My fiance and I want to get married on a Saturday in the late afternoon (during Shabbat). We do not have any issues with this choice as we do not keep Shabbat. We are both Jewish. My father is orthodox and told us attending our wedding would be sacrilegious and would violate the sanctity of Shabbat, so he is not attending. He is not giving any reason beyond that. Is there anything in scripture that truly states a father cannot attend the wedding of his daughter if it is on Shabbat?
Your question deserves a serious response. The issue of a Jewish wedding to be conducted on the holy Shabbat, is raised frequently by Jews such as yourself, who are not Sabbath observers. This, of course, is a touchy subject.
You have referred to your father's Judaism as "orthodox" and that he would not be attending your forthcoming wedding as it would be "sacrilegious and would violate the sanctity of Shabbat."
While the term or title "orthodox" is often employed by non-orthodox Jews as a way of characterizing other Jews, as perhaps over the top or unreasonable, it really is a term that means to be observant, or taking seriously the covenant - 'b'rit' - with the God of Israel. This means adherence to God's Torah and Mitzvot - Holy Scripture and Responsibilities or Commandments.
Your dad's refusal to attend your wedding - hatunah - if held on Shabbat is, of course, painful for you, but also painful for him and your future bride.
Let's look at the matter from the standpoint of values,priorities and standards. One who adheres to a lifelong commitment to what is understood as a relationship of devotion to God and His commandments, is to be seen as having an unswerving dedication to upholding his own part of the bargain.
When driving an automobile, you will see posted the speed limit sign. If the state or municipality has posted 50 MPH and you drive 70 MPH, a police officer can pull you over and write a ticket, since you have disobeyed the posted limit.
Shabbat, as you clearly understand, stands for a special relationship between the Jew and his/her God. The Jew must ask himself/herself whether this or that is permitted within the parameters of Sabbath observance. This is not defined by the Jew, rather it is handed down to us from above.
You have asked for a Scriptural reference for a wedding prohibition. As you may know, our Judaism is not Scriptural Judaism, rather it is Rabbinic Judaism. This is complex and often not understood by the uninitiated. It is the Judaism as handed down to us through the Oral Tradition of Torah. Thus, every verse in the Written Torah -Torah she-b'khtav - is interpreted by the Oral Torah - Torah she-b'al peh.
Does this mean that the Torah as taught by the Sages of Israel - the Hakhamim - is more important to us than the Written Torah? Well, in a word, yes. We do not understand our Torah without the filter of our Rabbis' teachings.
Even if we cannot find an explicit verse or phrase in the Torah that refers to a prohibition of conducting weddings on Shabbat, we will still follow the time honored traditions handed down by the Sages of Israel.
Let's look at a familiar rabbi's manual in Hebrew and English, known as Hamadrikh -- The Rabbi's Guide, by Hyman E. Goldin, c. 1939. The manual cites sources from the Talmud Bezah, Talmud Moed Katan, Maimonides' Code- Mishneh Torah and the Shulhan Arukh -Code of Jewish Law, "It is forbidden to perform the wedding ceremony on the Sabbath, Festivals, and on the Intermediate Days of the Festivals." (p.6)
All rabbis adhering to Jewish Law - Halakhah- will take this seriously and will not conduct a wedding in contravention of the Halakhah.
Since it seems that the real issue that you present deals with your father and the concern that you have for his refusal to attend your forthcoming wedding, it is obvious that you would be pained by your father's absence on such a momentous occasion in your life and that of your fiancé and other family members.
For this reason alone we need look no further in the Torah than what we know as the Ten Commandments or Decalogue -Asseret Ha-dibberot. (Exodus 20:12) The fifth commandment of the 'Big Ten' says, "Honor your father and mother. You will then live long on the land that God your Lord is giving you."
It is unusual to find a commandment in Torah that states a reward for its observance, but in this case the Torah is quite explicit that one is well rewarded with life for demonstrating respect to one's parent.
Honoring the holy Shabbat and honoring your parent will only bring blessing. There is no downside.
