Shabbat Parashat Ki Teitzei | 5769
Ask the Rabbi: Time of chupa
Question: I am about to have my wedding invitation printed, and I am not sure for what time to call the chupa. The mesader kiddushin is presently very busy with personal matters and I do not want to bother him, but I am afraid that I may choose wrong as to whether the wedding should be before or after sunset, which I guess should be his decision. Is it right to decide on the time without consulting with him?
Answer: Mazal tov! A wedding can take place right before sunset or right after sunset, and it is not necessary to know in advance which it will be, as we will explain. A chatan and kalla have enough (happy) headaches to worry about. Considering also that this matter of time is not always something they can totally control, it is the mesader kiddushin who can and usually should arrange to accommodate the couple’s preferences.
The main reason people assume they need to know in advance if their wedding will be before or after nightfall (we will assume that this follows sunset, although this is not as simple as it sounds) is the date on the ketuba. Indeed, a pre-dated ketuba is pasul. The reason for the p’sul is actually quite mundane. A ketuba is a monetary document, designed to provide the wife with some financial stability under unfortunate circumstances. This ketuba can be used to extract payment from the husband’s property, including that which he sold after the time he obligated himself to its terms. Therefore, one who buys property from a man has a right to search for liens on the property, including from a ketuba, which at least in theory, can be of any face value the couple decides on. If one were allowed to pre-date a ketuba, it is possible that one would buy a field when there was not yet a lien from a ketuba, yet a woman could come to beit din and falsely “show” that her husband had made a lien on his property before the sale.
This problem can be overcome when preparing a ketuba. While the ketuba is meant to accompany a wedding, a chatan can create the obligations included in it and the related liens before the marriage ceremony. In that case, if the date on the ketuba is the pre-nightfall date and the wedding was delayed until after nightfall, the ketuba is fine as long as the chatan made a kinyan sudar on the obligation before nightfall. Except for those who have a custom (notably, many in Yerushalayim) to hold off with the kinyan sudar until the kiddushin has taken place under the chupa, this anyway takes place a good half hour before the chupa takes place (and it can be done even days before).
In a case where the couple thought the chupa would take place at night and it ended up happening in the day (theoretically possible even at a Jewish wedding) there also would not be a problem according to almost all opinions. In this case, the bride foregoes her lien for one day, which does not render the ketuba invalid. She still has a valid ketuba and additionally by the time the couple is in the yichud room (the cut off point might be even later anyway), the date has probably already come (see Shulchan Aruch, Rama, and Ezer Mikodesh, Even Haezer 66:1).
We would suggest to a mesader kiddushin to ask the couple to choose a time for the chupa, add 15 minutes (to be realistic) and prepare a ketuba based on the date at that time. (He may want to keep the date blank until things become clearer. The date on the invitation and the bentcher are not relevant). While it is generally respectful to discuss the time issues with him before the invitation is printed, if it is unfair to disturb him now, you can safely assume that he can handle the timing issues later.
The issue that remains for you is that the Jewish date the chupa takes place sets the last day of Sheva Berachot, particularly in regard to the berachot at the end of bentching. If you can live with that uncertainty (a party may be held without the berachot, which anyway sometimes happen if the bentching gets drawn out until after sunset of the seventh day), you should be okay.
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