(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times)
It happened this week at a Tuesday wedding at the Rye Town Hilton. From the manner in which inquiries are being made, it may soon become the new norm at Jewish weddings. It is also a way in which the parents of the Chosson and Kallah can fulfill over one hundred Torah Mitzvos. The Mitzvah under discussion is v’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha – loving one’s neighbor like oneself.
So, what is it already?
It is grabbing hold of a fantastic opportunity to make shidduchim. At a typical wedding, everyone is dressed their very best. There are also so many opportunities to make shidduchim – so why not do it?
WHAT THEY DID
Here is what they did. Single friends of both the Chosson and Kallah and their parents were contacted and asked to submit their resumes. The parents then placed the chosson’s friends and the kallah’s friends in a side room at the weddings, on separate sides. They then packed the room with circulating shadchanim and instructed them as to what to do. They had received the resumes in advance. It was all done in a very tznius manner.
The prospective shidduch got to meet each other – then and there. The Rye Town Hilton has numerous lobbies, walkways, and other venues to make for a perfect venue for the couple to meet and talk. The shadchanim worked hard – real hard. They worked both sides of the Mechitzah.
And they were successful beyond anyone’s imagination. Numerous couples met. Some spoke for 30 minutes. Some spoke for an hour. A number of shidduchim were made that night. Some dated this past Thursday evening. Others are dating on Sunday.
One of the caterers at Beth Shalom of Lawrence, Chateau De Glatt, got a phone call: “Can this be done at Beth Shalom as well?” The caterer responded that it could, as Beth Shalom has an extra room that can accommodate 90 more people.
DARING AND CONTROVERSIAL
At the outset, some of the Rabbonim were very concerned. Will this turn the wedding into a disastrous breach of tznius? The Kallah’s father assured the concerned Rabbonim that the Shadchanim, who were Bnei Torah, would make sure that things went well. Most of the Rabbonim who heard of it were for it. One or two, however, still had some hesitations.
THE TALMUDIC PROOF FROM RAV MASNA’S REASON FOR TU B’AV
What follows is an analysis of the Gemorah in Bava Basra (121a and b) – proving that, in fact, the idea behind this innovative move in Shidduchim is a true davar sheb’kdusha.
Tu B’Av was a special day in the Jewish calendar. This idea too, of making shidduchim at weddings, could now change the nature of the contemporary Jewish wedding.
Traditionally, Tu B’Av was a day when single young ladies would wear special gowns of white. They did so in order to woo a groom. The white indicated that they were free from sin. The young men and young women gathered separately in one venue in order to meet.
The Braisah in Taanis (31a) states that the custom was for everyone to borrow white clothing from others so that the poorer girls who, in truth, lacked the financial means to clothe themselves properly, would not be embarrassed that they did not have something to wear. Indeed, even the king’s daughter and the Kohain Gadol’s daughter exchanged clothing.
So now we know what occurred on this day. But why was Tu B’Av established initially?
THE SIX REASONS FOR TU B”AV
The Gemorah in Bava Basra (121a,b) provides a number of different reasons:
- Rav Yehuda in the name of Shmuel: A law existed while we were in the desert on account of the Bnos Tzlafchad. This law banned the Shvatim from marrying one another where it would cause changes in an inheritance. This law was rescinded in the 40th year on the 15th of Av. The joy inherent in rescinding this law caused the day to become very special and joyous.
- Rabba Bar Bar Chana in the name of Rav Yochanan: The Tribe of Binyomin was allowed to remarry into K’hal Yisroel after the incident of Pilegesh B’Givah (see Shoftim 19-21). This occurred on the 15th and signified once again the unity of Israel.
- Rav Dimi Bar Yosef in the name of Rav Nachman: The people in the Midbar stopped dying on this day.
- Ullah: It was the day that Hoshea Ben Ellah undid the orchards that Yeravam placed to block passage of those who wished to visit the Beis HaMikdash. Yeravam had blocked them because he was concerned that seeing the real kings of Israel would undermine his legitimacy. Undoing the blockage contributed to Jewish unity.
