Thursday, November 15, 2018

Can There Be Too Much Joy?

The Talmud (Mo’ed Katan 8b) rules that we may not get married during the intermediate days of a festival. The Talmud offers two reasons for the prohibition. First, because we do not mix one joyous celebration with another joyous celebration, in Hebrew ein m’arvin simcha b’simcha (conducting marriage ceremonies on the Shabbat and Biblical Holidays is also proscribed). Second, the sages did not approve of an individual rejoicing in his marriage, which would cause him not to fully celebrate the festival.

The Talmud identifies the source for the injunction of intermingling celebrations from a verse in Kings I (8:65) which describes the two-week celebration marking the inauguration of Solomon’s Temple, which ended in time for the Sukkot festival. The Talmud observes that since the two events did not overlap, it seems to prove that the two events could not take place simultaneously.

The Tosafot, citing the Jerusalem Talmud (Moed Katan 1:7), cite another source, from our parasha, Parashat Vayeitzei. After Laban deceived Jacob by delivering Leah, not Rachel, to the bridal chamber, he agreed to allow Jacob to marry Rachel, only after a week had elapsed (Genesis 29:27). Why, asks the Talmud, did Laban not simply make another wedding immediately after Jacob discovered the subterfuge? The Talmud answers because Jacob needed to celebrate his marriage with Leah for a full week, prior to entering into the joy of marriage with Rachel. The two celebrations could not be intermingled.

The Shulchan Aruch, Code of Jewish Law (Orach Chaim 546) rules that marriages do not take place on Biblical holidays (people may, and do, get married on the rabbinic holidays of Chanukah and Purim).

Rabbi Chaim Chizkiya Medini (1834-1904) in his encyclopedic work on Jewish law, S’dei Chemed, asks if a synagogue dedication can take place on a festival, or would it violate the principle of mingling joy? He ruled leniently, reasoning that the two types of joy both need to be physical joy. However, the dedication of a synagogue is more spiritual than physical. He also saw the joy of the synagogue dedication as an extension of the joy of the festival. It seems that the celebration of the dedication of a synagogue pales in comparison to the dedication of Solomon’s first Temple in Jerusalem, which, according to the Talmud, is the source for the prohibition.

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