Placing the Chuppah Outdoors

1. The Rama writes that there is a custom to have the canopy (chuppah) outdoors under the stars. This is a siman tov (good omen) for the couple to have “as many children as the number of stars in the sky.” (Rama Even Haezer 61 and Maharam Mintz 109. See also Ezer Hakodesh on Shulchan Aruch E.H.55, and Sheilas Yitzchak 60)

2. It would seem, at first glance, that marrying outdoors is merely a “good omen” and if a couple wishes to refuse this omen, for whatever reason, they may do so. However, some poskim write that according to the Chasam Sofer (E.H. 98) one is not allowed to marry indoors. The Chasam Sofer addresses those who began marrying indoors in the synagogues, as opposed to the traditional custom of marrying under the stars. He writes, “He who does not desire the blessing [of Avraham Avinu], he who is removed from it, intends to learn from the way of the Gentiles, who do not enjoy the blessing of the stars. They, indeed, marry inside their house of worship. Let such a Jew enjoy their fate [i.e. the fate of the Gentiles, bereft of the special divine blessing associated with Avraham Avinu’s standing under the stars].” These poskim maintain that based upon the words of the Chasam Sofer, one may not marry indoors. (See Chasan Sofer 85 and Sheilas Yitzchak ibid.)

Indeed, the author of the Sdei Chemed (who was sefardic) refused to serve as the mesader kiddushin at an ashkenazi wedding that was going to take place indoors, despite that fact that it was raining and very cold outside (Sdei Chemed Chosson V’Kallah 1). The Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l likewise rules that even during the winter when it is cold, the canopy should be placed outside, underneath the open sky. (Toras Menachem vol2 page 246)

3. However, Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe E.H. 93) offers a different interpretation of the opinion of the Chasam Sofer. Harav Moshe was asked whether a rabbi may serve as the mesader kiddushin for a wedding that will take place indoors, in a synagogue. Harav Moshe, replies that not only is it permitted, but the rabbi must attend the wedding and ensure that it is performed according to Orthodox law. He explains that the Rama was not requiring us to marry outdoors but was merely stating that it is beneficial to do so. If one wishes to avail themselves of this good omen, it is within their rights to do so.

He then addresses the opinion of the Chasam Sofer. He explains that the Chasam Sofer never actually states that marrying indoors is forbidden, but rather that it was an act not in conformity with the spirit of Jewish tradition (ein ruach chachamim nochah mayhem). In addition, it is very important to note that the Chasam Sofer was addressing the budding Reform movement. The Reform Jews wished to disconnect themselves from halacha and mesorah. Therefore, they refused to marry outdoors. They began marrying in the synagogues and house of worships because that was the common Christian practice. It is for this reason that the Chasam Sofer wished to maintain a strict ruling. Perhaps today, writes Rav Moshe, if an Orthodox Jew wishes to marry indoors, not for the reasons that the Reform Jews had, it may be permitted. He concludes that if one does marry indoors the rabbi may orchestrate the wedding. A permissible view can also be found in the Sefer Shevet Shimon (vol. 2 Beis Mishteh 15). For normative halacha, a rabbi should be consulted.

4. Marrying indoors under a skylight is not a fulfillment of the custom of marrying under the stars. (Levushei Mordechai E.H. 68)

5. Sefardim do not to require the canopy to be placed under the open sky. (Sdei Chemed ibid. and Yalkut Yosef Semachot page 88)

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