- Rav Masna: It was the day that the Romans allowed the victims of Beitar to be buried and it was revealed that their bodies had miraculously shown no de-composure.
(This 5th answer is the one we will be focusing upon).
- It was the day that the cutting of the wood for the main altar in the Bais HaMikdash was finished because sunset was now earlier and the woods could no longer dry– so we celebrated the fact that this day now allowed them to learn.
SERIOUS HISTORICAL PROBLEM
There is a serious historical question, however, with reason number five – proposed by Rav Masna.
The sources quoted in the Gemorah indicate that Tu B’Av was observed during the time of the Bais HaMikdash. This is borne out from the Braisah having mentioned above that the king’s daughter and the Kohain Gadol’s daughter also partook in the exchange of clothing.
BEITAR WAS LATER!
But Beitar only fell after Hadrian the Roman Emperor came to power! This was many years after the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed. Hadrian was emperor from 117 CE to 138 CE. The Bais HaMikdash was destroyed in 70 CE. There was no Kohain Gadol during the time of Beitar! The Braisah tells us that the daughter of the Kohain Gadol also observed Tu B’Av! How could Rav Masna explain the reason for its establishment after it was observed?
One possible answer may be that each of these opinions listed subscribes to a multiplicity of reasons why Tu B’Av was actually observed. Perhaps they actually do not argue with each other, and all these reasons existed. Indeed, this is what the Rashbam on 121a (“Yom Shehutar”) seems to imply.
GVURAS ARI’S ANSWER
Another possible response to this problem is found in the Gvuras Ari (Taanis 31a). He seems to disagree with the aforementioned Rashbam and writes that the Braisah in Taanis only actually refers to Yom Kippur and not to Tu B’Av [See statement of Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel in the Mishna in Taanis (26b): Israel never had grander days than Yom Kippur and Tu B’Av.]
DIFFICULTIES WITH BOTH ANSWERS
There are difficulties, however, with both answers. Rav Masna seems to say that the reason it was established was because of his reason – while he may agree that the other things happened on that day – that was not the reason it was established in his view. The Rashbam’s answer would thus require some further understanding.
The Gvuras Ari’s response is difficult to say as well because the authorial intent of the Braisah in Taanis seems to be applying the idea to Tu B’Av as well. While one could say that it is lav davka, that it does not mean what the words imply – this is difficult to propose. There is no symmetry that is generally associated with an answer of lav davka.
DIFFERENT ANSWER THAT PROVES OUR RYE TOWN WEDDING IDEA
Perhaps a different answer might be that the Simcha – the joy of Tu B’Av was initiated in two separate stages. Stage one was prior to the destruction of Beitar. Tu B’Av was instituted during the time of the Bais HaMikdash as a special day of Chesed for Shidduchim. It did not have a particularly joyous significance – rather – it was a propitious time to get people married. This “Shidduch Day” was replete with Chessed. But it’s primary purpose was not to commemorate any of the other incidents.
Much later, it also happened to be that on this day, the fallen of Beitar were allowed to be buried.
No, not at all. There is no coincidence from the Torah’s perspective. According to Rav Masna, the Rabbis re-evaluated the days mentioned in Megilas Taanis, and knew that something extraordinary happened here.
The special Chessed of that day – allowed for and enabled another chessed – that the fallen of Beitar could be buried, and to the delight of their brethren – their bodies did not decompose. A recognition of this chessed caused a renewal in the 15th of Av.
It would be filled with renewed purpose. This was stage two of Tu B’Av.
The point is that, in our analysis, according to Rav Masna there was a special day of shidduchim where young women and men were to meet – for the sole purpose of making shidduchim. It happened in an en masse manner – just like our Rye Town Hilton wedding.
The idea of having a special room for singles, with a mechitza and shadchanim working the room is an excellent idea. Aside from the possible shidduchim that could come out of it – the parents have fulfilled over one hundred Mitzvos Assei D’oraisah.
Kudo’s to the Kallah’s mother for making it happen.
The author can be reached at [email protected]