Ordering the Wedding


My fiancée and I were both married previously in different countries and are divorced. Now we wish to start a life together here in Eretz Yisroel and we are unsure of the local customs. What is the usual custom in Eretz Yisroel for choosing a mesader kiddushin? (My kalloh says that in the US the chosson usually chooses, but in the UK it's usually the kalloh!).


The most significant aspect in choosing a mesader kiddushin is to be certain that he is very familiar with the laws of marriage and divorce.[1] Technically, since you will getting married in Israel, it is not important for the mesader to be particularly knowledgeable in divorce law since the government offices do a satisfactory job of determining whether you are both eligible to marry and whether you may marry each other. Any rav may rely on the Rabbanut for such verification. Since marriage handbooks are easily available and complications are rare, it is not necessary to ask a talmid chochom to officiate at a wedding. However, certainly an important criterion should be whether the person is knowledgeable regarding the laws of kiddushin.

Notwithstanding the halachic requirements, there is a longstanding custom that only a recognized community rav should perform the weddings in his territory. Any rabbi who enters the domain of another rabbi has to ask permission to officiate at a wedding. Knesses Yechezkel (72) documents this custom in Poland, Germany, France and other Jewish areas.[2]

Apparently this custom did not persist in all areas since the Ramo writes that any rabbi who performs a wedding in the domain of another rabbi has to give any monetary benefit he receives to the presiding rav of the community even though he did not officiate at all.[3] The implication is that there was no decree in effect at the time forbidding such a practice; the only issue addressed was the remuneration.[4]

Since the common custom was for the local rav to perform the wedding (even according to the Ramo, since a guest rav performing a wedding was the exception), your question as to who has the privilege of choosing the mesader kiddushin was not very relevant. Most Jewish communities had a local rav. Weddings generally took place in the kalloh’s city, so the rav with whom the kalloh was familiar usually officiated.

Nowadays, Jewish communities have changed drastically. There is often no rav who is recognized as controlling a certain area. Furthermore, travel has become much more common and the chosson’s rav often comes to the wedding. In such situations your question is quite relevant. Both rabbis might attend the wedding and neither has jurisdiction over the domain where the wedding is taking place.

The question can now be asked: Who has the privilege of choosing the mesader? The chosson or the kalloh? Rav Yonason Shteif writes in his teshuvos (132) that unless there is a clear custom, one should follow the European practice of allowing the kalloh to choose even though the circumstances have changed and the reasoning may no longer be relevant.

In Chelkas Yaakov, Rav Breisch rules that the chosson should choose. The mesader kiddushin recites the birkas eirusin, which is technically incumbent upon the chosson to recite, so in effect the chosson is asking someone else to recite the berochoh on his behalf. Hence it is appropriate for the chosson to choose the mesader kiddushin.[5]

My impression is that the custom in Israel is for the chosson to choose the mesader kiddushin when both candidates are of approximately equal stature.

[1] See Kiddushin 6a and Even Haezer 49:3. According to the latter, "Whoever has not mastered the laws of divorce and marriage should not be involved in those issues." A simple reading of this statement implies that without thorough knowledge of the laws of divorce one should not perform a wedding. The Taz and Beis Shmuel agree that officiating at a wedding is not particularly difficult and does not require expert knowledge in divorce law. The statement should be understood as follows: If you don't know everything about divorce law don't perform divorces; if you are not learned enough in the basic laws of marriages, don't perform weddings. See Shevus Yaakov 3:121.

Maharsho (Kiddushin 13a) offers an explanation of the phrase that requires knowledge of divorce law before performing weddings. Should at least one of the people getting married now have gone through a divorce, it is important for the mesader kiddushin to be well versed in the laws of divorce before he considers performing the wedding.

[2] Shevus Yaakov (3:121) mentions that the rabbi he was asked about who violated this longstanding custom and officiated at a wedding without first obtaining permission from the local rav died a sudden death before the year was out. The custom seems to have originated in France as a decree by Rabbeinu Tam and his colleagues.

[3] Yoreh De'ah 245:22.

[4] The Noda Beyehuda (Tinyono, E.H. 83) quotes the Ramo and adds that the custom in his time is to refrain from officiating at a wedding in the community of another rav. However, the Noda Beyehuda does not imply that this is a decree that has existed for centuries; it seems to be no more than a minhag that developed after the Ramo's ruling.

The Maharsham (3:279) deduces from aforementioned statements of the Taz and Beis Shmuel that there is no practical restriction (whether decree or custom) preventing anyone from performing weddings wherever he wishes. If the decree by Rabbeinu Tam were still relevant, they should have mentioned it.

Some later poskim mention the decree and seem to take it seriously. The Shoel Umeishiv (3rd ed., 1:239) writes that any wedding performed without proper authorization from the local rav is invalid. Most poskim disagree with this extreme view; however, some require that the wedding be performed a second time by the proper rav or with permission. Still, even they would not annul the marriage without a get if a second marriage was not performed (see Minchas Elozor 3:39).

[5] Betzel Chochmoh (2:72) concurs that the chosson should choose the mesader kiddushin.

BookID: 3 Chapter: 49

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