One Simcha at a Time
The mishna says, “One is not permitted to marry on Chol Hamo’ed… because it is a simcha (happy event).”
The gemara is immediately amazed with this teaching in our mishna. Why should simcha be a reason for not allowing marriages during the Chol Hamo’ed days of Pesach and Succot? As Rashi explains the gemara’s question in a rhetorical manner: “Is simcha forbidden during Yom Tov?!”
Four answers are offered in the gemara as the reason for this ban. Rav Yehuda said in the name Shmuel, “Because one is not allowed to mix one simcha with another simcha.” This means that the simcha of the Festival should not coincide with the simcha of a new marriage. Rashi explains that the reason for this “separation of simchas” is to be able to rejoice solely on the mitzvah of simcha during the days of the Festival.
Rabbah bar Rav Huna gave a second reason: “Because a person would abandon the simcha of the Festival and become involved entirely with the simcha of the new marriage.” If marriage during the Festival would be permitted, it is possible or probable that the mitzvah of simcha associated with the Festival would not be fulfilled.
A third explanation of our mishna is offered by the Sage Ulla. He said that marriage is not permitted on Chol Hamo’ed “because of the bother.” Rashi explains what this means. If a wedding would be permitted during the Festival, a person might “bother” with the great toil of the wedding preparations during these days of Chol Hamo’ed, thereby transgressing their sanctity. As I once heard from a wise person, “Many may not realize that Chol Hamo’ed is less ‘chol’ and more ‘mo’ed’.”
Ulla’s reason of “bother” seems to differ from the explanation in the mishna that “marriage is a simcha.” Tosefot explains the mishna to mean that due to the simcha of the wedding, a person might wrongly do too much in preparation and thereby violate the laws of the Festival.
A fourth and final reason is suggested by Rabbi Yitzchak Nafcha: “Because it would nullify being fruitful and multiplying.” Rashi explains this terse and cryptic statement. If allowed to marry during Chol Hamo’ed, a person would be tempted to delay marriage until the Festival and not marry sooner if possible. The incentive for waiting for the Festival would be to combine the special wedding meal with joyous Festival meal. I have heard that in the previous century, due to their great poverty it was the custom of many residents of Jerusalem marry on Friday in order to combine the wedding meal with the Shabbat meal.
The first explanation of not mixing simchas is the answer cited by halachic authorities. (Shulchan Aruch, Even Ha’ezer 62:2) A precedent for not mixing simchas is noted in our gemara, in relation to when Shlomo Hamelech inaugurated the First Beit Hamikdash. H e led the Jewish People in a great celebration during the days immediately leading up to Succot (See Melachim I 8:65) He did not delay the inauguration ceremony until Succot to take place at the same time as the Festival, since he would not mix one simcha with another.
Permit me to conclude with a personal anecdote. Many years ago, a friend studied with me an entire masechta on Shavuot night, when many have the custom to learn Torah until morning prayers. We were interesting in making a siyum afterthe prayers, but were concerned that we might be in violation of the ban against mixing one simcha with another. We asked a Rav. He told us that it is not mixing two simchas since the simcha of the siyum and the simcha of Shavuot are the same — the simcha of the Torah. He nevertheless requested that we make only a brief siyum with some cake and drinks since people were certainly looking forward to a nap after the all-nighter of Torah study, followed by the special Yom Tov prayers and our siyum. I hope it was short enough. We tried…
- Mo'ed Katan 8b