Here is a wish that you make the right decision in respect of the Shabbat and your father.
This entire conversation has little to do with halacha and much do with the family dynamics. If either you or your father were talking with one another rather than at one another, I am sure that a solution could be found. Who is officiating at the wedding? Are you, your fiance, and your father/parents able to meet together and discuss these issues with the officiant? This is your wedding, and I respect your right to make choices, but there are consequences to all decisions.
Bluntly, from a halachic perspective, a wedding on Shabbat is not a wedding. It does not have legal standing. Your father is concerned that your wedding would not be traditionally legitimate and that you would not be considered married according to Jewish law. Signing the Ketubah itself would be a violation of the laws of Shabbat. Without speaking to him, that may be his largest concern, but the secondary concerns would be travelling to the wedding on Shabbat, eating at a non-kosher reception, music on Shabbat, photography on Shabbat and the numerous other Shabbat challenges of a Saturday wedding.
It seems that you and your family need to have an honest conversation. If you want him to attend, you would need to discuss if there are ways for him to walk to the venue, provide kosher meals, etc, etc. If you really want him to attend, you would see if the timing could be shifted a few hours later. There is room for compromise on both sides, but only if both admit that they are focusing on their own needs rather than the others. Yes, a wedding is YOUR day, but it is also a day when families come together to honor and respect the newly merged family. Are there other family members who will not be able to attend because of the timing?
I am curious if you were raised Orthodox or if your father became Orthodox later in life. If the former, I would highly recommend some family therapy for all involved, to discuss the relationships. If your father became Orthodox later in life, then a conversation with a rabbi might help explain his concerns. I wish you and your fiance mazal tov on your upcoming nuptials. I pray that you can work together to find a way to celebrate with your entire family.
As I see it, there are two issues being presented here: one on the sanctity of Shabbat, and one on whether your father feels he could or should attend (and the feelings that raises for you and your fiance).
With regards to the first: most movements, including the Reform movement, have affirmed the sanctity of Shabbat. While in Reform Shabbat as practiced differs from the other, more Halakhic movements, nevertheless there is a profound understanding that the Sabbath is a day set apart from the rest of the week, meant to be celebrated and affirmed, as a 'palace in time' (as Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote). Part of that separation means that we do not mix one kind of holiness with another, including weddings. While exceptions can be made for emergencies , the halakha is pretty clear, even from a liberal perspective. I'm not sure what 'late afternoon' means and what season your wedding is taking place, but were I the officiant, I would be pushing the start time as late as possible to at least come close to sundown, and would make Havdallah as part of the celebration, in order to keep the wedding and Shabbat from overriding one another.
That's the tradition. Now let's talk about dad.
American Jewry is a diverse polyglot, and as the most recent Pew survey shows, that diversity is increasingly reflected within families. Whereas once upon a time if your parents were Orthodox, chances were you would be Orthodox too, that is rarely the norm. Which means that, when the kids are non-halakhic and the parents are, you run into these moments of personal abrasion.
Clearly your father, himself Orthodox, cares deeply about observing the tradition, and this is a red line. I don't know if there are other issues with your relationship with your dad, and I cannot pretend to know what your relationship looks like just from this anecdote, but I can presume from your raising it that it's upsetting you that your father will be absent from your wedding day. With this in mind, assuming your relationship with your father is healthy, and with the mitzvah of honoring parents in mind, I'd reach out to him about this issue. Ask him to help you understand why this upsets him. Perhaps do some study together around the issue, and then see where compromises can be made (again, this assumes the relationship is healthy and that there isn't another dynamic at play). Would he be willing to be there if it were closer to sundown? What if there's Havdallah? What if he skips the Ketubah signing but attends the chuppah, or the reception? Maybe he can't be there but he can do a celebration after the honeymoon where the sheva berachot can be recited again as part of birkat hamazon. Take this as an opportunity for your and your fiance to discuss what about your Jewish experience is meaningful to you and how you're going to make this work.
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