant sources regarding their power of prayer in Nitei Gavriel 9:15, indicating it is not a mainstream approach in non-Hassidic philosophy). However, there is a staggering amount of sources that support the idea being generally appropriate. We are commanded to stand for various people we are required to honor (see Kiddushin 32-33), and we find numerous sources about making a big deal of the chatan/kalla. These include such halachot as halting Torah study to escort the kalla and giving precedence to a wedding procession over a funeral procession (Ketubot 17a). One could claim that these represent a mitzva to make them happy rather than honoring them per se. However, numerous sources (including Tosafot ad loc. and the Beit Yosef, Yoreh Deah 360) refer to kavod (honor) and compare it to the kavod of others. 

In truth, there are different ways of showing kavod to different people. For example, a husband and wife should honor each other greatly (Rambam, Ishut 15:19-20). Yet, we do not find a halacha that they should stand up for each other. The main honor for a chatan and kalla is showing interest in and excitement about their marriage and future home. Certainly, it is more appropriate to sit in rapt attention than to rise but continue talking to a friend. However, standing would also seem to be a reasonable expression of honor.

People quote the concept of chatan domeh l’melech (a groom resembles a king) as grounds for standing. This phrase comes from Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer 16, along with examples of similarities: they both are praised for seven days; they wear nice clothing; they are involved in partying (regarding a chatan, it is for seven days, and some understand it to mean they may not go to work); they do not go in the street alone. The latter two are brought as halacha in the Rama (Even Haezer 64:1). The gemara (Moed Katan 28a) makes another interesting comparison: a chatan is like a kohen and, therefore, sits at the helm. We did not find a classical source requiring standing before chatan.  

There are semi-classical sources that speak about standing for the chatan as he goes to get an aliya during the week before and after the wedding (see Nitei Gavriel 2:7 and Chashukei Chemed, Gittin 62a, who are not overly impressed by the case for standing). The lack of a source about standing specifically on the way to the chupa should not be surprising – for hundreds of years, weddings were done outside and indications (including old paintings) are that seating was not the norm.

In summation, we find nothing compelling to require standing for the chatan/kalla but agree it has logic and is not intrinsically objectionable. Out of respect for our predecessors who did not do so, we would not have initiated the practice, but out of respect for present-day peers who do it (and perhaps chatanim/kallot who already expect it), we encourage joining along. 

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