Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Walking the Chasan and Kallah to the Chuppah

One of the issues that can arise during wedding planning is the question of the Unterfeuhrers, or the Shushvinim. That is, who should walk the chasan and kallah to the chupah-- fathers with the chassan and mothers with the kallah, or parents with each. As Reb Yakov Kaminetzky said, his minhag is to do whatever the mechutanim want. This was not because Reb Yakov was a foundling with no family traditions. He was certainly not. But his predominant family tradition was to have seichel and not make a fuss about trivial things.

That's fine for Reb Yakov. For most men, the minhag is to do what their wives tell them to do. This is a subset of Reb Yakov's minhag. But what about the rest of us, who live to argue about such things? What is the 'right' thing to do?

This question often evokes strong feelings. Speaking from experience, walking your child to the chuppah is one of the greatest moments of our time on Earth, on the order of sandeka'us for a grandchild, when you see, in your mind's eye, your father holding you, his father holding him, the unbroken chain of your ancestors all the way back to Avraham Avinu all doing the same for their children. So while it's easy to scoff at the fights that we often see, one must be cognizant of the strong emotions involved.

1. Brachos 61, Eiruvin 18b, Hashem was the Shushvin of Adam Harishon, which included walking him to the chuppah and to the yichud room afterwards (Hanesu'in Ke'hilchaso 12:14.)

2. Medrash Rabba Breishis 88, that Micha'el and Gavri'el escorted Adam to his chuppah. Doesn't address whether to go f/f (father/father) or f/m, because malachim have no gender as far as I know, but it's a makor for the idea of walking the chasan to the chupah.

3. Rama YD 391:3 (it's in Yoreh Dei'ah because he discusses whether an aveil can be a shushvin) says you go f/f with the Chassan, mother/mother with the Kallah, and that this is "our minhag," and this is quoted verbatim by the Aruch Hashulchan there.

4. Zohar Breishis 2:22 says father/mother for each, not like the Rama.

5. In Reb Moshe Feinstein's family, the minhag was f/m. The Satmerer is quoted as having said that if both sides have the f/f minhag, it is prohibited to change it to f/m. If, however, one side has the minhag of f/m, it is permissible. See also Mishneh Halachos 9 #287 and Da'as Sofer 2 #25.

5. Many don't walk a child to the chuppah if their original marriage ended, whether due to death or divorce (She'arim Metzuyanim Be'halacha147 note 12). This is because people are careful about simanim- omens and portents-  at a wedding. For example, many chasanim (See Sperber's Minhagei Yisrael vol. 8 page 71 note 11) don't knot the tie they wear under the chuppah because untying it later would be inauspicious. (However, it has become common for divorced parents to walk their child to the Chuppah. Usually, one or both parents will not be happy about it, but most often they can be convinced to deal with reality for the sixty seconds that it takes. The fact remains that they are both his parents, and their divorce does not change that fact; it also doesn't change the fact that the child in entitled to have both his parents walking with him.) My parents and Reb Chaim and Rebbitzen Freida Stein were in Samarkhand during the war, and after the war ended and people started to get married, my parents and the Steins agreed that whoever would get married first would bagleit the other couple to the chuppah, even though Reb Chaim's father in law, Uzder Rov, was still alive, because his first wife had died and he had remarried, and a remarried parent wasn't an unterfirer.

6. If the kallah's mother is visibly pregnant, She'arim Metzuyanim Be'halacha says she should not walk her daughter to the chuppah. (147 note 12, because of Ayin Hara, I suppose like a father and son getting consecutive aliyos)

7. Although the Rama is mattir, if the parents are r'l avelim, a rav must be consulted, because in our time music is played as they walk towards the chuppah, as the Aruch Hashulchan points out. Also, one should be aware that the Taz in 393 sk 4 is mattir even within shloshim for aveilim for relatives other than parents.

8. If you and the mechutanim cannot come to an agreement, because they want f/f and you want f/m, then add a pre-red-carpet walk; do father/mother as you walk from the prep room to the chuppah room, and when you are about to enter the chuppah hall, change partners and continue the walk re-organized. And if you can't come to a mature agreement about this, then brace yourself for knock down, drag out fights about naming babies, where the kids will be for yomtov, and where they're going to live.

Yasher Koach to Rabbi Henoch Plotnik of Chicago for many of the m'ms


  1. >>>She'arim Metzuyanim Be'halacha says she should not walk her daughter to the chuppah. (147 footnote 12)

    For some reason I could not find this mareh makom -- anyway, what is the reason for this?

  2. I just put the reason into the post. I didn't before because reasons like that give me hives, but I have to deal with the reality. I will bl'n check the m'm and correct it when I find it. Thanks.

  3. In Isreal no one walks down?

  4. Anonymous: People walk down, but it's not quite as formal as in the US. At least at the weddings I was at, most people stood for the chuppah (there were maybe 20-30 seats for old people who couldn't stand) and the chosson and kallah came down the aisle (with parents, of course), but not the siblings, or the grandparents, or anything like that.